Content Warning: End-of-life care, chronic illness
Fortunately, information about chronic illness and chronic pain is becoming more well-known and accessible, even to people who are not directly impacted by them.
But few people think about life expectancy and what life looks like for people with chronic conditions, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Alarming_Bowl6982 was at the end of her life after a terrible chronic condition, and a friend of hers was experiencing the same while also pregnant.
Because of her own traumatic past, the Original Poster (OP) did not want to hear the details of her friend’s pregnancy, which her friend did not appreciate.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for refusing to hear anything medical about my friend’s pregnancy?”
The OP was facing the end of her life of chronic illness.
“I (37 Female) am at the end of my life expectancy. I have a genetic disease that severely shortens life expectancy, there is no treatment, and no cure. It’s entirely possible I could live longer because of taking good care of myself, but the average is late 30s.”
“My mother had the same condition I do and died at age 22 from childbirth.”
“I decided to never have children to avoid passing my disease on (50% chance) or leaving children behind for someone else to raise, potentially knowing they ended their own mother’s life, which was honestly a really crappy way to grow up.”
The OP had a friend who was likely nearing the end of her life, as well.
“I joined a support group online ten years ago, and in that time, while we have gained new members, we’ve lost a number to age, and a number of women to pregnancy and childbirth complications.”
“One of my closest friends, Margie (26 Female), who is also in that support group, has decided to have a baby with her husband.”
“My platonic partner and caretaker of 15 years (Jim 41 Male) and I live an hour away, and while her husband has been working as much overtime as he can to earn extra time off, Jim has been the one driving her to her appointments and bringing me to spend time with her so she hasn’t been alone as much.”
The OP set a boundary during Margie’s pregnancy.
“My one and only rule is I don’t want to know specifics about her pregnancy-related medical issues because of my personal trauma.”
“She is entitled to make her own decisions about her life, I’m entitled to my feelings, and I don’t want to know so I can reign in my feelings and be respectful.”
“She has a medical folder with updates about her current condition in the event of an emergency.”
“Jim and I aren’t being paid for our time, gas, etc. It’s all volunteer.”
“I didn’t realize I was also going to be the person making the most effort to support her, even over her own family. I feel bad for her because her parents are emotionally withdrawn and are almost trying to let her go in advance, even though she’s still here now.”
“She is allowed to discuss her plans for motherhood, her nursery, the theme, things she’s collected for the baby, make typical general pregnancy complaints. And she is allowed to mention specifics if it is an immediate issue–i.e. x is really bothering her, she needs us to call 911 and/or her husband.”
But Margie recently hadn’t been respecting the OP’s boundaries.
“But she has a habit of going into disgusting detail that only a doctor needs to hear, and that I certainly don’t want to hear, hence not being allowed to discuss medical issues arising from her pregnancy.”
“And as her pregnancy has progressed and things have started to get worse, she keeps trying to slip things in more and more.”
“On Friday, she brought it up again, I asked if she needed us to call 911 and her husband.”
“She said no, and I lost my temper and told her, ‘Then stop bringing it up. I have one rule and you keep trying to break it. Unless you need medical attention, can we please talk about something else?'”
“This is the first time I have lost my temper since May when this arrangement started, despite repeated gentle, and then firm reminders to change the subject.”
Margie did not respond well to the OP’s feedback.
“She cried silently for nearly an hour, even after I apologized, and then told Jim and I to not bother showing up for Labor Day when we left, which left her husband confused because she wouldn’t tell him what happened.”
“I gave him the number for my therapist who specializes in palliative care patients because I know she needs support, and I feel bad for hurting her feelings.”
“But I don’t want to be her therapist as she faces the reality of her decision. I don’t want her dumping her health on me, not while I’m dealing with mine.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some empathized with the OP about her need for boundaries.
“Sometimes, you’re not the right person to talk about a topic with. Due to your own mental landscape, you can’t be her friend to talk this over with. You can be her friend for many other things!”
“She’s not wrong for wanting a friend she can talk about this with. That friend just can’t be you. That sucks for both of you.”
“It’s a hard place to be, I hope both of you get what you need.” – KindCompetence
“NTA. You have one boundary and she is not respecting that. She surely has other people she could talk to about the medical issues. She just chooses the one person who cannot be a supportive friend in this one area.”
“Also, I’m very sorry to hear that you are terminal. Hope you still find comfort and joy in the time you have left.” – glamgal50
“Maybe the tone of your response might have been off, but she keeps pushing the boundary so that’s understandable, and you even included that you’d be open to talking about it if she needs medical assistance. She’s probably super stressed but you’re right, you don’t have to be her therapist.” – kitkat1934
“First, absolutely NTA. No matter why, you have the right to not take on other people’s problems.”
“One thing I found when I ended up taking care of a sick friend, is that I was the one she called over family because she knew I wouldn’t say no, ever. So her family sat back and let me do it. They don’t have to take on her problems at all.”
“Our friendship ended when I had a non-medical problem and she was 100% absent. I was being used, and she was mad because I wouldn’t keep helping her, even though she hadn’t helped me.”
“Your friend sounds the same. She is to blame, but she’s mad at you. Her saying not to come around is her testing you to see how hard you’ll try.”
“Don’t try. Just enjoy your peace.” – FinanciallySecure9
“She desperately needs a therapist familiar with your condition. She’s going to push off her only support if she doesn’t quit burdening you. Talk to her husband about that more. You’re NTA and have a very reasonable boundary.” – EconomyVoice7358
“It sounds like an NAH situation because you’re both going through h**l. I hope she’s able to find an additional source of support, especially once the baby arrives.” – fix-me-in-45
“NAH. Y’all are doing your best.” – MontanaWildWilman
Others empathized but also encouraged the OP to help her friend expand her support circle.
“I sympathize with her not having much support, but I feel like she’s really taking advantage of this friendship and not considering your situation. Being a s**t friend, in short. NTA.” – -laughingfox
“I’m going to go ahead and say NTA. If she agreed to not talk about it for your personal mental health she shouldn’t. If she needs someone to talk to about it she can make another friend or hire a therapist. You were very open and honest with her and she is choosing to ignore your boundary.”
“She needs to understand that you are offering her all of the support you are able to, while keeping yourself mentally healthy.”
“Additionally, if she wanted to bring it up and was really really struggling she should ask you about it beforehand to give you some warning at least, rather than trying to slip it in.”
“It just sounds like a hard situation all around. I’m sorry you have to go through it. Maybe someone (i.e., her husband) needs to have a chat with those parents and snap them back into reality, so they can still spend some time with their kid.” – Ordinary-Raccoon-534
“I understand that you want to support her, but you can’t provide the full support system that she needs all by yourself. That can be said for LOTS of people, not just people going through what the two of you are. She should not be depending on you alone, so hopefully she will take you up on the therapist.”
“That being said, you set forth boundaries, and if she agreed to that, she’s the AH for trying to step on that.”
“NTA, and I wish you both the best.” – Limerase
“Hopefully, she might be able to find an online support group or something. This situation isn’t fair for either of you.” – Glamgal50
“NTA. Just for some perspective, I would maybe add that your friend right now isn’t the same friend that made that agreement with you. By that I mean, pregnancy can make you act so differently, especially if it’s difficult.”
“From my experience, I would guess her mental space has shifted and isn’t acting like herself emotionally. Not trying to excuse her going back on an agreement, you were clear and you’re in the right for holding her to it. She just may take it harder right now and push it more than she normally would.” – DesperateScholar50
The subReddit deeply empathized with the OP in her situation as a chronically ill person and also as a close friend of another chronically ill person. While they supported the OP in maintaining her boundaries, they also hoped that her friend could get the support she needed, even if it wasn’t something the OP could provide.