You Are Not Alone

Several weeks ago our local newspaper ran an article about something that was going on around town. About these see trough isolation booths and what they meant. I had no idea what the paper was talking about. I don’t get out much. I read on. The article was about isolation. The booth meant to convey to the public how isolation felt, being in the middle of people, yet feeling all alone. I silently gave kudos to the person inside the booth. Far braver than me.

The article stuck with me for several days. I knew about this isolation business. I thought about it a lot. Between doctor visits, naps, taking my medicine, taking out my hearing aides and putting them back in, maintaining relationships, ending relationships, retreating, closing myself off and finally closing the door and hiding behind it.  Rinse and repeat.

Before I could over think the ramifications of what I was about to do (like having to bare my soul, or possibly stand in a glass booth) I sent a message off to the organization behind this campaign to end isolation.

“do you have any support groups?”

Real non- committal, typed in a hurry, thinking along the lines of maybe a group of women that meet every month, or maybe more, to offer support.

What came back to me was an a message full of agencies and organizations and at the bottom was an invitation to “just meet for coffee and talk more”. Well, I really like coffee. And so I began trading emails with what I knew was a really awesome woman, about when we would meet. I sorta dumped on her in one email that I knew all about isolation. I could relate to the article so very well. I was a single mom before my friends had children, then I was a mom of a special needs child. Then suddenly I lost my hearing and started developing unknown health problems of my own. I was married and divorced to a man, that didn’t start or end very well, further isolating me. During this time I was finally diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. There was a lot of turmoil in my family after my divorce, and my health kept getting worse. I was in and out of the hospital, I had developed several blood clots, I couldn’t take care of myself anymore. I had to give up my freedom and move back home to live with my mom. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself anymore. A lot of my friends weren’t experiencing what I was going through. I turned to support groups online catered to my condition, and now also the clotting disorder (another genetic gift I joke about) that I have. Taking the step to create a private place for people with my condition to gather. So, yeah, without providing the really gory details, I knew about isolation.

We met for coffee, on a chilly Wisconsin summer morning. I knew this gal was going to somehow change my life. Straightaway, she gave me a hug, and I hugged her back. I just knew. She asked me where I could best hear, inside or out…and during our conversation when some construction work started outside, she asked several times if I could still hear her okay. Yeah. This was HUGE. My own family forgets to look at me when they talk to me, and here, this Bundle of Awesome is aware of my needs. Score. I’m already on board. Take me to these other women, I’m ready to un-isolate my city!
I complimented her on her thoughtfulness, and mentioned that I have another friend that always carries pen and paper whenever we are out (which is rare, but when we are, that paper gets burned at the end of the night!).

We exchanged some more stories, learned a little more about each other, and then I took a deep breath and asked “How can I help this campaign?” instead of “How can this campaign help me?”  You see, sitting there, I realized the campaign already helped me. I reached out.

A Guest Blog Post by Colleen Carlson

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