Posted on 15 June 2017 by Michael Dahl

On Feeling Alone

One of the most painful aspects of living with Anxiety and Depression is how alone you can feel when the symptoms attack. Of course, we all know there are stats telling us how prevalent both mental illnesses are — we are certainly not alone. But during the struggle, it’s so easy to recede into the most vulnerable parts of your brain and feel the illness is yours — and yours alone — to deal with.

Of course, sometimes you are lucky and can be open about your situation. You are in the company of someone who understands and can help talk you through your feelings. Or, someone has agreed to be your standby.  They are ready to take your phone call whenever you need them.

I am lucky to have a few people on standby for me. Although I’ll freely admit I don’t reach out to them as much as I should. And, there are people I feel okay being anxious around should I need to say to them, “________, can I bug you for 10 – 15 minutes? I am in need of help.” If you want to read about one such situation for me, click here.

But there is another way of feeling alone. You are surrounded by people who do their best NOT to interact with you for fear of:

  • Errantly feeling like those of us with mental illnesses are fragile beings who can’t engage in a conversation without breaking down.
  • Us saying the “A” or “D” words. (Of course, these may be the same people who talk freely about physical health problems.)
  • Who knows what … feeling uncomfortable???

Well, since posting about a struggle I had with Anxiety last week, I’ve had a few conversations with people about mental illness and feeling alone. I’ve had many similar conversations since I began this blog.

I’m glad “Prone to Hope” has had one of its intended effects. I want people to know they are not alone in their feelings / struggles. I am also quite open to talking with people about their illnesses, if that’s what they want / need.

Now, as I’ve stated before, I am lucky. For the most part I am surrounded by people who know about my frequent interactions with Anxiety and rarer plunges into Depression. Most of them don’t see those struggles as even nearly the complete definition of who I am, and are more than willing to talk to me … about anything (e.g. gardening, politics, music, my skirmishes with mental illness — just as I ask them about their lives and, often, their encounters with health problems).

But I too feel the pain of aloneness at times. As I said above, when the symptoms hit, it’s hard not to “recede into the most vulnerable parts of your brain and feel the struggle is yours — and yours alone — to deal with.”

But I’ve also felt ostracized while in the presence of many.

I remember once being in what I thought was a supportive crew of four others. Everybody was sharing their woes of the day. So I felt comfortable saying something dealing with an anxious start to my morning.

One person at the table looked at me and said, “Oh, so we’re going to drudge up AA and childhood issues, huh?” Those at the table went silent for a few seconds before continuing on with whatever acceptable woe was last discussed.

First, I have no idea what the AA comment was about. But the dismissive statement made me feel put in my place. For several minutes I said nothing. Thankfully, I did not act rashly; but I should have had some witty retort or stern comeback. Instead, I stewed silently and let them have the power in the situation.

Oh well, I can’t resolve that situation. And, it’s best to know I can’t feel fully comfortable in the company of that person anymore.

So let’s put that away and end on a positive note. Yes, the world is a competitive and sometimes harsh place. But we each have the power to act differently. As I noted in the last post, we can decide to be gentle or humble in our interactions with others rather than brash or self-centered. We can give more (preferably dark chocolate, please). We can also show others more often that we care.

And empathy … empathy can go a long way.

Do these things and you will not only make the world a little less harsh. You may just have helped brightened someone’s day when they needed to see less darkness.

You may have helped someone feel less alone.  Bravo!