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a hand helping a man off an island

You Are Not Alone

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” – Anthony Burgess

I hope you got a laugh out of that quote. You deserve a laugh.

Because this article is about a sad subject: Feeling alone.

You know, I went searching for some good quotes about solitude and it wasn’t easy to find a funny one. To most of us being alone is the scariest and worst part of life. I talk to a lot of people about chronic illness and COPD. I listen to a lot of people too.

The number one complaint I hear – after “Oh, my god, I can’t breathe!” – is “I feel so alone.”

I get it. I feel that way sometimes too. I really felt alone right after my diagnosis. At that point, ‘alone’ meant ‘not part of healthy people society anymore.’ That is probably a very human and very common thought. I wasn’t sure how to not be part of that society. I had been pretty healthy and had never smoked so I was confused and scared.

I felt like I was alone even in a crowd.

I learned as much as I could about COPD and read about what other people are going through. As I grew comfortable with my place in the disabled world – and it is different from the healthy people world – I didn’t feel so weird and alone with my illness.

After a while, ‘being alone’ shifted in a more personal direction.

There were times I felt like my family and friends did not understand how my COPD affected me. It was difficult to explain my fatigue or exacerbations that hit me at seemingly random times.

I also talked loudly and frequently and obnoxiously about every problem I had, from shortness of breath and rib cramps to how awful I thought the health care system was. If there were an award for Most Annoying Complainer in the Universe I would’ve won it. I could’ve kicked Oscar the Grouch out of his garbage can. He’s such an amateur.

When the responses of my friends and family turned into a bored chorus of “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” with glazed eyes, I realized that they might actually need a break from all the complaining. I realized that people would rather be around positive friends. Who knew? Go figure.

Now, this didn’t mean I could never speak of COPD again.

My family and friends need to know how I’m doing and what I can and can’t do.

They do care about me and want to listen. They just didn’t know what to do with all the negativity I dumped on them.

As time went on, I discovered that some friends didn’t visit because they didn’t want to tire me out. So they were actually waiting on me to extend the invitation and let them know it was all right to come over. It sounds contradictory but they grew distant out of concern for me. So I gave them permission to draw close again.

I also decided to find a community who knew how I felt because they felt the same way.

Okay, if you’ve fallen asleep reading this, wake up now.

This is the important bit of this article:

I found several support groups online. There are some great ones out there, both on the web and on Facebook, like COPD.net. Some share a lot of good information. Some are communities that talk not only about the illness but also share photos they’ve taken or jokes or uplifting prayers and quotes. Some share concerns and complaints and sympathy. All of them have a purpose that helps me. I have a place to hang out and a support system I’ve built both online and off. I know that I am not alone.

I’ll repeat that: I am not alone.

And neither are you. Make that decision and find your group.

Now that I know that for certain, I am reminded of a wonderful quote from Vera Nazarain from “The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration”: Everyone is someone’s friend, even when they think they are all alone.

And I’ve got to be honest about being alone: Sometimes that’s all I want.

I want to be at peace, alone with my thoughts, or a good book, or to lay in the hammock and nap. Being alone is not all bad. I agree with author Amy Sedaris who wrote in her book “I like You: Hospitality Under the Influence”: I think it’s good for a person to spend time alone. It gives them an opportunity to discover who they are…” COPD has taught me a lot about myself.

Loneliness, in all the ways I’ve discussed, can weigh heavily on us. If we let it, it can be the only thing we feel. Will you feel lonely even with a support group? Will you feel lonely even in a crowd of friends?

Yes. Yes, you will.

I wish I could say otherwise, but that wouldn’t be honest. Your life has changed and sometimes just that fact will make you feel all alone. Sometimes, no matter how happy we are and how surrounded by loved ones we are, we still feel alone. All of us, not just those with COPD or other chronic illness. I suppose it’s part of being human. For most of us, those times are not frequent. I hope that with your support network they are not frequent for you.

And please know, you are not alone in this.

Finally, I want to talk to the ones who feel the most alone.

You, who live with no one. You, who have no friends who visit you. You, who have no family that can help you and comfort you. I want to tell you how sorry I am – we are. You have our sympathy, our admiration, our respect. We are here for you. We hope you’ve found a community with us.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • deeder
    11 months ago

    Hi my somewhat unhealthy friends Dee here just to say I really like my alone time as well as going out occasionally too. You find over time you have to have faith in yourself that setting your mind to do something for yourself can and does work especially if you are alone. I fight the sadness and depression on a daily basis and realize I am not ready to give up just yet. Never did anyone think I would be the one to quit smoking but I did. Although healthier it also lost me the company of all those who still smoke as it made me the housebound one trying to avoid bad air! Ha you avoid social because of cigarettes and what you think is good for your health only to alienate yourself go figure. Oh well means I will try harder doing something else socially. I will continue with the ymca and finally get my hair and my nails done. Yep I am liking my ideas. Thanks my copd friends. Your all great listeners

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Deeder – Thank you for posting those heartfelt thoughts! Despite the trade-off, as you know you’re so much better off for not smoking. I love your ideas of getting your hair and nails done. You’ll be healthy and pretty!

    One of the great things about this community is that you can be part of it and still be sitting in your armchair.

    We’re always here to listen, so please keep posting.

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi Deeder and thanks for your post. Like Lyn, I am a fan of the way you’re handling your condition. Quitting smoking, as you well know, is the best thing you can do for COPD. I’m sure the ‘trade offs’ will be worthwhile and perhaps, your friends who are still smoking will ‘see the light’ and quit based on your example. Being good to yourself should certainly include your plans to have you hair and nails done. Imagine how much better you’ll feel once you accomplish that as well. You are always welcome here – please know that! Leon (site moderator)

  • probbo
    2 years ago

    Thanks for the article Michelle it puts everyting over that we need ti be doing. We should never feel alone especially when we have groups like this were we COPD, ers can open up and talk freely abot this illness, without the fear of upsetting someone.
    I have just made an appointment to go and speak with Lets Talk. Hopefully they will help me approach all my fears in a much more positive way.
    Will let everyone know how it goes.

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Probbo,

    Thanks so much for your comment. You’re right, we can talk openly and freely about our COPD here. You’ve made a great step forward with talking to Lets Talk. Here’s to approaching your fears! Yes, please let us know what happens. Best of luck to you.

  • Cdennis
    2 years ago

    This may be more than a comment I don’t know where else I can talk about my COPD with other people that have it but I did it only found right here for now so if somebody else wants to tell me where I may go and have like a chat room I don’t know what you got out there but I am I just we name is Cindy I just got out of the hospital I was in there for seven days with the COPD exasperation and it was the worst one in the worst thing ever happened to me ever and I know I can’t live that way and I know I was still smoking even up till that point when I got that I didn’t think today’s today’s the first day that I feel a little bit better and I didn’t think that I would ever even start feeling is good is that I do today but I’ve been praying I’m very grateful that God has spared me and let me come back in not smoke and I really do I have to not smoke ever again and that is my plan does anybody else have anything like this to talk to me about any kind of similar situation

  • dondo747
    2 years ago

    Cindy, I hope today finds you feeling better.

  • Janet Plank moderator
    2 years ago

    CIndy, I’m so glad that you are comfortable here. There are so many wonderful and caring people that are part of the sites, you are never alone.

    dondo, Congratulations on your quit 20 years ago. That’s awesome! I’m so sorry that your friends abandoned you, it can be very hard. How wonderful that you found your bride and a family. They can make the world go round. Thank you for sharing!
    Janet (site moderator)

  • michelle.vincent moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Cindy, It’s good to hear from you. Being in the hospital and having an exacerbation are so difficult, but it’s good that you’re starting to feel better and determined to quit smoking. That’s wonderful. Our community on Facebook is a good place to be and find others who are going through the same thing. I believe this website, COPD.net, also has a community chat feature. If it hasn’t been added yet, it will be added soon. Other support groups are also on Facebook; if you search “COPD” on it several groups should come up. I’ve made several friends and been a part of some good conversations with these groups. Just remember that you are not alone. Take care and keep breathing.

  • dondo747
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your article. I really liked it, especially the difficult part of feeling alone. I have COPD/emphysema from 32 years of smoking. Luckily, I quit 20 years ago, and had I not, I might not even be writing this now. I didn’t even know I had emphysema until last year because my O2 level was always in normal range when I had my yearly physicals. Now I’m feeling it more and more and staring mortality in the face, although I have a few decent years left, probably. Sadly, what sort of helped me with the loneliness part is my experience having a nervous breakdown as a young man brought on by issues I tried to deal with by abusing alcohol. Almost all my friends and acquaintances abandoned me, and for the next thirty or so years I have associated only with family members because the memory of my “friends” reaction was so bitter. I do understand their reaction and have let that go many years ago. I did marry a few years after my breakdown to a woman who already had three kids and we have been happily and busily married for 43 years.

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