“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John Donne, No Man Is An Island
Have you ever imagined how it would feel on a deserted island? This time of year (winter) perhaps it seems like a pleasant thing to do. Get away from the harsh winter and find yourself bathing in the sun with no one to bother you, and the only sounds you hear are the waves of the ocean and the business of nature. On the other hand, if you were there alone long enough, wouldn’t you start feeling lonely and isolated? I would.
Living with a mental illness, or healing from an emotional trauma, can have it’s perks : Time alone, rest, avoiding stress, doing things you love, and sleeping. However, if enjoyed too much, these perks can turn into something less pleasant : Isolation or the feeling of being isolated from the world.
I want to be alone!
Often, I do want to be alone, yet when I am alone too much, I start to feel lonely. I have cut out many people in my life, and am slowly creating healthy new relationships, yet, there are days my mind takes over and I feel like even if I scream really loud, make smoke signals, or shoot flares, that no one will come knocking on my door to come drag me out of my dungeon.
When these times come along, and I begin to feel isolated, my heart rate increases, I begin to sweat and my anxiety gets through the roof. « No one wants you » yells my ignorant brain, and I fight hard to not allow my thoughts take over.
“But most days,
I wander around feeling invisible.
Like I’m a speck of dust
floating in the air
that can only be seen
when a shaft of light hits it.”
― Sonya Sones, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies
In their article How Loneliness and Isolation Hurt Anxiety the Calm Clinic state :
“Many people with anxiety also choose to be more isolated. That’s because anxiety causes two issues that end up leading to isolation:
- The belief that being alone will help you reduce your stress. This is an incredibly common belief, and one that all evidence shows is completely wrong.
- The lack of enjoyment they get going out and spending time with others as a result of their anxiety.”
Although they have a point, I do, at times, think it is good for me to have some alone time, and rest as needed (I listen to my body) however, they are correct in a sense that if I extend my time on my « island » anxiety builds and it acts like a catch 22.
What I have learned so far, is that isolating myself hurts me more than taking the time to find ways to escape this little place I call my safe zone. Once my sanctuary doesn’t feel so safe anymore, I know it is time to use the tools I have acquired over the past 2 years, and use them to my advantage. First, build a raft, which means, take a minute to gather my things and set my foot out the door. My raft is my photography, and my dog. Yep, those 2 together are always incentive for me to get out there and walk, enjoy nature, and even speak to a few passers-by.
My raft brings me to places I would never think of if I were totally alone (no camera no dog) and I can get into the world with less anxiety and more ease. I realize, when I get home after my little adventures, that it feels good to be home, and my sanctuary no longer feels like a jail cell.
We all need to feel connected
In a world where being behind my computer screen is a God send, due to my agoraphobia, I still need to connect one on one with real, in the flesh, warm bodied, loving people. It is in our nature to want to surround ourselves with others who share common values, and friendships are of utmost importance. Along the way, I have shed a few friends, and have lost a few friends (or we drifted apart) thus, building new friendships can be a challenge for me. I do not trust so easily anymore and I take the time now to really get to know someone before inviting them into my life. (I hope this does not sound pretentious, I just want to convey that I do not want negative drama in my life anymore).
Alone on my island
Sheryl Ankrom , in her about.com article: The Psychological and Health Consequences of Loneliness: – Are You Lonely? states:
« Loneliness is not the same as being alone. In fact, a person can feel lonely even when surrounded by many. Some studies show people living in large cities have higher degrees of loneliness than those from close-knit small towns. Just because many are around us doesn’t automatically mean we have the sense of connectedness and emotional belonging to thwart loneliness. »
This is true for me. Even though when I am out I may be surrounded by many, I often feel like I do not belong, and this feeling overwhelms me with loneliness. Maybe that is why I often avoid social situations because I lack a sense of belonging, consequently, staying on my island often feels safer.. but actually it is not, it is isolating.
There is a difference between having « me time » which I totally enjoy, and feeling lonely and isolated. Oftentimes, people suffering from any form of mental illness feel totally detached from society, due the stigma. What we need to do is help those come out of their shell by giving them the love and attention they need, want, and lack at times. There are many ways people have made me feel loved and accepted from afar, and this my friend does wonders for my « cast-away » spirit.
Lets love those who have trouble loving themselves shall we. Maybe in the meantime, we can send (or even bring them) a care package so they can enjoy their time as a cast away until they feel ready to get on that raft they built with the love and compassion you gave them.
I know I am 🙂
“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
― Charles de Lint