Chronic illness and isolation tend to go hand in hand. You’re too sick to get out, so you spend your days at home, alone, which fosters depression and feelings of loneliness.
This is a problem.
People need people; we were created for relationship with one another, and when we spend day after day alone, this affects our health.
It’s no small thing. I surmise that spending time with others in healthy relationship may be just as an important factor in our healing as taking antibiotics or performing other Lyme disease therapies. I notice, without exception, that whenever I get out of the house to see people that I enjoy being with, that my mood lifts and symptoms abate. A recent muscle test actually confirmed that unless I go out to see people at least three times a week, my health suffers.
But what can you do if you are too sick to get out of the house or don’t have friends who can visit you? What if you are too broke to spend money on social activities? No easy solution exists, and yet, I have to wonder if some of us can heal if we spend the vast majority of our time alone.
So I brainstorm solutions to this problem. So far, I don’t have any good ones, although one fanciful idea keeps returning to my mind. For those of us who live alone or in a bad family or roommate situation, I wonder what it would be like if we instead lived with a few friends who have Lyme disease?
Just imagine: two, three or four Lymie’s sharing a house, and in community with one another. I know, now you are thinking, “Is she crazy?”
Yes, living with other sick people and their symptoms can have its drawbacks. You might be tempted to talk about your symptoms too often, or one of your roomie’s might suffer bouts of Lyme rage. Yet, if the match between Lyme disease sufferers is a good one, other benefits may be realized. Such as having someone around in time of emotional or physical need; being able to share a joke or conversation with another, or being able to divide up daily chores, such as cooking, cleaning and shopping. How much less of a burden it would be if we had someone to make dinner for us, two or three times a week! How nice it would be to have someone with whom to share a steak dinner. How much safer might we feel if we had a friend nearby to take us to the ER, should we have an emergency.
Not only this, but what marvelous benefits could be reaped by living with others who know exactly what we are going through! Roommates who can be sensitive to our needs because theirs are similar. People who know that loud noise from the television and long talks can be draining, and that absolute silence at night is required in order to beat insomnia.
Historically, most people have never lived alone. This is a modern phenomenon that seems to be encouraged in part by the high value that western societies place on independence, and being able to do things our way, without the inconvenience of worrying about another’s needs and habits.
Don’t get me wrong; in Lyme disease, this can be a good thing. Some of us are so sick that we can’t really afford to take care of other people. At the same time, what’s worse: being inconvenienced by another’s needs or living in isolation?
The answer probably depends upon to what degree, or in what ways, living with another person would negatively affect us. If we ended up living with a Lyme disease sufferer who has poor boundaries, then we may find it difficult to keep him or her from stealing energy that we don’t have. If our roommate has rage issues, or is constantly complaining about his or her symptoms, then these may adversely impact our health, too.
But what if you lived with other Lyme disease sufferers who, like you, were committed to wellness, not just physically, but also emotionally, and who possessed enough emotional stability and maturity to be able to maintain a relationship of mutual respect with others? People who understand the importance of healthy boundaries, for instance, and in maintaining a positive outlook? Granted, few people (and especially those with Lyme disease) have the ability to be positive all of the time, but some of us have a greater ability than others to not take our anger or depression out on our friends.
But even if we did from time to time, would dealing with a roommate’s bad mood every now and again be worse than perpetual loneliness?
I don’t have the answer. While I know that living in unhealthy relationship with others is toxic to a person’s health, I also know that it’s harmful to live without human contact. It’s good to be with people that you can not only talk on the phone to, but also see in person. We need face-to-face interaction; we need to be hugged and held and we need to share a good meal or our chores with another.
If I ever get rich, maybe one day I’ll buy a big house and try the Lyme disease community experiment. In the meantime, if you are able, I encourage you to get out of the house and develop a social life, however possible. Even if it’s physically difficult, it may be worth the effort to meet a friend for tea or for a walk at the park. And if you can’t get out, try calling a few other Lyme disease sufferers on the phone, just to chat. Human interaction is important; indeed, it is vital for maintaining a healthy life.