by Julie A. Fast
I deal with a lot of loneliness. I overcome this by doing three things each time I start to think I have no friends and that I’ll be lonely forever.
- Determine what is depression and what is real loneliness.
- Turn off social media and interact with humans and animals.
- Plan events even if I don’t feel like it.
#1 I always deal with loneliness when I’m depressed. I don’t make plans when depressed and I say no to way too many things and then when I’m felling better, I get lonely because I turned down so many opportunities when I was depressed! What a vicious circle! For the majority of the time, loneliness is a depression symptom for me. It’s depression isolation and I fight it regularly. Why does it matter if I know that the loneliness is from my bipolar disorder? Because I can then focus on the illness instead of wasting time wondering what is so wrong with my life. I’ve learned that if I go from being super social when I’m hypomanic and then super lonely when I’m depressed, it’s two sides of the same coin. If a person is lonely ALL of the time no matter what mood they are experiencing, it’s about real life. If a person is only lonely during a mood swing, it’s about the illness.
This means that by treating depression, I will heal my loneliness.
Ah, if only we lived in a perfect world where dealing with depression were easy. Since it’s not, this means I have to have ways to manage loneliness as I experience the feelings.
#2 Social media is social, but it’s not a solution to loneliness. I believe that physical contact in the majority of our relationships is essential for stable mental health. Social media is so volatile that it can cause more problems than it solves. In my experience, I turn to social media when I’m depressed and lonely. I get a hit of endorphins just from checking pages- yes, this is why the internet is so addictive! I now force myself to turn off the computer, put down my phone and talk to someone REAL. This is hard when you’re lonely. Loneliness can stifle the desire to get out in life and explore what’s new. It makes NO sense. One would think that being lonely would create the desire to end the loneliness. I don’t believe it does. Instead, being lonely can make us sad for ourselves and drive us into more isolating behavior. This is why having a plan in place for physical contact – eye contact- shaking hands- pulling out chairs and talking in a group can help. Many lonely people with bipolar disorder create their own loneliness by their actions. I do. And yes, being with pets is physical contact.
When I turn off social media, I’m more likely to do something physical, such as creating this photo in my backyard. I remember the day I took this picture. My depression was raging and I felt LONELY. I knew it was the illness and I said, “Get out in the world and do something!” This picture is the result. I call it Catville.
#3 My final strategy is one I have used a lot this week. I force myself to plan events with other people no matter how I feel. My brain will come up with so many excuses. I know I need to get out more. I know I used to be more social, but I come up with reasons to stay home. I need to work. I’m tired. There is a show I want to watch, etc. Now, I say to myself- NO! You are going out. I focus on the outcome instead of my feelings in the moment. I have taught myself that planning events will never be fun- I talk about all of this in my book Get it Done When You’re Depressed. I wrote that book to counteract the isolation symptoms of bipolar disorder depression. We often have to fight our own brains to get what we want in life. If you are lonely, it makes sense that getting out and doing things will make a difference. I love the website Meetup.com. This is a non dating website that is filled with groups from practicing a language to hiking in the mountains. People are friendly and like all of us, they crave human contact. That is what being in a group is all about. If you’re reading this and you think, I can’t do that. I’m not like Julie. I’m an introvert and being social is hard for me, I have a suggestion. Put aside what you think and feel and do something social anyway. If you come home and think, wow, I never want to do that again, well, maybe it’s not for you. But what if you do something social with live human beings and animals and your mood shifts and you feel less lonely? That is success!
I’m interested to know what you do to combat loneliness. Do you get lonely when depressed, but are social when manic? That means it’s bipolar disorder. If your loneliness is attached to depression, managing the depression will help the loneliness as well. If your loneliness, like mine – comes from saying no to life’s opportunities, then you can change this for the better.
We can do it!
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community