WOMEN's HEALTH ONLINE
Isolation and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
If a Tree Falls in a Forest ...
Written by Jody Smith
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one hears it...
does it make a sound?
To the chronically ill, this is more than just a
We are people living out of the loop and our
connection to the rest of the world can be tenuous.
Some of us have more of a social network and some
of us have less.
Some people with a chronic illness are very much
Most people don't want to hear the long descriptions
of symptoms, the loneliness, the feelings of isolation
and alienation. They don't want to be the sounding
board for the person who feels they've lost any
normal semblance of having a "witness" to their life
The invalid is very self-absorbed. They have to be. It
is a full-time job rebuilding their life and they can't
afford NOT to be very, very focused upon this. And
they will repeat, and repeat and repeat the things
that they need someone to hear.
When the sick one has a revelation, and no one
wants to hear it, they are lessened. Their sense of
self, of their place in this world, becomes
I remember being told by a well-meaning friend a
few years ago, that I should not think that my value
as a person was any less now that I was not able to
But she was wrong.
Should my value be less? Should my life be less
significant than the life of someone who is healthy
and productive, connected to others through
activities, who makes an impact on the world and
other people? No, of course not. But it is less. I
started out believing otherwise but over the last four
years, I have had it pounded home to me.
In a family gathering, the sick kid may be in the
background, on the outskirts. He is the least able to
draw attention to himself, because he is weak and
easily tired. And he has, really, very little to say. He
has no stories about school or work to tell. He has
no achievements to share and be praised for.
His biggest achievement lies in the fact that he
managed to get out of bed and dressed, and now
is curled up in a corner of the couch, while the
people around him share their normal life.
Lucky is the sick person who has a champion in their
corner. And that champion is likely carrying a heavy
load. Because the sick one has a great need to be
heard. To be affirmed and acknowledged. To talk
about their symptoms, their fears and their hopes.
They fear that, like the vampire, they have no
reflection. They do not have an effect on the world
around them. They throw a pebble into the pool and
the ripples are so insubstantial that ... they fear that
they may be disappearing. And that they may
disappear without anyone even noticing.
That's why I'm here. Because I fell, a long time ago,
and I want to be heard.
Can I get a witness?