The State of Loneliness

Reflections on coming to terms with loneliness, by AEJ, first published on her site.


Loneliness is a difficult emotion because it isn’t just synonymous with isolation. We can feel lonely without being alone. It’s hard to understand why we feel so disconnected when we’re socially active with others. We can have a myriad of friends, but these friends don’t necessarily appease the solitude. It’s frustrating to feel empty when you’re in a room full of people, and you may, as I do, conclude there’s something wrong with you. 

I don’t have many friends, and that’s fine. I’m comfortable with my introversion now, and I don’t think I could handle popularity. I used to like the idea of being close to many people, but that gradually fell out of fashion the older I grew. I keep an intimate group of companions today, which I know and love well, and I don’t think that should ever be a bad thing; grateful doesn’t come close to the way I feel for this amazing company.

Despite the friendship group I’m blessed to have, I don’t always feel like I belong there, and I don’t mean in terms of common interests, and it’s definitely not something to do with how my friends treat or have treated me. I believe, in simple terms, the detachment is my fault. The loneliness I feel is an internal deficit. I’m insecure and uncomfortable sharing myself with others. The former response primarily concerns people I know, and the latter is saved for acquaintances and strangers.

Ever since I was little, I feared rejection from others, and this dread continues to be an issue in adulthood, trying to feel safe in my current relationships is impossible because I assume people will leave me, there is apprehension for them “finding me out”, realising I’m not worthy. I may think my insecurities remain internal, but from an outsiders point of view, I may physically withdraw or incidentally push someone away. Making new friends is hard too, and approaching someone unfamiliar regularly feels pointless because I can never give them my authentic self. I don’t trust people, and I rarely express my opinions, convinced I’ll be ostracised for them. And with all these mental factors considered, loneliness appears.

I don’t think we’re educated enough on loneliness because we often misunderstand it; solitude is not just situational. Loneliness is subjective. We can feel lonely for many reasons and it doesn’t just depend on our physical state or environments. We could be at a party or hanging out with friends and still feel forlorn, we don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing it, either.

I used to feel a lot of shame for my own solitude because with what I had, friendships, a good environment and my youth, the loneliness felt inappropriate. It’s sad to think that even whilst experiencing an emotion, we can trick ourselves into thinking it’s something else entirely because we don’t believe we meet the standard/s to feel it. Well, hitting the bar or not, I do feel lonely, and I’m not afraid to admit that. In going forward, I hope to resolve these feelings for the sake of my current relationships and those I go on to make. After all, the first step in recovery is admitting to your problems.

by AEJ, MindfulPalace.wordpress.com

‘There is Only One Reality’ – Opportunities for Self-Connection

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Yuzuki Yukari by Anna Vanes (c)

The various forms of self-quarantining being imposed or encouraged by authorities across the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean that individuals with social anxiety symptoms will, along with others, experience prolonged isolation over the coming weeks. Whilst presenting a potentially challenging disruption to treatment, support and exposure, this period may present an opportunity for connecting with oneself.

Disassociation is a medically recognised response to overwhelming stress. It leads to disconnection from oneself and/or one’s environment and can last for a short or long period. In a recent blog-post, writer, Rachel Ganz, recalls her anxiety and fear-provoked disassociation during her childhood: “I learned very young to displace myself with imaginative distancing. I cannot panic about reality because I don’t keep up with it, I can’t. Most of us live a version of that. Most of us participate only as we want, only as we can.”

Blogger, Zachary Terry, wrote recently of mental distancing in the form of regret and hope. His mother passed away unexpectedly and he writes of the loss triggering deep regret. “I lamented my choices throughout the previous years, wishing I was better, kinder, more loving, more affectionate… I wished I’d been a son who took better care of his mother.”

He came to see spending time purely on regretting as a denial of the present – and reality: “I saw how useless my regrets were unless they caused me to make different choices in the real world – in the present. I began making commitments to myself, my mom, and to God. I started showing more love to the important relationships in my life.”

Likewise, he sees spending time in the future with hopes, whether taking vague or detailed form, as being wasteful unless connected to the present: “…I’ve begun letting go of any dream of mine if I’m not prepared to begin working towards it today. I ensure to draw a clear line from the present towards the future I desire.” He adds, “…prove your dreams aren’t simply fantasies about an alternate future universe that will never exist.”

Individuals suffering social anxiety disorder symptoms, often accompanied by depression, can find themselves displaced or disconnected from the reality of the present or, simply, numbed through disassociation, distraction or, even, medication. As well as leading to difficulties functioning, with the most extreme cases being difficulties with self-care, such as washing or clothing oneself, it can lead to loss of a sense of an identity or sense of being.

Rachel Ganz recommends recording and replaying ones daily life – whether in written, audio or video form – as a means of self-connecting: “Sit and listen. What did you do today? How did you react to the things around you? Was everything ok? Were some things not ok? Who was there? How did those people make you feel?” For sixty minutes, she suggests, “Untangle your experiences. Allow the memory of those experiences to effect you. Trust your soul and let it breathe.”

The listening to oneself forms part of both the recording and the replaying process: “We have been through a lot and we will continue to get through a lot, believe me. OR, don’t believe, and look through OLD texts for inspiration, find the artifacts. Whatever moves you, art, cooking, history, physics…” Even the process of tidying and sorting personal belongings presents an opportunity to connect one’s past and present selves.

Zachary Terry’s form of connecting is to remind himself of the present: “When I fall into discontented moods I try and close my eyes and remind myself that nothing else exists. Here I am, just riding the rise and fall of life’s cruel turns and wondrous pleasures. Here I am on the only mortal adventure I’ll ever know. There is nothing else at all friends.”

Global self-quarantining measures may offer a time for self-connection efforts. However, it may also pose new challenges by isolating individuals from opportunity and support and/or placing them into unsupportive environments. Nonetheless, during this uncertain period, when many are undergoing hardship, self-awareness and self-connection may prove beneficial commitments.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read Zachary Terry’s full blog-post, ‘There is Only One Reality,’ click below:

Walking Forward

Let’s Do a Fun One

I’m taking a break from writing solely about my trials this week. Let’s do something fun and philosophical. Some weeks ago I mentioned I’ve experienced a great psychological awakening. It was a series of sequential attitude shifts that paved the way for transformative change. I want to share one of the concepts that helped me. I learned to live here in the present, in thereal world. I learned to loosen my focus away from the three false realities I used to fantasize about.

The Real World

We human beings live here and now. Our brains constantly experience a slightly delayed continuous present moment. This is all that there is. What happened five seconds ago isn’t real. What’s going to happen in five seconds from nowdefinitelyisn’t real. Right here, in thispersistentpresent,is the only universe where cause and effect flow…

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“The Purgatory Of 9 Till 5” – Working in a Warehouse

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Ravens by Anna Vanes ©

Isolated, menial work can provide some comfort for those troubled by difficulties interacting but such a lifestyle can give rise to degradation of self-worth, loneliness, depression and suicidal ideation. Moreover, poor working conditions in such employment, including, compensation, can not only contribute to damaging health but can leave one dependent on such employment.

Writing in a new autobiographical blog, a 33 year-old clothing warehouse worker details a typical working day. It involves a 7.5 hour shift in the ‘purgatory’ of the warehouse performing manual tasks and avoidance of most interactions with co-workers, to the extent of protecting himself from contact during the thirty-minute lunch break: “Unlike the normal socially functional humans I retreat for half an hour into my private safe space inside the toilet cubicle. This is my peculiar routine to never enter the intimidating coliseum of the canteen. That environment i find far too aggravating for my fragile defective personality.”

The writer was diagnosed with autism at a young age and identifies himself with schizoid personality disorder. His life is dominated by the opposing forces of desiring human intimacy and a severe difficulty interacting with others and severe social anxiety, resulting in depression: “My mind is ingrained with these fantasies of having a lover a person that validates your existence that makes you feel human. I realise in the chasms of my mind i will never have these wondrous tangible human adventures of sex and love. I am damned to locked inside this box of alienation never to receive the treasure chest of human infatuation.”

Ten years of this lifestyle shaped around working in the warehouse has degraded his self-worth and happiness: “Long ago in the embryonic stages of my tenure at TWC i was proficient enough to cultivate friendships here. Now at 33 my condition my asocial behaviour has deteriorated to the point friendships in the workplace milieu or outside in the world is unimaginable.”

He closes down communication out of a combination of hopelessness at forming intimate bonds and severe social anxiety: “Instead of embracing the light I retreat into my shell denying myself the improbable dream of love into my vacuum of a life. I ignore all these coruscating lights avert my gaze and put on this glacial mask.”

This pattern is followed in the safety of his flat: “When on the rare occasion somebody attempts to contact me i refuse to answer the incoming communication. A stranger or relative knocks ardently on my door i act all quiet turn off the lights giving the illusion I’m not home. Never do I depart from my humble abode to socialise with other humans except in isolated instances when I urgently need to buy some food or need a much needed haircut.”

It is clear that the “semblance” of safety that his isolated work and home provide are, in fact, deeply harmful: “Performing the carbon copy tasks like a mindless robot. The noxious fumes of this insular survivalist existence is slowing poisoning me like carbon monoxide chocking my soul removing the joy the desire to even be alive.” The goes on to writer describe his consumption of alcohol and drugs in his free time.

The writer depicts a wider social environment of economic deprivation in his home town in the UK: “Every workday to work and back home, again i face this sadness this urban sprawl of bordered up buildings of broken people living broken lives. To witness the decay every day effects my state of mind taking me deeper into prolonged states of forlornness.”

There are remnants of self-care and self-worth that give hope; after his shift, he describes arriving in his flat. “Firstly though i run a luxurious bath that relaxes my nerves. A lavender infused bath is drawn in which the bathroom is permeated with ethereal classical music taking to a higher plain of consciousness. The bath becomes a therapeutic relaxing habitual event that alleviates the toxic anxiety that i accrue during the day working in a noxious warehouse environment. The bath enables me to escape the moil the drudgery the agita of my life.”

Contrastingly, the writer has neglected self-care regarding his teeth, with significant impact on self-worth, body image and social anxiety: ” These once radiant teeth that once along time ago when i smiled revealed a glorious beaming youthful smile. Now in public I’ve become so intensely self conscious at these grotesque unappealing teeth that i refrain from smiling or laughing to prevent me from exposing my ugly fangs to the world. My self consciousness at the sad state of my teeth is emblematic of the flaws the holes in my personality my aversion to be vulnerable.”

It is through self-care and self-attention that the possibility of gradual steps of overcoming depression, isolation and anxiety seem to lie. Self-care could also include opening up to others and seeking help. It may, potentially, include, seeking new opportunities, whether in employment or connecting with people. The economic and health struggles can be overwhelming in isolation and support may provide the only real option.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read the full blog-post, “Chapter 8: The Purgatory of 9 to 5,” click the link below:

Dystopia

Every working day starts and ends in the same laborious way. There’s no meaningful differentiation from one day to the next. It’s me completing the same task the exact duplicate itinerary for every single working day. It’s a vacuous boring subsistence existence that i have been condemned to endure. The routine however is comforting allowing myself for prolonged stretches of isolation from direct human contact. It’s my solitary employment I have maintained for over a decade now that protects me from proximate human interaction.

Despite the tedium of working in a claustrophobic intellectually uninspiring environment it provides me with solace working in a menial warehouse locale. The dearth of direct social communication the limited verbal acuity that is needed to be a functional employee at TWC are beneficial to my defective personality. The atmosphere however is slowly poisoning me with the noxious fumes of alienation I force myself to abide…

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