Dealing With The Isolation of Illness

I wrote a few days ago about how the mold exposure and chemical sensitivities that I developed because of it caused such loneliness and isolation.  I was sad all the time.  I felt an ache deep inside because I had lost contact with so many as well as the inability to visit friends or do  many of my “old”activities.  I would be awake early in the morning and cry as I wrote in my journal.  The crying sometimes was more like screaming or keening not just crying.  My heart was just broken.

My therapist first reminded me that I needed to write in my journal daily.  Writing is cathartic.  It helps release emotions that are kept bottled up inside.  This writing frequently included crying and screaming as I released the pent-up emotions.

My therapist also asked what can you do?  What do you like to do?  My first response to these questions was that I didn’t know what I could do or what I liked to do.  It had been so long since I attempted anything.  I had tried sewing in the beginning of this illness and it just made me anxious and it was something that used to relax me.  I remembered that I used to like to embroider.  I  went online and bought dish towels, a transfer pattern and some thread.  I soon discovered that this was relaxing and filled some of the void I was feeling and before too long everyone had embroidered dish towels.

I began reading again.  I read things that weren’t related to illness.  I read books that took me away from my isolation and into a world of suspense, drama and sometimes comedy.  Having always loved old movies, I began to search out old movies that I could purchase on DVD.  On those nights that I couldn’t sleep, I would pop one into the DVD player and take myself out of my world and into another.

I also began to find ways to meet friends on neutral territory by meeting in my back yard or theirs when the weather was cooperative.  I began to enjoy packing a lunch, making the long drive to the ocean and sitting on the beach and watching the waves for a few hours before the long drive back home.

It didn’t seem like others truly understood what I had been through or how it felt dealing with all the medical and emotional crises I was going through.  The thought came to me that I should write a book.  I had recently bought a new computer and so I began to tell my story.  This story, my book, has taken nine years to complete.  Reliving all the trauma and emotional stress I have gone through is not easy.  While it is good to write and get through it, I found that I would start typing and suddenly have to stop.  Reliving the pain was too much and I would develop a panic attack.  Weeks and sometimes months would pass before I could pick up again.  After the initial writing was done I pulled out the journals and went through them to finalize my story.  This was the hardest part for me; reading what I had felt.  I knew I was sad but after reading my journals as a person who is learning to deal with what my life has become, my heart ached for the person I was then.

For me to overcome some of the isolation I felt I just had to write, find things that took me away from the feeling, find creative ways to fill the void, have a good therapist with whom I could talk and realize that I had to allow myself to grieve for the life I had lost and to celebrate the life that I still had.  I am not saying that I don’t still grieve for my old life or suffer bouts of depression accompanied by severe crying fits.  I am saying that by finding outlets, they are less severe.

I am curious how others have dealt with the isolation caused by multiple chemical sensitivity and other allergies.

9 responses to “Dealing With The Isolation of Illness

  1. I had always known I had allergies, but as they were never a chronic problem, I never went to see an allergist about them. When I had 3 anaphalactic reactions in a week’s time from 2 different toxic mold exposures in 2 different locations, 2 of which were bad enough to put me in the ER, it became necessary to see an alergist. I found out that I am severly allergic to tree and grass pollen, dust mites, and certain species of toxic mold.

    Due to all of the histimines my body was producing to cope with the tree and grass pollens, on top of the toxic mold exposures due to the climate of my home state, my doctor and my allergist both recommended that if I wanted to lower my chances of dying from future anaphalactic reactions, they both agreed that moving to a different climate was recommended.

    My husband and I now live 1000 miles away from family and friends. I have not had any more anaphalactic reactions, but best of all my sinus problems have greately improved with only an occasional stuffiness now and then.
    However, I now have asthma and have to be on an inhaler during allergy seasons instead.

    Moving has greatly improved my health, but also greatly enhanced my isolation. As Kathy wrote in her blog, life goes on with our family and friends and if we are gone long enough, we lose our place there with them. I have tried to stay in touch, but with each brief visit back to my home state, I see that I am more and more a stranger to everyone I hold dear there.

    • “As Kathy wrote in her blog, life goes on with our family and friends and if we are gone long enough, we lose our place there with them. I have tried to stay in touch, but with each brief visit back to my home state, I see that I am more and more a stranger to everyone I hold dear there.”

      It was the hardest with those I had not been in contact with. But I did feel like a stranger when I returned even with family. After so long away and things moving forward without my being there, it was hard to assimilate back into the life I had before. A family member would mention something that had happened as if I had been there and I would simply shrug and say that I didn’t know what they were talking about. I felt disconnected emotionally as well from being so isolated.

  2. Kathy, I understand the depression, losing touch with friends and family and inability to do activities you did before becoming a prisioner of being so sensitive to products “normal people” use and enjoy every day. When I was at my really bad, my daughter gave me a box of paperdolls and a new pair of scissors on my birthday. She considered it a gag gift, but cutting one or two outfits from the paperdoll pages was helpful in maintaining my touch with what had become reality. To go from being Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of a large corporation and years of preparing court documents, reactions had reduced me to forgetfulness, inability to organize and cutting out paperdoll clothes. That was four years ago and priodically, when I have had severe reactions, I remove the paperdolls from the top of my closet and cut out an outfit – just to remind myself that being totally stupid and inefficient and lonely will pass with time.


      I like how you put this. I have read a book written by Toni Bernhard, “How To Be Sick.” In the book she talks about weather and how things blow in on the wind and blow out. She began using this thought process when things would get bad. She would imagine them blowing out on the wind and bringing in something new and better. Your cutting out the paper doll clothes is your way of reminding yourself that as bad as things seem at the time, they won’t last forever.

      Thank you for responding.

  3. Coming from a dysfunctional family, there has been much over the years that I have had to “heal emotionally” from. One of the most effective ways that has helped me tremendously in the past is being in a “support group”…..such as we are here on this blog to each other. The pain of our losses and our isolation, our health issues and the often complicated situations that our symptoms create for us that are uniquely “mold survivor” issues and most especially the fact that we still exist in our isolation, needs to be validated in order for us to begin to heal emotionally from all we have experienced.

    I find it extremely encouraging to hear that Kathy, Ann, and others that post comments here have experienced the same things I have gone through. It helps my resolve to survive this by knowing that others have found ways to overcome the challenges that I am facing as I struggle to put my life back together also.

    I encourage all who come here to read this blog to “share” your feelings and experiences and be an encouragement to each of us here….I add my thanks to Kathy’s for those who have shared thus far and been an encouragement to me!!

  4. Reblogged this on allergictolifemybattle and commented:

    This is the sequel to my post two days ago on Isolation. I have tried many things to keep my mind off my illness and away from the darkside of depression. In this post from May 29, 2012 I talk about writing my book. The book is ready except for the cover which is proving to be more of a task than I thought. 2013 is going to be the year it gets published. Starting January I am committed to getting the cover done and the manuscript to the printer. Merry Christmas to all and may 2013 bring you joy and health.

  5. The isolation is the hardest thing to learn to deal with. There was so much I couldn’t do and it made me feel worthless. The best cure I found was stepping outside myself and finding ways to help others. I couldn’t do a lot but I could call a shut-in, send a note to someone, bake bread for someone and drop it by their house, or cook a meal for my husband. Making an effort to help someone else helped me battle the depression I was feeling.

    • Yes you are so right. About two years ago my eldest grandchild was in a children’s hospital for severe asthma. While she was there volunteers came around with carts and the children could pick out a small quilt to keep with them and then take home. They were nothing fancy (just block quilts). She came home with two of them. I decided that since I had slowly been able sew a little again that making simple 25 block quilts would be something I could do. I found a site online where I could buy inexpensive flannel and cotton prints and began cutting out blocks. This past summer I took 25 little quilts to the children’s hospital as a donation. I have since bought more fabric and will work on them off and on this year in hopes of donating at least that number this year. It helps me knowing that I can make a difference somewhere other than what I “used to do”. When I start sewing again, I will post a picture of one.

  6. Pingback: Catch Up Mondays: Isolation – revisited | allergictolifemybattle

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