Fighting Feelings of Isolation
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how my disability and feelings of isolation go hand in hand. Sometimes I feel like I live in an invisible prison or on my own planet, and yeah I’m aware how emo that makes me sound. I grew up shopping in Hot Topic, guys, I know how it looks. But, mental health is an important thing to talk about, no matter how hard! I promise the whole post isn’t sad and depressing, though.
So, I’ve mentioned here before that I spend a lot of my time at home, and whether or not I leave is not always up to me. That in itself is a really weird feeling that most people I know can’t relate to. When you spend 6 out of 7 days at home, you start to feel pretty isolated. From your friends, from the world around you.
Of course, I know that my mom will do her best to take me wherever I want to go (within reason), but I’m always extremely aware of the fact that I can’t just leave on my own if I want to. I’m always thinking about what I’ll do if my mom is sick or goes out to run errands and doesn’t make it back.
I’m always wondering what I’ll do if my friends or family decide it’s too much of a hassle to come to my house to see me since I can’t go to them. There’s always that tiny constant fear that maybe one day I’ll be trapped, or stranded, or forgotten. I can push it away, remind myself that I’m being irrational or working myself up for no reason, but I haven’t been able to get rid of it for good.
It’s so much more than that, though. It’s not always a physical thing, like being stuck at home. There are moments where I feel isolated even when I’m going out with friends and I’m happy.
As a disabled person with not many disabled friends in my life currently, I often feel like I’m forced to deal with things on my own because people won’t understand or I simply don’t know how to explain them.
Things like news articles debating on whether or not a life like mine is a life worth living. Worrying about how many doors I’ll have to figure out how to open on my own. Wondering how narrow aisles in a store will be. Being afraid to annoy someone by constantly asking for help. Knowing that I’m physically unable to do pretty much anything to defend myself if I get attacked.
I’m not mad at anyone or placing blame. I get it. Everyone has their own perspective, everyone has their own issues, and they don’t always overlap with each other.
Look, I love my friends. I love that they’re just like me, and completely different at the same time. It’s amazing that we can offer each other different perspectives and learn from each other constantly. I especially love that they can pick things up when I drop them and reach things on high shelves for me. It comes in handy.
In all seriousness, they’re pretty great. I love hearing about their experiences, whether or not their stories include me or I can relate to them. It’s their lives, and I’d never in a million years want them to feel like they couldn’t talk to me. We’re all just doing the best with what we’re given.
But as an adult, I’ve learned that it’s really important to also surround yourself with people who do get it. Even when you’re lucky enough to have wonderful and supportive friends. There’s just a difference when someone’s cheering you on from the sidelines and someone’s experiencing stuff right along with you.
You can have both, yanno, you don’t have to choose between them. It sounds silly and so obvious as I type it out, but I really didn’t get that as a kid.
I learned that I needed a community! Subscribing to a bunch of disabled youtubers and content creators was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love watching other girls talk about finding clothes that look good while you’re sitting and about their wheelchairs and about annoying comments from strangers who think you need prayers in the frozen food aisle.
It’s comforting and validating, and it’s just fun to see other people voicing all the things you’ve been thinking all along but never said.
I’ve followed a bunch of amazing disabled people on twitter as well, and it’s something as simple as seeing a few people posting selfies in their wheelchair that makes my timeline feel a little more welcoming and inclusive. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal to some, but it’s made such a difference for me.
I think what I’m trying to get at is that being disabled can really single a person out. Sometimes it means you’re stuck at home and can’t go to school. Or sometimes it means you can’t get a job like all your friends can. But sometimes it’s just that you’re lonely because no one around you understands what you’re going through.
I’ve figured out how to deal with this and I’m finding my place within my community. But I’m almost 26, and I didn’t start working this out until last year. That’s a long time to be feeling so crummy. I really hope that with social media, kids in school find it easier to cope with their feelings of isolation than I did growing up.
I don’t know, guys. Hopefully, this made sense. Thank you so much for reading what I have to say, even when it’s messy and jumbled, and not thought out as well as I’d like it to be.
If there’s anyone reading this who feels isolated in the same way I did, I hope that you never underestimate the value in your own community. Make disabled friends, find a disabled mentor. Have positive influences in your life who can support you. People who make you feel less alone in your disabled life.