As it’s M.E awareness week right now, I wanted to touch base on the subject that the charity is focusing on at the moment, and that’s isolation. With most chronic and debilitating illnesses, isolation and loneliness often follows it and it’s something that isn’t discussed very much at all. People are usually more interested in the symptoms and how you are physically feeling rather than the slow impact the isolation and being shut off from the world can actually have on you, so I wanted to tell my story on it.
A year ago, as you know, I finally revealed to you all that I had the illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (or M.E for short as that’s quite a mouthful). You can read my full story on it here, but in a nutshell, I was diagnosed when I was 14 years old after being really ill for a year. Due to being exhausted and feeling so unwell all the time, it meant I found it a struggle to get out of bed most days and even just function, which then in turn meant I missed most of my last year of school, and overtime my friendships with people diminished. I don’t hold grudges or anything about that as when you’re young, your friendships with people are usually school based and involve going out and doing fun things, and since I couldn’t socialize anymore, it just went away over time and I lost contact with everyone as I was pretty much useless.
I became a hermit and only found comfort and solitude inside my house as I was so exhausted all the time, going outside or being around people and their own energy was too much for me to even handle and it would exhaust me even more, so I was literally no use to anyone. As this continued, it developed more and more into shutting myself away from the world and being alone. I stopped answering the telephone as I couldn’t deal with the energy or person on the other end of it (no offense to them) as it was too much for me and I couldn’t be around people. As this was becoming the normality for me, it eventually turned into social anxiety and anytime I was around people in numbers or someone I didn’t know, I would have a panic attack because it was completely out of my comfort zone and too much to take on. I touched on this in a full dedicated post about the anxiety I suffered here, so you can read that more in depth.
Not everyone can understand unless they have been through it themselves, but when you are physically unable to manage normal day to day things, it really takes its toll on you. When you become ill, you think it’s just an illness and all you are going to have are the symptoms that come with it in physical form, but nobody actually prepares you for the strain it puts on you mentally. With all of those physical symptoms wearing on you day after day, it makes complete sense that it would cause a struggle with how you feel because you get frustrated from not being able to do anything. It’s great if you have loved ones around you, like I did, but there are a lot out there who might live alone and when you get something like M.E, living alone or being alone has a dramatic effect. Isolation almost causes or aggravates a whole other host of symptoms and it’s very damaging.
There were many times in my life where I was just so frustrated and upset by the emotional turmoil that I was going through and the physical weakness that it made no difference to me whether I woke up the next morning or not. It was such a dark period of my life that was consumed by ill health and exhaustion that took over my mentality and gave me all of these emotional problems. I didn’t think it would get any better, only worse because that’s how it had been for a couple of years already, but like they say, there’s always a dark storm before a rainbow and I found out that was true, eventually.
After time, I decided that I really couldn’t take this anymore and that it was either time to just give up entirely or do something about it. I’m quite lucky in the sense that I do have a very supportive mum and dad, but I’m also very strong minded (traits of a Leo) so the latter option was my choice. Life honestly is what you make of it and it was time for me to stop wallowing about my life and focusing on the negative doom and gloom that it had become and instead, try to work around my issues and problems and find things I could do instead. This is where my online life comes in, and it truly saved my life. It’s no secret that some bloggers lives are online and I’m not ashamed of it.
I was lucky enough to reconnect with older school friends online (isn’t the internet amazing?) and I also was able to meet lots of new people online too, so it was like socialising, without the strain and stress. I could have conversations with people on instant messenger and I could have friendships with people even when they weren’t in my presence and that to me was everything. The internet for me became my life and the social life I didn’t have in real life became one that was online. In actual fact, it was more than ideal for me because I could chat to people like normal, be treated like normal, and enjoy conversations like normal, without my M.E even coming into it. It was an escape method and if I didn’t have that, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today, so I’m so thankful for it.
After I felt a lot better with my online friendships and social life, I went through therapy to help with my social anxieties and phobias which had developed, and that took a long time. I’ve said before about how awful it was in my post and that I would have a panic attack in social situations, I couldn’t speak to anyone new without anxiety and it was terrible, but with the therapy, over a few years it’s become much better. I was able to meet up with internet friends (don’t worry, I knew they were safe) and build my life back up very slowly. I found an online forum which became another social outlet for me, it was much like school as you would have the cliques on there too, so it was like being in a social environment, but online. This was ideal for me because not only was it where I met some close friends and Adam, but it meant I really was having a social life, but from my house in an environment I could handle.
The forum led to blogging and then the blogging led to me creating my own fashion blog here, so my social life was just developing hugely online and it meant that I never felt those isolation feelings anymore because anytime I was down or sad, or not feeling well, I could go online and talk to someone without it putting any extra strain on my body. I could just go on the computer and there my world was, right in front of me. There were of course ups and downs, negative people and times of bad, but as everyone who spends a lot of time frequenting the online community knows, you grow a thick skin and learn to ignore it. Which I have.
I still to this day do suffer anxiety and social phobias, but not anything like I did before. I can speak to strangers to ask for food in restaurants or a size in clothing etc, but I still can’t answer the phone as I find it so cold and hard to connect with the other person. I also don’t like big crowds of people if I’m in the middle as I feel very claustrophobic by that and all the peoples energy at once is overwhelming, so I’m not saying I’m entirely better, but I am content and happy. Since I’m a person that gets exhausted by peoples energy and I’m unreliable in terms of keeping dates or plans because of my health, my online social life is my life. I probably actually only go out 4-8 times a month.
I know a lot of people don’t understand this at all as grandparents or people who aren’t too familiar with technology will always say to me get off the computer, go out and socialise like a normal person etc, but I try to let this type of thing wash over my head because it’s not their fault, they don’t understand. I have tried to explain to people numerous times that online is my life, and I love the fact I’m always connected (especially to all of you) but they often just don’t get it, but that’s fine. I’m happy with how my life is and that’s what counts. I am lucky enough to have been able to turn my online life into my career, which to me, I think, is really good. I know there’s a lot of bloggers out there who have done the same, but I know they also go out and self promote at events and parties, but that’s not something I’m always able to do. I might go to 2 events a year in person as I have to build up my strength for it. So I’ve managed to build my career and life online, from my bedroom (or house, wherever I choose to sit) and I’m thankful for that.
Of course, things get hard sometimes when I’m having a run of ill health and my mentality suffers because I am still isolated a lot, especially since my relationship with Adam is long distance, but I know I still have my life and that’s what counts for me. If I didn’t have my online community or way of living, I wouldn’t be able to cope. Those thoughts and feelings of loneliness and isolation would come back so strong and it would be horrendous. So the point of this post for me is to of course help raise awareness for M.E but to also let those of you out there who are suffering with it at the moment know that you can change it, like I have. If you don’t have the strength to sit at a computer, use a laptop from your bed or your smart phone, you can connect with anyone out there (me if you want to talk) and it helps with your loneliness.
I know it’s not the same as being out of the house, but for those of us who are house bound, it’s the best thing we have and I’m really proud of myself and happy that I’ve managed to do it, so you can to. That’s why I’ve named this post ‘From Nothing To Something‘ because that is what happened (I will talk more in a separate post soon about how I built my career). You control your destiny and your life, so if you have obstacles in the way like I do, learn to work with them, not against them. Try to turn the negative things into positive things, especially with isolation. The way the world is now, there’s no reason at all for any of us to feel lonely. I’m so thankful for technology and the internet, I owe it my life. There’s always a window opening when your door might be closing.
For those of you out there who know anyone suffering a chronic illness that makes them house bound, I would also encourage you to make an effort too if you care about them. It’s such a tough journey to go through on your own and knowing someone is out there who cares makes a whole world of difference. M.E sufferers often can’t do normal things, like I’ve explained, so ask them how they would like to meet or chat to you instead of imposing something that may cause them anxiety. Perhaps chatting online would be ideal for them or a short 10 minute visit, just something to help them stop feeling the way that I did, to make the world a better place, one step at a time. And for any of you out there going through M.E right now, I’m always available to speak to you if you need someone to talk to, I don’t want you to feel alone. Lorna xx.