Usually I just lie. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, but rather a measure of how much damage will be done.
In fact, the easiest way is to decline the invite in the first place. Having multiple chronic illnesses makes being unable to follow through with commitments not a question of if, but when and how often.
When canceling, honesty is invariably met with skepticism and questions. Why open myself up to that kind of vulnerability?
I’d rather be mistrusted for saying I’m sick for the second time this month than for saying I don’t feel up to a visit because I’m tired and hurting.
Being sick is lonely. So you’d think being invited to hang out or do something fun would be welcomed, and most often it is.
You’ll see a huge smile spread across my face as we talk about how we each have been. Maybe this even reinforces your confusion when I cancel our plans to go to dinner the following weekend.
My life revolves around my body, in which there can be any number of flare ups at any given time, each with the power to upend my schedule. No number of good intentions can change the fact that some days I’m just a chronically ill person. Any other identity I manage to wear is temporary. So if I’m a friend, I’m a friend for a few hours. But I’m always sick.
Yesterday, I felt strong and energized. I went shopping, walked my dog, cooked dinner, enjoyed a meal with my family, and washed the dishes. To do all of those things in one day made me feel like a superhero.
But if I don’t get ample rest to make up for all of that activity, I’m a wreck. The contrast between yesterday and this morning is as sharp as the brightest and darkest brightness settings on your smartphone. I’m trudging through heavy sludge with every step; I feel insufferably sleep-deprived. An imaginary meat mallet is pelting me all over. I strain to concentrate long enough to think a complete thought.
Getting together with a friend for dinner is out of the question. It’ll be a wild success if I take a shower and spend more time out of bed than in it.
So I have to be flexible with my schedule and obligations.
You see me on my best days, when all the stars align in helping me sell this narrative that I’m a seemingly normal young woman.
The reality is I’m sick every day. Some days it’s with a migraine, other days it’s in the bathroom, still others it’s in debilitating pain from a fibromyalgia flare-up. More often than not, it’s all of these things.
In fact, I only stop to catalogue my aches and pains when someone asks me why I can’t make it.
Please accept that on my bad days, I can only take care of myself. And though I hate to admit it, even then I sometimes need help doing that.
I’d love to see you. I only have so many good days, and I want to spend them with my friends and family. I also have obligations and a health regimen to stick to if I’m going to be well enough to fulfill as many commitments as possible.
So I’ll settle for running errands, doing some pesky chores, spending time with friends and family, and walking my dog.
Hey, wait a minute. That sounds awfully similar to the scenario that got me into this mess in the first place.
I overdid it. And it’ll happen again.