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Keeping Friends at Arm’s Length Due to Migraine

Keeping Friends at Arm’s Length Due to Migraine

I had a friend crush as soon as I met Stacy (a pseudonym). She’s clever and confident plus she’s a writer who practices yoga and plays tabletop games. Stacy is so interesting and engaged in life that I hoped we would become close. And, as I’m someone who becomes close to people quickly, I expected it would happen early in our friendship.

The friendship that never quite blossomed

The close friendship never materialized. Even when my husband and I hung out with Stacy and her now-husband, I often felt awkward. We didn’t seem to connect in conversation and I felt like she was holding back. I pondered this frequently over the first couple years of our friendship. Some theories: she’s a really private person and my openness didn’t appeal to her; maybe she didn’t trust me because she overheard me speaking a little too candidly with one of my closest friends; maybe she just didn’t like me.

After almost two years, I finally figured out that I *was* the problem, but not in the way I thought. I’m the one who kept the relationship from progressing. I’m the one who didn’t let her in. I’m the one who kept my distance.

A peek at what my life could have looked like

I envied Stacy. We have so many similarities—valuing authenticity, loving to learn, a desire to challenge ourselves—that when I heard about her life or saw her activities on Facebook, I became acutely aware of what my life is lacking. I want to be engaged in the world, to take up new sports, attend lectures, and practice yoga regularly. I want to have a writing group and pursue wider publication. I want to work full-time. Stacy’s doing all that and more. When I heard about her life, I could only see the alternate reality I could be living if only I didn’t have such severe migraine.

Worried about being judged

I also feared Stacy judged me for being so disengaged and inactive. I knew that was ridiculous. She’s not a judgmental person and is always supportive. And still I was so concerned that she wouldn’t see the real me—the self I know that I am buried underneath migraine—that I didn’t want her to know much about me.

Finding out my friend actually admired me

I shared my revelation with Stacy. She said that she never saw me in the limited way I saw myself in comparison to her. She instead admired how fully I live despite how migraine limits my life. Sadly, she now lives six hours away. She comes back to visit fairly often, and I’ve already felt much closer to her than I used to.

As frustrated as I am with myself for holding back from Stacy, this experience reminded me of three important things.

  1. I often judge myself more harshly than other people do.
  2. Often a disconnect is about my own issues rather than another person.
  3. Most importantly, migraine interferes with how I live day-to-day, but it has not fundamentally changed who I am. My strengths (and weaknesses) still shine through to other people, even when I feel like they’ve been eclipsed.

I’m so glad I finally figured out that I was the barrier to getting closer to Stacy. I only wish I’d done it before she moved away.


  • glassmind
    11 months ago

    Such a perfect illustration of the way Migraine effects everything, including relationships.

    So glad you were able to connect with Stacy.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • lucylou
    1 year ago

    Yes, my migraines have affected my social life, exercise, friendships, etc. and I am becoming worn down after fighting to keep my life “going” for over 60 years. I no longer seem to have it within me to push….
    Tonight I am knocked down again . I received a letter from my Greedy insurance co. saying they are going to limit my Naratriptan starting in Jan. I am exhausted from FIGHTING insurance, pain, isolation, etc. I just pray again that my Dr. can get my approval for this med. since I am now on Social Security with a limited income. I cannot afford it on my own and have gone into debt in the past trying to ease my pain~~ I feel defeated and depressed. Do they realize the additional burden this adds to a already horrible illness….obviously not nor do they care.
    Thank you for listening, I have fought for so many years trying to lessen my migraines, been a guinea pig for all the so called “fixes”/preventatives…..I wonder what the suicide rate is for people like us??? I will keep pushing on but this extra burden just adds to a already hopeless feeling.

  • Toby51
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your article. I really relate to the feelings of inadequacy from comparing my functioning to others. Years of chronic migraine have greatly reduced my capacity to engage in life. I love my friends but often envy their active lives and feel inadequate in comparison. My three children are young adults now and I’ve said to them that I fear they see me as weak and wish they had clear memories of the mom they had when they were younger – when I had a thriving career, volunteered in the community, joined exercise groups, and attended workshops, lectures, and cultural events. I know my family and friends don’t judge me harshly the way I do. It is mainly my issue and I need to silence that inner critic, focus on what I’m able to do, and make the most of the opportunities I do have to engage in life and relationships.

  • rtmoran
    1 year ago

    THANK YOU for the wonderful article “Keeping Friends at Arm’s Length”!!! The reality was so personal to me, I can’t even begin to express the similarities of the anxieties and assumptions in my life, and It was so heartwarming and reassuring I was brought to instant tears, they are still flowing . I guess the small ways we find to keep in touch with our friends and trying to remain in tune with their lives does count after all. Friendship really is golden.

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