Isolation: When Our Disease Makes Us Withdraw
Since I’ve been at this MS thing for a while now, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of friends and acquaintances that also suffer from the disease. While Multiple Sclerosis may affect all of us a little differently, many of us have behavior in common because of our illness. We all, myself very much included, have periods of time where we try to isolate ourselves. Withdrawing from life can be a frequent reaction for those with chronic illness that makes all the sense in the world, but can be very detrimental to our health.
MS and social isolation
Doesn’t make sense right? How often do we complain about loneliness? I know I do a lot. Having a chronic illness can be a very lonely affair. That’s actually part of the reason I’ll isolate myself though. I’ll stop talking to friends, stop trying to leave the house, even stop looking at social media. I’ll pull away, even though I’m pretty far from being an introvert. I like people and talking to people and seeing people. There are times though, when my illness makes me feel like I can’t relate to anyone at all. That’s one of the reasons I get that lonely feeling in the first place, I start to realize, or at least feel, that I’m different than most people. That there is no way they can relate to what my life is like.
Our lives are just so different
It’s pretty hard to have a conversation when everyone is talking about their job and I no longer work because of my health. My life can seem so different from everyone else (and with MS being so different from person to person, that can even include others that suffer from the disease). Whether it’s the positive or negative parts of their lives, it rarely compares to mine. They’ve got a deadline at work, well, I couldn’t even shower today. Compares isn’t even the right word, our lives are just so different. The divide between my life and the lives of others always seems like it gets greater and greater. To the point that, eventually, I feel like I can never cross it and so I stop trying.
Less and less common ground
I’ve always been someone that can usually find common ground with anyone, but, I’ve been losing that ability over the years. Part of that is because I feel like I have less and less common ground with people, another part is that I interact with people less and less. My illness keeps me home much more than it ever did in the past. Like any skill, the ability to communicate with others, gets more difficult the more you don’t use it. What’s a way to deal with that? Well, for many, it’s to simply not do it.
Not only is being able to relate to and communicate with others a problem, let’s face it, being social with others is taxing. Even simply sitting down and responding to emails and other messages can be enough to incur the dreaded “MS Tax” for many people if they are having a bad day. For some, there are days when waking up and doing the bare necessities that are required to survive seem exhausting, let alone having the energy to be social.
You have to fight it though
Look, sure, it’s important for everyone to have some time to themselves, but it’s important to stay social too. If we are talking about the bare necessities required to survive, maybe being social isn’t at the top, but it’s very much part of the list. As they say, humans are social by nature, and denying that can be disastrous to our health. You can simply google the effects of solitary confinement to read the horror stories of what it can do to someone’s health. I can tell you from my own experience, when I withdraw from people, it greatly affects my health. My symptoms not only worsen but I don’t take care of myself as much as I should. So I get that it’s difficult and that it’s easy to pull away, but we have to attempt to minimize that behavior as much as possible. I know that for many, having some kind of regular social interaction seems near impossible. It’s not impossible though and it’s every bit a part of battling your disease just as taking your medication is. I hope to explore some options regarding ways of being more social with a disability in a future article. If you have any suggestions regarding that or other tips to help stop ourselves from isolating ourselves, please leave them in the comments!
Do you ever swear you smell smoke or cigarettes but there's nothing there?