When you have a disability you assume that you are too much for people. I have spent the past several years feeling like I am too much.

When I got sick, I lost pretty much all of my friends. This took me a really long time to process and become okay with, but eventually I realized that my life was just too complicated for people my age to handle. I was going through something big, and the people that I loved did not know how to love me back. I began to take comfort in this because it meant that it wasn’t my fault– it was just another symptom of my sickness. I came to terms with the fact that my life was too heavy and complex and distorted for people to understand. This was how I handled my lack of social support.

Flash forward two years and I found myself terrified of going to college because I was terrified of meeting new people.  I knew that I couldn’t expect people to understand me- both the me that I am and the me that I would be if I wasn’t sick. I knew that if I hadn’t even accepted my conditions yet there was no way anyone else would. I knew that it was impossible for me to forge lasting connections or meaningful friendships with people that didn’t really understand me or my life or my experiences.

I saw myself as a hinderance to other people. I didn’t want to get close to others because then my limitations would become their limitations. I saw the way that my disability hurt me, and I could only assume it would hurt others as well.

I tend to do everything I can to make myself as easy to live with as possible. My disability is invisible, so I don’t even have to let people know about it. I quietly slip away when I’m too sick to participate and I silently opt out of activities that are too strenuous. I pretend I’m not about to pass out after walking up stairs and I hide my sickness behind a tired-college-student persona.

I was expecting to go to school, meet some decent people, participate in their lives as much as I was able to, and quietly disappear the rest of the time.

Instead I was blessed enough to find the most caring and compassionate people I have ever met. I mentioned my conditions to them and they did their own research, they learned everything they could about POTS and ME so that they could be aware of my capabilities. They asked me questions and learned about my experiences and did everything in their power to understand me as a person and as a patient. They recognize the difference between who I am and who I want to be without looking down on me. They take me to doctors appointments, bring extra jackets because they know I’ll be cold, take the elevator every time, and lend me their beds when I’m too sick to stand.

I see my limitations creeping into their lives but they don’t act like they’re being confined. They don’t complain or even mention it at all. They automatically take into account my schedule and energy levels and needs and they adjust accordingly. They do everything in their power to make me as healthy and happy as possible. They don’t see my illness as a burden like I thought everyone did. They love me and they love the experiences that have shaped me and they think that I am worth the extra hassle.

I was sitting with some of my friends one day watching a movie and I suddenly got really sad. I didn’t move or say a single word and yet one of my friends grabbed my hand and whispered to me, “I’m here”. These people love me enough to notice when I’m not okay and help me through it. They say things like “Are you okay?”, “Maybe you should go to sleep early tonight”, “Call me if you need me”, “If anything happened to you I would be devastated”, “How can I help you?”, “I’m here for you”, and “Everything is okay”.

My friends have given me a space where not only am I allowed to take care of myself, I am also allowed to lean on others without being a burden. I no longer feel the need to make my existence as convenient for other people as possible. I no longer feel like I am disappointing or hurting others. I no longer feel like I am too much. 

I am thankful beyond words for the beautiful souls that I have met in my short time here. I don’t know what I could have possibly done to deserve these people in my life. I am frustrated that my description of their goodness is inadequate. I can’t seem to find the words to explain the peace and joy and comfort and sense of home that they give me.

I am working on accepting and perpetuating their kindness.

I invite you to do the same with those around you. Love them, and let them love you. You deserve it. You are not, and never have been, too much.

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