Friendship advice please...

Dear Cathy and Claire,

I have a lovely friend who seems to have taken my dx badly. She seems very upset. Whenever I see her she goes on and on about how she can’t imagine what it is like for me and she wants me to tell her what it feels like, is it like our other friend who has chronic fatigue, and tells me I can’t be alright really even if I say I am, how awful it must be that I can’t do the things I used to do, how doing those things are part of my identity and who I am, how she wouldn’t be able to cope in my place, how brave it is of me to go out at all… you get the picture.

It always starts with her saying I look really well, then saying I can’t be…

The trouble is, if I do manage to get my slap on and dressed and out into the wide world, I just want to forget about MS as much as I can and have normal conversations about normal stuff and I’m getting close to telling her to shut up. Which would be unfair because this is coming from a caring place.

She’s also quite stressed and anxious herself at the moment for various reasons, and I need to handle this sensitively, I really don’t want to lose her as a friend.

What should I do?

Replying to myself to add that the Cathy and Claire ref will only make sense to women of a certain age!

I’m happy for anyone to reply, you don’t have to be called Cathy or Claire, although if you would like to use this opportunity to explore what that would feel like, please carry on…

I remember Cathy and good old Claire Rayner. Bless her.

It sounds like your friend is trying to be really supportive to you but she is obviously going over the top.

I get this a lot from my family and friends. It’s even worse when I meet up with a group of friends and family. I spend the whole time talking to people about my MS. It does get draining but people do mean well.

At least they ask how I am but it starts the ball rolling and I end up really drained.

I find if I say " I don’t want to talk about me, tell me how you are" that can switch the conversation back to them.

I am sure your friend means well. Can you tell her how you feel. I’m sure she will get where you are coming from.

Take care.

Shazzie xxx

Thanks Shazzie, no, if I tell her she’ll be devastated, she’s ultra sensitive and I’ll never hear the end of it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to talk about how she is at the moment.

I think she’s obsessing about it, she was the same about someone else’s serious operation/illness, but that was just temporary.

It ruined my evening last night though.

Oh flippn eck! This is a difficult one for you to deal with.

Yes, this person is a dear friend and means a lot to you.

I wonder if this suggestion will help.

Maybe her having something upsetting going on in her own life is to big for her to open up about and she`s using your condition as a way of not thinking too much about her own…

So, what do you do?

Sometimes people get the idea that MS and in my own case, HSP, makes us so fragile that we are incapable of hearing about other folks` troubles.

When I get that feeling from those around me, it does make me a tad frustrated.

Of course I can listen to them, of course I want to know how they are.

I can deal with it…as I`m sure you can too.

Is there anyone , maybe in her family who you could talk to in an effort to find out what your mate`s problem is?

If not, then try very, very tactfully, to tell her how important she is to you and you would love to be able to help if ever she has a problem she feels she can share with you.

Let us know how it goes, yeh?

luv Pollx

We all know what her problems are and they aren’t anything huge, just stressful for her as they’ve been going on a while and come on top of an upheaval in her family a while back. It isn’t just me she doesn’t want to talk about them to.

I really don’t know what to do. She talks over me and interrupts or contradicts if I start trying to say that I’m fine. I also, the first time I met her after my dx, got a bit annoyed at her saying it was brave of me to come out, and I said the only reason I was reluctant was because people would ask me about how I am and I would have to talk about it. Which I thought was pretty clear, and frankly, at the time, I thought I was being quite rude. But she just reassured me that she wouldn’t ask me about it, the proceeded to do exactly that.

I’m making her out to sound insensitive, but she’s the opposite… it’s like she can’t hear me at them moment though.

Maybe I need to say ‘you know how you feel about talking about x? Well, that’s how I feel about MS, sick of talking about it. Let’s talk about something else please?’

Or do I give her info about it? She doesn’t use the internet much.

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yes you are right.

tell her that you live with this shitty condition but when you feel well you want/need to have normal conversation.

add that you love her dearly.

i sent for the rrms booklet from the ms society when i was diagnosed.

i used it to explain it to family and friends.

we all know someone who is in a worse state than us.

ms might seem bad but my dearest friend was so upset at my diagnosis being the week before my 50th.

it became annoying for the same reasons you feel.

then the week before her 50th she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and didn’t live more than 3 weeks.

life is a fragile condition with or without ms.

make the most of it and tell your friend this.

carole x

I think Cathy and/or Claire would probably tell you to talk to her in the same way you’ve explained it to us.

It must spoil your whole enjoyment of her company to be constantly reminded of how crap it is to have MS.

It’s one thing to try hard to answer honestly when people ask how you are (i.e. to say ‘actually my bladders driving me crazy’ / ‘I have a crawling sensation all up my legs’ / ‘I can’t walk, it’s shit’ etc) rather than just to answer ‘I’m ok’. But it’s quite another to be feeling alright till your friend starts coming up with all the reasons why you can’t possibly be OK.

Is there actually something psychologically wrong with her, like, is she scared to death of developing a serious health condition herself that makes her incapable of forgetting yours?

I personally think telling her to shut up about your MS would be my preferred action. But then I’m not you, and I don’t know her. I just know that if one of my good friends did this, I’d feel comfortable enough with their friendship to tell them how it makes me feel. But that’s probably why I’ve only got a few really good friends!!


(I loved Cathy and Claire)

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Oh dear, it does sound a though your friend is stuck on ‘transmit’ at the moment and is not in listening mode. It is interesting that you seem to be giving much more careful and selfless thought to her reactions and feelings than she is managing to give to yours!

Looking on the bright side, when a person is newly dx and feeling bruised, there is nothing like an exasperatingly over-strung and histrionic friend (however well-meaning), and whose responses to the person with MS are, transparently, being filtered through her own issues, to lend a little perspective. It can be therapeutic to find oneself thinking (for once!), ‘It’s only MS, FFS!’

For what it’s worth, the unexpected booby-traps of dealing with others’ reactions - weird, comical, over-the-top or whatever - do seem to come with the territory.

I think the best thing is often just to nod and smile and give the benefit of the doubt to a person whose heart is in the right place, however clumsy and solipsistic her efforts to respond to her friend’s illness. People can only give what they have to give, and maybe she is at a point in her life when she just doesn’t have much to spare for you. You know her best and will be the best judge of whether she deserves your patience and understanding - and whether you have enough reserves of those excellent qualities to spend on her right now.


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Thank you Sue, Carole and Alison, and everyone who replied to this post.

Your thoughtful responses have made me think a bit more objectively about this.

It boils down to:

I know she cares

I know she finds illness very scary

She is actually quite fragile

I don’t want to lose her as a friend

But I don’t want to spend any more time missing out on enjoying myself at social events because she has trapped me in a corner and is determined to make me examine every tiny aspect of what it means to have this disease and to make me ‘appropriately’ miserable about it (so that I can be comforted?)

So I have to put on my big girl pants and deal with it assertively. I have ordered booklets and if there is a next time I will tell her it doesn’t help to talk about it but I appreciate she wants to understand so here is some info and can we just get back to normal now please?


Carole, I am so sorry about your friend xxx

I don’t have many friends either (I’m an acquired taste!) so I’d better take care of the few I have. Basically, although I am generally an open book, I tend to hide away when things are difficult, then when I’ve processed whatever it is, I emerge. So I’ve processed this now, but clearly she hasn’t. And she wants me to help her.

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I have a friend who gets a bit intense about “my MS” if I am feeling strong and diplomatic I can ask her to wind it down a notch. If I am not feeling strong I try to deflect the conversation onto other stuff, raging from her work/health to Strictly or some other “interesting” stuff.

I do not wish to lose my friend but when I feel that a “verbal slap” is in order I try to say the 2nd (more considered) thing that comes in to my head.

So far so good.

Good luck Mick

Sounds like you have this covered.

Nice one


all very interesting replies and Im sure youll do what`s best for both you and your friend.

helps to hear it from a different angle, doesnt it?

have a good weekend

luv Pollx

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