When Chronic Illness Isolates You


I once had a bustling social life. I was in sales and got to talk to and meet new people on a daily basis. One enormous life-changing illness later, I spend almost every day completely alone. I have come to prefer this in some ways, and in other ways the isolation is crushing.

Most days I literally don’t speak to anyone until my husband comes home. He tells me stories of his day. I used to have stories about my day. Now to recount my day is just a laundry list of what I had dealt with that day physically and if I feel OK. Not much levity there. Want to hear about how I still can’t get the medicines I need because the insurance sucks? No. No one does. Illness slowly changes your image, “She used to have such stories. Such drive. Now all she talks about is her illness.”

So make plans, right? Not as easy as you would think. I have to cancel probably 75 percent of the plans I make. Due to my condition I deal with nausea, vertigo, tremors, partial paralysis and aphasia. And it’s not a predictive condition. It’s either try and make plans or resign yourself willingly to loneliness. But then the day rolls around and you watch your concert tickets go to waste.

People don’t understand isolation. Especially when it’s not chosen. Sure, I would love to have breakfast with you, only I will literally throw up on the table. I’d love to be able to go out so often that when I go it’s not a big deal. But it is. If I can make it to an adult event where I get to see and talk, suddenly I’m self-centered and want to take over every conversation. Y’all. That’s not it. I am happy to be out of the house. So it’s a lose-lose. Even if I do get to go out my sheer giddy excitement is obnoxious. It’s easier to stay alone sometimes.

People tend to think of illness as a temporary thing. You bounce back and all is well, or you die. But a lot aren’t. A lot of illnesses stand back and make you watch the person you were become a ghost, sliding further and further into a person no one understands.

And it’s hard.

I’d like to tell you I have found some secret to happiness while spending so much time alone. I haven’t. I’d like to tell you the people you hold dearest to you will always understand. They won’t. But I can tell you that no matter how alone you feel, you are strong enough to make it to that next good day. And hopefully you’ll make a story that day to tell.

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Thinkstock Image By: bignoze

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