For anyone facing a chronic illness, isolation is likely to be no stranger. Feeling alone with your pain and struggles is normal, and to be expected, particularly when dealing with an invisible illness. Sensing stigma around your illness, or a lack of understanding from others will inevitably lead most people to withdraw, particularly during a flare-up or a time when things feel hard. It’s also important to note that you can feel lonely, even in a packed room, or in a busy house full of family.
But it’s crucial to try to shift out of this mindset soon. Why? Because we know it doesn’t help. Not only that, but we also know it’s damaging to your long-term health. Research suggests that people who become isolated are more likely to become depressed, and less likely to engage in important self-management steps, such as getting enough physical activity and rest, as well as following a healthy, balanced diet.
When an individual is socially connected (by which we mean meeting people regularly, getting out and socializing and making connections), then the longer-term health outcomes for someone with a chronic condition, such as arthritis, are much more optimistic.
Even though you may not often feel like it, reaching out to others is, in fact, a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle when it comes to managing your condition.
Follow our steps here to help you re-engage with other people, and with life in general, to improve not just your mental health, but also your physical health and wellbeing this autumn.
Remember, you deserve all the love and support that there is to help to deal with your arthritis. You were never supposed to do this all alone. Humans are designed to work in groups, supporting one another. If you are feeling isolated right now, reach out to talk to one of us through the Arthritis Ireland Helpline. All our volunteers are trained, and have experience of living with arthritis themselves, so they can offer a sympathetic ear, whilst also helping to empower you to take the steps you need to start to feel better and more connected with others. Our helpline (0818 252 846) is open Monday-Friday 10am-4pm.
If your feelings of isolation, loneliness or depression become overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out for psychological help. Contact the Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy for a therapist near you: https://www.iacp.ie/