The veil of loneliness can taint us all, leaving us gasping for breath and wondering how to survive.
This is her story:
I’ve never admitted aloud how lonely I actually am. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that there’s no one to admit it to.
A few months ago, my therapist told me that I was in denial about being almost completely socially isolated without any friends. At the time, I thought he was full of shit. I didn’t feel lonely because I wasn’t lonely in the first place. I preferred to be by myself – it was comfortable.
Of course, he chalked this up to my preexisting depressive and anxiety disorders. Typically, I argued that I wasn’t depressed and that my social anxiety had nothing to do with my isolation. (See: Denial.)
Turns out, he was right.
I think therapists tend to be correct about these sorts of things the majority of the time, anyway.
Since May of this year, the dark cloud of apathy and despair that has permeated my entire life has gradually dissipated. As a result, I find myself wanting to do some of the things that before held no interest or pleasure: reading, watching movies, even exercising when I can muster up the energy. The more the veil lifts, the more acutely aware I become regarding my situation and my life. The loneliness, ironically postponed by my depression, has finally hit. And it is more painful than I could have ever imagined.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not completely socially isolated. I always have my mom to discuss our favorite books and watch TV shows with. When my sister has friends over that I’m comfortable with (usually ones that I’ve known my entire life), I can count on some decent conversation. Oh, and I run a blog. Not like anyone views it, but it makes me feel some sense of connection to the waking world.
Granted, none of these things are typical for a seventeen-year-old girl, although I’m only now realizing that. The more I type, the more I feel it’s as though I’m defending some sort of losing argument.
In many ways, I suppose that I am. It’s like starting off a sentence with, “Yes Officer, I was speeding, but…” I’m just digging myself into a deeper hole.
A huge part of the problem is that I don’t have any confidence when it comes to talking to people my age. I have a hard time connecting with others. Even as a child, I was somewhat of a loner. In elementary school, I got by with a small group of friends that I had known (get this) most of my life – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but when middle school started and everyone got sent off to different districts, I was up the creek.
Never having developed the same social abilities as everyone else, I spent 2/3 grades struggling to swim. I had/have several nervous habits, such as picking at the skin on my lips and fidgeting when I talked to someone; couldn’t hold eye contact with others. People pointed this out to me on multiple occasions, and I’m still consciously aware of them to this day.
Basically, communicating with others has never come easily to me. There’s always been a definite block there. Eventually, I learned to make friends, and have had a couple of good ones over the years, but when my depression hit for the first time when I was fourteen, certain aspects of my life got markedly worse – such as my anxiety, which has been prevalent for as long as I can remember.
Both took a serious turn for the worse my junior year, resulting in the social isolation I’m experiencing today. I alienated every single one of my friends, and when I was hospitalized six months ago, I was pulled out for the remainder of the year. When my senior year starts in September, I’ll be finishing up high school online. It’ll be better for my anxiety and depression, but it’ll lay absolutely nothing on my loneliness.
The boredom might be the worst part. I have nothing to look forward to during the day, so thus I spend a lot of time sleeping as much and as long as I can, just so I don’t have to deal with the tedium of being awake. My schedule is achingly dull: I wake up. I blog. I fill the empty hours with television shows and video games. If I can concentrate, I might read a book. Otherwise, it rarely deviates.
The loneliness itself is potentially the only thing worse than the boredom. I find myself wondering about the few people who were once in my life, and how they’re doing. Sometimes, I hopefully check my phone (I keep it turned off for precisely this reason) for messages, expecting none. After months and months of alienation, everyone has written me off. I don’t blame them for not wanting to deal with me – I don’t even want to deal with me.
Every couple of months or so, I have a conversation with an estranged friend, although they’re usually brief and unfulfilling. Despite how starved I am for company, I have walls that are made of concrete and insurmountably high. I push everyone away; I keep everything to myself. If I’m suffering, I don’t say a word about it. Even when I did have friends, I very rarely came across a person that I could open up to.
I know that I should reach out. Complaining about my situation isn’t going to fix it, and I fully acknowledge my role in perpetuating the problem. But on top of being closed off and introverted, I’m socially anxious, complete with debilitating physical symptoms and the occasional situational-bound panic attack.
I’m too scared to attempt to cultivate any relationships with others. When I interact with anyone outside my family, I spend hours, sometimes days afterwards ruminating over potential error and how I humiliated myself in conversation. Isolation has only made this worse, of course.
About a month ago, I hung out with someone for the first time in over eight months, and he hasn’t contacted me since. I’ve taken this as a slight, and I’m still going through what I might have done wrong over in my head. Which is pretty sad, because to feel slighted requires some sort of expectation. I had none.
I know that things could be worse. Much worse. My life thankfully has not been a tragic one. I’ve had the good grace to know friendship and what it means to be loved. I have supportive parents who have stood by my side, albeit at a distance, throughout my struggle with mental illness. Loneliness by far is not the worst thing that I have experienced. But it’s still hard.
I am seventeen years old.
I am mentally ill.
I am graduating next year by the skin of my teeth.
I am completely friendless.
I am lonely.
And it hurts.