My best Valentine’s Day memories are not romantic. In fact, my fondest memory was the result of a lot of puke. In third grade, I woke up with the flu on Valentine’s Day. I tried to get ready for school anyway, determined to pass out the valentines I painstakingly crafted the night before, but I vomit-blasted the hallway with such ferocity that I quickly retreated back to bed. All day, I lay in bed, brokenhearted and feverish, with only an empty bucket to console me. (Okay, I’m pretty sure my mom was around too, but we remember what we feel, even if it is a little dramatic.) My valentine mailbox, a shoebox covered in construction paper, sat empty on my dresser.
That day I learned:
- How to control vomit
- Sometimes illness forces you to stay home, no matter what day it is
- Valentine’s Day sucks when you’re all alone
Then, at 3:30, the doorbell rang. I heard my mom invite the visitor inside. A few seconds later, my bedroom door opened. My third grade teacher entered the room.
“AHHHHH, she in my house!” I thought, sitting in my pajamas, but feeling completely naked. “She is breaking the rules! How did she find me?”
“I brought you this,” she said, handing me a shoebox covered with red and pink hearts. “I hope you feel better soon.”
After she left and I recovered from the realization that teachers can leave school, I opened the box. Inside were 22 handcrafted valentines from my classmates, and one from my teacher.
I wish you a healthy Valentine’s Day, full of thoughtful surprises. And if that’s not possible, please don’t wait for your third grade teacher to show up at your door. Sometimes self-care is the best valentine of all.
“You’ll lose many of your friends,” other spoonies warned.
“NO, I was a Girl Scout!” I insisted.
You know the camp song? “Make new friends, but keep the old ones; one is silver and the other’s gold…”
But the spoonies were right. One is silver and the other’s gold, until you earn the Chronic Illness Badge. Suddenly, no one wants to be your playdate.
The first few times you just feel let down. Months pass, and you wondering why you’re still crawling through hell alone. And why won’t anyone bring you a rotisserie chicken? So you tell them how you feel, because they are your friends. But instead of receiving the companionship you deserve, they offer excuses that further insult your struggle.
This results in a lot of crying. Which is especially problematic if you are allergic to your own tears. Yes, my tears burn and blister my skin. I have to wear skin protectant around my eyes just to tolerate every day eye watering. I tell myself the rash below my brow is a sassy ombre eyeshadow.
So now I understand why friendships rarely withstand chronic illness. Because you can’t cry anymore. Because your energy is limited and your survival is more important than any friend who is unwilling to accommodate a life you didn’t sign up for. Because there are spoonies everywhere that will soothe your loneliness with memes and animal videos.
In sum, some friends are gold, and others are silver (the spoonies, obviously), but others are plutonium and you better bury those friendships before you have no skin left on your face.
P.S. I truly did not anticipate this Girl Scout metaphor. This post may possibly be the result of misplaced anger about my allergy to Girl Scout cookies.