Battling Loneliness While Homebound Post-Surgery
November 7, 2017 4:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm recovering from major surgery and have been largely immobile and homebound. My friends have become increasingly busy, and I feel myself slipping heavily into SAD (despite using a SAD lamp and being in PTSD therapy) as the weather has turned really cold and dark in the past 2 weeks. I've been spending 7 hours a day in my room watching films, and it's terrible for me....any suggestions for how to fill time would be helpful.

Hey y'all, I'm coming up on 3 years and I left AA about a year and a half ago for many reasons, the major ones being that it is incongruent with the trauma therapy that I'm doing and that I have no extended friendships there even though I've been there for others; everyone in AA has flaked on me, and it's been really painful to experience that. All of my long-term healthy-attachment friends are non-AA, and I'm really grateful to have them in my life.

I've been doing really well, and I'm recovering from major surgery. But since the weather in NYC turned on my SAD last week, and my friends have been unable to hang as much and having their own SAD, it's been hard to cope with being largely homebound in recovery and being lonely. Every sober winter, I have coped with SAD by going to AA meetings, because they are a convenient distraction. Loneliness is my achilles tendon; I get my greatest joys in social situations. I know it'll get better as I heal and can be more mobile, but it will be at least 4 more weeks. If anyone has been in a similar situation, or has any suggestions, and gets that going to a meeting is not a healthy option for me, I would love to hear any ways to cope. I've been spending 7 hours a day in my room watching films, and it's terrible for me. It makes me want to use.

I am using a SAD lamp daily as well, and am in therapy. One major caveat of this is that my left brain isn't fully back online after surgery, even after 4 weeks (it was a surgery to remove stage 4 endometriosis, with a bowel and bladder reconstruction)....most of my energy is automatically going towards healing, so reading, which is usually one of my favorite things to do, I am unable to do. I really want to do gentle yoga, but am having trouble with motivation b/c of the SAD....
posted by Kombucha3452 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have the funds, perhaps get a yoga coach to come in and work with you? You'd get some socialization and I've found having a Pilates coach has motivated me to actually do Pilates consistently--if I can't get off my butt for me, I do it for her.

I know you don't want to watch too many films, but perhaps you are watching the wrong kinds? Norman Cousins claimed to have cured himself of a fatal illness by watching Marx Brothers films--the whole "laughter is the best medicine" idea.

Learning a new creative hobby might take you out of darker feelings--see if one of your friends can drop by with some yarn and knitting needles, perhaps. The nice thing about that is if you become somewhat proficient, you can donate the fruits of your labor to good causes--having a goal like that can also help with feeling down. Also, you could join an online site like Craftsy for knitting classes.

It sucks to feel bad both physically and mentally. I'm sorry you are going through this.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:43 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can any of your friends Skype or talk on the phone with you? I had gotten out of the habit of making phone calls for a long time and had started thinking of myself as someone who hates to talk on the phone. But I recently started making a point of calling people more often, especially close friends and family who aren't local. It's not as nice as getting to see people face to face, but it still feels very real and connecting in a way that text and the internet do not.

Do you have a buddy who you can set intentions with? "This morning I will do 15 minutes of gentle yoga," for example. I always struggle with motivation, and telling another person that I intend to do something makes a difference for me.

Personally if I was home bound I think I would want to do some small projects I have been putting off for a long time - some arts and crafts stuff and also things like going through my makeup drawer and sock drawers and tossing out the old stuff and getting it all reorganized. I don't know if this is appropriate for you during your surgery recovery - just a thought. Getting shit done always makes me feel good.

I asked a question recently that might have some ideas for you. I think PostCrossing is mentioned - you can order stamps and postcards online and send/get postcards to/from all over the world.

Good luck with your recovery, I hope you feel better soon!
posted by bunderful at 4:45 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: HI [waves].

So I deal with chronic illness and am basically homebound. (Also have endometriosis, had surgery 5 months ago. Was kept up till 7:30 am with endo pain last night.)

One thing that helped is social media. I used Instagram. There are TONS Of spoonies and endo warriors and whatnot on there. I've been working on building a little community. Sometimes it's nice to just see you're not the only one though this shit.

Mostly it's been motivation to push myself to put on makeup/outfit/art/whatever even when I feel sick (totally understand if you're not physically able. It took me about 6 weeks after surgery and I had much less invasive resection and appendectomy.)

But if or when you can, some self care like styling your hair can make you feel like a new person after being sick. Even trying to bathe (or sponge bath or whatever.) Even though I put on makeup only for a picture, it makes me feel human. There are also LOTS of people I follow that don't put on makeup at all and just document what's going on in their life. So makeup is not a requirement. (Also, not an assumption that you are female presenting or makeup wearing, but just what I do to feel better.)

I also have worked on finding things in terms of TV or whatever that make me happy or are kinda addicting. I've binge watched lots of TV and movies and podcasts. I also HIGHLY recommend audiobooks! I finally got an audible subscription. (I just finished John Hodgman's Vacationland.) It gives me that feeling of reading when I can't quiet my body/brain down enough to actually read.

ETA: If you like video games, that helps too!!

Honestly, it will get easier! I felt like I would NEVER heal after surgery, and I did. But it's slow. So just work on how to entertain yourself, how to give yourself some self care, and connect with people. Work on the emotional stuff and let the physical stuff take its course as it wants to.

Also, you can feel free to message me or insta me (let me know if it's you!) I've been asking some friends on there about starting a sort of TV club or something.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:51 PM on November 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I deal with chronic pain that leaves me homebound sometimes, so I can relate. It can be really bleak, and time seems to stretch out endlessly.

Crystalinne's advice is great. I would add—focus on the idea that your recovery has an endpoint. 4 weeks(-ish), and the worst of it will pass. With a fixed endpoint, I like to frame my time as a break from the bustle of life—a time to relax, a time to just do whatever I want that brings me joy and pleasure. So if any of your sadness is wrapped up in guilt about not doing anything "productive," or "wasting your time," try to let go of that, and be kind to yourself.

One thing that I find helps is switching between different activities throughout the day and setting times/routines, almost as if you have a rigid schedule. I'm not sure why it helps, but I deal with SAD too, and I think part of it is just that grim darkness + doing the same thing for 6 hours produces a kind of monotony that is not healthy. So, for instance, if all you can manage mentally is preparing food, watching TV, and listening to an audio, then try to eat at the same time every day, watch an episode of x, then an episode of y, then listen to an audio for half an hour while resting, then watch an episode of z. Instead of binge-watching, I say that I'm only allowed to watch one episode of x per day, so that there's some sort of schedule, something to look forward to. You can use these tricks for lots of little activities.

Another SAD trick—bright lights, as many as possible! In addition to using the SAD lamp in the mornings, I turn on ALL the lights in whatever room I'm in during the afternoon, to mimic sunlight. In the evening, I turn on fewer, and dim them as the night goes on. It's not nearly the same as the sun cycle, but I find it helps my body "time" the day so it doesn't seem as endless.

In terms of reading, I recommend giving audiobooks a try too. I'm not sure what your post-surgery recovery is like, so please ignore if this won't work for you, but—I get a lot of brainfog and low-level migraines, and when there's no chance I can parse a sentence I can still (miraculously) focus on someone's speaking voice. If audiobooks are still too much, step it down a level and try podcasts, of the "funny people get together and chat" type. Listening in on fun conversation between friends requires a lot less brainpower to follow along, and you won't get totally lost if you keep fuzzing out, unlike with reading.

Gentle hugs, and good luck with recovery!
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 5:18 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

MeFi chat?
posted by theora55 at 5:21 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wonder if you would feel better if you were more active - even if your activities were sedentary? I wonder if you could make yourself a daily schedule involving one or more of the things listed below plus whatever else occurs to you...
Can you be active politically, calling and writing politicians and organizations for causes that you believe in? Are there other political areas in which you can write to politicians? This may make you feel more productive, involved and better?
Are there things you've been meaning to get done? Completely tv shows, reading books, watching movies? Can you make a list of things you want to watch, read, listen to, see?
Can you be active in online discussion groups concerning these or other things you are interested in (film, games, books, tv shows) or listen to podcasts or online lectures discussing the issue...
Can you follow a major (or even minor) team or sporting... playoffs or regular season and follow them and join on-line discussion groups about them?
Can you teach yourself something... drawing, a language, hand strengthening, a course from kahn academy or somewhere else online...
good luck... it sounds really tough.
posted by jazh at 4:54 AM on November 8, 2017

I started playing the Dragon Age series when I was recovering from surgery and it cheered me up immensely. The NPCs are very well developed and you can have friendships, relationships, etc with them.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:27 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am on my phone and cannot link but there are AA telephone meetings specifically for people who are homebound or simply can't go to regular meetings. I'm in Al-Anon rather than AA, and I know that some of my Al-Anon buddies have found comfort and support via telephone meetings. So just tossing that out as one possibility for getting program support. For what it's worth, it sounds like you've done an amazing job of taking care of yourself in a really challenging situation. Is there anyone you can invite over for a cup of tea and a little chat? Best of luck, and hang in there!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:17 PM on November 8, 2017

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