The Question of Loneliness
December 10, 2018
The question of whether the chicken or the egg came first is equally as hard to answer as the question of whether depression or loneliness comes first. Does depression come first, making a person isolate themselves? Or was the loneliness there first, worsening your depression because you feel like no one cares or understands? Often times, the two go hand in hand, which causes a vicious cycle that spirals down and magnifies the impact of both.
In the beginning of the downward spiral, you may not want to bother or inconvenience anyone with your problems. The depression is there, but it feels more like a trivial nuisance in your life than a real issue. You minimize your struggles because you don’t want to appear weak or helpless. The depression tricks you into believing that you’re doing others a favor by not bothering them for help. It tells you how the people that have cared and loved you for as long as you can remember, have more important things to worry about than you. You end up feeling like you should be able to handle everything on your own, so you begin to pull away from the real word. You isolate yourself, and to justify those actions, you keep telling yourself it’s because you just don’t want to trouble anyone else with your problems. It’s the disconnection and loneliness that really make you feel worse than you should, it makes you feel completely alone- causing your depression to worsen.
You close doors, put up walls, stop communicating. It’s not long until you’ve pushed away so many people, you don’t think your entitled to reach out to them anymore. You feel the guilt pressing down, making you feel like a bad friend. But you rationalize your thoughts and make yourself believe that since it’s been so long since you’ve spoken to everyone, to contact them now just because you’re struggling more would be wrong. But by this point, the depression has permeated every aspect of your life, and everything seems utterly hopeless. You feel completely lost, isolated and alone. Your depression convinces you that you’re broken in a way that no one could understand. You’re struggling to function. You’ve begun avoiding things that seem too hard or too much effort. You stop doing the things you once loved and used to bring you joy because you don’t feel like you deserve to be happy. You don’t want anyone else to see the mess you’ve become, so you shut yourself off from the world; you tell yourself the world is a better place without you in it.
The further into the depths you spiral, the worse the loneliness and depression become. It’s not a cycle that loops endlessly, it’s a downward spiral that continues to drag you further and further into the darkness. And at the bottom of the spiral, you feel betrayed and abandoned. Despite the fact that you intentionally isolated yourself, your depression tells you that if others truly cared, they would have seen all the signs and been there all along. It deceives you into thinking that they would have fought harder to be there for you; it convinces you that you couldn’t turn to anyone else, even if you wanted to.
I’ve been there myself, more than once. Every time my depression begins to get worse and I start spiraling downwards, I find myself isolating myself more and more. I pull away because I don’t want to bother anyone, and I always feel like a massive burden to everyone. I figure that my friends and family have seen me this way for years, that they must be tired of dealing with my depressive episodes. I tell myself I’m sparing them from my drama and saving them from heartbreak of seeing my continued struggle. I tell myself that I’m doing them an act of kindness by keeping them at a distance. I desperately yearn for someone to talk to, to lean on, and to truly understand me. I feel so alone… But, that’s because I’ve chosen to make myself alone.
It isn’t that I’m alone. I have an amazing family, and parents who paid for me to go to a therapist for years and take medication, and even supported me when I wanted to stop going. I have friends who have stood by me for years, showing me that they do indeed care for my well being. And this is my reality, I am not alone.
However, the reality is that I also have depression. It’s a mental illness that can often convince me that I am alone and a nuisance to everyone in my life. It takes a continuous and conscious effort to remind myself that I am not a burden. They love and care about me, and truly want to see me succeed with their help. Again and again, I find myself itching to pull away, wanting to escape my problems and everyone else.
I continuously have to remind myself that I don’t have to carry everything on my shoulders alone. I tend to have to push myself to reopen the doors I closed, tear down the walls I put up, and let people back in. I know I don’t have to face my illness alone. I know these negative feelings are lies, though they feel legitimate to me at the time. I know I don’t have to be alone, no one does. Don’t let your depression deceive you. There are people out there who want to be there for you, and the people you pushed away? They’re yearning to be back in your life.
I can’t honestly tell you whether the spiral starts with depression or loneliness. Together, they form a symbiotic relationship that feasts on your mental health, starving you of your happiness and wellbeing. But if I can tell you something, it’s that you don’t have to be alone, so please don’t choose to be.