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The Loneliness of Chronic Illness

No man is an island... unless that man is chronically ill.  Chronic illness makes islands of all its victims.  Y'know that feeling eve...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Loneliness of Chronic Illness

No man is an island... unless that man is chronically ill.  Chronic illness makes islands of all its victims. 

Y'know that feeling everyone has as a teenager? That "no one understands me" feeling.  Take that and multiply it by a million and that's chronic illness.  At least when dealing with teenagers, people have a point of reference, since they were once teenaged themselves.  The same can't be said about chronic illness.  With chronic illness you don't get it 'til you literally get it.

I'm going to be honest here, I don't know how to cope with the loneliness that accompanies chronic illness.  It is so gut-wrenching and all-encompassing.  It's not just the literal state of being alone, either.  Along with the physical solitude comes the mental.  I could be in a room full of people and still feel utterly and hopelessly alone, because everyone in the room is able to function so seamlessly while I'm trapped in a cage of my unreliable body's making. 

Despite our most valiant efforts, time will not stand still for us; so our friends and family move on without us.  And we've got no choice but to watch them go.  Those closest to us often claim to understand.  They see us being left behind and they feel badly for us.  Some grasp at straws to try to empathize, but it's impossible to grasp the totality of the loneliness without truly being in our shoes.  There's no way to fully comprehend the utter devastation of chronic illness.  It destroys everything in its wake, and we're left shakily holding on to the memory of who we once were, the friends and family we once had, the life we once led. We grieve the potential we lost.

For someone who's constantly treading emotional water in an attempt not to drown in my sorrows, I hold myself together quite well for the most part.  I put on the bravest of faces and act like it's no big deal.  It's fine my family is going out of town without me.  I'm happy for my friends who are surpassing life's biggest milestones.  I joke about how my life is in shambles, all my plans fall through, I can't do the things I love anymore.  I say "thank God I'm an introvert because I spend 90% of my time alone" and "isn't it funny how before we moved here, I complained how much I despised this house, and now I spend the most time here out of anyone." I must laugh or I will cry, and if I start crying I don't know when or if I'll ever stop.

There is some hope, however, because there are other chronically ill people out there.  Other lonely people whose experiences resemble my own.  I have not met any in real life, but the internet is a wonderful thing that has allowed me to forge deep, meaningful friendships with people who truly do get it.  People who know how I feel because they have been through it themselves.  Sometimes it's just nice to have someone to be lonely with.



11 comments:

  1. Hey Kayla. I just wanted to say I get it, 100%, and I wish I didn't but I do! Chronic illness is a war fought over so many varied battlegrounds and each battle seems to happen simultaneously, trying to live with that is isolating. Its awful. I'm sorry you are going through this too, I've been following you a while on Instagram and I just really admire your vulnerability and sarcastic sense of humour! From one lonely warrior to another xxx

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  2. I feel for you. I do understand how ya feels. I was there and now I am still. Be strong ya.

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  3. sometimes it's just nice to have someone to be lonely with...............that says it all.......thank-you for writing about this issue......it's big and real and we need each other............

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  4. I suffer from chronic depression and muscular anxiety...under active thyroid gland...premenopausal and endometriosis...it's tough don't know how I'm keeping it together...I hear you sister...keep in touch...

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  5. Kayla, you hit the nail on the head. I have never read an article that touched on the loneliness of the chronically ill as well as yours did....thank you.

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  6. Thank you. This article really hit home for me. I often dismiss the loneliness by telling myself to knock off the self pity. But they really are different.

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  7. Kayla as someone with P.O.T.S,who spends most of the day laying down mostly because of degenerative disc disease causing coccyx pain when I sit, I am alone a lot. However I can still go for short walks every few days which I really appreciate I can do. I have learnt not to take my health for granted and to exercise to the best of my ability to keep myself as healthy as possible. I used to stress about my future now I realise that is futile and gentle exercise and eating well is something I can do to alleviate my symptoms.

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  8. Thank you for writing this. You put into words how this chronic illness really feels. You made me feel someone really understands.
    I am usually content being alone, but the kind of loneliness you wrote about is very different. Being left behind, no longer "belonging," having a super fragile support system (if you have any at all) where you're afraid to "burden" someone who doesn't get why you need help for anything..., having more doctors than friends--
    When your friends become others who are similarly chronically ill, and we're all too gimpy, and often too poor (if we don't have spouses/partners or family support) to do much more than say "I understand, me too."
    There is an ache in my heart that doesn't go away anymore.

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  9. Love this and clearly I'm not the only one c: okay i shall continue tomorrow 😘

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