Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dealing With Isolation Due To Chronic Illness

How can we deal successfully with the isolation that unpredictable flares associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis or chronic disease bring about? This is a serious question many subscribers ask, and it's a problem we all experience at one time or another.

Those of us who deal with chronic illness greet each day knowing it will have challenges, but truly the most destructive challenge is that of isolation.
Chatting with fellow sufferers I've learned this is an issue we all face.
Sadly, our circumstances distance us from those we need most, our family and closest friends. The longer we deal with chronic illness the worse things can get; most people tire of inviting us places because we end up being a no show.

One of the unforeseen consequences of chronic illness is "social isolation" which refers to a negative state of aloneness or diminished participation in social relationships.
This happens to us in two ways; the symptoms and difficult regimens along with loss of energy force us to withdraw from most social contact or we are abandoned by friends and relatives because we don't 'show up' when invited to functions. In either case social relationships are disrupted, falter and break down.
Anyone suffering a chronic condition will tell you that they have lessened or impaired social contact and a sense of increased social isolation. It's been proven that social isolation has a detrimental consequence on us as humans with or without having chronic illness.

Those of us who have RA and deal with flares need lots of rest and can't push ourselves or it makes our illness worse. The longer we're chronically ill the more isolated we become. This can and does defeat all the good effort on our part to stay healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What can we do to help ourselves? Personally I've found it helpful to reach out to others who share a chronic illness. It can be in the form of an email or visiting with new friends on a Social Media site like Twitter, StumbleUpon or Facebook.
I enjoy meeting people from around the world and sharing.

Maybe a pet will help? I will expound on this subject in a later post. (Recently I rescued a cat and she is helping me feel less alone.)

I've found that getting involved in anything you enjoy doing alone can help; then practice expanding that interest.
At times we may need support professionally, especially if loneliness becomes as chronic as our disease. Chronic isolation can and does cause depression.

Whatever you do, don't blame yourself. Remember despite various treatments for RA it remains unpredictable.
How often you have an acute flare-up depends on each individual and we respond differently to stressors as we do to therapies.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a 'Cookie-Cutter' disease; we are all unique. There is no cure or control over this disease. We must continuously adapt to our disease state.

Please, whatever you do, stay "positive" and do whatever helps you cope within your means and limitations.
I truly believe the quote, "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never give in to self pity. Keep hope alive and know that tomorrow is another day.
If possible get outside and enjoy the sunshine, that will always brighten your spirits.

"Good Health to You"

"The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire In a World Out of Balance" - by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.
This book is a timely read to inform and better understand the empidemic in autoimmune diseases.

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Photography: Stephanie Moore Photography

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