Isolation Kills

I had come up with so many different names for this blog... obviously, I settled on 'Isolation Kills'. I was considering 'I'm not dead' or 'where did you go?' and possibly 'how can leaving someone alone who is in deep pain, be a positive approach for support and recovery?'.

It was late Sunday afternoon, Naomi and I sat with a friend who is a widower and listened to her story. This of course is not unusual for us and neither were the feelings, pain and fears she was sharing. As time is going on, she feels incredibly isolated. The ‘why’ questions were coming quickly;           

“Why don’t people visit?”
“Why aren’t we invited anywhere?”
“Why do people not like me?”
“Why do people not care?”
“Why have my friends left me?”

Monday then arrived and again Naomi and I sat with friends who vulnerably shared their journey of the past year – and again those familiar statements and comments freely flowed; ‘we are so isolated’, ‘it’s as though we died’, ‘this is doing my head in’. The ‘why’ questions were coming just like the day before;

“Why don’t people visit?”
“Why aren’t we invited anywhere?”
“Why do people not like me?”
“Why do people not care?”
“Why have my friends left me?”

And then I reflected upon my own journey and can honestly say that I could relate to every heart-piercing statement and question.

I am convinced that keeping people who are in a place of deep despair and pain away from others is a dangerous strategy.

It is of course never one’s intent (I don’t believe it is, anyway). People are just wanting to give them their space to “get better”. In other words, it is generally the heart of an individual to reduce potential stress and/or anxieties.                                                   


The problem with this however, is that staying away
makes things worst…. far worst.

In fact, isolation is used (even to this day!) in prisons and War camps as a form of punishment and even torture.

When I look back over my journey, I can vividly recall sitting with a friend who spoke to me (and some others who were gathered) and said “the worst thing is for Steve to become isolated.” He was right.

In some ways I have people all around me. Friends, family and even some past colleagues and so from that sense I am very connected.

But there is a place in pain where you need specific people,
specific reassurance, specific ones to help value you
and assure you of your future…

Isolation is a great breeding ground for our minds to play tricks on us, to convince us that our worst fears are indeed coming true and that hope is no longer.

Isolation kills perspective, joy and even pleasure.

I am not talking about alone times when we appreciate space and simply breathe and enjoy our own company.

Isolation is feeling abandoned, neglected or disregarded.

Here is but a snapshot of what some researchers suggest about the effects of isolation;

“Loneliness is not just making us sick, it is killing us. Loneliness is a serious health risk. Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. The increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking. And loneliness is about twice as dangerous as obesity. Social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead to arthritis, type II diabetes, and heart disease. Loneliness is breaking our hearts, but as a culture we rarely talk about it.”[1]  

 “Evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically. There are effects on the brain and on the body. Some effects work subtly, through the exposure of multiple body systems to excess amounts of stress hormones. Yet the effects are distinct enough to be measured over time, so that unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure, and even undermining learning and memory.”[2]

When someone is walking through a deep valley in their life, the greatest thing I believe we can offer is simply to be around, to be a friend, to send an SMS, give them a call, drop in for a cuppa, invite them around, include them when possible and keep them connected!

The cure for isolation is connection – be that connection point to those you know need a little extra loving at the moment.

 

By Steve Morrison

[1]http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/08/dangers_of_loneliness_social_isolation_is_deadlier_than_obesity.html

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/the-dangers-loneliness