Most people don’t think twice about going out, whether with a new friend or on a date. Their phones buzz in their pockets with opportunities, and they are able to accept at a moment’s notice. It’s hard to remember that not everyone lives this way. For those of us living with a chronic illness, we have a lot to think about when we get your text in our inbox.
Despite what we may face when we’re asked to go out, we want to go and we want to be invited, even if there’s prep work. Most of that comes from a fear of not measuring up to who we want ourselves to be. Social media has conditioned us all not only to share our lives through a rose-colored lens, but also it has shown us rose–colored versions of our friends’ lives.
As a result, I think many people — chronic illness or not — live with imposter syndrome, which refers to high-achieving people who are unable to recognize their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a “fraud.”
For many people living with disabilities, seemingly simple milestones for the average person become a huge mile marker in life, such as getting your driver’s license. If you have imposter syndrome, you are very likely to believe that no matter how many hours you put into learning how to drive, how many adaptive evolutions you took, the number of assistive technology exams you sat through, or how many times you failed your test before you passed, you don’t believe you’re as worthy of possessing your license as your able-bodied peers.
You may also fear that people will “catch onto you” as not being significantly disabled because you can drive a car, even though we all know this isn’t true. It’s amazing that you can drive!
Along with the anxiety caused by the rose–colored version of yourself that you project into the world every day and your fear of being “found out” due to your imposter syndrome, you are in limbo in a weird place between knowing that you need help and not knowing how to ask for it. You find that you often don’t know how to ask for help from your friends because you know that it isn’t their job to accommodate you. But it isn’t your job to make someone feel comfortable about your body or situation, either. If you need help, you should ask for it! And if you can’t ask those people, maybe they shouldn’t be your friends.
Again, even though it takes more of an effort to make plans with friends who are suffering from a chronic illness, remember that we want to be included in our friend groups, too. Some things that you could recommend to your friends to help them better include you are:
- Be vocal about what you need. Do you need a few days notice to make plans?
- Make the first move. If you find yourself never being available when your friends go out, you set the date.
- Choose the plans. Can’t go out? Movie night in.
- Incorporate technology. It’s not the same, but remember that Skype has group chat options. You can all get together in your living rooms.
- Cut yourself and your friends a break. Sometimes you just can’t attend and that’s okay!
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.