Sunday, November 12, 2017

An Essay on Isolation

With the advent of the holiday season I find myself feeling more isolated than usual. If you've looked over this blog carefully you know that I suffer from extreme chemical sensitivities. That means the merest whiff of a product with any degree of petroleum or synthetic chemicals in it gives me, at the very least, a headache that lasts for 24 hours on average. More typically I will have not only the headache but also chills, become lightheaded, sometimes nauseous, and suffer an inability to think or process information. My reactions slow, and my temper flares. I’ve been known to unaccountably burst into tears. These reactions are most often short-lived, but they tend to be followed by depression. Consequently, negative reinforcement has made it preferable for me to stay home, inside my detoxified little house, and have very limited contact with people outside of my immediate family. Given that I am naturally a more solitary individual than most people seem to be this isn’t usually a hardship. However, it does take a toll over time, and the holidays can be especially difficult. Everyone else seems to be running around doing things and going places and here I sit, all but trapped within the walls of my home.

While I may be more comfortable in my solitude than others, I am also an artist who feeds on visual and tactile stimulation. Textiles or fibers are my medium of choice. Back in the day I was an active member of embroidery and quilt groups. I went to shows, galleries, and exhibits as often as I could. I loved to browse department stores and craft markets. Shopping, although not necessarily buying, was an effective way to fill my artistic well because I could touch as well as see the delights on offer. The experience of being among other people, even if I didn’t interact with them directly, was energizing. (Most of the time anyway. Everyone has bad shopping experiences!) All of this has been taken away from me - unless I want to pay a very high price for a very short excursion. The brevity of my endurance is just as frustrating as not going at all.

I am fortunate to live in a time when I can shop online. I can still purchase supplies, I can see what others are making, and I can converse with them after a fashion. The challenge for me is that I’m not technologically inclined. If it weren’t for my chemical sensitivities I probably wouldn’t use a computer for anything other than email. I’m not interested in going digital in any sense of the word. In that respect I’m a Luddite. In fact, I still have a flip phone, not a smart phone. While the computer makes it possible for me to stay more-or-less connected with the outside world it cannot replace the experience of seeing a quilt or painting in person, of handling a ceramic vase, or give me the ability to turn something over to see the back or bottom of a piece. It can be hard to get an accurate idea of the size of an object when you only see a picture of it, never mind the accuracy of color representation! The virtual feast offered by blogs and Pinterest, etc. is helpful but often unsatisfactory.


Occasionally, all of these factors combine and overwhelm me. Creativity comes to a halt. There isn’t energy or desire even for mindless piecing. I find that truly frightening. Fortunately, there have only been a handful of times when this state of being persisted. Books and movies seem to provide a useful escape. I just have to remember not to panic, to trust that “this too shall pass,” and ride the wave. I am grateful to have been blessed with the gift of faith. I may grouse and complain during difficult times but underneath it all I have confidence that God knows my suffering and will turn it to good purpose eventually. I just have to "hang in there baby!" 😉

8 comments:

  1. I think it's hardest when our isolation is imposed, not by ourselves, but by things out of our control. I like being alone and don't mind staying at home most of the time but if, like you, I were forced to stay home because a situation like yours, I know I would feel just as isolated and sad as you do. There are so many chemicals in the air these days. The ones that get to me are the perfumed laundry soaps and dryer sheets as well as strong lotions (such as Bath and Body Works sells). I don't know exactly what happens but my reaction is coughing and gagging until I can get to fresh air. I'm so sorry for your necessitated isolation. It's such a hard thing. It's probably a silly question but would something like a gas mask help or is your reaction from more than just breathing in the chemicals?

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  2. Thanks for sharing your heart today - isolation is a challenge and when the media insists that the coming weeks are "the hap-hap-happiest time of the year" when for many of us they are most definitely NOT "the best", all of our challenges increase. Please do hang in there!!

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  3. It's at times like this that I wish I could reach out and give you a hug. You'd be free to say no, of course, on the basis that I'm probably coated with chemical nasties, but I'd like to make the offer nonetheless. I have a small inkling of the isolation you're experiencing; while I'm also naturally solitary, I am a long, long way from friends and my own family, and I spend the majority of my days alone. Add to that the sensory deprivation you're suffering and I can only offer you my heartfelt sympathy. If you ever do put your techie hat on long enough, I'm still here at the end of the Skype cable, in case a little conversation with Down Under would ease the isolation...

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  4. This shows us how limited a life can be when faced with sensitivity, reaction to so many things outside of our ability to ignore them, and for you to share this with us is from your heart. Isolation, when chosen, can be so wonderful, and for me, I would, if I could, be a hermit every day. But, many years ago, ( 1982 to 1985) after a back injury and spinal surgery, and we lived in a remote area, no public transport ( I could not have used it) I felt so cut off from the real world.I longed to be able to drive, to take myself to the library, about 35 minutes from where we lived, this was before the days of a blog, internet, and quilting. Your isolation is a total necessity, and even with online shopping, emails, internet and blog friends, it might not be the same as shopping and meeting in the outdoor world.Be strong, have faith, and there is hope and love from so many of us to re-inforce your friendships with us out here, close by or so far away. Fondest greetings, my dear friend.

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  5. Thank you for sharing Sue. On the plus side you have your family with you and your isolation isn't quite as extreme as it could be. I'm looking for positives here. I'm also very happy with my own company and sometimes don't go out for a couple of days at a time but it's my choice, not something imposed on me, and I can understand that makes all the difference in the world. 'Bon courage' as they say here.

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  6. I feel your pain. I think I could be your twin. I always check your blog because you are so actively pursuing your arts and it gives me hope. I do not think I have as strong of a physical reaction as you do but I definitely consider the consequences of any outing I want to make. The worst of it is when I have to go for any medical appointment I know their fragrances will be worse than many. Sometimes I will try a small local store or art venue with better results than the ones that draw a big crowd. A year ago I had the best experience at a small gallery on a University campus where Thomas Knauer was showing his quilts. http://www.thomasknauersews.com/quilts/ It was so rewarding. Maybe you can find something like that. I just want you to know you are a mentor for me and hope. May this malaise pass quickly for you. Laura

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  7. Ah Sue, thank you for sharing what is on your heart. I am not one for much socializing, and I can just barely imagine what it would be like to NOT be able to do the few things that I like to be involved with out in the world, so to speak. That is barely the tip of the iceberg for you. I am so glad you have your faith to lift you up! Once again, I am humbled to realize just how very fortunate I am to have an ordinary life. Your words have really made me think, and I thank you for that! Sending you a virtual hug.

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  8. I'm a lurker and not very good at crafts, but for what it's worth, I'm here too. You're not alone. -hugs-

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Due to my health issues I am frequently unable to respond to your comments but please know that I do try to acknowledge your thoughtful responses. I cannot respond to 'no-reply' bloggers either, much to my frustration.