Isolated in a Crowd of 13,000: The Pain of Feeling Alone at UAlbany
It’s that time of year again — the crisp, cool air of fall, sweater weather, apple picking and pumpkin spice everything. However, for those living with chronic illnesses, the colder weather represents something different entirely: isolation.
Whether the illness is mental or physical, the effects are often the same when it starts getting colder: staying in bed more, constantly huddled in blankets, often watching Netflix or using the internet. Low on motivation and lower on energy, it can be incredibly isolating at college — especially at a school as big as UAlbany.
I live with various health conditions that prevent me from going to social activities, along with a fair share of mental illnesses. While I thought the tiny liberal arts school that I attended for the past two years was isolating, I definitely was not prepared for UAlbany. Once it starts to get cold, it’s hard to stay on track in school and socially. Every day becomes a question of whether or not it’s worth it to get out from my warm, comfy bed to the cold abyss. Additionally, the cold brings about flare ups of multiple illnesses. I often wake up feeling like my body has been weighted down, everything hurts, and I want nothing more than to spend the day in bed.
From my experience at my previous college, I know that it helps to have at least one good friend who will help you through each day — the good and the bad. Having someone to pound on your door, reminding you to go to class, is extremely helpful, especially if you have been hiding out in your room. It also helps to have this friend understand your health concerns, knowing when to push you, and when to simply support you.
This process seems a bit harder at UAlbany. I don’t yet know my hall mates, other than their names. Classes are so large and impersonal that it can be intimidating to even approach someone. For someone like me with social anxiety, even the dining halls are too much to handle. Living off the main campus is also a huge setback, especially when you have a chronic illness. To meet anyone new or join clubs, you have to make it to the main campus. When you have limited amounts of energy, this can be too much to handle, so instead you stay in your room.
However, isolating yourself will not fix the problem. In fact, it’ll just make it harder when you do have to go out — whether it’s to class or to hang out with a friend. There are some things that have helped me when I get trapped in the cycle of isolation: having a friend check on you throughout the day, rewarding yourself for little victories however you see fit (my favorites include a hot shower, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and a face mask). The key is to hold the people you love close, and know that they are there for you when you feel alone. If all else fails, I can tell you this: Ben and Jerry have never let me down.