With a chronic or serious illness, chances are that you may be missing school or, at times, feeling like normal teenage life is going on without you. If you are being bullied, that may intensify feelings of isolation or loneliness. It also doesn’t help if people in your life just don’t ‘get it!’ Because loneliness can lead to sadness and even depression, it’s important to know there are many ways to combat it.
If you find people are afraid to start a conversation with you, it’s totally normal to feel rejected. But here is another way to think about it: Maybe the person doesn’t know what to say? Instead of trying to find the right words, they just say nothing, or worse yet, just stare! You may feel like they don’t care, when, really, they’re just uncomfortable because they’ve never met someone dealing with a health challenge like yours. They don’t mean to be mean. They simply don’t know how to reach out.
In that case, you might need to be the one who starts the conversation. Remember, loneliness is invisible, so it might be hard for others to know when you are feeling alone. Be real with your friends and family by letting them know what’s on your mind and how you feel. If they know how you want to be treated, they may start treating you that way. Try being upfront and honest with people, and you may just be surprised by what you get in return.
Here is a list of some other ideas you can try next time loneliness seeps in:
• Join an online forum or message board specific to your illness. If you’re a Shadow’s Edge player, you also can share graffiti you’ve made in Shadowgram (found in the second level of Shadow’s Edge) with other players. Or your hospital may have a in-person group you can participate in. No matter how you choose to connect with other young people who are facing similar challenges, it can feel really good to get together with people experiencing similar emotions.
• Decide what you want to do with friends or family and invite someone to do it. You don’t have to wait for someone to ask you. What do YOU want to do? Now invite someone to do it with you!
• Jot down the names of people in your life who really listen to you. Just knowing that you have someone to talk to when you need support can help you feel less isolated. Next time you are feeling lonely, reach out to someone on the list.
• Get your feelings out in a safe way. Write in a journal, make some art, or play Shadow’s Edge to explore your feelings and start to let go of your loneliness.
• Discover a passion and then share it with someone. When you do something you love, together with someone, it is hard to feel lonely at the same time.
Try some of these ideas and share what works for you. If you have tried other strategies to stay connected while fighting illness, we would love to hear about them in the comments!