Q. I am afraid. I am sick and I am alone. I cannot talk with my friends or family about how I feel. My spouse is in denial about my illness. Sometimes it feels as though life is not worth living anymore.
Rose: Have not all of us felt this at one time or another in our illness? We feel lost and alone and unable to communicate our feelings to others as well as be in touch with them ourselves. Everyone seems so out of reach to us. We tell ourselves, “no one understands how it feels” but in reality, have we reached out to others? Or are we shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world?
Firstly, look at your life. Are you alone? Or are there people in the background who are trying to get your attention, trying to get you to see that they are there? Look around you. Are you pushing people away because of your illness? Or are you celebrating the fact that they are there with you?
I can only speak from my own personal experience, but there are times when I felt more comfortable pushing caring people away. The fact that I needed them seemed to magnify my own weakness and lack of control. I didn’t want to face this. And so, I controlled the only thing I had control over, and that was who I saw and contacted. My illness was out of control. My feelings were all over the place. My state of mind was like a roller coaster, one day sad, the next depressed and then next relieved. Nothing was predictable as my life as a well person used to be. I found myself cutting people out of my life, as this was the only true control I had.
I have spoken many times about having a support system. Start today by creating one, with a family person, a friend, and your medical support person, whether its a doctor or a nurse. These people will be the people that you rely upon, to share the good and the bad. They are there for you because they care about you. You must find a way to turn to them, and find a way to replenish them.
My husband, my dear friends and my doctor are my support system. I find a way to reach out to each of them on a frequent basis. My husband and I discuss a plan when things get especially difficult for me. We write down this plan, and carry it through because action helps to relieve anxiety. I reach out to friends on a daily basis. And I communicate with my doctor frequently through email. This isn’t something that came easy to me. I had to take the initiative and speak with all these people about what I needed and how hard it was for me to ask for help. Not everyone complied, but those who wanted to be in my life, now smile and frown with me.
Why don’t you start right away to make a list of people who have reached out to you? Create a support system that you can rely upon. Let each person know how much you appreciate their love and caring. Try in your own way, to add something unique to their lives, while not being afraid to be out of control and ask for their help. Having a chronic illness can leave you alone, and afraid to ask others for what you need.
Perhaps your husband’s denial is a reflection of your need to keep to yourself. Have you shared your feelings with him? Try doing this and see if you find him receptive. Turn to the people who are there for you, and see what surprises they bring. Tell them what you need from them now in this scary time for you.
And if communicating your needs and wants to your support system still leaves you feeling alone and frightened, it is time to seek the support of a professional. Remember, as I have said in the past…counseling, seeing therapists, psychiatrists or other professionals is simply asking them for their help. It is not something to be shy or embarrassed of. Nor a failure that you are ashamed of. We were never taught coping mechanisms for a life that has been turned upside down. It is merely doing what needs to be done to get through this point in time and move onward and forward, living a meaningful life while coping with illness.