One of the unspoken “side-effects” of illness, whether physical or mental, is the added stress of worrying whether one is causing problems for friends and family.
I think the short answer is “yes”, and the more accurate answer is “yes, but we think it’s worth it.” We all have perfectly healthy friends who need help occasionally, who need us to forgive when mutual plans are messed up because of something they overlooked or didn’t anticipate. In theory the sick person could always anticipate something going wrong, in which case we’d probably be annoyed with them for depriving us unnecessarily of their company, and knowing that their behavior is making their own lives harder in order to reduce inconveniencing us.
On the one hand, while we admire people trying to take care of their own problems, it can get frustrating to try to have to deal with a problem that has gotten worse when help could have kept it a minor inconvenience. At the same time, it’s too easy to criticize those who ask for help frequently. It seems a no-win situation. But as parents know that while it’s easier to do almost anything for a child, that only by letting them do it themselves (even though it takes longer, and possibly more effort for the parents), this is the way kids learn and get better, and feel good about themselves. We have to let our friends choose their own comfort levels about when to ask for help. But we also need to reassure them that needing help isn’t going to drive us away, that in balance, the extra effort having them in our lives is worth it for us.
Since they have to spend so much time and effort focusing on dealing with their problems, those problems may be the only aspect of the relationship they notice. We need to help them see past that filter, and not feel that we are keeping them around out of sympathy.
This may be why many of us are happy to push for awareness and general societal supports, from ramps to interpreters for the deaf. If we recognize the rights of all to participate in society in a useful, meaningful, and satisfying way, our whole society is better off. We benefit from the things that they can do. On a personal level, friends each have some special something that enhances our lives that makes it worth while for us to make sure that the restaurants we go to have a reasonable selection of gluten-free or vegan offerings, or even that activities are enjoyable for everyone participating. This is normal social interaction for everyone (I’m not counting the occasional narcissist who assumes that just because sports is the center of his life that everyone must enjoy it). Yes, sometimes we may want to eat Mexican, even though our best friend thinks cilantro tastes like soap, or wish we could go see fireworks, although our friend has PTSD that is triggered by loud noises. It’s a matter of scale.
There are some people who seem to think that their special circumstances entitle them to have the world, including you, rearrange itself for them. Hey, a jerk is a jerk whether they have a handicap or not, I’m not talking about that. There are mothers who still do their adult son’s laundry, but most of us achieve a better balance. I haven’t yet found a perfect answer to how to decide when to ask for or to offer help when it might make a task go faster, but make the person feel more helpless, and I think it probably each situation needs to be looked at individually.
I am getting older, and this means I sometimes have to have jars opened for me, and get help carrying heavy loads. I don’t drive after dark anymore. I don’t hear as well, nor is my memory as annoyingly good (there may be an advantage to that). All of us, unless we die young, are going to need help. And, let’s face it, not only is an old person not as cute as a baby, we’re a lot heavier, so it’s not as easy to pick up an elder as it is to change a baby’s diaper. We’d better make ourselves pleasant enough to make it worth it to those we need help from.
There’s no answer to this one, we can only think about it, and try to be kinder to each other.