I isolated myself severely when the migraine became every single day. Combined with the FM pain it was too much to handle. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Do anything. I just wanted to recover from work. I spent a lot of time in hermit mode and lost a lot of friends…. who simply moved on to do things with other people. It saddened me but I was also relieved because I didn’t need to but effort into existing. That fake smile and hiding the pain to just be around people.
It is human nature to socially interact. And I seem to have not thought about that when I self-isolated. Being an introvert… I didn’t thrive on people. But even introverts need people; smaller groups of people, shorter periods of interaction maybe and the few select chosen ones we enjoy… but interaction nonetheless. Without it it can lead to a sense of isolation, lowering mood and other issues.
So often the advice seems to be ‘go forth a find people and be with them’. Awesome. Where would these people be? As an introvert I am not exactly skilled at making friends… usually, it takes a long time to even call someone a friend. So go forth and what? Kidnap someone and make them be my friend? Errr. No idea what they thought I was going to do to get these friends because I had no idea. I make acquaintances. That is what I do.
Turns out my spouse, who is also introverted, is more skilled in this department. His introversion is a little lower than mine and his other traits enable him to want to interact and help others. Makes him more approachable. So he made us some friends. We play cards at one friend’s house. Go to Karaoke, where we listen to our friends sing because neither of us sing (in front of People? Yeah. No.). We have gatherings for BBQs and backyard fires. And do special things once in a while. It is a small group and that is just what we want.
And it has had a great impact on me. There is this idea that we should not fear our pain. That we should not fear ‘doing things’ in pain. Saying No all the time and no-ing ourselves into nothing. And in a sense when I went hermit mode I was doing that. I was saying no because it would ‘make the pain worse’ or’ trigger worse pain’ or ‘I had no energy’ or ‘it would cause a flare up’. And I wasn’t living my life as a result.
Now I don’t let the pain dictate what I want to do. I let it choose my limits and how prepared I need to be, but not stop me from doing it. If the pain is within reasonable limits. If not, then I have to cancel and good friends, get that. But I try not to cancel, just be prepared for my pain level and limits.
What is important is I am in pain and would have been in pain whether I went or not. So I would decide to go and enjoy myself, have some laughs, distract myself from the pain with the chatting and laughing and have a good time. As long as it isn’t for too long and as long as the pain doesn’t exceed a certain point. I leave early if the pain does get to that peak point and no one looks down on me for it.
The benefits to me are great. I feel less isolated. I feel more connected to the world around me. Connected to people again. It may help with mental and emotional well-being. I know when I am out I feel happy. I laugh and enjoy myself. It is a pain distraction for the most part.
I think it’s important that you make even casual friends aware of your pain. This will inform them of the reason behind canceled plans, leaving early or not always being fully attentive when in their company. Perhaps even more importantly, it will take the stress off you of having to constantly seem “pain-free.”
In operating this way, you will not only be informing others of the chronic nature of your condition, fibromyalgia. You will also be including them in your particular process of socializing, which will absolutely result in a more relaxed, more enjoyable social life for you.
When you enroll your friends in exactly what it is you’re dealing with, you’ll create a more stable environment, inherently fostering friendships based on acceptance rather than expectation.
You may not fully believe this but your friends will feel so touched and trusted by your honesty they’ll be entirely accommodating to your needs.
As you actively pursue “enjoying” your social life more, work on being kinder to yourself. Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew, and pace yourself. Evenings out need to be more structured for you. It is totally reasonable for you to be very specific about how you spend your time in social situations, so as not to exert more energy than needed.Chronic Pain and your Social life
Socializing has helped me immensely with my connection with the world again. And I am grateful for that. But I am very aware I have to not exceed my limits and pace myself. Sometimes our friends want to go out on a Thursday for Karaoke and I say no because this is a day I am recovering from work and I have to work the next day… not a time I should be pushing my limits. But going over there on a Saturday to play cards? Right in my area of fun that is not taxing on me physically at all.
It got me out of hermit mode. I got my spouse out of hermit mode. And I am feeling like I am living some sort of life. That is until I returned to work. Now I have the same issue I had before. The recovery time from work makes me pretty useless, tired and in a lot of pain. I have no desire to do anything. So it is harder since I returned to work. But I am trying to not lose something that helped me feel more human again. We have to have some semblance of a balance and pacing. We also have to understand that socializing as humans is pretty important… even for us introverts.