There is a truth that comes with having chronic illness that isn’t often talked about: we get rejected. This rejection comes in many ways. We are told that we are not good enough, not trying hard enough or we are compared to other people. We hear phrases like “Why can’t you be like your sister?” We loose friends because they don’t understand our daily struggles and we don’t always know how to talk about them.
Hearing these frequent negative messages is harmful. Some kinds of chronic illnesses put us at more risk than others, but all of us are at risk for Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). Those with ADHD and ASD are at especially high risk and these are disorders that us zebras frequently have. Yet, RSD isn’t something I see talked about in the EDS community even though I frequently see it in evidence.
So, what can we do about this? Well, you can seek professional treatment. Therapy can help. But we can also do some things in our daily lives to help us guard ourselves.
First, we need to accept the uncomfortable truth that not everyone is going to like us. In fact, most people we meet will be largely indifferent towards us. That’s normal. That’s how it is for every human being on the planet. Most people don’t pay much attention to most people around them. When you’re shopping, you walk by other shoppers without giving them much thought. That’s the social indifference that I’m talking about.
This is important, because it relieves a lot of the pressure. Counter intuitive, I know, but it’s true. Stop expecting that everyone will like you and start expecting that people will be indifferent to you and your expectations will greatly change. So will your perceptions of their behaviors. They didn’t notice your new hair cut, because they are indifferent towards you. It’s ok.
The next thing is accepting that relationships cannot last forever. Nothing does. People drift in and out of each others lives all the time. It doesn’t mean that anyone has done anything wrong or even made a conscious choice about a relationship. It’s just the natural ebb and flow of life. Even the most rock solid of relationships will end with death.
Investing in fewer relationships will lead to a richer social experience. When you spend more of your time with fewer people you will be able to develop a closer and deeper relationship with them which will lead to increased social satisfaction. More friends means not having the time to really get to know any of them which makes you a permeant acquaintance rather then part of the inner circle.
Find your tribe. Take risks and be yourself. This is how you will find the handful of people who will appreciate the quirks and weirdness that makes the wonderful you. If you pretend to be something that you aren’t, you will never find the people that will truly love who you are and you will always have to balance the risk of unveiling with the subsequent rejection.
Lastly, know that you cannot avoid social suffering. If you avoid people you will live a life full of loneliness and sorrow. If you put your self out there and try to meet like minded people you will be rejected and relationships will fail. But sometimes, you will meet someone that you can connect with and they can give you the amazing gift of love.