you are in desperate
need of yourself
This poem recently showed up in my Facebook feed. It’s intended to be an inspirational thought. I believe that what it means to convey is that if someone feels lonely they may need to do some soul-searching to find out why they are lonely and what it is within them personally that is causing loneliness. While I can see this statement being true for someone who is surrounded by people and activity yet feels lonely, I found the thought pretty ignorant and insensitive as someone who was homebound for six years and is still limited in her ability to socialize.
The life of someone who is homebound is generally pretty lonely. Our society often forgets about or chooses to ignore homebound people when they stop attending various events as I discovered all too well when I was so incredibly sick. With the multiple chemical sensitivities that I have thanks to Lyme disease and weak genetics, my reactions were severe enough that not only was I homebound but I had to limit who could come in my home. Unless people used all natural and unscented detergents, soaps, and body products, I would get physically sick from people coming in my home. At one point I had my least scented friends come over and help me clean since I couldn’t do it and my ex-husband was not able to keep up with cleaning, everyday tasks, parenting the kids and working full time. The day the friends spent in my house was a highlight of my years of being homebound, and yet I ended up with a three day migraine after they left as “payback” for them being in my house and not being 100% chemical free.
Unless a person has a disease like cancer which is considered a socially acceptable cause to rally around, most people who are homebound end up being abandoned by a large number of their friends. While internet “friends” helped me maintain my sanity while I was home alone, it really wasn’t enough to stave off the loneliness. Most of my former friends didn’t even call any more since they felt awkward and didn’t know what to say to me. Once a month or so I would see my doctor, the nurse and the receptionist at his office. The only other physical contact with adults I had during that time on a regular basis was with my now ex-husband. However, as his way of punishing me for being ill and not being the person he wanted me to be, he would use the silent treatment against me frequently. Thus, I was living with a person who would not talk to me or acknowledge me for days or weeks on end, yet I was too sick to leave this toxic relationship. I was too chemically sensitive to have other people come into my house without giving me migraines. I was also too chemically sensitive to function in the world. It’s a horrid situation of isolation and loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Loneliness may be a sign that some people are in need of themselves, but it’s also a sign that some people have been ignored and forgotten by their family and so-called friends. Some people may have spent ten years alone with themselves and have gotten to know themselves pretty darn well as I did. However, that won’t ever fulfill the need for socialization and love. There is a reason that isolation and solitary confinement are used as forms of extreme punishment in prison systems. They cause all kinds of physical and psychological effects such as warping the mind and causing delusions, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, insomnia, PTSD, and uncontrollable feelings of rage or fear. Isolation can also cause severe cognitive impairment, as well as impairing the immune system and lengthening healing time for those with health issues. As one article on the topic states, “They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you.” The reality is that while we all need to spend some introspective time, we also all need friends to survive. It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a village to be a healthy human being.
In my case, loneliness certainly was not because I needed to spend time with myself. Loneliness was a horrible side effect of having an isolating illness. Before deciding that loneliness is a sign that someone is out of touch with their needs, perhaps people should consider all the true causes of loneliness and how they might be contributing to others feeling isolated and alone.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC