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Celebrating 7 years of community inclusion and service to others

Don’t stop believing…the magic is right around the corner

Written by Connie Clark

Beyond the Conversation is celebrating 7 years of community inclusion and service to others. Beyond the Conversation has been recognized locally and globally for its vision and contributions. As a founding member, I have seen the growth, evolution, and prosperity of this dynamic and critically important organization.

October 2021, Beyond the Conversation founder Amie Peacock asked me if I would be interested in writing about my journey through loneliness and isolation as a result of becoming a hospital patient dealing with chronic back pain. I was thrilled when Amie asked me, so I got busy, completed the article, then Beyond the Conversation published the article on the website, where it stands today.

My story is important not because it happened to me, but because it may serve to inspire others who have lost hope and are in the depths of loneliness and isolation and its effects.

We know that social isolation and loneliness contribute to poor health, including, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline, and it is well documented that patients with chronic pain have elevated overall mortality rates compared to the general population. Social isolation and long-term loneliness can also lead to negative self-esteem, mental health and emotional problems, substance misuse, and the inability to concentrate, focus, problem-solve, making it difficult to move away from negative thinking patterns and toward wellness.

Having strong social connections is imperative to our health and well-being, it can reduce stress levels, ward off depression and suicide, heart disease, and boost our immune system. Strong connections are part of our humanity, our evolution, we are wired to find our tribe so-to-speak. This is the ethos of Beyond the Conversation.

Essentially, we are out of balance when we are in a state of isolation or loneliness.
Beyond the Conversation seeks to adjust this state of being out of equilibrium, by promoting its vision through its many friendship ambassadors and open talk cafe’ programs. My hope is that my story, continued from Oct 2021 will provide a sense of connection, empathy, and hope for the reader.

(On July 29th, 2019 my life was derailed by chronic back pain, I could no longer work and my life became centered around Doctors, hospital procedures, lab tests, and the concept of being disabled.

Work had been the center of my life for over 40 years, my work was in the world of social services, caring for others and now I had to take care of myself, not a role I was well acquainted with at all. The learning came hard, but eventually, I learned to put my health first and take care of my needs without feeling selfish or self-involved. I eventually realized that without my health in good order I had no future!

There was a time during this 3 year period when I lost hope, where I was lonely, and where I was most certainly isolated. I could not see a life of purpose or joy, I could not see a future, I was stuck in the mire of the situation, endless Doctor appointments, and procedures, what was the point of all of this? Then after much reflection, there was a breakthrough, the procedures were helping, and things were getting better for me, I then realized I had to push myself to get back into my life of purpose and meaning.

Amie Peacock and Neil Parker at Beyond the Conversation have always been there to promote me, inspire me, to let me know that I am not forgotten, and not alone, this is the essence and the magic of Beyond the Conversation. They reminded me that friends want to help!

I continue every day to improve my medical profile, gain greater wellness, and move toward a brighter future. I am reclaiming my life! I urge those that are lonely and isolated to reach out to Beyond the Conversation, participate in one of the many open talk cafe and become part of something bigger than yourself, be part of a caring community of passionate, supportive people who possess a strong strategic vision for the future.

So today, June 2022, I have been away from my work for 3 years and I have completed 20 back procedures at St. Paul’s hospital. My team at St. Paul’s is simply amazing, they keep me hopeful and inspired! The road ahead is still long, but it is bending toward wellness and improved mobility and functionality. I have a good sense of myself, and good self-esteem and I am so pleased to say that I am a virtual administrative/audit team volunteer in the Community Living sector, with the goal of eventually getting back to work.

I do not pressure myself to make a decision on return to work dates, that is still down the road. My Doctors remind me not to rush myself and to take the time to get well, so then I will have a greater chance of staying well. I allow myself to live in the moment as much as I can and just keep moving forward with grace and dignity, knowing that the road I have traveled and continue to travel is one of incredible learning, ongoing adaptation, and relentless revisionism.

Things can get better, belief.

Written by Connie Clark

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