I’m finding it hard to make social plans because my energy is so unpredictable, and it’s usually lower than I expect at some point during the day. I’ve just been avoiding making any plans at all, for fear of needing to cancel - which was happening a lot. I also don’t know how to make new friends for the same reason...how do you ever make plans without explaining what you’re going through? I’m a private person and don’t want to share my diagnosis as the reason I’m not like everyone else right now.
Dear Seeking a Social Life,
I can totally relate. I wouldn't leave the house when I was first diagnosed with my autoimmune disease. I never knew when I would go into what I call "zombie" mode with glazed over eyes and trouble keeping up with conversation. Here are a few things I've implemented to help me stay social and make new friends:
1. Meet with a nutritionist and functional doctor to start feeling better
I was on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet for close to three months before I started seeing my healthcare practitioners. They were impressed that I knew so much about leaky gut and surprised to find my inflammation and antibodies were still quite high. I stayed on the diet a while longer but my fatigue and bloating weren't going away. We decided to test for SIBO and that has been the single most beneficial thing I've done since starting my healing journey. Kicking SIBO's butt helped me get my energy back and allowed me to start hanging out with my friends again. I'm not saying you have SIBO, but if you're feeling chronically fatigued a functional doc and nutritionist can help you get to the root cause.
2. Be honest with people about where you're at
I know you said you're uncomfortable sharing your personal life with people. Part of creating deep, honest friendships is being vulnerable with others and sharing our gloomy parts. Your friends are less likely to be pissed about your last minute cancellation if you say something along the lines of "I really want to hang out with you, but my autoimmune disease is kicking my ass today. Would it be possible for us to reschedule?" or "Hey, I know I've been canceling our plans a lot lately. I would love to hang out with you but I'm really struggling to find energy to leave the house today. Would you be down to watch a movie on the couch with me and drink tea?" If you have cool friends, they aren't going to pitch a fit about how unreliable you are. They'll understand that you're struggling and want to be there for you.
3. Connect with others who have autoimmune diseases
You know you'll have things in common, right? I've used Instagram and Facebook as a way to make new friends who understand my struggle. I started by joining an Autoimmune Paleo Facebook Support Group in Denver. See if there's one in your area by going to the Autoimmune Community page on Autoimmune Wellness. My local chapter plans monthly potlucks. If you don't see a support group in your city, consider creating one. I've also connected with several people interested in holistic health by sending them a message on Instagram. I've met with a couple people for coffee and picked up the phone to chat with people across the country. One of them has been my go-to gal with all things related to Candida. I'll never forget when I texted her to see if she suffered from "itching" and she's like "are you talking girl parts?" YES, YES I WAS TALKING GIRL PARTS! Thank god I didn't have to explain that to her. Now we text all the time about business, blogging and nutrition.
4. Get over needing to please people
I understand not wanting to cancel on people, I truly do. I get stressed about the stress I know comes with doing things that overwhelm me, and then about how people will feel when I cancel on them. It can get so bad that I end up sobbing and feeling sorry for myself. Why didn't I just say no to begin with? Because I wanted people to feel like I was a good friend or that I was normal. Guess what? I don't identify as normal. I'm a 30-year-old woman who shows up to the party with kombucha and goes to bed before most 5th graders. How 'bout them apples?
I love the saying "you can't pour from an empty cup." If you want to be a good friend to others you have to start by being a good friend to your body. Listen to it! Draw it baths, give it supplements, feed it nourishing meals, and sleep when it asks you to sleep. Part of healing our autoimmune disease is softening our approach towards ourselves, accepting where we're at on our journey, and putting our healing first. If people don't want to invite you places because of that, fuck 'em. I promise you'll find your people. Start by taking care of yourself and shifting your mindset. You've got this.