The Often Overlooked Resource For Healing – The Internet

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Having a health crisis can be a frightening experience. Whether you battle with cancer, depression, diabetes, pain, or another long-term condition at home or in a hospital facility, a feeling of isolation often accompanies these conditions. The result is decreased energy and, often, a lack of hope. Friends and family members who enjoy good health may not understand the particular emotional stresses you experience. The doctor pays keen attention to your medical care, but sharing your feelings and personal concerns is often not possible for lack of time. Modern medicine well recognizes the importance of mental and emotional support in healing. For that matter, this is not a new insight. From ancient times, patients have benefited from a kindly word and the reassurance of being able to express their feelings and concerns. Support groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) build upon peer support and show success where other approaches have often failed. The “Placebo Effect” is well known in medical circles, and it is based on HOPE and BELIEF. Endorphins have proven to be vital in the management of cholesterol, for instance, and endorphins are described as ‘feel good hormones’. In other words, a patient’s mental and emotional state is crucial to their success in healing. However, outreach to peers can be difficult when one is bedridden or homebound. Close friends and family members come to visit, but their time is limited. Transportation to social events may not be readily accessible. Even attending a social event may cause more pain or embarrassment, and for someone who is depressed, the mere idea of going somewhere may seem insurmountable. Hours can creep by in loneliness and isolation. The internet provides a wonderful tool to overcome these obstacles. Contact with peers is just a few clicks away. Someone with the same or a similar problem is always there. Time and space become irrelevant in a platform that spans many different time zones. Instead of lying awake at night, alone with thoughts and concerns, a patient can now logon to a forum where many give and receive comfort by sharing their concerns and hopes. There are even medical doctors online who can answer questions and give advice. The anxiety of an upcoming medical procedure or test diminishes when someone else who already went through it shares the experience. Many useful tips come from patients who share the same conditions. From something as simple as “how do I use my new crutches?” to “what can I do to overcome my painful depression?” someone online has an answer or a suggestion. Moreover, some things that one cannot begin to discuss with friends and family are easier to express in an anonymous environment. An internet based support forum protects privacy while still allowing an intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions. This breaks the isolation and loneliness and offers a place for communication. Communication alleviates fear and brings hope, and hope elevates the body’s ability to overcome illness. This not only supports healing but also provides much needed social interaction and quality of life, even in illness.

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