Building relationships with narcolepsy or other chronic illnesses can be a challenge due to a limited social life.
I’m standing outside a huge fancy house with a glass of red wine in my hand staring at a sea of people I don’t know. I feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of people at the party, but at least half of them work with my partner.
My partner has not even made it to the drink table due to so many people wanting to stop and chat. I escaped, knowing the formal handshakes and cheek kisses that are obligatory in these social situations tire me out quickly.
How I Handle It
I gravitate toward the one woman I know, a friend. We chat for a while until she also finds other acquaintances to talk with. I look through the sea and spot a beautiful woman with a drink looking completely satisfied to be alone. I decide to join her. If we don’t speak, that’s okay. At least we will both look like we are enjoying the party.
We hit it off, and soon are conversing in a Spanglish exchange. I learn about a fascinating hobby she has, sewing clothes for young children. We talk about her dream to go to school and study when her kids are a bit more grown-up and what it’s like being Ecuadorian married to a German living in Myanmar.
Deep Conversations Are More Fulfilling
It’s a wonderful conversation that is not centered on who did what where and when. It’s more about who we are than what we do and it’s so refreshing! A few years ago I didn’t know how to initiate conversations like this at such a gathering.
If it happened, I would have called it fate. But lately, I’m making a conscious effort to improve my communication skills so I can enjoy better relationships in my life. After all, the quality of our lives is directly proportional to the quality of the relationships that we keep.
Deep Relationships with Narcolepsy
I’ve noticed my last few posts have been all about relationships and perhaps this is why. We are constantly affected by the people around us. There are only two things we can do to keep our sanity.
- We can change the people who are around us.
- We can regulate and modify our reactions to those people.
If you go to a traditional job, it may be difficult to change the people around you. Although if they are toxic, it may be necessary to change your job to keep your health in order.
However, if you are like me and work from home, you have nearly 100% control of the company you keep. In this case, it’s necessary to understand the role you play in relationships and cull out the people that bring out the worst in you. Focus your attention on those that bring out the best!
When you have limited energy, it doesn’t make sense to maintain surface level relationships that don’t bring us any fulfillment or enjoyment.
How to Handle Relationships You Can’t Change
When you are around new people or people that you already may have a negative impression of, there are some useful principles you can keep in mind that can help you remind you that we are all human and minimize your annoyance. You can read about Unconditional Positive Regard here.
Sometimes when it comes to making new friends, I get fed up with the really shallow and boring conversations that tend to go around at meet and greet type events. I’ve used Active Listening to engage individuals in deeper conversations so that by the end of the event we are ready to exchange information and meet one on one.
When you are getting to know someone new. It’s important to give them space to show you who they are instead of jumping to conclusions. That is where it becomes extremely useful to remember You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.
This principle can help you build stronger relationships by helping you to remain open and nonjudgemental. None of us wants to blame ourselves when relationships don’t work out, but when you know yourself well enough, it’s easy to see where you put up walls to block people out or where you might sabotage a relationship due to something you are feeling.
Keep Your Ego Out of It
You’ve seen rude drivers cutting others off, believing their time is most important and getting to their destination is more important than the safety of anyone else on the road. We look at those people and think they are jerks, but all of us are those people sometimes, even if we aren’t dramatically cutting off other drivers, we often cut off relationships by letting our ego run wild.
Often we find ourselves thinking we did something wrong or someone is upset with us. We blow things out of proportion or create scenarios that create drama. For example, my new friend excused herself claiming she was going to the ladies room, but my mind immediately assumed she wanted away from me. What did I say? I thought. My Spanish is so bad, she must be exhausted from trying to understand me. I didn’t think she would come back, and I stayed put only because I was feeling too defeated to go put myself out there again and get rejected.
A few minutes later, she was back. My ego immediately assumed that her leaving the table was about me. How self-centered I realized that was when she came back from the bathroom. I was so self-centered I didn’t consider that she might need to pee. I was beating myself up for nothing. My ego may be small but it knows how to get to the front of my mind! Maybe yours does, too. So remember to keep it in check.
Managing relationships with narcolepsy can be challenging since we often don’t feel like leaving the house. That means its even more important to be selective about who we spend time with and how we spend that time.
I hope sharing my expirience has helped you see how you might maximize your relationships as you live with your chronic illness.
If you would like to discuss more about how to improve your relationships, check out the articles below.