I am 23 years old, and I suffer from an undiagnosed chronic illness. I love writing, music, and helping people with disabilities.
Housebound Due to Chronic Illness or Disability
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.
Find Some New Hobbies
If you’re the type of person whose hobbies have always been active ones, like hiking or rock climbing, you’re going to need to exchange those hobbies for new ones. If you were always one to prefer being inside with a book or craft project, this might be a little bit easier for you. There are a lot of different hobbies that don’t require much physical exertion, or dexterity, or whatever it is that’s giving you trouble.
You don’t need to give up your old hobbies completely, even if you can’t do them yourself. You can still read about them, mentor someone who is learning those skills, keep up with the latest research, or join an online group or community with a common interest in that hobby. I am a classical musician, and my main instrument has always been the oboe. Right now I’m finding that the oboe takes too much air pressure, and therefore too much energy, so I decided to learn more about the recorder. I found that it’s really a neat instrument with an extensive history, and it’s certainly not just a toy. Even better, it takes a lot less energy to play, and the extensive repertoire of Baroque recorder music gives me plenty to keep my brain busy with.
You can also pick up a completely new hobby. Some people like things like scrapbooking, writing, various kinds of crafts, photography, reading, etc. Hobbies don’t have to depend on your budget—if you can’t afford to buy any supplies, try origami. Junk mail can be a good (and never ending) source of paper, and there are lots of resources online that will teach you the basics of origami for free. If you are having trouble with your hands, try reading or writing. There is getting to be more and more voice recognition software out there, where you can talk and the computer will write down everything you say. If holding a book is difficult but you love to read, there are pillows that will sit on your lap and hold your book up. If you have migraines or eyesight problems, audio books can be a great resource. A lot of them are available in CD form, but if money is an issue you can get the cassette tape ones dirt cheap at garage sales and websites like Ebay. Your local library may also have a good selection of audio books. Whatever your disability and financial situation, there is something out there that you can learn to do and enjoy.
Plan Something to Do Each Day
This may not seem to be important if you’re alone every day and it doesn’t matter what you do, but it matters for your mental health. If you don’t have something planned for the day, it’s a lot easier to do nothing. It could be something as small as spending some time on your favorite hobby, or as undesirable as laundry. What matters is that you have something planned that gives you a reason to get out of bed. Whatever you plan, though, try to have a “plan B.” You may wake up and find that your body is just not going to cooperate with you that day, no matter how much you want or need to do what you had planned. If you plan something more strenuous like laundry, make sure to plan a quieter alternative. The same goes for if your planned activity requires a lot of dexterity, or concentration, or anything else that may not be there on a given day. Having a “plan B” reduces the risk of falling into a depression over not being able to do “plan A.”
Get Dressed. Every Day.
As small as it might seem, this is important too. If you have nowhere to go and you know you’re not going to see anybody all day, it’s easy to just stay in your pajamas. The danger with that is if you don’t see any reason to get dressed, it’s going to be harder to see a reason to do anything else. Even if it’s a bad day and you want to wear something comfortable or it’s difficult to put on different clothes, do your best to change something. I try to wear jeans or something similar on the good days, but on the bad days I might exchange the pajama pants for a nice pair of exercise pants or sweatpants and a cute t-shirt. I have also been so sick that it’s almost impossible to change clothes every day—in that case, you can still change your socks. I had a bunch of cute, funky socks, and I made sure to put on a different pair every day. It wasn’t much, but it at least made me feel like I had made some effort.
Consider Getting a Pet
For some people, the responsibility and work of owning a pet may be the worst thing they can do when they’re homebound, but for others it can be a wonderful thing. I own 3 birds, and they provide me with a never ending supply of amusement and companionship. Even as I’m writing this, one of my birds is trying to attack the fish through the glass of the fish tank. Pets can be that “someone else in the house” when you’re feeling especially lonely, or the reason to get up in the morning. There are numerous groups and websites out there for pet owners and pet lovers to talk about their pets. Some pets may be great to have in the house on a good day, but require too much work or attention on a bad day.
Different kinds of animals are good for different people and health situations. I never would have gotten a bird after becoming sick, if I hadn’t already had them. Birds are fun and can be great talkers or cute and cuddly, but they can take a lot of work and money and it can be difficult to work with their personality quirks and behavior problems. A cozy, cuddly cat can be just the thing you need on a difficult day, but they’re not always good for allergies or asthma, and some cats are not very friendly. A quiet, laid back dog might be perfect for someone with a disability or illness, but you will want to make sure that it is not to big or too excitable for you to handle on a bad day. If you are thinking about getting a dog or cat, try your local animal shelter. If you talk to the staff and let them know what your needs and limitations are, they can help you pick out the dog or cat that will work best with your lifestyle. Dogs and cats (and birds) may not be for everybody. There are other kinds of pets that may be great for you instead. If you have trouble with insomnia or are a night owl, consider a nocturnal pet—anything from a hamster to a more exotic animal like a sugar glider. If you want endless amusement and you can handle more frequent cage cleaning, a pet like a ferret may be right for you. Whatever the kind of pet you are thinking about getting, make sure you thoroughly research the kind of animal and breed of that animal that you are thinking about. Look for level of care and cleaning, potential health problems, behavior issues, general temperament, and other factors that may determine whether they fit into your household. Pets can be great therapy, but if you don’t choose carefully you might end up with a nightmare rather than a companion.
Try to Get Out of the House at Least Once a Week
I know from personal experience that this may not always be possible, but if it is, make sure you do it. Even if it’s a quick trip to the grocery store or bank, it gets you outside of the walls of your home. If the weather is nice, you might not even have to leave your yard. Just sitting outside is better than spending all your time inside. You can have somebody take you for a drive, or depending on your level of illness/disability you could go to church or visit a friend. Getting out of the house once in a while breaks up the monotony and gives you a much needed change of scenery.
Maintain Human Contact
When you’re stuck at home all of the time, it can be easy for people to go on with their lives and forget you. Even if that’s not what they’re intending, you might end up feeling like that’s what’s happening. Don’t let that happen. Call a good friend on the phone, or re-establish contact with someone you haven’t heard from in a while. E-mail or social networking sites like Facebook can be good resources for maintaining contact, but I would caution you from making them your only form of contact. Nothing can replace a good phone conversation, or even better, a face to face meeting. If you have any friends who are willing to do so, maybe organize a movie night, where you don’t even have to get off the couch if you don’t feel well enough to do so.
Accessorize Your Illness/Disability Gear
You may wonder what you can do to accessorize things like canes, wheelchairs, medical alert bracelets, etc—the answer is, a lot! I have to wear a medical alert bracelet at all times, and I decided early on that I would never wear one if it was boring and ugly. After a lot of searching, I found a website where I could order just the flat part of the bracelet with the symbol and words. I had it engraved with my name and “see wallet card” on the back, and I have made my own bands to attach to it. The flat part is silver and has the medical alert symbol in gold. For the band, I strung some pretty beads on a stretchy cord and attached a clip to each end. This way I can have several bands and change them whenever I want, by unclipping the current one and clipping on another one.
There are good ways to accessorize mobility equipment, too. I have a friend who recently had to get forearm crutches. The ones she got were plain gray and black, but not for long. She spray painted them pink, painted on some of her own designs, put a few good stickers on them, and put a coat of varnish over the whole thing. They now exactly match her personality, and they look as much like fashion accessories as mobility equipment. When I had to start using a cane, I couldn’t find one I liked in my price range, so I made my own out of a sturdy tree branch that my parents were going to use for firewood. I recently got into woodburning, and now my signature and a cute flower design are burned onto the cane. For wheelchairs, there are colored tires, and you can do a similar paint job to the one my friend did to her crutches. Bumper stickers also work well for the back of a wheelchair—you can find good ones on sites like www.cafepress.com and www.zazzle.com. If you’re not as crafty as me and my friend, there is a good selection of colorful and artistic canes, crutches, wheelchairs, medical alert bracelets, and anything else you might need—you will just have to pay a little more.
Help Someone Else
You may wonder what you could possibly do to help someone with your present level of disability or illness. You may think that someone should be helping you, rather than the other way around. No matter how sick or disabled you are, there is something you can do. You can call someone else who is homebound like yourself—if you don’t know of anyone, call a church and ask for a list. You can send a card to someone for no reason at all, other than to let them know you’re thinking about them. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t be overjoyed to get a nice card along with the weekly mountain of junk mail. You can join a support group for people with illnesses or disabilities like yours, and offer your knowledge, experience, and moral support to someone who has just been diagnosed. If you’re able to get out of the house a little bit, look into tutoring a struggling child or being a companion to an elderly person. If you’re volunteering for something, nobody can fire you if your attendance isn’t too good or you’re physically unable to do the whole job. It may seem to you that you need people to help you instead of the other way around, but helping someone else is rewarding and good for your mental health. It can make you feel like less of a burden, and the smile on another person’s face is all you need to brighten your day.
Don't Let Yourself Fall Into a Rut
The most dangerous thing you can do for your mental health when you are homebound is to fall into a rut. Some routines are good and ensure you don’t forget to do important things, but the danger starts when each day ends up identical to the last one. All of the tips above are designed to give you variety in an otherwise boring and difficult situation. Take some of the suggestions and make an interesting, varied week out of them. You might be surprised at the difference it makes. Oh yeah, and if you ever need someone to talk to…I’m usually around.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Theresa on July 18, 2017:
Thank you! I've been struggling with being home bound and there being no one around. Friends started waning after I became so needy (rides to dr. Appt, stops at the store or pharmacy). also, I'm 54 and all my friends have gone back to work now that the kids are raised. My husband is out of town all week and I end up craving his arrival, but he's not so happy with all my needs either. Overwhelming after a long week I'm sure. I read, knit, play piano if I can, but meds make things difficult to concentrate on.
I was unable to sleep and really appreciate reading that others are going through similar circumstances. Trying hard to take one day at a time and not get too bummed out.
Robin Heldreth on July 07, 2017:
I can relate to your site. I'm home bound and I feel trapped and depressed. I'm 57 and don't want to give up,but sucked,in!
Michelle on June 07, 2017:
I like the tips you've given
Thanks for writing this
Cathi on August 08, 2015:
I've not been "completely" disabled-to the extent that i can no longer work- for long (only about 3 years); but it seems like a lifetime. A lot of what you said, reading it, made sense, but was things i hadn't thought to force myself to do before. I have felt the devastating depression setting in, and when i came on this site, was actually looking for some kind of hobby ideas to help with this. However, i think your suggestions are things i need to try, if not first, then in conjunction, with a new hobby. The simplest of these suggestions, but the most striking to me was to force myself to get dressed every day. Or at the very least "change my socks". I've been struck down with several debilitating illnesses at the same time, and am not even 47 years old. So, reading these suggestions was very helpful. Thanks so much for the insights. Sincerely,
Cathi K., Tampa, FL
sam on July 27, 2014:
hi i have depression , and epilepsy , and very low self esteem , but would like to learn more hobbies how do go about it
Williams on May 28, 2014:
I am a 36year old single mother! I've been dealing with my disabilities for a long time. I thought having all this time to be here for her would be all I need, but lately I need to find something fun and interesting to do for me. I don't have a lot of support or family and this makes it hard to get through long days. Thanks for these suggestions.
Jennifer Reuter on May 21, 2014:
Hi. I have PTSD... Bi-polar/Maniac Depression... Insomnia.... plus Arthritis in my back. I'm only 37. I have accepted this, but having a hard time dealing with this. I am a strong person, And reaching out for people that I can relate too.
Stephen on February 22, 2014:
Excellent , I've been house bound for the last eight years , I've tried always to deal with it without using anti depressants ,thankyou for writing this !
Kelly B. on December 26, 2013:
I am very limited physically and I have severe PTSD and an iffy diagnosis of bipolar.It's next to impossible to leave my home in the cold and the snow and my days now. consist if endless boredom and depression.This is my first winter alone..I made the decision to not stay in a BAD relationship just to avoid being alone.But this is infinitally more difficult than I could have EVER imagined since I ended up taking a turn for the worse just as the cold hit.But I am thankful for your advice and am going to really try to put yours and all advice I can find to use.Thank you for letting me know I can survive this.I wish you well!!!
Ann on June 23, 2012:
Hi Becky. Your article is great. My health is causing me to be more and more unable to be fully independent and Ice had questions about the quality of life. On thing I do do is volunteer at Froedert Hospital here in Milwaukee as a volunteer chaplin. My husband drives me there and picks me up. Some days I walk without assistance; other times I use my walker and use my oxigeno. I can only do this for a for a few hours a week but it helps knowing I can still contribute to my community.
I would love to hear from others. Thanks again for sharing your story and thoughts.
hiit on June 07, 2012:
Very interesting hub, regards for posting.
Ron from Fitness http://www.intervalstraining.net
Rachel Evelyn Nichols on March 17, 2012:
According to Viktor Frankl, in addition to achieving things and loving, we can find meaning in life by how we choose to face unavoidable suffering. I think he would approve of your attitude. I know I do.
susan on October 03, 2011:
I work with a dog rescue group in south florida and am trying desperately to help place our loving doggies in wonderful homes. Is there anyone out there who would consider taking in the love of their life? Endless affection, company and love will be there for you each day. Please help and consider making a homeless dog your best buddy...please...you wont regret it ever! e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org many blessings and good wishes to you all from me and my loving pups of all ages!
willowbrookriver on February 07, 2011:
Hi Becky thank you for all the thought you have given to your writing, it is so positive and refreshing. I also have daily challenges that test me both physically and mentally and I receive strength from people like you who teach by example:)I enjoy languages, playing piano, art, juicing and yoga.
Annie on January 15, 2011:
I am considerably older than you, but I identify with everything you say, and your suggestions are not only wise, but realistic...I'm so tired of watching shows where people are featured because of their superhuman accomplishments...why are there not more media devoted to the signifigant numbers of us who cannot perform, for whatever reason, at "normal" levels...we need affirmation of our worth as well as practical encouragement..you have provided both to me ..thank you
Ted on September 09, 2010:
Thanks for sharing these great tips!
BeckyC (author) on January 09, 2010:
Hi i scribble,
I'm glad you liked it. I hope it can help someone who is in a similar situation. I know it helped me, even as I was writing it--sometimes the best thing you can do is follow your own advice.
I think it was your interest in animal intelligence that caught my interest. It's fascinating how smart animals can be. Thanks for checking out my hubs! I'll be sure to do the same with all of yours!
i scribble on January 08, 2010:
This is an excellent article with many good ideas. You seem very wise and mature and brave for one so young. I especially like your advice of finding a way to help others no matter what your limitations. I used to give some of the same type of advice when I worked as a counselor in a voc. rehab setting.
Thank you for joining my 'fan' club. (I don't really like that term, do you?) We seem to have several common interests, like birds, animals, writing, and physical & mental challenges like ADHD, Autism, dyslexia, etc. Was it my interest in parrots & animal intelligence that caught your attention or something else? I will check out some of your other hubs now.