The Worst Part of Mental Illness: Isolation and Depression

today’s blog to follow the below photo

From my first day of school, I started to experience loneliness and isolation. I have gone over those early days many times and instead of wondering why people didn’t seem to like me, I am starting to ask myself why I let the opinions of others interfere with my life. As I have mentioned before, it could have really benefitted me if I had grown up being the kind of person who sees problems, mishaps, slights, accidents, and really everything from others that I let affect me and look at them from the eyes of the other person.

Back when my dad was still driving, he carried on an unending conversation with himself, and I was often the only person around to hear it. He would curse and swear at other drivers, call them idiots and maniacs and monsters and many more descriptive terms as though he were ready to kill someone for driving too fast, or worse, driving too slow. Time and again I asked him to stop doing it, that he was effectively exposing me to his extreme grumpiness, and he went on with his constant threats and complaints.

When you stop for a moment when someone wrongs you and think about what may be going through their head, you become a more compassionate person, you suddenly become less prone to high blood pressure and heart attacks. For example, if someone goes flying past you in the wrong lane and doesn’t signal, what if one of their children were in a hospital and the prognosis wasn’t good. What if it was a young woman who was trying to get away from an abusive boyfriend and was just seconds ahead of him. There are a million ways too look at things like this and not focus the blame on the person. People have complex, difficult lives, and if you really get down and look, you could find that everyone struggles with something. When you become a more compassionate person, you become someone that others will be able to care about, to want to spend time with you, and you take the first step towards easing isolation.

I have some negative memories in my head of feeling so depressed and defeated and isolated that I called an ambulance to take me to emergency hoping to be admitted to the hospital. The funny thing was I didn’t fully understand that my main problem was being isolated in my apartment, and when I went to the hospital, suddenly I had people to talk to, people who were interested in asking me questions and I cheered up and no longer felt like or looked like I needed to be in the hospital. Of course, a psychiatric ward or hospital isn’t put in place to ease loneliness, though they do encourage people to learn how to reach out to others and to ‘let people in.’ This is something that can also be done effectively through an outpatient clinic though, it can be extremely beneficial to take courses like life skills, where you don’t actually learn about cooking and cleaning, you learn how to express yourself better and how to communicate better.

One of the things that I used to do was to go to a lot of anonymous meetings of various types. I thought it was good that I was working on myself and getting out of the house and meeting people. The main problem is that places like an abstinence/addictions meeting isn’t the best place to find friends. After a solid year of going to as many meetings as I could, I stopped going to any of the meetings, though I still went to church and didn’t drink or use drugs. Church can actually be a good place to go to meet people. I have always felt that in a way you really have to get into a routine and establish yourself, then show that you are a friendly and caring person, and then make as many friends as you can, trying hard not to be caught by some of the predator types who like to attend anonymous meetings. In fact, I have run into many people in the meetings who weren’t even there to quit anything or deal with anything, they were court ordered to attend and were in a pretty destructive headspace.

Some of the things a person can do if they don’t like to attend church can be joining a bowling league, a book club (online or in person), volunteer at a charity, start working out/swimming. And now and then, why not surprise neighbours with an invitation to supper or a pie you either bought or baked? I knew of one guy who lived in a building with very poor people and he would take charity into his own hands and pass out bread he bought to everyone in the building. He quickly made friends with a lot of people and was not just respected, but also protected.

Granted though, all these things can be very difficult if you are suffering from severe depression. I can’t make any kind of diagnosis, but I can say that this is something a family member or friend should monitor people they love for and talk with them and encourage them to seek help. I had such crippling depression during my teen years but I never thought it was anything abnormal. It just felt like I was a horrible person and I hated myself.

Another warning is to not use drugs or alcohol to ‘loosen up’ and dance or party or whatever it is you find fun. These are definitely not benign drugs, and should not only not be used by people who suffer from other mental illnesses, I am of the opinion, that, outside medicinal purposes, they really shouldn’t be used at all. Tell your MD or Psychiatrist how you feel. Write out how you feel if you find it hard to tell them and give them the note when you see them or even get their mailing address. I count myself as incredibly lucky because despite that I went through years of depression, when I got on the medication Prozac, I was able to live normally, function well and rebuild my broken life.

I wish all of you good mental health and happiness. Stay real. Stay sober. And stay sane.


Leif Gregersen

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