Surviving Being Homebound Long-Term or Short-Term

Nobody wants to be stuck at home

Just about 4 years ago I became pretty much housebound. I don’t think I’ve ever explained all the details of it, but eventually I will. Suffice to say the situation was foisted upon me by my multiple sclerosis. I refer to it as “my” because it is a disease with 1000 variables. I’m also not going into that too much today, you can trust that it’s the truth. I never lie to you.

I know that over the course of recent months, a lot of you have had the unfortunate experience of quarantining, social distancing and isolating. I understand that it’s depressing, and scary. When you discover that you’re housebound because of a health issue, it’s also depressing and scary.  Along with those emotions also come terror and heartbreak, disappointment and frustration. Grief and anger.

The condition of being housebound because of a pandemic has an end date, a finish line … even if it is a nebulous one that changes. My MS is never going to go away. Even if next week a miracle cure for multiple sclerosis appeared, it’s not going to cure the nerve damage that has happened.

If you find yourself in this situation – whether it’s temporary or permanent – you basically have 2 choices: let it bring you down and keep you down, or figure out ways to rise above. My late husband used to tease me sometimes and tell me I had my head in the clouds. With the sharp turns my life has taken from its original course, I think the quality he referred to that way, and which used to at various times help, amuse or aggravate him, has actually helped me maintain my sanity.

Whether you’re young or old, the thought of being housebound due to sickness or disability is probably pretty horrifying. For some of us though, it’s a reality, and not an easy one to live with. If you’re not careful, before you know it, you could slip into a deep depression with seemingly no way out, or you may find yourself with no interest or motivation to do anything. The days can turn into a long, endless nightmare—each one frighteningly similar to the last one with very little variation. Although you might not be able to avoid being homebound, with a little work you can avoid the nightmares of depression and apathy. These are some tips learned from personal experience—what works for me as well as what works for others around me

 Plan Something to Do Each Day

I totally understand that you may be in a situation where there is nothing you must do on a daily basis. A little bit of that is fine – having the freedom to just chill out, as it were. I’m no medical professional of any type, but from what I have observed in my life, and as to the dictates of logic, having no purpose at all seems unwise for your mental health. If you don’t plan something to accomplish for the day, it’s easy to do nothing.

Do something small – read a book or magazine, knit, run your vacuum, organize your photos, write a letter, call an old friend. Work on a bigger project – learn a foreign language through an Internet course or an app on your phone, write a poem, work on an autobiography, work on your family tree through an online platform. Are you able to cook? If so, try a new recipe or volunteer to cook a meal for a family in need – most churches or temples run a share a meal program of some type, and if you cook a meal for somebody it can be picked up from you and delivered to the recipient.

You can continue a hobby that you love, or explore one that is completely new to you. Many people enjoy things like reading, scrapbooking, writing, crafts, photography, building models, playing video games, and so forth. If using your hands is a problem, there are an increasing number of voice recognition programs available. These programs allow you to talk and your device will write down what you say.

If holding a book is hard but you love to read, you can use a lap desk to hold the book.  If juggling a Kindle is difficult, you can use a device with a kickstand that enables it to stand up on its own. Personally, I use a Microsoft Surface for that reason. Audio books are a great option if reading is difficult. You can get audio books on your computer through an app like Audible or even order them in disc form.

The important thing is you have something planned that gives you a reason to get out of bed. If you can’t physically get out of bed, that’s fine – you need something that mentally engages you.

Get Dressed in Some Way Every Day

This is important, even though it might seem like a small thing. There is a professional home organizing expert who goes by the name of FlyLady who stresses that a person should get dressed right down to the shoes. I know, it sounds silly, but if you ever investigate her process, you’ll see it makes sense. Regardless, one of her key pieces of advice about how to be productive is to “get dressed to shoes.” When you have shoes on, you feel prepared to take things on in your day.

When you’re homebound, you are typically dealing with a health issue or issues that may make it impossible to do that.  If you have nowhere to go, and you’re not going to see anybody except maybe a health care worker or family, it’s easy to just stay in pajamas.  A pattern can quickly develop from that – you don’t see any reason to get dressed, and so it gets harder to see any reason to do other things.

I typically wear comfortable, short-sleeved loungers, a kind of short dress. I can’t just change a few times a day. But what I can do is dress them up with headbands of all different types, and earrings. I have plain simple headbands, and fancier ones that are beaded. I wear the fishhook back style earrings because they are the easiest to slip on and off, and I have an array of them in different types of colors and materials.

Some of my headbands

Maintain Human Contact

When you’re stuck at home all of the time, it’s easy for people to go on with their lives and forget you even exist. Even if they don’t intend to do it, that’s what happens. Some people simply won’t be willing to make time for you if it doesn’t fit their routine. Others may feel uncomfortable because the change in your situation, and instead of talking about it or figuring out how to deal with it, they simply stop seeing you. The bottom line is, you can’t really change other people.

But you don’t have to be lonely. Call a good friend on the phone. Re-establish contact with someone you haven’t heard from in a while. E-mail a friend. Look up some old friends through a social networking site like Facebook. Joint a chat board or other online resource for people dealing with the same issue or issues that have rendered you stuck at home. The digital age has definite upsides and downsides. One of the best upsides is that it enables us to connect with people around the world. If you’re reading this, you have some type of Internet access. That mean you have access to people! You don’t want to end up talking to a soccer ball like Tom Hanks did in Castaway.

 Help Someone Else

You may wonder what you could possibly do to help someone with your present level of disability or illness. You may only think about how you need someone to help you – might not realize that you can still help others.

No matter how sick or disabled you are, there is almost always something you can do to make a positive contribution to the world. Contact someone else who is homebound like you, and have a conversation. Don’t know anyone? Call a local religious organization and ask; Most have some type of parish social ministry office that can help coordinate.

Helping someone else is rewarding. I think it’s good for your mental health. I do speak from personal experience about the intangible rewards of helping others

  1. I tried to make the most of the nonphysical ways I can help my children. I try to always be able to listen when they need an understanding ear, try to encourage them when they’re feeling down, try to give good advice when it’s needed.
  1. The nonprofit I started and run helps raise awareness about prevention of DUI, and help families of DUI victims. I must tell you, it is emotionally draining a lot of the time. But nobody understands the anguish losing a loved one because of the actions of a DUI driver quite the same as somebody who is actually living the experience.
  1. My blog website requires a lot of effort, and consequently a lot of time. It is intended to appeal to people in general, as well as specifically to people who are table, widowed, or parents. When I started it I promised myself that it would be always truthful, even when the honesty required was painful.

None of these things were intended to provide a mental emotional benefit to me. But when I look at it abstractedly, I am sure they do.

Don’t Let Yourself Fall Into Monotony and Avoidable Depression

Let me start by saying very clearly that I understand there is no one cause of depression, and no one type of depression. Here, I am only speaking of the type that can be fomented by our own action or inaction. The type that occurs when you let yourself fall into a rut. And every day starts being like the movie Groundhog Day – an endless loop of unsatisfying repetition. Staying connected to the world and other people, taking enjoyment in things like reading, and having a sense of purpose all seem like logical ways to help boost your mood.

I am working on expanding this website, and the expansion should be in place by the beginning of the new year. One of the features I am working to add will include offering support groups to people with common interests or concerns.  No matter where you are, there are definitely ways we can all be there for one another more than we are currently.


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