Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

We’re Social Creatures

I sit around my house watching my 2 cats and my 2 dogs play and I realize certain things about animal nature that are amazing.  The cats I find are much closer to their wild ancestry.  I can see it in how they play, how they hunt, even if it’s just a toy made of fur (fake) and I see how they reserve their energy until they need to use it.  Dogs have fewer of these ancestral ties but still make me chuckle.  Then we have humans.  We’d all like to think that we’ve outgrown the animal phase of our ancestry but the truth is we haven’t.

Like many animals in the wild humans are pack animals.  We live, work and enjoy life better with others around.  Being connected gives us a sense of community and that our existence makes a true difference in the world.  This is especially true when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness.  Our connections to others is truly a form of medicine that doctors don’t often understand and certainly underestimate.

I’ve worked in many nonprofit agencies over the past twenty years, all focused on those facing a health challenge.  The thing they all have in common is that each agency worked to provide opportunities for participants to come together reducing their sense of isolation.  Being in the world and connecting with others gets our senses all fired up.  When our body is fully engaged our immune system goes for the ride and begins releasing hormones that help the body heal.  Our connections to family and friends reduce stress, improve our eating habits, and make us laugh.

Remember years ago the stories from Eastern Europe about the children in orphanages?  They revealed that children who lacked social interaction became withdrawn and often suffered as “failure to thrive” children.  Adults are no different.  If you don’t think a phone call or a birthday greeting makes a difference then you’re very mistaken.  Don’t take these small acts of kindness and connection for granted.  In addition, it’s just as good to give as to receive.

Begin letter writing to your friends.  Make a commitment to write one letter a month.  E-mail is good for general communication but it doesn’t convey the same sense of connection as the written word.  Just think about how excited you get when the mailbox has something other than bills.  Make a phone call to someone you’ve been thinking about.  Send a photo or post a photo gallery on one of the online photo galleries and let others know what you’re up to.

Every connection is a lifeline both literally and figuratively.  What connections will you foster in the coming days?

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