Managing a chronic illness or a disability can be incredibly isolating. It starts with missing a day here or there and before you know it you’re spending days, sometimes weeks, locked up at home without any human contact.
Most people can manage a few days of being stuck at home but the longer you’re out of the game, the harder it becomes to stave off the loneliness. Humans are social creatures so long periods without physical contact with others quickly wear you down, especially if you’re ill at the same time. Over the years I’ve built up techniques to handle the isolation, they’ve helped me maintain at least some of my sanity!
1. Get the hell out of bed, even if it’s for five minutes
While this isn’t always possible, if you can get out of bed for five minutes it will make all the difference. I find the toughest part of isolation arises when I’m stuck in bed. Not only are you imprisoned at home, but you’re also trapped in a soft square that you can’t escape. Rolling out of bed for five minutes to wander from room to room helps me breathe and get some distance from the isolation.
2. Get out of the house – if you can
If you are capable of getting out of the house, however briefly, grab those walking sticks or your wheelchair and get some fresh air on that pale face. Even if it’s only crawling to the corner shop for some chocolate, it helps to poke my head out of the fog. Just talking to my local shopkeeper can be the emotional lift I need to survive another lonely sick day!
3. Video call someone – don’t just phone them
Talking to people on the phone is always helpful because it gives me a momentary lifeline outside of bed prison. Skyping or video calling is even better. A disembodied voice is nowhere near as good as seeing the face of someone you love when you’re struggling.
4. Dance around your room or sing at the top of your lungs
Depending on your mobility, blast some music from your biggest speakers and get dancing or belting. Letting loose physically shakes out all the tension and releases the strain of being isolated. My favourite thing to blast is 80s pop, the feel good synth expels the loneliness in no time.
5. Throw something!
Whether it’s a pillow, a glass or a piece of (cheap) furniture – throw something! I find that frustration is one of the toughest things to deal with when I’m feeling isolated, so expelling that emotion physically helps to alleviate it. I’ll throw pillows at my wall, throwing knives at my door or whatever else is within reach. Releasing your frustration in a physical way is also the fastest way to burn off that restless energy.
6. Get the hell off of social media
The fear of missing out already plagues us daily on our Instagram feeds, submitting to that torture when you are forcibly ensconced at home is completely unnecessary! If you find it helpful to share your day on your socials, go for it! But I try to avoid the Instagram wormhole when I can by uninstalling my apps and giving myself a well-earned break. Giving myself a breather from the social media world helps me refocus on taking proper care of myself, physically and mentally.
7. Write it all down!
Pouring my feelings onto paper always settles my manic mind, even if the words end up not making any sense. It can feel like emotion overload when you haven’t got anything tangible to distract you from symptoms and the whirlwind inside your head. Allowing those feelings, fears and frustrations to flow out onto the page releases the stress of isolation.
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