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Missed Connections

In my experience, one of the most draining elements of living with any chronic illness is the hefty weight of isolation that comes with it. Like the pain of a stubbed toe or the pain of stepping on a Lego while barefoot, the pain of isolation can reduce the toughest individual to a puddle of tears. Of course, the difference is that the pain sparked by a Lego is temporary while loneliness can be much more resilient. Physical and emotional pain are both like throbbing thorns that pulse insistently. However, despite the fact that emotional pain can be as bad as physical pain, it is often overlooked.

Emotional symptoms like isolation, anxiety, or depression

The problem with emotional symptoms like isolation, anxiety, or depression is that they are invisible. Living with another invisible illness like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease makes isolation all the more challenging. The shards of my mental turmoil will jab into me and stab me, but I’ll never bleed. No scars or bumps or bruises will magically speckle my body. Instead, I’ll sit in my room looking as I have for the past few days or months, but feeling incredibly alone.

Where do you go when you feel incomplete and abandoned? Do you start from the outside, searching for a solution in your surroundings as you work your way inside, hoping to piece yourself together? Or do you start from the inside, holding yourself up and filling yourself up with questions? And what if you have all of the corner pieces, but none of the middle ones in life’s 1000 piece puzzle?

Connecting through online communities

There’s no missed connection section for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients seeking a match in the local paper. There’s no one-stop shop stocked with all the cures to all my problems. So instead, I turn to the online community, my friends, and family for connection. Though there are times when I still feel trapped my body and removed from my life, it helps to know that my experience is not uncommon.

Whether sharing a laugh over my misfortune with a friend over text or a tearful phone call with my mom, those who support me lift me out of pitfalls. They help stop me from cycling through negative feedback by inviting me to cycle through the park on a sunny day. The feeling of being alone is not altogether evil, in fact, it can be extremely valuable. I’m partial to spending a Friday night curled up in bed on a Netflix binge.

Feeling alone with IBD versus feeling isolated

There’s a difference between being alone and being isolated. Today, I accept solitude while embracing connections. I keep myself open by sharing my story and by being honest. I realize that I will not always be able to escape from my disease. Sometimes, I’ll be stuck and surrounded by pain and loneliness. But I know I can get through it, with a little help from my friends and a little help from cute animal GIFs. Finding happiness isn’t a competition or a race, it’s a stroll through the park with a gang of friends.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • 7 months ago

    I feel like I am often excluded from things because “I can’t eat much” and everything social always involves food. I am never even given a courtesy invite.

    Also includes day trips because of restrictions, agonizing about having a problem, being unable to eat etc.

    It is very hard to be part of a group and I always feel like I am on the outside looking in.

    Why does our society focus everything on food? Definitely makes you feel alone and lonely.

  • Grady Stewart moderator author
    7 months ago

    You’re absolutely right that food is a huge part of the culture of society and social events. I’m sorry to hear that you’re being excluded and that your needs aren’t being accommodated. It’s tough to balance health with the expectations of others when you’re living with a chronic illness.

    I can definitely relate to your description of feeling like you’re on the “outside looking in.” I hope that things improve for you and that you are able to make new and supportive connections. It might be worth looking into an online and in-person support group in your area. I hope good things are in your future!

    Thanks for reading and commenting! – Grady (team member)

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    7 months ago

    Spot on. I too agree that one of the worst aspects of this illness is the isolation and the emotional/mental struggles.

    Chronic illness is not easy, it is not something that anyone is really prepared for. Hopefully soon, there will be more tools available to patients who suffer from chronic illness that will prepare them for the mental aspect of the fight.

    Thanks for sharing. Beautifully written.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • Grady Stewart moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thanks for your input, Elizabeth! I’m glad you can relate. Mental health and isolation definitely go hand in hand, so it’s important to find support when you need it. I’m hopeful that we will continue seeing more and more resources created in the future to help people dealing with stress and difficult situations. Thanks for your praise! Best! – Grady (team member)

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    7 months ago

    Amen to that!

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

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