You wake up to a fresh morning sun. The air that hits your face when you open the window is temperate and perfect, foreshadowing the beautiful day that awaits. This fills you with dread.
The sunshine and acclimate conditions mean only one thing: this wasted day will hurt far more than the ones marked with gray skies and wet sidewalks.
Isolation is an intimate friend for many individuals; at least I strongly believe this to be the case. Google the term “loneliness” and the results number in the 60 millions. I am no outlier myself. Many weeks past were lost to self-imposed isolation. As dismal as being a shut-in seems, experiencing bouts of these feelings is ok.
Loneliness is a natural part of life and, ironically, everyone suffering are far from being alone in that struggle. The best way to combat loneliness and to dig yourself up out of that never-ending hole is through understanding the emotional makeup of this state and the logic behind the behavior.
For me, isolation festers as an inferiority complex. The first straw is pulled when I shut-down socially and then look to blame this withdrawal on others. I begin to feel I lack close personal relationships because no one reaches out to me. This skewed perception of reality hurts me personally and plunges that metaphorical dagger deeper into a wound.
The truth of the matter is that I do not put in the effort towards freeing myself from this mindset and instead choose to wallow in episodes of self-pity. Enter straw number two.
This self-pity can last days and can impose upon other parts of daily life. Whenever I was feeling particularly lonely, I would grieve over missed sunny afternoons with imagined picnics and get togethers. I found that it was easier to miss these fables than it was to proactively organize real ones. To relieve myself of the mental block I placed in my mind after going days without nurturing any of my relationships properly was a difficult task and not preferred. Thus the cycle continues.
To break free from said cycle is imperative. Loneliness is a killer, after all. Here I present some wisdom I gained from my own battles with isolation. As always, writing these things out is a means for me to review the methodology behind the actions so that I may better understand myself. I only hope this exercise is a help to others as well.
Let’s jump in.
The remedy to isolation is easier than our minds let us believe. Getting over the hurdle of breaking the ice is, in my opinion, the only difficult step. I discovered this recently when I decided to take a trip back to my hometown after a few months of being away.
The previous trip home was one that lacked a lot of interaction with my friends. Instead of bridging gaps and catching up with loved ones, I sulked about my parents’ house, twiddling my thumbs. I was waiting for people to reach out to me as I sat and exerted zero effort in doing the same.
Without even announcing to my friends that I returned, I angrily watched the days go by without any established communication from my part or theirs. I took the silence personally for no reason at all. Instead of seeing this lack of meet-ups and hangs for what they were: me refusing to communicate and instead waiting around for the invitations to flood my inbox, I took the silence as confirmation that my friends did not care.
Funny how the mind works sometimes, isn’t it? A few weeks of no communication between close friends can be perceived by one party as a lack of interest in the friendship altogether. Not only friendships either; all of my relationships suffered from this biased lens I filtered them through. This perception is toxic and does not need to be implemented at all. Seeing a relationship that way dissolves it and then leaves you in a warped state of abandonment. All of this is self-inflicted.
As soon as I reached out to people, my insecurities vanished. No resentment existed anywhere between myself and them. The idea of degraded relations was dashed from my mind. My extended hand was met with eagerness. To hear from me was refreshing, to respond was far from a chore. Take note of that: reaching out to people tends to be a positive event for them, not a burden.
Whenever I feel the familiar sting of resentment over a long bout of silence from anyone close to me, the default reaction is always to shift the blame. Instead of reaching out to fix this on my own, I wallow, I isolate. This is true for my close friendships and my newer ones. The truth of the matter is that all relationships are personal endeavors. The flower of friendship needs to be watered if you wish for it to last. The matter of who waters it should not be an issue.
Taking responsibility for matters that involve others is maturity. Understanding that the world does not revolve around you and thus requires an active role on your part is wisdom. To pair the two compounds their effects and loneliness thus becomes but a memory.
Finding a community is so important to our health. As social creatures, we yearn for these connections and suffer when we cut the threads. Take comfort in knowing that loneliness is never a punishment brought on by others but an infliction from within. Getting over it requires strength to confront the comfort of isolation. Familiarity can make it seem like a security blanket of sorts. Trust me when I say the alternative is far better.
Even getting yourself outside of your personal bubble can ease the feelings of isolation. Join clubs, take pets out to parks, write blog posts for other people to see. The gist of the lesson is proaction. Resorting to idleness will not break the cycle. Taking charge is the most important step.
Some parting thoughts on this: remember that loneliness happens to everyone. We are in a constant battle with ourselves first and foremost. Though we may love ourselves strongly, we skew towards giving ourselves the harshest criticisms too. Confine those criticisms; do not dole them out to others. What may be perceived as a lack of caring on some other person’s end is usually a multitude of other things. Avoid attributing personal attacks to other people’s behavior. No one is out to rain on your parade except yourself.
Try hard, forgive, continue. The world is a fuller place when sunny days bring excitement and warm afternoons are shared with loved ones. You are worth the friendship you give plus more. And though isolation is a natural part of life, you can learn to break the cycle unscathed.
Your mental health will thank you. This, I know.