We all have that one friend who is seen as a ‘flake’—the one who agrees to plans, and then cancels on you, usually last minute, via text with some excuse that seems completely invalid. As a sufferer of a chronic illness and anxiety, I am very often that friend. The more invitations that I have declined, or plans I have cancelled last minute, the less invitations I have received. And I get it. I understand the tendency to not invite me because I seem disinterested. I completely understand that it must be annoying when you’re all ready to go and you receive that text again. I am sure that you are fed up of it. But, please don’t stop inviting me.
I want you to know that I really want to go out and dance until the early hours, go to dinner, meet new people and go to gigs. When you invite me, and I say yes, full of enthusiasm and excitement, that is genuinely how I feel; I fully intend on attending. But sometimes, in the time building up to the occasion, my anxiety takes over. It tells me things that aren’t true, like ‘nobody really wants you there,’ ‘what if you feel ill?’ ‘you won’t enjoy it,’ ‘everybody will look at you differently,’ and I believe them. I know that these thoughts probably don’t sound logical, but anxiety isn’t logical. Sometimes these overwhelming thoughts, and other times, physical symptoms of my chronic illness, mean that I cancel plans.
I can assure you that your frustration and annoyance is felt even more so by me.
Accompanied by more anxiety, guilt and isolation, I worry that I am letting the people that I love down. I worry that people will see me as unreliable. I worry that I will seem boring. I worry that they will talk about me behind my back. I then worry about the next invitation, for fear that I will have to turn it down and disappoint you, again. I am sorry that my illness makes me seem selfish. I am sorry that it takes up so much of my head-space and time that sometimes there’s less room for you and our plans. But still, please don’t stop inviting me. Even if I decline your invitation, please know how much it means to me.
Anxiety can affect anyone. On the whole, I appear a very confident person who is capable of making conversation with any Tom, Dick or Harry. This is true. My anxiety isn’t there every minute of every day. But when it is, understanding goes a really long way. Thank you to my friends who do keep inviting me. Those of you who have stuck around through both the good times and the bad, with patience and understanding.
Don’t give up on your friend who cancels plans last minute. Don’t confirm the overwhelming worries that may be preventing them from coming in the first place. I know how frustrating it is, but please don’t stop inviting your friend with anxiety.