Social connection in an isolating world

I want to talk a little bit about social health and community a little bit, when it comes to living with autoimmune disease.

Having an autoimmune disease can be completely debilitating and all-consuming, and yet also invisible to those around us. When living with constant fatigue, joint pain, chronic inflammation, depression, and anxiety, we are continuously trying to put on a happy face and engage with those around us, be present in our own lives. But underlying symptoms often create an inner dialogue that sounds like “ok, only one more hour and then I can go take a nap”, or “uggh, why is my body failing me, I just want to be able to enjoy an afternoon at the park with my kids”, or “I wish my friends knew I really did want to go with them, I just physically cannot get out of bed”.

Can you relate? The list goes on, but what they all have in common is that these are invisible symptoms affecting our daily lives, and the rest of the world doesn’t see it. That is why it is so difficult when we even hear from those closest to us “well, you don’t look sick” or my personal favorite, “I think it’s all in your head”. When we hear these things from people we thought were in our support system, it’s easy to shut down, and put up more walls. We feel even more isolated. Get depressed. Feel hopeless. And block out relationships. 

And I 100% feel you on this one. It causes an incredible amount of stress, which leads to flares, when we start talking about harmful relationships. When we feel this way it’s easy to isolate and put up more walls to protect ourselves, and I’m definitely guilty of this. But, today I want to encourage you to be conscious of YOUR community.

“Being socially isolated is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, as being an alcoholic, and as bad as never exercising.”

— Dr Tieraona Low Dog

Having people around us is key for our mental and emotional health, it’s in our DNA! Start by figuring out who fills your cup and who drains it. Who accepts you for you, and who doesn’t. This isn’t always an easy thing to acknowledge, but surrounding yourself with positivity, acceptance, motivation, and love can do wonders for your health.

Be open and accepting of your own disease, and those that can respect that will show up for you, and be understanding when you don’t have the energy to return the favor sometimes. You have the power to create YOUR community and YOUR support system. Choose it wisely, with love for yourself.

And don’t get me wrong, if you’re an introvert like me, having space and time to yourself is important too. Just don’t get stuck there. 😉

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