Fibromyalgia and Loneliness

Having a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia can be a very isolating experience. Many of us used to work and found a lot of our social life revolved around our jobs, whether it was getting together with the gang after work for drinks or volunteering with a workgroup for a community project. Often, a best friend was made at our jobs whom we would hang out with more frequently, and those sorts of friendships became treasured relationships to us.

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After you become chronically ill though, you often have to give up working, and those relationships no longer exist, not even with the “best friend” that you made. How do you handle the loneliness that comes from that? We tend to not go out a lot in the first place, because of pain and fatigue, so without a reason to get together with former co-workers, there’s now more reason to isolate ourselves than ever. It’s depressing to know that you’re no longer “part of the gang”  and that you don’t fit in anymore. It’s even more depressing to know that your former friends don’t even realize that they’ve shut you out. It’s just the natural progression of you no longer being at the job, and nothing personal.

Reaching Out

But what happens when you try to reach out, to make plans, and people don’t return calls? Or when people reach out to you, but you’re unable to go, because their plans are too ambitious for you? I’d love to see people for coffee, but they always want to combine it with shopping followed by dinner and drinks afterwards, and that’s too much of a day for me. Lunch and shopping, I can do that on a good day, but then I want to go home. And if it’s a bad day, then I have to say no right from the start. And what happens if I start having too many bad days when friends want to get together? They stop calling, period. I am “too sick all the time” and no longer any fun to be with.  It’s easy to get depressed when this happens.

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It’s so frustrating when friends give up on you. I can’t control my good and bad days. I have no idea when a good day is going to go bad. I can feel great in the morning and then start to go downhill by the early afternoon. I try to explain that to people, but they don’t always understand how unpredictable Fibromyalgia can be. Sometimes it can change from hour to hour and even minute by minute. It’s like going outside in changing weather and never being sure of how many layers you should wear. Will you be too hot, too cold or just right? And what do you do with all those layers if you don’t need them?

There’s also the other side of the coin though. What if your friends continue to invite you out, but you keep turning them down? Your reasons seem valid; you’re in pain, it’s too much of a hassle, the weather is too difficult, you’re tired, or you just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to make excuses, but you also need to search the real reasons for saying no. Are the reasons you’re giving valid? Or are you turning down invitations because of depression?

Signs to Watch Out For

How do you know if you’re becoming depressed or socially isolated? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Being less motivated to leave your home
  • Feeling more anxious or worried when leaving the house
  • Declining invitations from friends or family to meet or attend gatherings
  • Planning fewer social opportunities for yourself
  • Ignoring supports when they reach out to you
  • Seeing only negatives associated with social connections

If you recognize any of these symptoms, please see a doctor in order to be treated appropriately. If you want to be more socially active, but find your friends are not as available as they’ve been in the past, the following suggestions might be helpful for you:

  • Volunteer with like-minded people
  • Help out in an animal shelter
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  • Take up a new hobby
  • Join a support group (in person or online)
  • Join a Social Group in your City (look on Craigslist)
  • Keep a journal – it can help put things in perspective

Loneliness can be hard to deal with, but with the right understanding and support, you can overcome it. Make sure you’re staying in touch with people and not isolating yourself, and reach out to others if your friends have stopped reaching out to you. It’s okay to move forward and make new friends. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you. If you’re feeling up to it, go out and make new friendships through volunteer work or so social groups. If you need to take a break from socializing, that’s fine. Just don’t fade into the woodwork. Remember, your presence is valued no matter how much of it you are able to give at any time. You are loved. And as I always say…

There Is Always Hope!

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia and Loneliness

  1. This is an eye-opener. I never thought about how chronic illness can be the cause of loneliness on top of all the other issues associated with it. Fibromyalgia is even more isolating due to the pain and fatigue that can be unpredictable. This is good for all to know so that hopefully really good friends can continue to have patience and not get tired of trying to include a friend who has a chronic condition. And very good advice for all.

  2. Great post! I love that you added the flip side of things. I find it is often easier to say no to an invitation than to have to cancel last minute, which I hate doing. I try to let people know I will do my best, but there is little I can promise. Many Thanks 8)

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comment Debra Jean. Doing our best is all we can do, and I know what it’s like to have to cancel at the last minute. It’s never fun, but the people who care about us understand. We just need to educate the ones who don’t get it.

  4. Pamela, I think that so many of us in the chronic community will be able to relate to this! It can be so hard remaining a part of the real world when a condition stops you taking part like you are used to. Really good tips here – I have shared this on PainPalsBlog reg feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You this week, Claire x

  5. I agree, don’t push yourself to do things that are too hard but also don’t isolate yourself. I personally met some cool people in the spoonie community and we are real life friends now. They understand what it’s like and you can do things at a slow pace together. Also, finding a new hobby that is manageable with your illness has been such a fun experience for me. I not only met new people but also found out more about interests I didn’t know I had.

  6. Pamela,
    Thanks for this valuable post! It makes a lot of sense and is good for those with the illness and without the illness to read and understand the struggles!

  7. This is an informative and helpful post. I have a couple of friends that are suffering with this and this is a great reminder of what they go through when deciding whether to accept an invite out, or not. We shouldn’t give up on our friends💕

  8. Thanks for commenting Melanie. Yes, it’s important that we remember our friends. Even a quick phone call or email means a lot to a person who is now away on disability…it’s nice to be remembered.

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