So far we’ve been talking about the ways in which friendships keep us healthy. We’ve heard from women who’ve been buoyed by the support of their friends. We have explored the science behind what we’ve always known—-that our friends can be lifelines.
This story is a little different. Leeanna Murphy, Application Specialist for Patient Financial Services at TMC, received a gift from a friend that was directly intended to maintain Leeanna’s health.
In 2011, Leeanna was out of work for the better part of a year. Unemployment benefits covered mortgage and some utilities, and the rest of her living expenses came from her meager savings. Any “wants” were eliminated from her budget in order to cover the “needs”.
Leeanna had had bariatric surgery a couple years before her unemployment, after a lifelong battle with obesity. She could only eat small meals, and working out provided a great deal of stress relief. One could argue that her gym membership fell into the “need” column as it was a big part of her overall health maintenance. But when it’s a matter of having a roof over one’s head, or not, gym memberships become optional.
She still had a few months left on her current membership at the time of her layoff and was wondering where the next payment might come from, if she was able to pay it at all. Not only did her workouts keep her healthy, but in her water aerobics class she had a supportive and caring group of friends.
Relationships were very important to Leeanne, who through her work with a life coach had learned to think of friends as filling different roles in her life. She imagined herself giving a performance on stage, and envisioned the people she’d want in the front row, cheering her on. Those friends, she knew, were her real, true friends. Other people she better imagined in balcony seats–these people maybe weren’t those who she could count on to be there for her.
She had quite a few friends who would invite her out for meals and movies because they knew how hard it was for her being in the house all day on the computer looking for a new position. They knew she was stir crazy. These true friends were there for her, keeping her from feeling low during a rough time.
One day, a friend of over twenty years took her to lunch as a way of provided a much-needed interruption from what had become a fairly dull routine. During the meal, Leeanna’s friend asked if she was still working out. She knew how important Leeanna’s workout time was to her, physically, socially, and psychologically. Leeanna told her she would continue to go to the gym as long as she could afford it, but eventually the expense would be too much. Their conversation turned to other topics and Leeanna enjoyed the rest of her time with her dear and wonderful friend.
Later that day she received an email from her longtime friend. After lunch, the friend stopped at Leeanna’s gym and paid her membership for four months. This allowed Leeanna to continue working out to alleviate stress and maintain her weight during her unemployment.
Not only was she able to maintain her physical health, but she learned that her life was full of supportive, caring people and was reminded that regardless of her circumstances, she always had cheerleaders. When she did find a new job, her weight had been maintained and her spirit was alive.
Leeanna said, “Believe it or not, the eight months of unemployment, though hard, gave me some of my greatest times of joy. I learned much during that time. I learned that no matter what, life is a joy to live. I learned that I am just as strong as I always wanted to be. Most of all I learned that people in my life are special and wonderful–just the type of people who would belong in the front row of the theater for my debut performance.”