Loneliness in the Time of COVID and What You Can Do About It
If I'm honest, life has been kind of bleh lately.
As you've probably noticed, I took some much needed time away from blogging for a few weeks. Really, I just wasn't mentally in a place where I was open enough to share things going on in my life. It's been a very tiring past few weeks.
My job-hunt continues, as does me going to therapy. We had to take a break from my PTSD stuff for a bit, but that's okay. Just until things level out. My mental health has kind of been... Well. Insane. And, that's kind of what I wanted to talk about today.
I figure in the time of Covid, what better to talk about than loneliness.
I've been very lonely, and in denial of it for a very long time.
Now, unlike most people, I've been home -- not working or in school -- since October. I've been home for almost a year, in my own little isolation bubble because of health issues. And for even longer, I've had a difficult time making friends. I can count on one hand how many friends I have, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The bad thing is when I self-sabotage those friendship, or if those friendships aren't healthy.
I would say that I have four friends. I have one friendship that's up for debate on whether or not it's healthy, leaning more towards the unhealthy side. Another friendship is one of the best relationships I've had in my life, where I feel so open and free, but we hardly see each other because of conflicting schedules -- but we're both okay with that, we know we do life together. One of them is just a silly relationship, we're close and can talk about things, but we really just try to have fun when we're together -- it makes me feel like I'm in high school in all of the ways I really didn't get to enjoy because I was bullied. And, my last friend is one of my best friends. I think she knows me better than most people, and we haven't seen each other in forever, and our relationship is the one I tend to overthink and self-sabotage. And, kudos to her for being the patient and loving friend I need her to be.
With my health and some other things going on in life, I didn't realize that my anxiety had consumed me. After a mental breakdown one day, where I couldn't stop crying, it brought me some clarity. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm perpetually in a state of anxiety, almost all the time, just sitting on the back-burner waiting to boil over, but for now, I can see. I feel like I'm in the eye of the hurricane, if I'm honest. There's clarity now, and I know as I work through a lot of my issues, I'm going to be a mess. And, that's why I'm doing what I can to help myself right now.
I spoke with my friend, the one I tend to self-sabotage with, and was honest with her. I apologized for doubting our friendship and told her that I let my anxiety consume me. And, I feel a lot better now because she understands, at least a little, what's going on in my brain. And, I realized she may not have been supporting me in the way I wanted her to, but she was still supporting me nonetheless, and if I need to adapt myself to make her support more effective, then so be it.
I'm thankful for the people in my life. I think right now, I'm frustrated with the way things are, and I'm ready to feel like myself again. I'm ready for this underlying sense of panic to go away. But, it'll come with time, and I recognize that. I'm not thrilled with it, but I accept it.
I'm also recognizing that I'm not really in a place to speak about Christ and the Bible and things like that, because I'm not in a place to hear it. I won't get into details about my spiritual life because, honestly, I'm not really sure what's going on there. There's a lot of deep-rooted issues coming to light, specifically rejection, and it's making it very difficult for me to be the spiritual-God-Loving-Woman that I was. I still love God, and I'm still a Christian, don't get me wrong, but I'm not going to try to eat an entire pizza at once. Meaning, I want to deal with my issues one at a time, and I don't want my faith to come last, but I have to work through some other issues before I can even consider it. The thought of going to a church right now, or listening to a sermon, or really even reading a devotional book, makes my heart heavy. And that's a bad thing. So, right now, I do have to step away from that. In the future, don't anticipate hearing a lot of a spiritual things from me. I might do up a blog based on things going on, or maybe talk about things as I go through my problems, but as of right now, it's not my primary focus to blog about these things.
All of this being said, loneliness is a very real feeling.
People will tell you loneliness is a state of mind, and that isn't always true.
Loneliness is something much deeper on a core level. Loneliness is deeply rooted and grabs hold of your soul. It can stem from anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction, situations... Really, from just about anything.
As I sit here this morning, baring my soul to you friends, I ask you to do the same. I ask you to answer the questions I ask honestly. Maybe not out loud, but at least to yourself.
Are you lonely? Why?
Is there a physical lack of people surrounding you? Are you touch-starved?
Touch-starvation is a major problem, especially in today's society, especially with Covid.
Have you ever wondered why when you pet a dog, or even look a dog in the face, you suddenly feel better? Maybe not happy, but better?
Simply looking at a dog releases a major boost of Oxytocin (the happy hormone) releases in your brain. Similarly, the same thing happens when you physically touch someone. It's why lonely people are more likely to go out and have one-night-stands. Oxytocin is also produced from having sex. (Fun fact: eating chocolate actually releases a decent amount of Oxytocin. I believe it actually releases more Oxytocin for women than for men, but correct me if I'm wrong.) So, having physical companionship and just being able to have casual touches (brush of a hand, touching someone's shoulder, etc., etc.) are majorly impacting. One of my love languages is actually physical touch, so when I'm touch-starved (and there is rarely a time that I'm not), I'm often very lonely and depressed. I'll even become sensitive to touch. My dad likes to hug me, and when I'm overly sensitive, my body overstimulates when people touch me, and it's overwhelming, and I have to keep him away from me. Especially because my brain is in perpetual panic mode right now.
That being said, it's really important to pay attention to how you're doing physically. It does impact your mental health.
Do you have friends? Or people around you? Someone you can reach out to?
If you don't, I'm sorry. I mean that from the bottom of my heart, and I want you to know, I'm always willing to lend an ear or be a presence. I know what it's like.
But if you do, please, reach out to someone. I know it's hard to. I've been there. But only you can make things better. Don't let life happen to you. You should happen to life. Okay? Be bold, brave, and somewhat chaotic.
Reach out to someone, anyone, and just tell them, "Hey. I'm feeling lonely." and tell them why. It makes such a big difference friend. I speak from experience.
Even after doing these things, are you still lonely?
I did these things, and to some degree, yeah. I'm sorry to say it, but it's kind of the new normal now. It's not fun, and no one likes it, especially not people who already struggle with mental health, especially not people like me, who are empaths.
(Sidenote: an empath, for those of you who don't know, is someone who has the surreal ability to feel what another person is feeling at a given time. Example: if someone is upset about something, chances are I feel it too. It's what makes me so good at writing. I have the ability to quite literally put myself into someone else's shoes without ever having been there before. But it also means that everything going on in the word right now is especially harmful to me, so I try to stay off of social media and out of politics as much as possible.)
And, friends, I'm about to tell you something I recently realized that broke my heart.
No one is coming to save you, dear.
I know, it's kind of harsh. But, it's true. No one can save you from yourself. If you play the damsel in distress, it only makes things worse. I should know. I still feel like I want someone to come save me and I have rough nights still, but I'm doing better. I'm feeling more stable, because one of my friends did something that surprised me.
Here's what I said to her, "I'm tired. I just. I'm tired of fighting with myself all the time. I just keep waiting for someone to come save me."
She looked me in the eyes, cradling her coffee mug, and said, "Yeah, that's not going to happen."
I kind of looked at her, confused, giving her a "How is that helpful?" expression.
She offered me a sympathetic, and slight saddened smile, "You've got to do it yourself. I know, it sucks. I had to learn it to. I can tell you what to do, I could give you a list of meds you can take, but unless if you do it, it doesn't help you. If you don't research the meds, if you don't get up yourself, then nothing changes."
Medication is just happened to be an example, but can you see how my point stands?
It was different, hearing the way she said it. And, in a way, she was saving me. She wasn't necessarily the Superman I was expecting, but I'd say Wonder Woman is definitely more accurate.
So, let me be you're Wonder Woman, right now.
You ask yourself, why is this happening to me? Why not you? Maybe you have a big story to tell to the world, that despite your past, despite the trauma you endured, look at who you are now. Look at the person you will be.
You want change? Here's some tough love:
Get your ass up out of the mud. Before you give up, take a deep breath and fight with everything. Muster up every ounce of any emotion you can manage to find hidden beneath the pain, hidden beneath the numbness, and get up.
I may not be able to reach down and pull you out, but I can cheer you on louder than you would ever believe. If all you hear is negative thoughts, let me scream louder than them, telling you just how much I love you and how valued you are. If you can't hear me at first, because the thoughts are too loud, fine. I'll keep screaming until you can. I will scream my support for you until I have no voice. Just rise up. Wipe the mud off of your eyes. And you'll see, it's far. It's hard to get up, but you're so much closer than you thought you were.
Look how many days you've survived so far. You can survive this one too.
Sometimes, we just need someone to say it.
I'm proud of you. I believe in you. I love you.
Everything will be okay. It may not feel like it right now, and may not for a while, but you'll get there. Life might feel like you're walking on a treadmill, but before you know it, you'll realize, just because things look the same doesn't mean they are the same. And that treadmill? It was preparing you for the marathon. The good stuff. Because, you know what? One day, you'll cross that finish line, look back and see, that treadmill prepared you for an even bigger mountain, one that rewards you for getting through. You'll wear that medal, and smile with pride at the wonderful person you will become one day.
And, my dear, I can't wait to see it.
You've got this, with me as your personal cheerleader.
Written: July 7th, 2020 at 11:25am
Current Jam: Older than I Am by Lennon Stella
Current Binge: iZombie Current Read: Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst