Socializing when you have a Chronic Illness
Below I have shared a post from a blog I was writing in 2015, about my healing journey through chronic illness. It is about the challenges of having a social life when you are chronically ill...with the holiday season upon us, I thought it would be a good time to post it! My work as an Energy Medicine Practitioner specializes in working with clients with chronic illness by helping to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, reduce pain, boost immune system and energy, and shift false, often subconscious beliefs. If you would like to learn more about how I can help you or a friend or family member, you can schedule a Free 30 minute Consultation.
Socializing and Lyme Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, socializing becomes more difficult when you have a chronic illness like Lyme. I'm definitely on the introvert side of the scale, and I've read that you can tell which you are by noticing if socializing energizes you or drains your energy. I knew that it certainly didn't energize me, but it wasn't until I became sick that I really became aware of how much energy it really takes. It was surprising to me to realize how draining just having a conversation could be. Taking information in, processing it, and formulating a response can all be very taxing to an already foggy, exhausted brain.
Also, up until recently, I only had the energy for the bare minimum. For me, that meant working part time (I'm lucky to have a very flexible schedule that I can adjust based on how I'm feeling. Many Lyme patients are not able to work at all.) and taking care of my daughter (with lots of help from my husband, Brian). Many days I would just look ahead thinking, "ok, when can I lay down again?" Developing friendships, parties, committees, etc., fall by the wayside.
Another difficulty for me has been simply being able to make and keep plans. Lyme symptoms come and go, seemingly with no rhyme or reason. I might feel ok when I make the plans, but that is no guarantee I'll still feel good when the time comes. In fact, I had to cancel my and Brian's date night the last two weekends in a row - once because of a headache, the next because of an upset stomach. I wanted to go, but my body had other plans. So, usually I'm kind of vague about plans. I hesitate to commit because I just don't know that I'll be able to follow through.
Finally, I'm not a master of small talk as it is, but with my life so reduced to dealing with this illness I sometimes find it very difficult to think of things to say! What is usually going on in my life is symptoms, and the healing methods and supplements I'm trying to get better. And it's not something I necessarily bring up when I first meet someone. It's a little awkward, because it is in fact such a big part of my life, but not something I always feel comfortable talking about.
So, I don't really have some wise advise to give here. Just an acknowledgement of this challenge, and to say to myself, and anyone else with the same difficulty, that it's ok! We do what we can do. I learn over and over with this illness to be aware of my body and my energy level and not to overdo it! It gets frustrating sometimes to live what seems like such a limited life. To want to be out in the world doing "normal" things. And maybe wanting to please others, meet their expectations, to not want to say no. I've learned the hard way that you have to face whatever stands in the way of you taking care of you. No one else is going to do it. More on that in another post...