Valentine ’s Day is right around the corner and stores are displaying merchandise and cards for the occasion. I started thinking about the messages sent by some of the big companies like Ma Bell and Hallmark and what’s been lost with the invention of Facebook and other social media. Ma Bell wanted us to “Reach Out and Touch Someone”, and Hallmark told us buying cards, “When You Want to Send the Best”. These two company taglines spoke more, to me, than just about commercialism, but how we interact in the world.
I’ve watched the number of birthday cards dwindle significantly over the past four years. I used to have a mantle full of cards, and now it’s down to a select few. Don’t get me wrong, I get plenty of Happy Birthday messages on Facebook, but it’s different. We no longer have to plan on how we interact. We are now able to wake-up in the morning and see who we need to send a birthday wish, congratulate for an achievement, or commiserate about a dilemma. What happened to sentiment? Have we lost the ability to connect more than electronically?
I sent out a bunch of cards today because there are people who I haven’t spoken to in a while that I wanted to send a special message. I want to appreciate certain people who have supported me, kept me in the loop of their lives while I’ve been traveling the country. It gave me an opportunity to say I took the time to spend a few minutes devoted to connecting with you. I know I may be a bit over the edge, but social media has left too many people connected to others with only a dotted line, and they’re still lonely.
When going through difficult times we need to make those phone calls, send those calls, and show that we’re making an effort and that this person matters to you more than just a count on your Facebook page. Illness, divorce, death, financial struggle to name a few are life events that require deeper connections to emerge with a sense of peace and to have the ability to continue on life’s pilgrimage!
I’m always looking to broaden my understanding of life in general, but more specifically the impact that illness has on our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. There are so many facets to these questions but one issue seems to cross all boundaries and that has to do with the loneliness or isolation many people feel following and illness diagnosis. Many feel an emotional exile because they are misunderstood and trying to understand all angles of a diagnosis can be overwhelming.
Jeanne Achterberg recorded “Intentional Healing” a very good resource for those who are looking to connect consciousness and health. In the audio she references Albert Schweitzer. She quotes him as saying, “There’s a sleeping sickness of the soul”. It’s during these sleeping episodes (which by the way aren’t real sleep, but metaphorical sleep) that people feel disengaged, lack of zest or enthusiasm and signs of indifference. You may be reading these qualities and think the person is depressed, but when you look beyond the psychological and expand the idea to the spiritual there is an expanded understanding of consciousness and how the patient engages with life.
It’s as if a part of the person’s soul has been extracted from their bodies. That might work well when trying to remove a tumor but what if something besides just an organ is removed? What if non-surgically a person’s self-awareness, self-worth, and self-esteem goes dormant? I’m not talking about an emotional or spiritual hibernation, but a disconnect so great that each of us may not recognize that part of ourselves if we met it on the street.
This loneliness is why those facing a health challenge need to reach out. They need to create a lifeline. It’s critical to wellness and frankly to one’s sanity to be connected to the world in which you live. I don’t think you can wait for someone to reach out a hand to save you because it could be too late, so take the first step for eliminating the loneliness of illness. Try a support group, go online and join a forum, get involved in a hobby, but whatever you choose make sure it’s something where you feel connected to others.
How do you combat loneliness? What have you done to maintain connection in your own life?
One of the biggest challenges for those facing an illness either on the patient side or the caregiver side are the feelings of isolation. It’s difficult when most of your contacts, friends and family, have had no or very little experience with illness. You look for a sympathetic ear and although they mean well you probably know the blank stares that come your way.
During the day it’s easy to create diversions because there is so much to do. It’s once the sun goes down and the world gets smaller that the sense of isolation increases. For the patient and caregiver, trying to support one another isn’t helpful because you’re both fighting the same demon. You try and remember what it was like prior to the illness and although your activities may not have been any different, like sitting in front the of the television, the implications of your new circumstance ring loud like bells in church steeples.
It’s important that you each set up some type of communication plan. Care groups form to help ease the experience by cooking meals, driving the patient to an appointment or by picking up the phone and making human contact. I know that sleep patterns are often not usual so what do you do when it’s the middle of the night, you look out your window and every light on your block is out. Remember that with technology there is always a part of the world that is awake. Illness and caregiving is a universal experience. There are both those who can’t sleep who you can communicate with online and those halfway around the world who are dealing with the day-to-day challenges of facing illness.
Don’t let isolation get the best of you. Come up with solutions to create a strong community and make sure that you utilize the resources that are provided to you (both of you). What do you do to tackle those sleepless nights? Let’s share so that we make the world less of a lonely place.