Loneliness And Its Friends
I drove to the next block in a daze, trying to fight back tears as I pulled up into my best friend’s driveway. I texted her to come down, not having the energy to step out and go into her house. That evening I spent a good two hours sitting inside the car, hugging my best friend and crying my eyes out.
This might seem like an unusual scenario for most people, but for someone powering through chronic anxiety, it is all too familiar. In some cases, one needs a stable support system, others isolate themselves to the point where they find themselves woefully alone. I tended to hover somewhere between the two extremes.
Most of the time, I would find myself opening up to close friends about day to day struggles, but sometimes, I would feel my insides clamming up and the tension building till I can take it no more. I suppose this is a natural human response to extreme stress. You withdraw, shell up into your defense mechanism to protect yourself from whatever life is throwing your way. It is perfectly acceptable up to the point when the desire for solitude becomes dark loneliness that engulfs you inside out. Here is when we need to draw the line between solitude and loneliness.
The desire to be left alone is understandable. We push people away when we are hurt. We need to lick our wounds in private and would avoid exposing our shortcomings to the world. We generally prefer the solitude in such states and that is fine. Solitude is defined as the state of seclusion or isolation from people or our surroundings. There are also people who simply enjoy their own company. They prefer to operate alone and avoid human contact, limiting their social interactions and public life in general. This usually results in them becoming withdrawn from the world and while sometimes it can be healthy for them and helps them explore themselves and the world from a deeper perspective, it can also quickly become counterproductive and cause a strong feeling of disconnect.
Loneliness is an extreme form of solitude. Being alone sounds scary. It is the feeling of sadness one feels due to the lack of social communication. While solitude may be a choice, loneliness is an expected byproduct that is ultimately the fate of anyone experiencing strong isolation.
Loneliness doesn’t come alone, it almost always brings along its friends to join the ride. Darkness, frustration, hopelessness, misery. They all go hand in hand, and once you find yourself in the trap it is easy enough to go down the blackhole from where it seems impossible to climb out.
Things may work out differently for different people, but consistency is the key. Take baby steps towards rediscovering your social connections. Find your comfort points. It could be sharing a cup of coffee with a friend, interacting in a non-invasive way through social media, a text to a like-minded individual – whatever floats your boat. Even a baby step will go a long way, but please don’t give up. Save yourself the misery of this darkness because it will mercilessly swallow you whole.
So seek help before you fall all in. Keep your friends close, seek comfort in their company. Your shell is your comfort zone, but a friend’s embrace is warmer. Share a laugh, give a hug, spread a smile. It goes a long way.