Loneliness & Chronic Illness

I would get the call about once every three weeks, “So are you guys coming? We’d love to have you there.”  I would answer honestly that we weren’t going to be able to make it due to my husband’s work schedule. Pleasantries would be exchanged and the conversation would end with the caller expressing hope that we could come next time.

After a couple of months of this, the social director started to sound a bit impatient that we weren’t showing up to events. “What is your husband’s schedule?” At the time, he worked overnight. “Why don’t you just leave him home. You could come on your own you know.” I explained that that would not be possible – that I felt I was needed at home. My caller was clearly annoyed, and we were never invited to a social event again.

Even though I had done my best to explain our situation, this person just couldn’t understand. Instead of taking me at my word, he decided to believe that I was giving everyone the brush off.

Chronic illness can cause some pretty intense feelings of loneliness. Isolation will do that to you. Add to that the feelings created by being misunderstood, and you have the perfect recipe for “miserable soup”… yum!

This person did not understand how critical even a few minutes around our house can be. They didn’t know about the times early on in our marriage when I did leave to go and do various things. They weren’t with me to see what I came home to.

Maybe I should have told this person about one of the many times I came home to find my husband laying in puddles of his own sweat, so confused that he was unable to speak. Perhaps I should have mentioned the time I came home and had to go looking through the house for my hubby only to find him underneath toppled furniture in a back room. What about the time he fell and cracked his head wide open. Or maybe, just maybe, this person could have taken me at my word and simply accepted the fact that the timing just wasn’t right for me to go to evening events during that season of our life.

Sometimes we need to trust people. Sometimes we need to accept what someone says – to believe that there are no hidden meanings behind the words. Because when we take offence and cut people off, we can’t know the impact it will have on them. In a way, it was nice when the calls stopped. It was nice not to have to go through all of our business over the phone with someone who was almost a stranger. At the same time, I just felt that much more isolated.

It wasn’t that I wanted continued invitations to events I knew we couldn’t attend. Honestly, I didn’t. It was the way that it all went down. I felt misunderstood and lonely.

But after years of situations like these popping up every so often, I realized something priceless. My husband and I are members of the same club. We have shared experiences that others will never understand. We can communicate more with a look or the shake of a head than some people can say with words. We’re a lot like the two red leaves in the picture. We might look lonely. We might even feel lonely sometimes, but as long as there are two of us we will never truly be alone.

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