This was originally posted on May 29, 2012. Chronic Illness brings with it an isolation that is so difficult to describe to others who go about their day-to-day lives without thinking about how lucky they truly are. I felt the need to write about the difficulty of dealing with isolation. I hope you find it helpful.
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.