I went to happy hour last night. That shouldn’t be such a statement, but it became one when I realized I hadn’t gone to a non-work happy hour in forever.
I am lucky to have all kinds of friends – single, married, divorced, with kids and without. On the way home I found myself asking a question I had heard from most, if not all of the parents: where has my social life gone? My job didn’t require overtime, and this blog isn’t overly burdensome. No, it wasn’t those. It was the giant monster-baby in the room – my condition. And that’s exactly what it was. My monster, which had seemed manageable in adulthood, had regressed into a big baby. Before it had been something of a companion, now it was somewhere between an infant and a toddler. I have to feed it. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, interrupts grown-up activities, and acts out when ignored. I don’t even get baby hugs to balance the frustration (Just because I didn’t want kids doesn’t mean I’m not close to several. I know the value of a good baby hug, even if it is a monster-baby.)
Like so many other chronic conditions, this one can just suck your time and energy. Even before I went off the rails of my regimen, I spent hours a day exercising, logging food, and meal planning. I sacrificed an entire half of my weekend every week to make sure I had healthy meals for the week. And if my control didn’t fall into the right range, the first symptom was exhaustion. Who wants to go out when you can barely make it through the work day?
Time and energy aside, I had another issue many parents – and chronic patients – experience. When parents’ focus changes to their kids and when people who weren’t sick before suddenly are, sometimes people disappear. They don’t know how to fit in to their friends’ new reality, whether it is a baby or a condition. They don’t know what to say. I didn’t really notice when I needed all the time I could get to wrestle myself back in the right direction. But as I have gotten better, I have realized that several people I used to see regularly have disappeared -- complete radio silence for six months or more. I can honestly say that’s never happened before.
Turns out I’m the communicator. With a few notable exceptions, I’m the one always reaching out to friends to see how everyone is doing, to initiate plans to hang out, and even verify that they are still free for whatever event it is. As I struggled, I had even less time and energy than usual, and my outreach fell by the medical wayside and I lost touch with many of them. I reached out to the ones I missed and let go of the ones I didn’t.
Perhaps it was a blessing. As with everyone else who consider themselves spoonies, my time and energy are very limited. Maybe I was wasting it on people who weren’t true members of my support network when I needed them. But that left me with just a handful of options to get myself out of my apartment, and social isolation can feed the negative emotions I was pulling myself out of.
For parents of human babies, this kind of gap is often filled by other parents, with whom they now have a lot in common. It’s a little harder to find the other parents of monster-babies. Can’t really tell by who’s pushing a stroller, and I know most of my existing friends don’t have one. I’m working on that, trying to expand into my local patient advocate community. Until then I will stick to the ones who are willing to support me while I try to corral my tantrum-throwing monster-baby and trek back to my life.