Isolation and IllnessĀ 

Isolation due to hurt or illness begins as soon as illness or injury prevents one from participating in activies of choice. The longer one is away from familiar activities the more isolated one can grow to feel. Isolation may become even more pronounced should it be decided one will likely never return to the previous activity of choice.

The persistent plant shown here could easily feel isolated amongst the stones

For me, my life revolved around the sport of curling and building up as much knowledge as possible over 25 years. When it was finally decided that my career in curling would have to end due to injury I cannot begin to describe the loneliness and sense of hopeless isolation this brought. 

Suddenly the network of friends and colleagues I’d spent three quarters of my life building was roughly ripped away from me. Sure, I could visit, but I dreaded the questions and the looks of pity. I also dreaded simply being around what I couldn’t have. It was too painful. To this day there is a giant curling rock shaped hole in my heart.

Illness can also feel physically isolating. Once my back problems began to cause issues with low impact activities like walking, hiking, and biking, I began to feel isolated. I dreaded telling friends and family I couldn’t keep up or had to turn back earlier than planned. 

Did my anxiety and depression develop just because of chronic pain? Probably not. Frankly, a lot of shit has gone down since my initial injury. 

Chronic pain has definitely contributed to my mental illness. That is for sure. I find my mental illness to be isolating as well as it’s still somewhat taboo to talk about and can be difficult to understand if one hasn’t been there.

Others may empathize, in fact, empathy is the best we humans can hope to offer each other as we all have our burdens to bare. What of it when confronted by an individual with an inability to empathize? Is it worth trying to explain or should I just mutter something about my situation being complicated and hope the conversation drops? I’m not entirely sure but in recent years I’ve begun to tend towards the latter.

What has worked for me to combat isolation? I started taking art lessons and practicing at home as well. This gives me some sense of pride and accomplishment and I have started to make a few friends within that community. 

I have started this blog and I find sharing my stories and feelings to be quite cathartic. I can only hope that my blog offers solace, insight, or a sense of understanding and/or camaraderie to readers. 

I try to schedule at least one social outing a week along with my Dr’s appointments so I ensure I get out of the house for fun occasionally. 

I try to schedule something outside my home almost every day, such as simple errands, and brief trips for groceries. This also combats isolation because I must leave home and dwell amongst the living for at least a little while each day.

Most importantly, when I begin to feel isolated I check my schedule and start calling friends and family. Sometimes we just talk and sometimes we make plans. Either way I begin to feel a lot less isolated and far better equipped to cope in general.

K

Anxiety, Pain, and Social Gatherings

My journey into life with chronic pain and mental illness is long and, perhaps, a bit of a snooze-fest so I will get right down to brass tacks.

I have difficulties with my left leg and ankle due to a severe break and subsequent nerve damage after 3 surgeries. I also have disc problems in my low back, si joints problems, as well as mental health struggles.

Also important to note is that I have been unable to work and on disability benefits on and off for the past 10 years. Currently I am unable to work and desperately miss my position of Head Curling Pro, my ultimate dream job. I gritted my teeth and held on for about three and a half years but almost four years ago the injuries kept getting worse and I had to go on disability leave again.

Here’s a social situation I deal with frequently and it’s a double whammy because it involves both chronic illness and social anxiety. I know, riveting stuff right…

So, here’s the setup – I am invited to an event of some sort…and there will be people I know and people I don’t know at said event. Horrors! No seriously, Horrors.

Here’s why; in my experience, the most common conversation starters are, “so, what do you do for a living?” and “where do you work?” or “how’s your back doing? Are you back at work yet?”

I know, I often asked these Pandora’s box style questions before I came to understand the uncomfortable dread it inspires in me now.

When these questions are lobed in my direction I literally begin to tremble, my throat constricts, and tears prick my eyes. I usually stutter something about being injured and off work.

The next questions are invariably, “where did you work? What is your injury?”

So I mention I was Head Curling Pro at a sports club, my dream job, perhaps a job I’ll never be able to return to and my heart breaks at the mere thought of this.

Once they know the basics they want to fix me. And I know they mean well but being interrogated about all the zillions of treatments I’ve tried, and Dr’s offices I’ve sat in, and all the tests I’ve had sucks.  I feel like sinking into the floor in a puddle of tears and flowing quietly from the room.

I try to hold it together until they’ve suggested some treatment which worked miracles for Great Auntie Nelly and simply involves sacrificing a goat and three chickens simultaneously during a blood moon while naked in a circle of crystal skulls imported from Morocco.

I take the advice as graciously as I can as I know the intentions are good. Then, I reiterate all the things I’m already working on and promise to look into the goat thing.

Getting into situations as described are terrifying for me. I have even cancelled, with great guilt and regret, attending events because I fear this so much.

One of the many psychologists I’ve seen had a great suggestion for an alternative conversation starter and it’s so simple and perfect.

“How do you like to spend your time?”

I beg you to change to this as opening dialogue. Please understand there are many invisible and visible reasons why the former questions make many people uncomfortable.

I hope this glimpse into my perspective is of some help and value.

K