Stay Engaged Socially If You Are Chronically Ill

By Barby Ingle, Columnist  

It is so important to stay active with your social life when you are living with chronic pain or a disabling chronic condition. It is so easy to isolate ourselves, which can lead to an increase in anxiety, depression and frustration.

Work at not isolating yourself from friends and family. Here are a few ideas that my husband/caregiver and I use:

For Patients:

  • If prayer is helpful, keep doing it
  • Keep exercising (or start)
  • Look for support wherever you can find it
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Socialize as much as possible
  • Take in good nutrition
  • Remember your caregivers are going through similar challenges

For Caregivers:

  • If a patient is grouchy or depressed, don’t see it as an attack on you but as a reflection of their pain
  • Learn as much as you can about the patient’s condition and the available medical options
  • Remember the patient is not doing this on purpose and is going through many challenges
  • Try not to take a patient’s anti-social behavior personally
  • Try to avoid being either too babying or too harsh toward a patient
  • A patient may feel less guilty if the burden does not always fall only on you. Try to find others to help with their care.

For Both of You:

  • Discuss options with a loved one when they are ready to talk about them.
  • Join or form a support group. This may be other family members or friends. This will allow you to take a break.

I believe that human connection is so important. When we connect with others and when we have support, we cope better, our pain levels don’t flair as often, and many other health benefits kick in.

We are meant to interact and be a part of society.

I have worked with many chronic pain patients over the years who isolated themselves. Either they or their caregiver came to me asking, “How do I get past this depression?” or “How do I get past all I have lost?”

One woman, who became a good friend over the last 10 years, was injured in her early years of life. She didn’t realize she was isolating herself and that she had stopped maturing psychologically or connecting with others.

Slowly and over time, she changed her patterns of social interaction, concentrated on her feelings, and practiced better daily living (posture, nutrition, stopped smoking). I encouraged her and her caregivers to be more social and pay more attention their feelings. She is now a social butterfly, both online and offline! 

I am also aware that social media or negative online support groups can be very draining when you don’t put up limitations and pay attention to your energy levels.

Find a good balance in life whether you are the patient or their caregiver. Remember you too can have a more meaningful social life that can make a difference for you and everyone around you. 

Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain FoundationShe is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. More information about Barby can be found at her website. 

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.