I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and finally found the perfect opening in this (adjusted) quote by John Donne:
“No woman is an island, entire of itself; every woman is a piece of the entire continent, a part of the main.”
After having a stroke last year, my continuing heart problems coupled with the physical and emotional numbness I felt made me withdraw. I’ve always bounced back from problems before, but this time felt more like a “SPLAT!”
I tried to stay active on social media because it felt like connection, but I found myself feeling isolated and depressed. I’ve never felt either way before, so I kept hoping it was a temporary situation and that it would pass.
Although I’ve seen people share EVERYTHING on social media, I wasn’t one of them, and I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone how I was feeling… unwilling to give voice to it.
After months of feeling this way, I finally called my dear therapist, whom I haven’t worked with in years, and began group-therapy again.
(Side-note: I have two fantastic female therapists, a cozy uplifting space that feels like “home,” and five wonderful people who are my understanding mirrors. I highly recommend group over ‘one-on-one.’)
I was in a doctor’s office last week when I came across an article in GH entitled “Friends With Benefits.” Catchy title, but not what I thought at first (I know, I should get my mind out of the gutter). It’s about all of the ways that friendships boost our health and well-being:
- Friends lower our stress, because when we are with them our levels of progesterone increase, decreasing our stress and anxiety.
- Women between 50-79 who had more support from their friendships lived longer.
- Women with breast cancer who have strong social networks also have better odds of survival.
- People over age 80 who have more positive social relationships also had the memory function of middle-agers.
According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “The depth and breadth of your social connections will impact your health just as much as diet and exercise.” Did you know that older adults are more at risk for developing hypertension from social isolation, than from diabetes?
The take-away: our friendships are just as important as taking good care of ourselves.
Social relationships can buffer some of the effects of stress and help us cope, especially in mid-life when there are a lots of demands in our life: children, aging parents, work, divorce, illness, death. It’s noted that having a large social network was even more important than having high-quality relationships during older age.
By sharing my authentic-self, and trusting my group/therapy, I’m finding the inner-strength to venture out again. I’ve committed to a weekly yoga class. I also accepted a weekly invitation to join a group of creative women and make time to work on my art and words. And I’m bringing grain-free brownies to a get-together with women on my block on Friday.
The importance of feminine friendship and community is at the heart of the book I just finished, Willa’s Grove by Laura Munson. It’s a little more chick-lit than I normally read, but it was just the right medicine for right now.
So, remember to wash your hands thoroughly… and get together with your friends frequently. To your health!