The Me, Myself, and I of Special Needs Parents
The most amazing thing just happened! You can’t wait to share the great news. But… then you realize there is no one around to share it with. The congratulations you receive on social media are nice, but they feel empty. Or maybe this happens with your greatest sorrow, and there is no one to wrap their arms around you. The problem with the internet is that we can have a very lonely life despite how social it appears. I’ve talked about feeling like nobody cares and about playing the comparison game, but today it’s time to talk about isolation – an especially big concern for special needs parents.
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Social Media Is an enhancement
It’s not a replacement. It’s easy to let ourselves be tricked by social media into thinking that we are super socially active. The longer you slide down this hole, the longer it’s going to take you to dig your way back out. Stop and take a look at the reality of your social situation before you slip too far into isolation.
Right now you’re thinking, “What? I thought this chick was all about online support groups?” I am. Totally and completely. But, I am not saying that they should replace your in-person social network. I think that’s a huge mistake.
I’ve been there
When I was struggling years back, most of my social support was online. I had one friend in real life with whom I had a face-to-face relationship on an ongoing basis. When my life fell apart, she wasn’t available, I moved, and there was no one else there in for me to turn to. No one to cry with, to give a warm hug, or a shoulder to lean on. I had my parents, and for that I was grateful, but there were no friends who knew what I was going through or even what was going on with my life.
A level of anonymity is attractive. Avoiding pain and heartache, who wouldn’t want to?! Even if someone really makes your blood boil, you can yell at the faceless name, take a break from that group, or just write them off. After being burned a time or two by friends, it can be really tempting to just live an online existence.
Your online friends, amazing as they are, can’t give you a real hug that you sometimes need. They may be “more real than real”, but they still can’t be there with you face to face. Some of my biggest supporters and closest connections are online only. I thank God for them and can’t wait to meet them on the other side of Heaven, but they can’t be my sole source of fellowship.
So what can you do about it?
I, personally, am a big fan of meeting people through small church groups. Sometimes a group isn’t a good fit, but that doesn’t mean that new group won’t be. Some of my best real-life friends I’ve found have been from my small church groups. They have become a second family to me. If you’ve had a bad small group experience, I encourage you to try a different one!
Meetup is another great option. There are tons of different interest groups in your area that meet up in public locations. You can search by disability or lifestyle and be sure to find some like-minded peeps! 🙂
If you still can’t quite bring yourself to get out there and meet people face to face, do you keep connecting online? There are more choices that are kind of in the middle. They’re great stepping stones to opening yourself up more, to many people and to life. The I recommend live streaming groups like homeschoolscopes.tv on Periscope. If you don’t homeschool, take a peek on Facebook, and I suspect you can find a live streaming group that fits! Each of these gives you a level of anonymity while you grow comfortable with opening up socially.