There are many people who struggle with isolation day after day, and in many the prolonged loneliness that results can lead to deep depression. I know because I watched my chronically ill daughter struggle with this very thing throughout her middle school years, as if those years aren’t bad enough already. It made her physical challenges much harder to endure. She knew all these people were aware that her once active life had been turned completely upside down; previously filled with school, competitive soccer, and friends, but now reduced to stuck on the couch, often needing a walker or wheelchair just to get to the bathroom. And yet, throughout her struggle few people reached out to her directly to show their support and lift her spirits. Unable to even attend school at that point, almost all of her prior friends were no longer in contact with her. They moved on with their own busy lives. Others spread ridiculous rumors about her at school, causing taunting and bullying on the very rare occasions that she did make it to school.
At one point she even said to me, “Mom, I could die right now and no one outside of this house would even notice.” As a mom, hearing her say this, knowing she felt this way, completely broke my heart. And yet, this is a common belief held by those who, for one reason or another, are left to live lonely lives in isolation. It is definitely a common frustration felt by a vast number of those suffering with chronic illness, regardless of their age. They struggle just to manage their pain and disability, but are often physically unable of doing much else.
During that time of isolation, only a few people took a moment out of their busy day to reach out to her. Two of them were people challenged by the same medical condition whom I had met only virtually through an online medical support group. They both sent her token gifts, one of them to celebrate my daughter finally receiving an official diagnoses after four years of struggle. Another was a dear lady that had met my daughter only once, when we adopted our rescue dog from her. She took special interest and sent a gift card for art supplies so my daughter could delve deeper into her newfound interest. Receiving that put my daughter over the moon, and she greatly appreciated the generosity and kindness it demonstrated.
Receiving something from the outside world meant someone had taken the time to think of her, and it lifted her mood tremendously. I’m quite sure others thought of her because they acknowledged and occasionally commented on my sporadic posts on Facebook. Although, admittedly, in those posts I only scratched the surface as to how torturous her condition and situation really were at the time. But she didn’t want pity; she just wanted someone to care.
It could be the single person who comes home to an empty house each day, the elderly person who has outlived their spouse and friends, or the child that gets bullied at school. And yes, it is incredibly isolating for the caregivers of chronically ill loved ones as well, trapped in isolation by the dependency of the one they care for. In all of these instances, the simplest of gestures can light up their day and significantly lessen their loneliness or depression. Whether that is a call, a card, a handwritten note, or a token gift, anything that lets them know someone out there is thinking of them and cares. And that someone could be anyone; a family member, friend, coworker, neighbor, or even someone they have never met in person.