If there was one thing, from the emotional side of the spectrum, that I feel I should warn you and tell you to watch out for in yourself it’s this: isolation.
When you aren’t feeling well, you naturally pull away. You retreat from your social life so you can rest, heal, cope. And that’s ok for the short term. But when you are sick for longer periods of time, chronically or consistently, you spend less and less time in normal social settings. If you’re really bad off, you may even isolate yourself from your family members who live in the same house with you.
I understand that you need rest time, time to let your body “catch up”. I know that in the middle of a “bad spell” your emotions can be so raw that you are afraid you will tear the head of the next person who looks at you funny. I know that it can feel like no one can possibly understand how you are feeling. But don’t sell your friends or family short. No, they may never experience exactly what you are going through but if they are part of your support team they want to help. Even if that means giving you some space when you need it. Or checking in with you when you’ve been gone too long.
I recently read a very interesting article called “The Social Life of Genes.” It talks about how our community effects the expression of our genes. It’s a fascinating (albeit pretty scientific) article and I found this quote especially interesting:
“If you actually measure stress, using our best available instruments, it can’t hold a candle to social isolation. Social isolation is the best-established, most robust social or psychological risk factor for disease out there. Nothing can compete.”
Isolation makes you sicker. We are created to be social creatures, we are designed to live in community. The modern world would like you to think you can do it all by yourself and complete independence is the pinnacle of success. It’s a lie.
During your struggles with chronic illness there we definitely be days, maybe weeks that you simply will not be able to interact socially. However, this will not always be the case. When you go into a time of remission or have a string of good days, it is vitally important that you reach out socially. Call a friend, attend a support group, meet a your cousin for coffee, watch a movie with your kids. Go to a church meeting or go visit the folks at the local senior center. Interact with the world around you.
There are times when I have to force myself to go hang out with my girlfriends, not because I don’t like hanging out with them (because they are awesome!) but simply because it sounds exhausting and I’m already barely conscious. But they have a way of raising my spirits and making me laugh. Although I might be even more tired by the time I finally get home and into my bed, my soul is so much stronger for doing it. And memories of the good times are what carries me through the bad times.
Learn to read the signals your soul is sending to you, when it’s time to let others participate in your healing. Let them come in, brace you up and help you make it through another day.