For some reason I have this entirely unhealthy mindset that I don’t need anyone but myself to survive. I know it’s unhealthy and a giant lie, but still, I’m over here with an attitude and high anxiety thinking I’m better off alone. I know that I’m not. I know that I need human connection beyond the scope of my hermit terrarium. I know that isolation and loneliness contribute to depression and yet, I choose to ignore the answer to my wondering thoughts even though it’s staring me straight in the face.
A couple weeks ago I sucked the most. One night specifically I was sad, big sad, as I was laying in bed trying to figure out why I was so depressed. The weather? Hormones? My diet? Should I exercise? I was going down the list trying to name my problem, because I thought if I could find the cause, then I could create a solution. But I couldn’t figure it out!
I didn’t hit me until days later, after the sadness had settled, and I was feeling a bit better, that my problem (at least this time) was lack of human connection, aka loneliness. Why couldn’t I figure this out? After forcing myself off of my couch to spend time with my friends I realized that I began feeling so much better! Just like that?
After doing some thinking, and analyzing all the data points, I decided that the problem was me and, more specifically, my way of thinking (as many of my “problems” tend to be). I have conditioned myself to believe that, (because of my personality, because I’m an introvert and prefer to be alone, because I have anxiety in social situations) I am better off alone and that being alone is best. Because I’m an “independent introvert who doesn’t need anyone but herself and prefers alone time to social settings and…”, it’s bullshit. Being alone in moderation is healthy and necessary for someone like me, and that’s okay. But being alone all the time is, well, lonely, and I need to be more aware of if I am “recharging” and taking care of myself, or if I’m avoiding anxious situations and isolating myself in the process.
I have created this reality for myself where I am better if I spend most of my time alone watching Netflix and dreading work the next day. I know that, because of anxiety, it has become easier over the years to avoid social settings and meeting new people. Avoiding people means I don’t have to worry about every little thing that I said, or if people like me, or if there will be enough water and, “I should bring some because WHAT IF I dehydrate?” That’s, one of, the hard parts about anxiety, it sometimes forces you into an empty box of “what if’s” and loneliness because being around people can sometimes be too much, and all the ridiculousness of the “what if’s” can get a little debilitating.
Except, I am beginning to think, what if, we could turn the “what if’s” into something positive and helpful towards our personal growth, like, “what if, I actually have a good time?”
“What if, I enjoy myself?” “What if, I make a new friend?” “What if, I say something embarrassing but it doesn’t kill me and everything turns out okay?” “What if, a fountain of water exists, and I actually end the night MORE hydrated than I began?” Gasp! Oh, the positive possibilities.
Hang out with your friends and go on adventures. You will be okay.
I know this is easy for me to write, and the reality is much, much more complicated. Trust me I know. There are days when I have to give myself a pep talk to leave the house. Where I have to talk myself down after a conversation that I felt uncomfortable in. But, I notice either way, I feel better after I spend some time with MY people, the people that know me and allow me to be a little disconnected sometimes. After these friends allow me to discuss what is going on in my mind and assure me that I will be okay. After I start feeling less alone, I start to feel okay again. And in the future if I forget that I’m okay, there’s that little drawing of a brain I have on me that reminds me that I’m fine, it’s my stupid brain thoughts, not me, and I am okay.
The problem is when I let my thoughts get the best of me. When a “little anxious”, turns into “a lot”. When staying home feels safer than going out, where avoiding everyone feels more comfortable than socializing and days turns into a week and then some… That’s when I began to suck the most, and I start wondering why I am having a big sad day and I can’t figure out why…now I know why.
Take the time you need for yourself but remember that we need human connection. We need people to talk to, to assure us that we are okay. To laugh with us and cry with us and to take us out of our heads and on some adventures. Taking care of your mental health takes constant work and it’s okay to fall back sometimes. But, be careful getting into the mindset of thinking you can go at it alone. I need friends and you need friends to help us get through life a little easier and to help us smooth out the roughest rough patches. Hang out with your people and tell them what is going on inside your head. Even if it’s just to grab a steamy hot cup of Joe in messy hair and sweatpants. The best people will love you like we loved 2007 Brittany Spears. She got through it, and so will you. You’ve got this.