Loneliness: It’s Not Just for Recluses Anymore

More and more mental health professionals are citing lack of human contact as a contributing factor in depression and even trauma recovery. It has become an item on the list of “must-haves” for stability. And recently, I’m starting to wonder, as are my doctors, if my lack of human contact is starting to hurt my health and recovery. And I think, especially for a person like me who thrives in social environments where my true self comes out to play; having my interactions revolve around the checker at Safeway, the guy at the counter of my gym, my trainer, therapist, and psychiatrist, well it’s not really cutting it.

In fact, you know you’re in a deep vat of pathetic when the following happens to you. I met with my therapist yesterday. I didn’t really need to but I hadn’t left the house or talked to anyone and it was either see her or go to the gym. I got there and we talked through why my options for human interaction are so limited. At one point, she mentioned we had five minutes left, and we usually spend that time deciding what I’m going to do to survive until I see her again. (At least, that’s what we’ve been doing lately.) So I started jamming about television shows, then she jumped in; I mentioned websites I had visited to see if I wanted to volunteer and why they sucked, she mentioned a few. After a while, we were just shooting the shit and then she said she had to go because she had something to get to. And it hit me as I got in my car: my therapist just spent an extra half hour with me just so I could have someone to hang out with and talk to about stuff.

It was really kind, but also really sad. I appreciated it, especially because that is definitely not protocol, and also realized how nice it was to talk to someone I liked and with whom I share commonalities. But the thing is, while I really like her as a therapist and a person, I shouldn’t be getting my socialization requirements for my health from my therapist. I guess she was just throwing out a temporary life raft and I took it. I was embarrassed until I got home and realized that was my fill of person-time for the day.

There is such a huge divide between knowing what you can do, what you want to do, and what you are able to do. And for things to happen, there has to be a symbiosis, even if one is weak and you have to force it a bit. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m making excuses. Maybe this is my fault. But right now I am unsure of what I am able to do and a bit blank in terms of what I want to do.

I just feel like right now my goal for the day is to be alive, not harm myself, and do one or two effective things. I did have “leave the house” as one thing too, but it’s getting harder so I’ve put it in parentheses. (It’s in quotes here, but in parentheses in my mental to-do list. Just clarifying some minutiae.)

I miss the rush of making people laugh, of sincerely laughing my ass off. The joy of doing something silly or having a really good, solid conversation.

But even if I wanted that, I don’t think I could right now. So for today and possibly tomorrow, I’m just getting through the day. For now, it seems, that’s all I can, want, and am able to do.

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Sitting Alone with My Loneliness

I remember how lonely my depression was. Not just because it often led to cutting people out of my life to “spare” them a burden they couldn’t understand and would never be able to fix, but also because my depression craved to be alone with me, a captive and her abductor. Still, having someone to turn to, even when I resisted, felt sometimes┬álike being saved – whether that person knew it or not.

There were times, sitting in my room, questioning the continuance of living, when someone would happen to text me a message telling me they missed me. Or I would listen to a voicemail (I generally didn’t pick up the phone at that point,) and hear such happiness in a friends’ voice. I knew that even if they couldn’t understand, there were a few people that if I would have been brave enough, would have come to sit next to me or take a walk with me – if I had only been strong enough to ask for help. Just knowing I had that support and that people loved me, gave me enough strength to give myself another day.

I suppose, even though I detest asking for help, I have always felt reassured knowing it was at least there. I never really believed people liked me and therefore would want to help me, given how many times I was discarded growing up. But by college, even though I kept my friends in the dark about the details of my sickness, I knew they were around and no matter how much I wanted to hide in bed, they would eventually come in and drag me out. When I came home after my breakdown, my mother was there for me, checking in every day, sometimes to listen, sometimes to get the wrath of my anger – but just knowing she was there, was a safety against being completely enveloped by the depression.

I have to say that my doctors’ support has also given me the protection and strength I have needed at times. Having people around me that believe me and more importantly, believe in me, gives me strength I never knew I had. Sometimes I worry that I depend too much on this support, but at this point, I need it too much to even think of letting it go.

I look around at others and most of them have someone nearby to lean on, to tell their stories – both important and inane. To get them out of the house or take them somewhere that maybe scares them to go alone. This could be a close friend, a neighbor, a boyfriend, or a husband.

As I have been preparing for London, my mom and I are trying to adjust our relationship by slowly pulling apart. If we don’t start now, I fear the intense change could be devastating for both of us, as we have become tethered quite tight in terms of dependency.

I attempted to withdraw from a medication last week and fell into a horrible place. They do always say side effects can include depression and suicidal thoughts, but I suppose I was expecting tremors and insomnia. I went back on the drug – I guess while it was small, having an addictive medication in your system for over a decade takes a long time and it looks like we are going to have to break the dosage decrease down even further. Still, while I have gone back up, the side effects still linger. I’ve been quite sad, thoughts appear I haven’t had in almost two years, and I find myself unable to leave the house, or do the self-care I have come to regard as a daily lifestyle.

And last night, as I sat against the wall, unable to sleep, crying because I just felt so weak, I realized how alone I felt. I don’t have a friend I can call at any hour. Most are married, some have children, and jobs they must be awake for every morning. My mom is out of town, but honestly, we are just starting to change our habits, and I don’t want to fall back to where we were and have to start over. My therapist is amazing and will arrange 15 minute calls to just let me vent and panic on the phone, which at this point, is what I really need. But I have to call and leave a message and then she gets back to me and then we arrange a time and by then, I have gone through so many thought cycles, I don’t even know what I’m feeling by the time I reach her.

It’s time like these that the loneliness aches so terribly. When I realize the difference a loving husband or boyfriend could make. Even just someone to hold me or distract me. I realize that not having developed a group of friends in the past five years has left me so vulnerable and alone. I literally have no support net to fall back on. I go through my rolodex of possible help in my head, and come up blank. Last night, as I sat there crying, I realized I was more than lonely, I was alone. Alone with my thoughts which are no longer completely my own as my brain still adjusts back to my medication. And it terrified me.