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What to Do If You've Hit Rock Bottom in the Isolation of Chronic Illness

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Loneliness. It’s something I feel a lot. I want to be out socializing. I want my friends not to pull away. Right now I want my old life back.

If you live with any chronic pain or illness you know what I mean. You say no to plans with friends because you don’t know how you’ll feel that day. Then they slowly stop inviting you, and then stop talking to you. They don’t understand why you say no every time, even when you try and explain. It’s not them being mean, it’s just that they don’t know what it’s like.

Soon, the people you live with and doctors are your only social interaction. You know the internet better than anyone cause all you have is free time. The pain or illness forces you to drop out of school, quit your job or apply for government disability. You talk back to movies, shows, the radio because those are the only people you get to talk to.

For me, I started not liking people who couldn’t understand. I didn’t have the energy to deal with them, or explain everything, or have to listen to their woes when I had enough of my own to deal with.

You mature when your illness or pain starts. You no longer fit in with your age group – for me it’s early 20s, when it all started it was late teens – and their problems are something so easy compared to what you deal with. It makes you wish it was simple drama in your life.

And at some point you reach rock bottom. No more energy to go see new doctors and explain everything over and over, no inclination to go outside or even get out of bed. All of the bad pain days start to blur together and you can’t remember the last time you had a day with no pain. You can’t remember the last time you even talked to someone who didn’t live with you. And some days you don’t say a word at all. All of your passions and hobbies become memories. And before you know it life is just laying in bed watching TV.

But that’s when you’ve got to push back and not give up. That’s when you can change things. For me I kept up with my photography on social media, kept listening to music and always looked for a store hiring part time employees in my field. That way if I got a job I would be more willing to actually go out and do it even when I was in pain. I made myself take my dog for walks on good pain and weather days. Forced myself to paint or draw or read.

black and white photo of a tunnel by the author
Photo by MNW Photography

And it’s working! I found a photography job in a portrait studio, have gone to community events, and now have a reason to get out of bed! I may not have my friends back but I’m on my way there.

Don’t give up on that loneliness. Sometimes you’ve just got to go through that to make it out a better person, more understanding and empathetic. And maybe it’s during that loneliness you find what you truly love. When you have all the time you find what you like doing when you feel really bad. Sometimes that can give your life more meaning. For me, I threw myself into my art to express how I felt by writing, drawing, painting, finding songs and taking photos. That is sometimes what gets you through and sometimes that’s how you pull yourself out the other side!

When you reach that low, look at it for what it is: your new beginning! The only place to go when you reach the bottom is back up. Find your strength and straighten up, be the new you that you wish you were. Climb and fight and claw your way back. But never give up!

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Originally published: October 16, 2017
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