“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered.”
Friendship. One of the most beautiful treasures that life can offer us. As Leo Buscaglia puts it,
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.”
TRUE friendship is a treasure rare to find that is to be held within our very souls. Growing up, I only ever had one true friend. 20+ years later, we are still the best of friends. We even call each other ‘Sisters’. This is how close our friendship is. Over the course of our friendship, we have made mistakes, said stupid things, gotten frustrated and angry with each other, there have been gaps in communication but it never budged our friendship an inch.
Throughout my life, I had discovered good friendships. Some I would say to be more acquaintances than actual friends that I could confide in. Some who come very close to my very best friend that I mentioned above. They take me as I am and I the same to them. No matter their walk in life. No matter their past or present. In good times and bad. A good person with a beautiful heart is one to treasure throughout life.
I have very fond memories of parties and bonfires. Laughing and joking. Crying and hugging. Singing and driving. Overcoming heartache and adventuring into somethings new. Ah, the great memories of moments in friendship.
However, with the passing of my grandfather in 2007, and developing my relationship with my now husband Chris, things began to change. You see, back then, I did love to go to parties with friends and drink and smoke cigarettes. But with the passing of my grandfather who I loved like a father that I never had, and finding true love with the intention of marriage and family, I wanted to distance myself from such reckless and unhealthy behavior. I slowly began to bow out of the spotlight of such things. Some friends were ecstatic for Chris and I and my growth within my decisions. Some friends weren’t so enthusiastic and found me to be rather boring for such thinking. Chris and I were married in August 2008. Fast-Forward to December 2008, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy.
I kept my diagnosis close to my chest in the beginning because I was afraid of what the outcome would be. Would my friends abandon me or stay by my side? Would they be afraid of me? When I became diagnosed, I decided to turn my life around. I rededicated myself to Jesus Christ and Chris and I both chose to be baptized together. Health was a major priority to me. I gave up drinking. I gave up smoking. I adopted exercise and meditation. I had become a completely different and a BETTER person than I ever had been in my entire life. Jesus, Chris, family and friends were and are the most important gems in my life and I had decided to take all of them seriously and hold them dear to me as I journeyed through my condition of Epilepsy.
When I revealed to friends of my diagnosis, of course I was greeted with shock and sympathy. I revealed that I had made the decision to no longer participate in past activities that could pose a threat to my health. I revealed that I was no longer able to do certain things that I was once able to do. I could no longer drive to hang out or go places. My car was totaled and the fear of seizing behind the wheel was just too great. I could no longer stay up late hours to assure that I wouldn’t provoke seizures. My friends to my face, completely understood and sympathized. I felt, they were my friends and friends do indeed understand and would be there regardless. Through the good and the bad. I was making decisions to better my life and it felt great to be doing things right for once.
Eventually, certain friends’ understanding revealed that in actuality, that I was no longer fun, exciting or safe to be around. Over time, I watched as friends faded into thin air. Disappeared like waking from a dream. Silent like a whisper, they were gone from my life. No phone calls. No e-mails or texts. No invites to hang out. I saw them and they saw me but it was as if a river stood between I and them. A river of difference they just did not want to cross. It hurt. Oh yes it hurt to see people that I thought were friends, walk away when I needed them most. It shook my faith in friendship and caused me to feel so alone. However, thankfully this was not the case for everyone. Some true friends still remained and stood by me through the journey and the storms.
As Albert Schweitzer puts it,
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
When my best friend of 20+ years discovered news of my diagnosis, she rushed to my aid. Our friendship, yes it budged. It budged closer than ever before. Often, she asks how I’m doing and any updates on my health. In my advocacy of Epilepsy, she without question does all in her power to help me raise awareness. Over time, I began to realize that the friendships I lost, God was shedding the unnecessary unhealthy people from my life as I grew closer to Him and grew stronger as an individual. As time went on, and I became an Epilepsy Advocate with my organization, I discovered some of the most beautiful wonderful blessings of friendship. I have met some incredible people I gladly call True Friends. You know who you are. They like me, don’t care who you are. They don’t assess your past, your mistakes or where you come from. They look at your heart, your spirit and your journey. In revealing my Epilepsy diagnosis, I was greeted with warm love and understanding. Just what I always wanted. Just what all of us on the journey of Epilepsy want. Along this journey I developed more friendships that I never knew were possible. Stronger bonds than I ever knew existed. Like a growing tree, I was pruned of the branches that were doing my life no good so that new and healthy branches could grow and blossom and in turn allow me to give back.
Sometimes in life, friendships and relationships do indeed come with an expiration date. Sure it hurts in the moment, but its an opportunity to assess these individuals and the path your life is on. You may be headed in a direction where they cannot follow and even greater friendships and relationships await. Have you ever heard the saying, “There are three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.”?
Don’t be afraid to reveal your Epilepsy diagnosis to your friends and loved ones. When you do, it will reveal who your true friends are. Let it open your eyes and strengthen you in your journey. I no longer fear revealing who I am to anyone. Take me as I am or not at all. I will never change to fit the majority. I will always change to become the best me that I can be in my Epilepsy journey.