Our Social Isolation Comes from Our Difficult Experiences


Our Social Isolation Comes from Our Difficult Experiences

I just saw this tweet on Twitter from an author of a caregiving book:

#Caregivers can become socially isolated, but this may be self-imposed. Do you not want to burden others or trust others to provide help?

I've written about our isolation and loneliness in the past. I'm often baffled at this idea that somehow it's our fault we're isolated. Of course it's hard to ask for help. You try requesting help to care for an individual who may chronically ill, medically fragile or have difficult behaviors. We're not presented with a line of volunteers jumping up and down, waving to us as they hope to be chosen to help.

Most important: We're socially isolated because of all that we experience during a caregiving day. Each day, we witness something difficult for our caree and for ourselves. Each day, we experience loss, whether it be because our caree is declining or because we had to say "no" to an opportunity because of our caregiving responsibilities.

Caregiving can be incredibly depressing for us. The sadness of a caregiving experience is often why we struggle to get the help we need. Perhaps it's us -- that we worry about exposing others to an experience that we find to be so devastating. But perhaps it's them -- who wants to help when it's so emotionally draining to help? They see what it does to us so no wonder they disappear.

A caregiving experience is also part art and part science. It's a nuanced equation we've figured out through diligent, tenacious trial and error. We do the kind of math during our caregiving day that requires binders and notebooks connected to digital and paper calendars. Sometimes, we can barely get the numbers to add up. Of course, it's hard to trust others when we know what happens when it all fails. It's left to us to figure out how to put it all back together again.

Caregiving is such a complex, complicated experience. We feel conflicted by truly difficult emotions that disconnect us from what others may experience in their lives. While we live with death, they live with vacations and parties. It's difficult to gather with others who live such different lives than ours. Conversely, it's tough to connect with others who live lives like ours because, well, we're all just stuck trying to figure out our complex equations.

I just wonder why others burden us with their misconceptions of our experience? And why don't they trust us to know we absolutely do our best each and every day?

I'd love to know your thoughts and experiences. Please share in our comments section, below.


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Hi, as I'm reading this post and the comments_mysql I am wondering if the deliberate choosing to be alone is our nervous systems response, to moving us out of fight or flight and back into rest and digest. A perfectly normal survival mechanism. The problem for us is probably the frequency with which we need to retreat to calm our systems, thereby reducing the opportunities to create deep connections with others. \r\n\r\nHmmm...What other groups of people do a similar thing? I'm thinking of maybe the fire brigade and the armed forces etc. They move into fight or flight regularly, unlike us though they have a strong comradere, a commitment to be there for each other, which helps them develop resiliency. Why don't family caregivers? Is it because we work in isolation from each other? Is it because the government puts us in a competitive process with each other for the mighty support dollars? Is it because people in the armed forces are in socially valued roles? That's funny though, because they are also in the caregiving business...caring for all of us. \r\n\r\nI think that people who have not had a caregiving experience underestimate the impact of caregiving on our own bodily systems and thereby the need to re-establish calm to our systems, and then deem us deficient or not able to help ourselves. Where in fact we are more closely aligned to the subtleties of optimal function than most...we just have unrelenting exposure to stress, so for the uninitiated it looks like we are going nowhere, but the reality is...we are still standing!

Theresa Niewiadomski

Very good point Donna. Thank you for having the courage to advocate for yourself-not selfish at all! Something we all need to be mindful of!


Hi Donna -- I created a video for you with some thoughts; you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/Jkecj3MbmVY. I hope it helps!! Please let me know if you have any other questions.