I have struggled with mental health issues my whole life. Varying degrees of sporadic anxiety and depression have prevented me from achieving past goals, helping others, taking care of my physical health, enjoying a good social life, pursuing several career paths. I look back at most of my life and realise that these two dark clouds – depression and anxiety – have covered me wherever I have been.
The key, I have found, is to not blame myself for any moments that may have occurred when mental health has prevented me from doing something. It took me many, many years to overcome the habit of laying heaps of blame at my own door, bemoaning my past actions, telling myself I should have pushed myself more. I found that such a way of thinking added many more layers to my already poor self-image. By blaming myself in such a harsh, direct way, I convinced myself that I was useless, powerless, and would never amount to anything. I held myself back, told myself that there was no point in applying for such and such a job, or pursuing a particular flight of fancy. I pitied myself. I bullied myself. Deep down, I hated myself.
Today I’m gonna do something a little bit different. Usually I write when something happens or when I just need to let something out. But today I’m just gonna answer a few questions for myself.
What do I feel like I am missing in my life?
I feel like I’m missing a better connection to myself. Growing up, I never knew how to express anything, and I still haven’t learned. Talking about anything important is hard for me. I never learned how to establish boundaries or anything like that, and it shows. I’m overworked, I don’t do anything in my free time, and I don’t have many hobbies. I’m missing a lot of things, and it’s hard to figure out what can be done about it.
What are some of my long-term and short-term goals?
Short-term goals: – buy more furniture and organization things for my room to make it feel like home – cook more – learn more on the piano
Long-term goals: – Find something I truly enjoy doing – Move somewhere different – Try new things
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.
The account below was first published by Ali, a young woman from Dublin, Ireland, on her site, Thinking InsideOut Loud and reflects on the end of a friendship and growth of self-awareness and self-worth.
I recently experienced a friendship break up. I am not going to lie; it was harder than any intimate relationship ending has been for me. Initially, I was full of anger. I blamed them for everything, pinpointing in my head the things they were doing wrong, all the while failing to see my part to play in the fall out. After the anger subsided, I started to internalise everything and blamed myself. I thought of everything I had done or had said, what I could and should have done differently and swore I was the worst person in the world and was a terrible friend, which is so far from the truth its laughable. I am a great friend; I was just terrible with boundaries and allowed a lot of co – dependency to play a role in the relationship.
The fact of the matter is, I should not feel angry or sad. They were not entirely to blame nor was I. It was a two-way relationship and we both allowed it to fail. It is also just a part of life, not everyone you meet is here to stay. However, I do believe every relationship you enter comes with a significant meaning. Some people will not always positively add to our lives but regardless, there is a lesson to be learnt from them. Whether that lesson be to not allow yourself to be so accessible to people, that not everyone deserves to be around your energy or maybe they will teach us about ourselves and things that we need to improve on to be better friends, lovers, colleagues, bosses, sisters, brothers, children, or parents or whatever roll we are playing in said relationship.
When we think of someone grieving, most of us assume that someone they cared about had died. In my late teenage years, I started to think about mortality a lot, about my own and my families, my friends and all the people I cared about. I have not experienced death much, my grandparents died before I was born or whilst I was quite young, so I don’t really remember them, which meant I escaped the grieving process. I used to think I was lucky that I never went through it but then I realised that my first experience with grief would be as an adult and I started to worry that I would be unable to cope. That is the joys of anxiety, picturing the deaths of loved ones and imagining the unbearable emotion that is grief before I even experience it. Anyways, for the last couple of years I felt that worry consume me from time to time. That was until I started therapy again. Since then, I have come to realise that I have already experienced grief and a lot of it. My lack of self-awareness and emotional immaturity made me ignorant to the fact that grief is ultimately the “loss emotion”. Meaning that any loss of significance can cause it. Losing a career that you loved, your dog dying, loss of contact with a family member and of course, a friendship or relationship break up!
When a person dies and you begin to grieve, the people around you understand that and will try to support you in the process. However, like I said before most of us limit grief to death. So, when a person leaves your life due to circumstances outside of death; people can find it more difficult to understand and support you. Which can leave us feeling quite alone. There is less sensitivity and more of a life goes on attitude. Can you imagine someone saying to you “ah sure you’ll find a new mother, give it time” when you are grieving the death of your parent? No? Exactly, so why do we say it to people after a relationship ends or after a fight with a friend. Yes, I think its still important to always remember that life does in fact go on, but it is imperative that you feel the emotions in the moment, so that you do not supress them.
A relationship ending is almost never truly a complete loss. Yes, at the time it feels that way but when you work through it all you come to realise it was usually for the best. With me, my realisation was that the relationship was taking up too much of my time and it was feeding my unhealthy need to feel wanted or needed. It was also a major stimulation in my life, something I used to avoid sitting still with myself. I wanted to fix everyone else instead of looking at my own flaws and ill behaviours and I wanted to feel important and relied on in relationships which I have now noticed was a reoccurring pattern with a lot of my relationships for years. I would focus entirely on another person to avoid myself.
When you remove yourself from a situation, you begin to see the situation with a fresh perspective. It is easy to get caught up and ignore what is going on when you have something to keep you distracted, remove that distraction and everything becomes clearer.
“Who do you think you are? Thinking you are better than us”
A statement that makes me cringe. Another realisation I have had as of late is how caught up I was on what other people thought of me. I never wanted someone to think that I thought I was superior or that I was looking down on them, that fear subconsciously prevented me from making moves to be the best authentic version of me. My fear became reality recently when this exact statement was said to me. I was so upset and could not understand why they would say that to me when all I was doing was making more time for myself and doing what I felt I needed to do to move forward. Usually, a comment like that would send me backwards but this time was different. I started to realise that I was better, not better than that person but better than the life I was living. I had no purpose, no ambitions, ignored my true interests and done nothing of meaning all day every day. I also stopped caring about what they thought the minute I read “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
In The Four Agreements, the author, Don Miguel Ruiz discusses basic rules for life. Those of which I believe if implemented into your life daily; will change your life forever. The rules are as follows…
Be impeccable with your word
Speak with integrity, say only what you mean, avoid speaking negatively about yourself and gossiping about others, speak with truth and love.
Don’t take anything personally
Nothing others do is because of you, what others say is a projection of their own reality, when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you will not be the victim of needless suffering.
Don’t make assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
Always do your best
Your best will change from moment to moment; it will be different when healthy opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.
All four agreements are important and once you are conscious of them and decide to live that way, life becomes easier. I can still take things personally and I react out of emotion rather than love and understanding of another, however, I do try my best to remember to use these key tools as much as possible. So, when I received that comment, I told myself not to take it personally. It had nothing to do with me or what I was doing or saying and all to do with how the other person felt at that moment. They felt inferior due to their own created reality. I do not think they are inferior; I think they are wonderful and filled with infinite potential. If they just realised that about themselves, they would excel. But none of that matters, what I think of them does not matter as what I think about a person reflects MY reality and what really matters is our own individual reality. People say things all the time, good things and bad things and they are all irrelevant. We should not rely on others for praise nor should we take their criticism on board. What matters is how we speak about and to ourselves.
There is a small number of people who are no longer in my life who I still think about. I think about what they are doing, hoping that they are happy and working on being the best version of themselves. I have never been the type to hold a grudge, thankfully. I say thankfully because holding onto anger is so damaging to our bodies and it only harms us, no one else. Letting go of the person and situation is the only option. I trust that the universe has it all figured out for me. If a person is supposed to come back, they will and if I am supposed to not speak to this person again, I won’t. Everything happens for a reason, some people I will still miss and others I wont even think of again. Missing someone is not a bad thing, it shows how much of an impact they had on you. Allow yourself to feel the loss but do not let it consume you.
I will leave you with this. Everything in life begins to get easier when you are willing to work on yourself. Understand yourself and others. Understand that you can not change another person, but you can change yourself and then you will notice other people change around you. MJ had it right. Start with the man in the mirror.