400 Friends and No One to Call: Breaking through Isolation and Building Community

400 Friends and No One to Call: Breaking through Isolation and Building Community

by Val Walker
400 Friends and No One to Call: Breaking through Isolation and Building Community

400 Friends and No One to Call: Breaking through Isolation and Building Community

by Val Walker


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A friendly, candid, and comforting guide for isolating times when we have no one to count on.

Despite the inclusive promise of social media, loneliness is a growing epidemic in the United States. Social isolation can shatter our confidence. In isolating times, we’re not only lonely, we’re also ashamed because our society stigmatizes people who appear to be without support.

As a single, fifty-eight-year-old woman, Val Walker found herself stranded and alone after major surgery when her friends didn’t show up. As a professional rehabilitation counselor, she was too embarrassed to reveal how utterly isolated she was by asking for someone to help, and it felt agonizingly awkward calling colleagues out of the blue. As she recovered, Val found her voice and developed a plan of action for people who lack social support, not only to heal from the pain of isolation, but to create a solid strategy for rebuilding a sense of community.

400 Friends and No One to Call spells out the how-tos for befriending our wider community, building a social safety net, and fostering our sense of belonging. On a deeper level, we are invited to befriend our loneliness, rather than feel ashamed of it, and open our hearts and minds to others trapped in isolation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781949481242
Publisher: Central Recovery Press, LLC
Publication date: 03/26/2020
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,047,128
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Val Walker is a rehabilitation consultant and the author of The Art of Comforting, which won the Nautilus Book Award and was recommended by the Boston Public Health Commission as a guide for families impacted by the Boston Marathon Bombing. She has a master of science degree in rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth Universityand has led support groups for people living with chronic illness, disability, grief, and trauma for twenty-four years. A contributing blogger for Psychology Today, she lives in Boston and teaches and speaks throughout New England.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Once I Loved Being a Loner 1

Writing the Book I Couldn't Find 4

Part 1 Living in Isolating Times 9

Chapter 1 400 Friends and No One to Count On 11

Isolated in a Digital Age 11

My Boston (Not So) Strong Story 13

Myths about Social Isolation That Hurt Us 19

The Stigma of Loneliness: A Self-Assessment 25

Chapter 2 The Forces That Isolate Us 37

The Big Picture of Isolation: Socioeconomic and Cultural Forces 37

Distracted and Fragmented Conversations 46

Isolation and Social Media: A Downward Spiral 49

The Pitfalls of Comparing Ourselves 54

What Isolates You: A Self-Assessment 57

Part 2 Breaking Through Isolation 61

Chapter 3 What It Takes to Break through Isolation 63

Daring to Chat 63

A Safe Space 68

Knowing the Indicators of a Healthy Connection 72

Restoring Our Confidence in Conversation 77

Self-Advocacy: It's Not Just about Asking for Help 79

Chapter 4 Turning to Our Community for Support 83

It Really Does Take a Village: The Networks That Support Us 83

Building Community by Activating Our Support Networks 88

Popular Ways to Activate Our Support Networks: A Quick List 90

Building Friendships and Community: A Brief Introduction 93

If We Have No One to Talk To: Helplines, Warmlines, and Hotlines 96

Finding People Who Understand Us: Support Groups, Therapists, Life Coaches 99

Part 3 Brave New Living: Fifteen Inspirational Profiles 105

An Introduction to Part Three 106

Chapter 5 Addiction and Grief: Building Recovery Communities 107

Ana Bess Moyer Bell: How Theater Saved My Life 108

Paul E Kandarian: Breaking through the Isolation of Helplessness 113

Paul S Kandarian The Safety of Isolation Turns to a Nightmare of Loneliness 120

Robyn Houston-Bean: How My Grief Became a Gathering Force 128

Chapter 6 Illness and Caregiving: Building Support Communities 135

Annie Brewster, MD : Breaking Out of Isolation with Our Stories 137

Allie Cashel: Breaking through Silence 141

Sharon Perfetti: The Messy Times of Our Lives 146

Marisa Renee Lee : The Isolation of Uncertainty 151

Chapter 7 Feeling Different: Building a Sense of Belonging 157

Karen St Peter: The Isolation of Outshining Others 158

Lee Thornton: The Village It Takes to Heal from Abuse 163

Morna Rutherford: Through Glass 171

Chapter 8 Relocation: Building Communities in New Places 179

Pamela Blunt: Growing Roots When We're Transplanted 181

Claus Adam Jarlov: Creating Sanctuaries of Belonging 185

Ben Riggs: Building Community through the Love of Learning 190

Jan Maier: A World of Friendships 194

Part 4 A Sense of Belonging 201

Chapter 9 Taking Action to Create Community 203

What Draws Us Out of Our Shell? 203

Building Your Community: A Mini-Toolkit 206

Chapter 10 400 Friends and a Few to Count On 227

Full Circle: After My Surgery, March 2019 227

Loving Where We Live 237

Part 5 Appendix 241

Fighting the Epidemic of Loneliness: A Resource Guide 243

Initiatives and Organizations Tackling Loneliness 243

Suggested Reading 251

Websites of Contributors 255

Acknowledgments 257

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This book is a marvel! Without any pomposity, this is a compendium of real life stories and useful tips about solving the universal problem of loneliness. Val Walker is able to walk a fine line that never veers into 'clinical' distance or cloying sweetness. I plan to recommend this book widely!"—Jacqueline Olds, MD, Co-author, The Lonely American, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital

"In this vitally important book, Walker has given us an informative and heartfelt examination of a world that encourages the kind of isolation that will kill us if we allow it. She shows us a way out of the pain of isolation, offering wonderful insights about building connections that will sustain us."—Scott Allison, PhD, Author, Heroic Transformation, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond

"With honesty, compassion, and practical wisdom, 400 Friends grapples with a critical and timely issue. At the Health Story Collaborative, we're thrilled to have her knowledge and guidance for breaking through isolation."—Annie Brewster, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School, Founder of the Health Story Collaborative and Co-founder of The Opioid Project

"Perhaps now more than ever, the experience of loneliness and isolation is almost universal. In 400 Friends and No One to Call, Val Walker brings a collection of diverse voices together to teach us how we can break past that isolation and build communities that support us and help us find our way. Her clear, empathetic, and compassionate voice carries the reader through the forces that isolate us, and gives us tools needed to move to a new sense of belonging."—Allie Cashel, president and co-founder, The Suffering the Silence Community, Inc., and the author of Suffering the Silence: Chronic Lyme Disease in an Age of Denial

"Val Walker has written an important book about a paradox of our time: We have friends all over the place, and yet no one to turn to in rough times—a paradox with serious ethical and social implications. Insight and hands-on advice are needed. For those who care, Ms. Walker's book is a must-read."—Claus Jarlov, CEO, communications consultant, founder of Global Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark

"The work I do in fighting the stigma and isolation of addiction is all about the power of community. We hurt as one and we must heal as one. 400 Friends shows us how."—Paul E. Kandarian, actor/writer, longtime contributor to the Boston Globe and Rhode Island Monthly

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