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 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.