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No, You Can’t Come Over for Dinner

No, You Can’t Come Over for Dinner

I tend to forget that not everyone understands what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. I also tend to forget that not everyone is educated about chronic illnesses. Like the other day when a friend emailed me about coming over for dinner. We had been talking about it for a while but I’ve been sick a lot and we were never able to make concrete plans. But then he emailed me: “I’m going to pick a day and just show up and let you feed me! LOL!”

I had to read that several times. Why did he think he could just “show up” and blithely ignore my opinion about it? How could he be so rude? And why did he find it funny?

He may have been teasing, but just to make sure I answered him the firmest but the gentlest way I knew how: “ABSOLUTELY NOT.”

Spontaneity doesn’t work

Family, friends, we love you but spontaneity just doesn’t work for us. A person can’t just show up unannounced and/or uninvited to visit with someone who has COPD. First of all, we might be sick or in an exacerbation. We might be going through a bout of bronchitis, which, at least for me, comes on without warning and puts me in bed for several days. If we’re in an exacerbation we could also be bedridden for days or weeks. We need to rest and to heal, and we aren’t able to get up and cook and entertain you just because you felt like it.

Okay, well, what if you’re not sick, you ask? Surely it’s fine to come hang out and have dinner, right? Well….maybe if you contact us beforehand and make sure it’s all right with us. See, these things have to be planned and understood in advance. These things can take time to figure out. As the Wicked Witch of the West said, these things must be done delicately.

We need time

We need time to prepare. We may need to work on cleaning our house. We may need time to plan a menu or make dishes ahead of time. We may have appointments with our doctors or specialists.

We have to make sure that not only are we not sick, but that we feel good enough for a visit. Some days we are in bed all day just because we’re tired. Some days we don’t have the breath to carry on long conversations. We may not have the energy to cook meals for our guests, and we may not have the finances or energy to go out for the meal.

Visits can be exhausting

We may have to have some time afterward to recuperate, especially as our COPD gets worse. Because visiting can be exhausting for us. I don’t mean the normal “visiting tired” of someone healthy who gets tired going out and doing things and hosting, cooking, and entertaining their guests. I mean some of us may need to rest or sleep for a day or two or more after you leave.

There are ways to visit

Having said all that and hopefully given you some understanding, we normally do want you to visit and there are ways to do it. It might just be a little different than you’re used to.

One or two people at a time may be better than a large party, as a lot of noise and excitement can be tiring. Just ask us what we’re up to.

Instead of going out or having a meal together, “visiting” might be sitting together in silence, reading or watching movies. Or it might simply be a cup of coffee and a small chat.

Meals are great and if we are up to cooking them or going out for them, great. But delivery or take-out or bringing a meal over with you are also options that work.

Your visits may need to be one to two hours instead of a whole day. Or one to two days instead of a whole week, and so on.

There are a lot of ways to make visiting and sharing time together possible. We want to. At least for me, having COPD can get lonely. But it needs to be on our terms. The key is to talk to us, listen to us, and let us do what we can – and no more – with understanding.

And never, ever pick a day and just show up. Thank you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • ed4012GD2525
    7 months ago

    thanks-will keep you informed -contacting Behavioral Health Dept. at local Hospital.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Thanks for this reply (above) Ed. We’ll look forward to hearing back from you. Good luck! Leon (site moderator)

  • ed4012GD2525
    7 months ago

    I get a Exeracerbtion attact every time I leave house, usually last for 10 minutes before I can drive away from house, any ideas why or what to do-thanks.

  • ed4012GD2525
    7 months ago

    posted the same question to my Pulmonary DR.his response was”best not to go outside unless temp. is above 35*”is he kidding?this is my second Pulmonary dr., may be looking for my 3rd will phrase question in a different way to him, in meantime, think its time for wife and I to have cocktail, close enough to 5:00

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi again, Ed. You may want to give the physician’s suggestion some additional thought. For some people with COPD, the cold weather can actually be a trigger for an exacerbation. Prior to going out in the cold weather/winds, it’s a prudent idea to shield your upper airway (nose and mouth) from the colder temperatures. Some folks find wrapping a scarf around their nose and mouth works well What do you think?
    As for the cocktails, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere!
    Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi ed4012GD2525 and thanks for both of your posts. You may be aware we cannot provide medical advice or diagnostics over the internet (for your own safety), but your comments certainly warrant a reply. Is it possible your exacerbation might be related to anxiety about leaving the house. If that’s the case, it may be more of a ‘mind’ issue than a physical one. What do you think? Leon (site moderator)

  • ed4012GD2525
    7 months ago

    left message on Dr. web site, felt ok after 4 days in hospital.may very well be mind issue, thanks for being sounding board,might need to revisit my meds with him-just frustrating to feel great for a week or two and out of no where, boom, thanks for being here-always read all the site has to offer.

  • ed4012GD2525
    7 months ago

    starting to think it’s more mental than physical?

  • fmelissinos
    7 months ago

    Michelle: Thank you for posting your feelings. You were spot on. I am lucky in that I have a lot of friends and they are learning that I have no control . over how I feel and cannot definitely commit to doing things. With this disease you really learn who your friends are. Most of my friends understand and work with me. Again, thanks for your input.

  • anirat
    7 months ago

    Michelle, I agree so much with your post. I have good days and days that I find difficult to deal with by myself, without well – meaning friends and relatives deciding to pop over unexpectedly! Sometimes I feel they expect me to “snap out of it”, as if COPD is a lifestyle choice to be switched on and off at will.

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    Yes, I can relate. It’s much better when we plan things out ahead of time and they understand that plans are subject to cancel. Have a great weekend and thank you.

  • pat02
    7 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this, it is so true. I am so blessed that my friends come after they have checked it with me. Most of the time my kids will stop by and bring me dinner. My friends always ask what do I feel like eating and they get it. It is hard to entertain people when you have COPD ..Christmas was hard, we had family in and out over a couple of days and I got sick and have just stopped the prednesone and antiabotics. It wore me down and it seems to take forever to feel better. It is good to vent sometimes, thanks for the opportunity and hope you have a good pain free week. Pat02

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    Hi Pat02,
    That is so wonderful! You are blessed with great friends and family. I’m glad you’re feeling better from Christmas and hope you have a good pain free week as well.

  • GrandmaLin
    7 months ago

    Hi Melisa,
    I so agree with what you said. Just out of courtesy and good manners its expected of us to call ahead. No one likes being inconvenienced or caught not at their best. Now days if someone shows up unexpectedly they get to see my reality in all its not so great glory. Some times they stay a while and others not so long. You find out who your true friends and family are. We can only do what we can do and people are mostly kind and understanding of this in my experience. If they aren’t then I don’t need their company. Just the way I look at things these days. Thanks for letting me give my opinion.

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    I hear you. I’ve also found that people are mostly kind and understanding about our limitations as well. Thank you and you are always welcome to give your opinion here.

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thank you for all the comments on this article. You’ve all made good points and I appreciate the discussion. I agree, I don’t want anyone to be lonely or give up on socializing — or living — because they have COPD. You’re all right in that friendship and support are very important. I had hoped that my article would give our healthy friends an understanding of ways to visit and to do things together within our capabilities. My goal was also to point out that just showing up without warning puts a burden on us. To give you the background context of mood and inspiration: When my friend invited himself over to dinner and wasn’t going to tell me when, I had been in bed for a week, hadn’t showered for that long, the house was a mess, and I didn’t feel up to entertaining or cooking. If he’d been on the doorstep wanting in I’d have been mortified and frustrated. If I’d been healthy I’d have felt the same, though. A courtesy call beforehand is always helpful, at least in my case, because my main complaint is exhaustion and I live a good distance from the nearest town.

    I would like to do a follow-up article on ways for us to socialize more and how we can plan it, or how we could be more spontaneous. If anyone has any thoughts on that I’d love to hear them.

  • parkrobert
    7 months ago

    wow that was a mouthful..While a lot of what was stated is very true, I have to say I don’t agree with some of it. It comes off as a just stay the hell away attitude, and that just doesn’t sit right with me.
    I value everyone that may visit me even if its un-announced. I may have to tell them I’m not up to company, but I would never take them and their wanting to see me as anything negative. And yes I have been to sick to have company over,and ended up with company. I just told them as a friend, do you want to be of help then I could use help with a few chores. Once I even had to move a relative not once but twice from standing on my tubing.
    But they helped me and we visited during that time. I have to take life as it comes, because what I choose not to do or cannot do due to health problems, will never happen for me.I have to hope each visit is only a start, and they now know it may mean they will have to help me in many ways. It hasn’t stopped them yet so there is life with COPD.

  • bartlcsw
    7 months ago

    And then we wonder why we may be forgotten or ignored? As a psychotherapist, and someone who has lived with COPD since 1990, the tone of this article is at the very least off-putting. A constant struggle (both internally and with clients) is maintaining an identity that is not so defined by illness that we “become our disease.” What part of the oxygen tubing, nebulizer, and fatigue define who we are? On some days it can be more than others. I don’t find the friend’s comment about dinner rude, and an “up against wall” response certainly doesn’t lend itself to friendship. As a retired educator of graduate social work the balance we attempt to maintain can be at best tricky. People’s conception of illness usually follows a common trajectory, people get sick and either get well or die. Chronic illness does not neatly fit in with the expected ways that friends and family conceptualize illness. I try to avoid being insulted by what may be a harmless slip in disease decorum.

  • karenb
    7 months ago

    i agree with both sides. I always like to know if a friend is dropping by but i dont want people to avoid me either. those friends can be enormously important to my overall physical and mental health.

  • KevinDavitt
    7 months ago

    “…never, ever pick a day and just show up.”
    – great advice.

    Thanks, Michelle.

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thanks, Kevin!

  • Terese
    7 months ago

    Great read Michelle,thank you!

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thanks, Terese!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Very well, said, Michelle. You provide a great deal of insight as to what life is like with a chronic illness like COPD.
    We appreciate all your contributions here.
    Warm regards,
    Leon

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thank you so much, Leon. I appreciate you.

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