How Facebook, faith and friendship rescued me from loneliness and isolation

Each day this month, we have published Tales of 2020, the stories of ordinary Queenslanders enduring an extraordinary year. Today, in our final instalment, former teacher Heather Stabler shares how she broke through the isolation of life in a nursing home.

Dec 24, 2020, updated Dec 24, 2020

“Heather, get real,” said my exasperated friend. “It’s almost mid-March and your nursing home is headed for lock-down. I am scared about where your head is going to be when it happens.

“Heather there will be no more coming out every day to meet your shopping mall pals for coffee and chats.”

It was an unwanted but ultimately galvanising moment. Further into that confronting wake up call, it soon became clear that my worried friend had hit upon the idea that moving me onto Facebook could be a partial solution to the impeding huge loss of my supportive community at the local shopping centre, knowing as she did of the stifling isolation of a nursing home lockdown.

Now many weeks later I am indeed in an aged care lockdown. No visitors, no recreational program, no physical interaction with the outside world. After a recent procedure in hospital, I have also known the further isolation of quarantine.

While still in the very early stages of learning Facebook, I find myself daily looking to it for social connection. Although nowhere near the same as being with actual friends, nevertheless Facebook goes someway to filling the friendship gap and for this I am grateful.

During the interminably long days I find myself practicing positive self-talk in the form of a repeated affirmation, mantra, or prayer. From the moment I wake, I call that mantra to mind, assigning a corner of my mind to keep repeating it no matter what I am doing throughout the day.
As a calming agent at the very least, it is brilliant.

I think of two things which give me life and comfort and daily commit to achieving these. Without the physical connection to friends I turn to the greenery of plants, imbibing the beauty and peace.  Sometimes I choose to watch a comfort movie like the Big Chill or episodes of the ever-enduring MASH or Call the Midwife. A favourite book can also deliver the same element of inner comfort.

I get comfort too in reaching out to others by phone, text, Messenger, letter or greeting card. All of which are intended to say to the other “Ï know you’re there, I care.”

At each day’s end, I consciously search for and recall a moment from the day that gave me life. No matter how small the gesture, I practice gratitude.

I train myself to notice and later to bring these moments back vividly.

Today there is an abundance. A staff member appears and offers me a surprise chocolate ice-cream in a cone and a much-loved song is unexpectedly played on the radio.
I sing along …

Remember and bask in it until these days of isolation end.

Heather Stabler was a committed primary school teacher before the impact of multiple sclerosis affected her wellbeing. Now living in a care facility, she has lost none of her zest for life and interest in people.

This article was first published in Stories from the Heart, an e-book edited by Dr Johanna Skinner and editor Jane Connolly, and is republished with their permission.  


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