Alone

It’s always amazed me that it is so difficult in this world to forge lasting relationships, but it is so very easy to wind up alone.

Lasting relationships require hours upon hours upon hours of getting to know someone. They require regular, consistent contact. They require honesty and commitment. They require the ability to apologize and admit when you’re wrong about something. They require sacrifices of time, effort, and sometimes even money. And they have to be constantly maintained.

Losing relationships, however, is a relatively simple thing to do. Just insult someone, directly or indirectly. Just miss your monthly or weekly lunch date a few times. Just get busy enough with work or kids or other obligations that you stop going out as much. Just don’t use the phone as often or email anyone or leave comments or messages on social media.

beach-fog-figure-1-ls-120120527_1721Imagine a scenario in which you’re walking with a large group of people. Suddenly, you all begin to enter a deep, thick fog. You’re aware of where everyone else is as you step inside, but you gradually begin to lose sight of them, one by one. Soon, you’ve made your way deep into the heart of the area, and you can’t see anyone. Even worse, none of them can see you either. You’re isolated, lost, and you don’t know how to get back to where you started from.

This is what seasons of feeling alone seem like to me. I know at one point I was in a place where I had plenty of good, reliable relationships. Then things start to get busy. Or I start to feel my depression a little bit more. Or my friends start to fade away a little. It’s not rare in these times for me to look around and ask, “Where did everybody go? What happened?”.

I believe these seasons are fairly natural for all of us. We all experience times when it seems we’re adrift on an island somewhere. Some people, however, are better equipped to handle these times than others. Confident people easily realize that their lives will eventually return to a normal social pattern, either with the relationships they had before or with new ones.

Those with depression or anxiety, though, often struggle through these seasons. We don’t understand where everyone went, and we’re not brave enough to reach out and ask anyone what happened. We’re not confident in ourselves or our ability to forge new relationships, so we become afraid things will always be this way, even though somewhere in the backs of our minds we know they won’t be. We fiercely try to hang on to any relationship we do have, because we dread those times when it feels as if no one is there.

Perhaps the worst part of feeling so alone for someone with depression is that we are simultaneously angry at the people we feel abandoned us and at ourselves for not reaching out more to avoid feeling so alone in the first place. So, a lot of the time, we just stew. It’s an anger that’s difficult to explain. It’s like attempting to punch your way out of a box you sealed yourself up inside. And there is still that part of you that sort of likes being alone and tries to convince you it’s really not that bad, even though you’re suffocating emotionally.

Strong people, this is when your depressed friends need you most. Invite them over to your house. Go see a movie with them. Meet them at a Starbucks for coffee. Randomly call or text them during the day. If you think they’ve been avoiding you, well, maybe they have been, but it hasn’t always been because they didn’t want to see you. They may have just not had the strength to reach out to you.

If any of this sounds hard, it is. The alternative is easy.

Too easy.

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Catching Up

Every article I’ve ever read on being a successful blogger says the same thing: One of the keys to increasing readership is to write at least one blog post a day. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to post more than one entry per day, with the length of each entry being shorter in nature. This, apparently, encourages traffic to your site.

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I haven’t posted anything here since this past Friday. I believe I had 12 page views today, so maybe all those experts on blogging are onto something. As I’ll explain in a moment, I had some pretty good reasons for going that long between postings, but I quite honestly have many times questioned the wisdom of posting more than once a day. That just feels like overload to me. Plus, I don’t understand how people have enough time to do that anyway.

Prior to Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I honestly felt as if I had somehow managed to drop off the face of the planet. I’m not sure how it happened, but I managed to become incredibly, almost frighteningly, isolated this year. Most of my evenings seem to be spent doing what I’m doing right now – working on this blog. Don’t get me wrong; I love writing, and I love being able to use this space to contribute something to the growing discussion on depression these days. Creating a compelling blog does not a fulfilling life always make, however.

I have mentioned here before that I have struggled with social anxiety issues for a long as I can remember. I consider myself a very introverted person. Given my preference, I would probably choose to be alone as much as possible. It would seem to make sense, then, that living a life of general solitude would be very appealing to me. Lately, though, I’m finding the opposite to be true.

I need people … darn it.

Sunday night I played basketball with a group of guys; Monday night was our company Christmas 1503361_10154899491520551_4710955220160445037_nparty; and last night I attended a showing of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with some friends. Three nights in a row of not sitting on my couch and actually interacting with other people, a fairly miraculous achievement for me. I’m not sure I would have the mental stamina to keep up that kind of schedule all the time, but I feel infinitely better than I did this past Saturday, when I found myself sitting in my bathroom wondering if I ever wanted to come out again (That will probably be the subject of another post soon…).

Isolation is one of the classic traps of depression. You start feeling as if everyone has forgotten about you, that no one knows how you’re feeling, and that no one particularly cares about either one of those two points. Perhaps even more insane, you start actually believing you can handle everything on your own, leading you even further down the path of being alone. Bitterness, anger, loneliness, and all kinds of other negative emotions can follow. It’s a downward spiral.

Today, I am catching up on this blog, but for the past three days I feel as if I’ve been catching up on being a normal human being again. I’ve been re-learning how nice it is to have casual conversations and play games with other couples and eat out at restaurants without having to make sure a high chair is available. I missed writing here Monday, and there was no Tuneful Tuesday entry yesterday, but I think I can live with a few less page views if it means me reconnecting with reality.

Tuneful Tuesday: Hit And Miss

I have made a concerted effort lately to listen to the radio more often. I went through a phase where I just wasn’t that interested in any of the music I was hearing, so I retreated into my iPod and the vast amount of music from the 1980s and 1990s it contained. Occasionally something new might catch my ear, but for the most part I stuck with what I knew.

As a result, I’ve been discovering lots of music that is new to me but isn’t exactly “new” music. One of those songs recently has been “Some Nights,” by fun. The song was released in 2012, and the only knowledge I really had of it was the fact the group put a period at the end of its name and a column in a Christian magazine I was reading labeling it as an indicator of how confused the current generation is regarding its place in this world.

Lyrically, the song actually does sort of jump around all over the place. I mean, the guy is obviously distressed about something, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. On the other hand, sometimes that’s what depression feels like; you’re upset about something, but you can’t exactly put your finger on what it is. And then there’s the loneliness, which is captured pretty well with lines like “I try twice as hard, and I’m half as liked” and “I could use some friends for a change.”

The real kicker of the song, though, bursts forth in a couple of lines near the end. “Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from some terrible nights.” It takes a long time to grasp that perspective. In this case, it takes a look into a young boy’s eyes to make the realization. It’s different for everyone, though. The rest of the song may wander a bit, but this bit of wisdom is spot-on.

It seems as if a lot of artists these days are tapping into some very profound truths about depression and being able to manage it. Maybe the radio is worth listening to after all.