The Lonely Elephant in the Room

It was 7am on a Saturday on a beautiful Spring morning and the birds tweeted, and the warm sun flooded into the room, reminding me that I had an appointment to attend in a couple of hours. I’d had a restless night of tossing and turning and not being able to get comfy, and my legs were just cramping and my muscles burning, leaving me awake for most of the night staring into the darkness, hoping for the pain to ease.

I sat up slowly in bed feeling almost hungover from the pain killers that I took at 2am and the terrible night’s sleep. “I’m going to cancel my appointment (hair cut)” I thought guiltily to myself. I felt embarrassed talking and explaining my perceived lame excuse to the receptionist of being too tired. She must have thought I had been out all night drinking. “So you are cancelling because you are tired?” she asked.
Her confusion must have been understandable. You see, we are all part of the sleepless, overworked, and over-stressed society.
Having a chronic illness that’s imposed upon you, and the social isolation it brings, is much harder to convey.

The Lonely Elephant in the Room – these feelings of loneliness and isolation that comes from coping and living with a chronic illness… nobody ever wants to talk about that. The problem lies from understanding and the context of acute symptoms. If you have a cough, cold, or flu, you rest, take medication, then feel better. When illness only affects life temporarily, empathy is easy. When disruption is every second of every day it is much harder to identify with or understand. With chronic illness it doesn’t get better with sleep, or rest, or taking one pill.
Physical isolation comes in the form of having to constantly cancel plans due to illness. After a while even legitimate excuses wane and personal relationships, understandably, suffer as a result. The social circle may decrease and dwindle due to cancelling plans due to feeling ill and the sheer exhaustion. Attending such social events can leave you unable to function for days after.
I never wanted this post to be perceived as negative or depressive, (I really felt worried about what people would think) but loneliness can creep into existence and at some point and we are forced to face it, whether we want to or not. I feel loneliness and social isolation needs to be talked about. Doctors and Consultants may medically treat the symptoms, but the psychosocial aspects of living with chronic ill health are never discussed with the patient.
I’m lucky. Online social networking can provide an outlet to communicate, rant, vent, and support each other. Without this, life, at times, would be tough. Virtual socialisation has it place but it’s not the same as having a friend over for a nice cup of tea and a chat. So, with my limitations, I have learnt to cope with my reducing circle of friends and for those that stick around I’m truly grateful. They mean it when they ask “How are you?” and really listen to the response in a caring way.

Posted 21st August 2015