Shut In, NOT Shut Out : What, or who, is a "shut in"?

ˈSHəd ˌin
noun: shut-in; plural noun: shut-ins
1. a person confined indoors, especially as a result of physical or mental disability.
Confined to a home or hospital, as by illness. Disposed to avoid social contact; excessively withdrawn or introverted.

Wiki- shut in is a person confined indoors, especially as a result of physical or mental disability agoraphobia.

Hi, I'm a shut in person. I have left my house successfully only a handful of time thus far this year. There are two reasons. One is my fibromyalgia. Getting in and out of vehicles hurts, getting dressed and putting shoes on hurts, walking long distances is exhausting and I get sick a bit easier than others. The other is agoraphobia. Anxiety and panic attacks have been a battle I've fought most of my life but every few years I get a flare of it that's a bit worse than other times and this past time, it's been the worst yet.

There are lots of people like me all over the world. We're young and old, male and female. I know before I became a shut in I pictured a shut in as a very old lady in a nursing home with no family. Some shut ins, in fact, are elderly ladies that reside in nursing homes or alone. Not all are. Some shut ins are teenagers who have had to withdraw from public school to home school. Some are middle aged men with health problems. Some are even healthy young moms. So, the first thing to do to understand who is a shut in is to wipe your mind's picture away now in order to re-imagine it. Got your eraser out? Okay, I'll wait. Good to go now? Great.

I'm going to give you some examples of (fictional) people who could be considered shut ins in order to trigger your thoughts towards someone you may know that fits the bill:

  • He's recently turned 85. His wife has passed away, his son lives in another state and his daughter has her hands full with her new grandchild. He sits alone day in and day out, nobody to tell his long life full of stories to. Meals are only once a day and do not consist of much because there's only him to cook for. A layer of dust sits on many things in his house because he's unable to get to them well enough to clean them off. His medications are delivered to him but his milk has been out of date for a week and could use some new slippers. His eyes sparkle with wisdom and memories and there's nobody there to share them with.
  • She's a newly single mother. She was uprooted from the place she grows up and moved to another place when her former husband took a new job. Now he's gone and she's busy with two toddlers she's raising alone. She lost her car, so she has no transportation and doesn't have a steady income. She wants to get out and find a job, a church, some friends... but she's feeling trapped. 
  • He's 16 and is finishing his high school years online. Panic attacks began to plague him a couple years ago and bullying at school intensified his anxiety so much that he missed a lot of instructional time. Agoraphobia has now gripped him so that the only social interaction he has is through video games. His parents are supportive but do not understand his anxiety and they unable to be there for him all of the time.
  • She's developed a chronic health condition before she even found her first gray hair. Pain never leaves her body and her immune system is low. Going out in public can be exhausting and puts her at risk for catching what would be a common cold for most but could be worse than a flu for her. She has friends and a family but they have busy lives so she spends most of her time in the bed trying to stay out of their way. Depression is a blanket over her and it's hard to see through that fog. 

I'm pretty sure most people know someone similar to one of the four people listed above. You may have a different image in your mind now or the image may be the same but you've been able to see a few different perspectives. The thread in common with all of these people is the need for compassion. Not sympathy, compassion. 

In my next post, I'll shed some light on how you can show care and compassion for shut ins.

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