Loneliness

October 8, 2017

I read this recently: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201708/loneliness-poses-greater-public-health-threat-obesity

It seems particularly relevant today as I’m sitting alone on a Saturday night watching a movie and planning on going out to dinner alone. Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy going out to eat alone. It seems like a luxury, both in time and money. But I still feel bad for myself when it’s a Friday or Saturday night and I’m alone, strangely, even when it’s by choice.

I am really fortunate in that I have a great community. I have a lot of people who love me and who would be there for me in an emergency. But most of them have families and all are busy so, while there’s no doubt they’d come in an emergency, it’s much less likely they’re be there in a non-emergency. And that part is important too. Really important.

I’m not sure what to do about that, and I’m not sure if married people also have this issue. It might even be harder if you’re married, because being lonely while having people around is really tough.

But I only know this from my own end. And I’ll tell you, being single in a world of families is tough. And that I’m going to go eat dinner alone this Saturday night and try to make the best of it.

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Loneliness

December 13, 2012

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness. Not because I’ve been feeling particularly lonely right now – although singleness does keep staring me in the face during the holidays (you know your thinking is very off when you find yourself wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to be married and divorced by now because at least I’d have gotten to be married.) Instead, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to be lonely in any situation. This should not be new to me – I’ve been very, very lonely in the middle of romantic relationships, in the middle of parties, in the middle of a college dorm, and in the midst of very good friends.

Maybe it is because of the holidays, but I know a lot of people who are very lonely right now. The friend whose mother recently died unexpectedly. The friend whose brother died years ago and each holiday season is a reminder that now she’s an only child. The friend whose husband left to date men. The friend whose husband left to date women. The several friends who have spouses who are very, very depressed or caught up in addictions and can’t be a real part of a partnership the way everyone would like. Other friends are single mothers and desperately lonely, including the one who thought that having a child would ensure that she never felt alone again.

It’s just hard to be human, and it’s hard to reconcile the reality of our lives with what we thought they’d be, who we thought we’d be with, what we thought we’d be doing, and everything else. Disappointment and loneliness and sorrow seem to feed into each other and are hard to separate.

I saw a woman crying while driving the other day. She was not sobbing, but just periodically wiping at the tears running down her face without stopping. She looked alone – everything about her looked utterly alone. I wanted to do something but we were in our cars and I don’t know what I would have done anyway. I just prayed for her, which was really all I could do.

I remember, at my most depressed, I felt so lonely that I really thought the loneliness was going to kill me. I cried in the car too. Sometimes sobbing uncontrollably and sometimes, like the woman I saw, just not able to stop the tears. I learned to drive while crying, not because I thought it was safe, but because I literally could not have gone on with my life if I hadn’t, because I really truly could not stop crying. I learned to cry through a lot of things – reading, working – because if I gave into the sadness and the loneliness and the black hole, I’d be in bed all day. Functioning while crying non-stop was still functioning.

I feel like Jesus should come into this somehow. I have believed – since I was very, very young, before anyone told me explicitly – that Jesus was taking care of me. I knew to pray when I was lonely and that I was never really truly alone. But I can’t tell people who are feeling alone that they need Jesus. It wasn’t enough for me, and maybe it should have been, but I don’t think so. I think it was something – I don’t think I would have survived the loneliness without knowing Jesus was there, but it certainly wasn’t happiness and light the way songs make it sound, with all I need is Jesus and you make me happy, and you’re all I need, and all these other lyrics that were written by people who have never felt SO. ABSOLUTELY. ALONE. in the world.

It is certainly good for me to remember that other people are lonely – people in all walks of life and all sorts of relationships – because then it’s harder to get into the “If I were just X, I’d be fine” mentality. But I don’t like it. I don’t want anyone to have to feel that bad and sometimes it seems like there’s just too much aloneness in the world.


No, I’m Not OK.

August 26, 2012

I’m actually doing OK right this minute.  If you’ve been reading, you know it’s been a hard summer.  Really really hard.  A lot of good things happening for other people that I want to rejoice in but my heart hurts.  A lot of med changes that work in some ways and are horrible in other ways.  A lot of grief about the summer being so sad – I was looking forward to it, damn it!  But right this second, I feel OK, but breakable.

That’s where I got the name of the blog, (which I may have explained in the first post) because we are saints, we are part of the community of God’s saints, but I am very, very broken.  Three was a time when you could see that on me, visually.  I’ve always had some way of dealing with the pain of depression.  Often it was just sleeping.  Sometimes eating, sometimes not eating.  For a very brief period of time, it was drinking, alone (the train of thought being “I can’t be an alcoholic even though there’s basically no chance I am not one, genetically, and even though I am drinking alone in my room because I am sad and I need to STOP FEELING RIGHT NOW.  I can’t be an alcoholic!  I didn’t start drinking until I was 29!  And it’s just wine!” More on that in another post).

But the behavior that “helped” me the most was cutting.  So, if this is going to be a problem to read, you might want to stop now.  I haven’t written about it up until now because it’s so personal and it’s SO shameful.

When I was a little kid – and I was depressed from VERY early on – I realized that physically hurting myself made me feel better emotionally.  I had a ring that my grandmother had given me that had a sharp edge on it and I would press it into my hand.  The pain would make life a little more bearable right at that moment. Because my life was very not bearable.  I sprained my ankle several times, once by climbing a tree in a floor-length velvet party dress (not sure what my mother was thinking letting me wear that), and once by stepping in a gopher hole, and I realized that not only did the pain make me able to live in my own skin, but people could see that there was something wrong with me.  

They didn’t know I was depressed and wanted to die – I didn’t really have words for that.  But they knew that I was hurt and so they made an effort to help me.  It wasn’t the kind of help I needed, but there was such a relief to people seeing – visibly – that there was something wrong with me, that I decided to be hurt as much as I could.  I have a very strong memory of stomping on my bad ankle with my other foot to try to make it sprained again, and not seeing anything wrong with that – that I was consciously trying to injury myself.

I stopped that when I was a teenager, and until I was an adult.  I had horrible horrible depressive phases where I was almost catatonic and I mostly went to sleep as an escape.  I have no idea what people thought of me then or how visible it was.  When I was about 26 or 27 though, I found cutting.

I never got very “good” at cutting because I’m actually kind of a wimp about blood, which is ironic.  But I found that straight razor blades provided a good stinging sensation and X-acto knives were even better, and there was something incredibly satisfying about injuring myself.  It made me feel numb which is all I was looking for, and it gave me some relief from the feeling that I didn’t deserve anything better for some reason.  I did it mostly where people couldn’t see.  On my stomach was easy, especially in the winter, as sweaters hide everything.  On my left wrist was harder but again, the winter is a good time for long sleeves.  I never did it deep enough to leave scars and it was never a suicide attempt or anything close to it.  I just needed the feelings to stop.

At one point, I was really not doing well.  My Bible Study was aware of this, I had been asking for prayer, and I wasn’t even pretending any more.  When someone asked me if I was OK, I would say, “NO, I’m not OK.”  And usually they wouldn’t know what to do and would probably wish they hadn’t asked.  At one point, I went to a SuperBowl party.  I hate football but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went and I sat on the stairs at my friends house and sobbed through the whole game.   I had been cutting before the game because quite honestly, it felt like the choice between that and driving my car off a cliff.  A friend from my Bible Study came up to me and asked if I was OK.  I said no.  My sleeve fell back a little and he saw my wrist and said, “You’re NOT OK!”

I thought of this because of my last post.  People seem to need some kind of visual or a malady that they can understand.  I had been begging for help and no one got it until they saw my wrist.  Last weekend I really really wanted to take that approach again.  I didn’t because I could survive, and my life is not unbearable even if sometimes it feels like it for a short period of time.  But I really wanted to.  Just to make my outside match my insides.  To show, “Look, THIS is how much I hurt.  Can you see now?”

I stopped drinking and cutting (again, hadn’t gotten to what anyone else would probably see as a major problem but I know myself and I couldn’t have stopped if I had waited) both on Dec 30, 2005.  This was partly because I realized that no one in my family who had ever used alcohol as a way to numb themselves had ever turned out well.  It’s not a beverage to me, wine, it is a feelings management system, and that’s dangerous.  But also because of something my therapist had said.  I had told her about the cutting but not the drinking because I felt so silly since it was not “real” drinking).  She told me it would make me feel better temporarily but it would make the feelings I was trying to avoid last longer. And I thought to myself, “I will not survive if these feelings last longer.”

So I stopped.  But I miss it.  Them.  This summer has been a time for both wanting to numb feelings and for wanting to show other people how hard it is to be me.  How much it hurts.

The other thing is that I don’t have any scars from cutting.  I should, even though I didn’t cut very deeply.  I have scars from paper cuts and mosquito bites.  I scar very easily.  But I have none.  Most of the time, I can see this as God’s grace to me.  Sometimes I wish I did have them.  Because again, they’d be tangible proof of the pain I’ve been through and that even when I look OK, things have been really really hard in the past.


How Not to Help With Depression

August 24, 2012

Here’s the thing with depression: people don’t understand it.  If you have a broken leg with a cast, they get that you need help.  Cancer, diabetes, MS: horrible diseases that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but (I think) people understand that those with those diseases need physical help sometimes, need rides places, need food brought to them.  No one is going to tell them it’s in their head, they’re not trying hard enough, or they’re not trusting God enough.  Well, maybe so, but it’s easier to see that those comments are horrible and untrue.  Not so with depression.

Two weekends ago, my ex-boyfriend got married.  It is a good thing we’re not still together and hi wife is probably in for some tough years unless he’s dealt with more than I think he has.  But it still hurts.  It’s the dying of a dream; it’s the feeling that I wasn’t good enough, that he’s able to find someone who wants to spend the rest of their life with him and I can’t find that.  It’s the fear that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.  This was coupled with helping get ready for a very dear friend’s wedding.  I wanted to badly to be happy and excited for her but I was in a lot of pain.  Plus the summer of med-adjusting has definitely taken its toll on my confidence and mood.

I tried to take care of myself.  I knew it would be hard, so I asked for prayer and I asked for help.  In retrospect, maybe I didn’t ask for help as specifically as I should have but I know I did tell people I’d really like having people to hang out with and that I really thought I needed it.  Everyone kind of said they were really busy.  Which they are!  Someone had parents in town.  Someone else was out of town.  A lot of people were helping get ready for the wedding.  Someone had family birthdays.  Someone else was moving.  There was legitimate busy-ness.  But I know that if I had broken my leg and needed to go to the hospital, all of those people would have been there for me.  If someone had died, same thing.  If I had been throwing up, many of them would have come even if it meant dealing with vomit.

I texted people during the weekend too.  I was crying too much to call.  Many people asked me if I was going to be safe.  I answered that if I meant was I going to kill myself, I wasn’t.  I wasn’t going to self-harm.  But that I wasn’t by any means OK.  Some people said they were glad I wasn’t going to do anything stupid.  Some people told me to look on the bright side, I didn’t want to be married to him anyway.  Some people told me to stop being self-defeating.  Some people told me to go back to counseling.  Some people said if I could get to their house I could hang out (I couldn’t get out of bed or talk on the phone, driving was out of the question).  When I pointed this out, they said well sorry, they couldn’t get there.

I don’t feel like I do this very often.  In fact, it’s been years.  I guess I used to need people a lot more but it hasn’t been true for the last few years so I don’t feel like I’m asking that much.  So I’m going back and forth between I am so angry and hurt that no one could be bothered and oh my goodness, I ask too much, I’ll never ask again.  But again, had I needed a ride to the ER, all of these people would have been here in a second.  Had I been sick from chemo, they probably would have scheduled an around-the-clock watch.  These are people who love me but do not understand.  I stayed in bed all weekend and cried more than I have in years.  Not only was the weekend bad, but I felt abandoned.

I did have two people come by – and they were the two people who really shouldn’t have.  The bride-to-be, who had 10 million things to do, came by to get me out of bed and take me to the grocery store, with no judgement or resentment, even though she REALLY didn’t have time.  My friend who is still post-op and needs to be careful with over-exerting herself AND had a family birthday AND was practicing music for the wedding came by with food.  So I’m incredibly grateful for those two people who really really didn’t have time.  But I’m so resentful and hurt at the others and I don’t know how to let it go or address it or even know if it should be addressed.

Again, if it had been something else, I feel like the reaction would have been very different.  But I also don’t feel like I should have to say I’m worried about being suicidal in order to have support.


The Far-Reaching Effects of Suicide

August 7, 2012

A member of my church committed suicide last month. I didn’t know him – his wife and I had some mutual facebook friends and I have probably met her but I wouldn’t have known him if I had bumped into him on the street. I wouldn’t have expected someone who was a total stranger to affect me like this but it has for a number of reasons. {If reading about suicide is not a good thing for you at this moment, by all means, don’t do it. Just thought I’d say that)

I have lost two people who were important to me to suicide. One was an uncle who was one of the most creative, loving, inspiration people I have ever met – when he wasn’t drowning in mental illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism. He tried for decades to get sober and hung himself when he was being sentenced for abusing his girlfriend. Obviously, this devastated our family, although it wasn’t really a surprise. He had a 14-year old daughter at the time. I was incredibly sad but not super angry, maybe because I wasn’t surprised. Mostly sad.

Another was a friend from college. We weren’t particularly close in the normal way but we were youth group leaders together and that creates a really special bond. He knew that I struggled with depression and he even knew when I was briefly hospitalized because of it. I think that’s why my main reaction was anger when I found out he had been diagnosed with depression for years and ended up taking his life. He wasn’t messing around either – he had it set up so that if the gunshot didn’t kill him, the fall would have.

I was heartbroken at this too, but also furious. He knew what I was dealing with, how dare he not let me know that he was going through the same thing! Not just for himself, but I would have felt a lot less alone. He was one of those people who gave and gave and didn’t let us know what he needed. I feel cheated by that – I didn’t get to know my friend like I could have and I didn’t get to help someone who helped me.

As someone who has been depressed enough that I wanted to die and fantasized about dying, other people’s suicides affect me by making me feel like it’s a possibility for me. there’s always been kind of a wall up – I know I won’t do it no matter how much I want to. I’m not always sure why, but I know I won’t. I’ve been through periods of self-harm but I knew it would never go that far. But suicides of people in my life make me think, “Oh, maybe it is OK. Maybe I could do it. Maybe that is one way out of the pain.”

Thankfully, I haven’t been in that much pain in a few years so I’ve been thinking much less about suicide. But I still tend to react when people talk about how selfish it is. Of course it’s selfish. You’re not thinking about anyone but yourself (except when your thinking is so twisted that you start assuming everyone else is better off without you), but there’s a reason for that. When people are in enough pain, I don’t think they can think of anyone else. I know I couldn’t. It hurts so badly – physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way – so much pain that you’ve lost your survival instinct and are ready to end it all… I think depression IS inherently selfish because there’s just nothing left at all for anyone else.

I’m rambling because this is a hard subject for me, but there’s something that this bereaved family did that I think was incredibly brave. They told people what happened. In the announcement at church and in the obituary online, they didn’t say “suddenly passed away” or any other euphemism. They said that he struggled and he took his own life. I’ve been trying to find the words to explain why I think that is so important but I haven’t been able to. It’s the truth and that somehow feels honoring of him. It’s an admission that he was ill. And maybe it will make someone else feel less alone or get help? I’m not sure, but I think it was so brave to say.


A Bad Day

June 25, 2012

I don’t know if it’s the medications not being stabilized, or my ex-boyfriend getting married this summer, or half my family being unemployed, or just generally being lonely (or whatever else trigger can bring on depression), but today has been bad so far.  It was fine in the morning and then as the afternoon started, I just got more and depressed and couldn’t figure out why.  It got to the point where I was working on the computer while crying, which I used to do a lot.  I have work to do and I need to get it doe, and I used to be so depressed so much of the time that I couldn’t let a little thing like wanting to not be alive stop me or I’d never function again.  So I do as much of my work (or driving, or whatever) as I can while crying, and then when I’m crying to hard to wear my glasses any more, I go lie down and hopefully fall asleep.  That’s what happened today.

I don’t know what to do when this happen and I just wish I had some other kind of disease.  I know someone with diabetes who always posts on Facebook or Twitter when her stats are low (or high?  I don’t really know how diabetes works), and she gets encouragement and acknowledgment of how hard that is to live with.  When my friends have a bad cold or mono, or if they break a bone, they can post that on Facebook and people offer to bring soup or drive them to the doctor or walk their dog.  And I have people who would do that too.  But I can’t put this kind of stuff on Facebook.  “Can anyone bring me soup because I’m sad for no reason?” “Can someone come sit in my house because I need company but I can’t get in the car?”  “I feel worthless, can someone come visit me please?”  All of those things would help, but I can’t put them in a public forum.

I sent text messages to a couple of people, but again, there’s a lack of understanding.  These friends would come in a second if something physical happened to me.  If I needed money and they were able, they’d give it to me.  They’re good friends.  But they don’t understand why I feel so bad (neither do I) and they don’t understand that I can’t control it and that it can be SO BAD.  One is legitimately super busy and stressed and texted with me for a little bit but I don’t think she could have done much more with everything going on and I understand.  One said I was welcome to come to her house – which is 30-45 minutes away and I’m not sure I could drive to the corner store right now.  One said that I could call her if I needed, any time. I’m sure if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t know that I am not only functional enough to drive, I am not functional enough to make a phone call, and I’m barely functional enough to type. I didn’t try anyone else because I couldn’t handle it, not because I thought they’d be unhelpful, but because I started believing that I’m not worth their attention and love and care.  I’m so ashamed of being depressed.

There haven’t been that many bad days recently, although they seem to be getting more frequent.  I’ll probably be fine tomorrow, or mostly fine.  But getting through today feels like more than I can do by myself and every time I have one of these days, I get more scared that all of my days will be like this again.


Boredom

June 5, 2012

I had a hard day on Saturday.  I had a difficult student in the morning, which was fine (I love the difficult ones) and then a dog training session, so I was pretty exhausted by early afternoon.  The plan was to take a shower, take a nap, and go to San Francisco to have a mellow dinner with a couple of friends who I haven’t seen in a while but really like and don’t get to see often enough.  I really liked that plan and was pretty invested in it.  It felt like the right amount of alone time vs. work time vs. social plan. So when one of those friends canceled just a few hours before, I was kind of thrown for a loop in a way that I haven’t been in a while.  She said that she had dinner plans and was sorry but hoped she’d see me soon.

First I was  confused – dinner plans?  But the three of us had dinner plans! It was over text message so who knows what details got left out, but I started feeling pretty hurt.  She had just confirmed these plans the day before so why was she canceling them now?  Then I just started feeling sad, again, in a way that I haven’t in a while.  I took a nap but instead of waking up and going somewhere, I woke up and just felt aimless and lost and scared.  it felt like that old feeling that I’d get when I’d leave a social gathering or someone would leave my house and I’d realize that I was alone with myself without a purpose and it felt like I was falling into a pit – there was an actual physical feeling of falling (maybe that’s why I didn’t like roller coasters).

When I was a little kid, I would get so upset when I was bored.  Kids never like being bored, but I would get really distressed and panicked.  I don’t think the adults in my life knew what to do – why would a child be panic-stricken and terrified by boredom, and not just annoyed?  Especially a child who learned to read at 3 and had hundreds of books.  They would argue with me that I couldn’t possibly be bored – I had all these books!  And toys!  and a little brother and sister! And art supplies!  I understand their confusion now.  I’m sure I was bored sometimes, but these times when I was complaining wasn’t because of boredom.  It was because of depression.

I think that many people see depression as just sadness and miss the terror underneath it.  It’s not just sadness, it’s sadness that is a wild animal trying to kill you or that is a terrorist trying to blow you up.  All the time.  Only you don’t care because being alive and scared and sad and hopeless is so much worse than the thing just finally getting you.  I wasn’t bored; I was falling off a mountain but I never landed.  I just kept falling and falling.

This started again on Saturday.  It was pretty mild but I think that all the years when it wasn’t so mild have scarred me.  I think if I didn’t have my history and I felt like I did on Saturday, I would just say I was a little blue.  Or tired.  Or unmotivated.  Instead, I was almost paralyzed.  I kept thinking of it in terms of being bored, just like I had when I was 7 or 8, but I wasn’t bored.  I was probably experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and I was panicking.

Fortunately, a different friend just happened to have time to meet me for a late dinner.  she is someone who knows all these things about me (and has had her own periods of depression, although not for decades like I did) but I didn’t tell her what was going on, just that I needed to get out of the house.  As soon as I did, I felt better.  Not great, but better. And it got better throughout the night. The weekend overall turned out to be an OK one.  Again, not great, but OK.  Not too long ago, I would have thought about going to the ER because I wasn’t sure I’d be safe at home.  Or started thinking about who was going to take my dog because I didn’t deserve to have anything good and I had incredible overwhelming guilt about being in charge of another living creature when I was so undeserving..  This time, I had a mediocre weekend.  Definite improvement.