Being chronically ill has its challenges. One of them is that I feel perpetually isolated from the world. My sister is moving across the country this weekend to start graduate school; I wish I could be there to see her off, but given my condition, I can’t travel to where she is.
I wanted to ask Aaron for support since Timothy & Grace are now on a different continent, but when I saw him at vespers tonight, I chickened out. I was on the verge of tears anyways; even being there was a battle. I don’t know him that well, I told myself. I can’t talk about something this personal to a stranger and definitely not in front of all these people (umm, probably about 10 people who know me equally well). Being isolated means that I have to ask for support from people who aren’t that familiar with my situation. If they were, they probably would have volunteered already or have made it clear that they don’t have the interest or capacity to reach out. So I told Aaron that I had already sent him email explaining what I wanted to talk to him about; why doesn’t he read that and then get back to me? I told you I chickened out.
But even if I’m challenged by isolation, I have been able to maintain really close friendships with people who don’t live where I am. I sent a gift to a former classmate who’s expecting her first child shortly. She told me today, “My husband and I both loved it. It looked like you spent so much time on it and was by far the most thoughtful gift we have received for our baby!” Her comment made me really happy. I did spend a lot of time on it. It took forever to find a panel that was gender-neutral, non-Christian, without licensed characters, affordable, and actually pretty. But I knew certain things about her and what she liked (and what I was comfortable making). I made it when I couldn’t sleep at night & needed something to do. Then I got to add my own touch to it. I sewed a sun in the upper right corner & made its rays shine throughout. It’s subtle but fun.
And, in another way, I realized that being isolated has its usefulness. One of my high school friends is reeling from an unexpected breakup and is still processing all her emotions. As we were talking this morning, I told her, “Call me. Write me. Visit me. I’m your long distance friend. I have LOTS of down time.” It’s true. I’ve been on pseudo-bedrest for at least half of my summer break. Half the time I only have the energy to be in bed and stare at the ceiling. As much as Eeyore keeps me company, I could use some real company and focus on something else for a change. Unlike most of her friends who work 50+ hours a week and participate in a million extracurricular activities, I’m literally lying next to the phone half of the time.
Being chronically ill is hard. Being isolated is challenging. But I’m embracing the challenges and learning how to function within my measure. If being bedbound is a very real part of my life, then I can’t let it stop me from being the person that I am. And that person cares deeply about other people and finds way to comfort, bless, and support friends.
Learning by doing,