Friday, March 8, 2013
Since you are experiencing a chronic pain condition, there comes a realization that total healing may not occur. Despite all that health care providers do for you and all that you do for yourself, your condition persists. In fact, it can become all consuming.
Looking outside of yourself to avoid isolation is an important element in staying connected to life and the world. Friendships are one of the best connectors, and it is surprising to learn how many women feel they have few or no friends. As a therapist, it is not uncommon to hear women talk about the difficulty they have in meeting others and developing friendships.
Researchers attribute the lack of friendships to introversion, increasing remoteness because of technology, especially texting and email, and changing neighborhoods where safety and air conditioning systems deter us from meeting the people we live closest to.
Changing roles of women also contribute to the lack of friendships. Where a century ago, women participated in quilting bees, sewing circles and pie baking contests, women today find themselves challenged by balancing family, work, their professional careers and physical activity.
Laughter, sharing, commiserating, empathizing, suggesting, hugging – all of these actions are healing. In our highly technological society, it is interesting how many of us are spellbound by reruns of old television shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s. If you were to analyze the story plots, it is the relationship between friends that is the key to the story line. Clients often say that “I Love Lucy” is their favorite classic television show. Zany Lucy and Ethel create untenable situations in the series, yet and no matter their misadventures, their close relationship endures.
The psychological and physical benefits of friendship include reduction in stress and increases in endorphins, the substance our bodies create to form a feeling of wellbeing. Loneliness causes people to be more restless, sleep less, and be more irritable. It causes changes in appetite and may contribute to slovenly behavior.
Despite chronic pain, there are relatively easy ways to seek out friendships. One guideline, is to reach out to others whom you know and initiate contact. Send a greeting card, offer an invitation to lunch, or ask if you can drop by and deliver your favorite cooking creation as a way to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Even if you are introverted, these actions are not demanding.
Other ideas for connection include volunteering for a cause that is dear to your heart. If your mobility is compromised, charities have jobs that can be performed at home, and you receive contact and recognition for your actions.
Consider getting a pet. Besides the therapeutic value of having a furry warm body, pets generate conversation. They also help you gain entrance to groups of similar interest. Walking your dog, helping at a shelter, socializing a dog for therapeutic use by an impaired child, are ways to open doors for making new contacts.
Joining a support group related to your condition gives rise to new associations. However, if the group lacks educational structure and is filled with angry, bitter members, you may want to seek out a gathering that is more uplifting.
Dare yourself to develop a new hobby and involve yourself in a special interest group. Ask for help, offer to do a favor, or accept a position on that organization’s administrative Board.
Take a class. Learn something you have always wondered about.
Be expressive! Be inviting! Smile! Remember you
ARE NOT your
pain. Let the personable you shine. Trust that others will respond positively.
By: Rhonda Borman, LCSW