Isolation: All of us Need Friends and Caring People, Especially People With Schizophrenia, Depression and Bipolar Disorder

This is a photo of me and one of my best friends ever, Glen. This was one of the last times I saw him, Glen was in a nursing home and was in the final stages of MS. When we were kids, Glen was the most athletic guy, we would play tag games where the boundaries of our play area including a school that we would climb from ground level and chase each other like we were on something. When Glen got MS, his wife left him and took his two kids. I can’t imagine what he went through.

In my life I have been blessed with many friends, but not always the best resources to keep them as my friend. I live alone now but I don’t feel lonely. I have developed a lot of strategies to get me through the tough times. I often wonder if I could just cave in and let anyone be my roommate or move in with some love interest. It is a bit scary to think about, but now that I am 50, I am resigned to my present situation.

One of the things I do to cope is that I try not to have too much spare time, and when I do, I like to phone friends and talk for a long time. If I’m on the phone and another friend calls, I patch them all together and have a conference call. I have relied on phoning friends for a long time. In the first months of living on my own (I previously lived in a group home) I called my friend who lives out of town for at least 120 minutes a day. Fortunately the long distance rates were flat for anywhere in Canada.

I have heard of people using a method to combat loneliness and ‘cabin fever’ by writing letters. This isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you have family overseas. You could write emails in rotation to people you know who are on the Internet, and then write letters. It helps brighten a person’s day a lot to get a handwritten letter and emails from friends are always welcome. Another thing I do is that when I have a day when I am home alone, I do a lot of Internet searches for work in my field. I might look up the faculty of a University and write to the Professors to ask if they want me to give a Zoom talk to their students regarding mental health. I add in trying to sell them a few of my books, politely and in a professional manner. I also do searches for magazines or periodicals of any type about ideas I have to write articles. There are many things you can do along the lines of that, let’s say you like making bead jewelry. You could look up videos that will teach you new ways of beading, you could take some time to figure out how to make an online store and then you can find groups on Facebook that focus on beading and spend even more time looking for free ways to advertise, say by putting pictures of what you bead on Instagram and Twitter.

One thing I want to warn my readers about. Living alone can have benefits, but it can also be extremely stressful. I recall a few years ago having an apartment and not working. I wasn’t keeping in touch with anyone and the loneliness really started to get to me. If you ever feel this way, do your best to talk to your doctor, get an appointment for as soon as you can. If you can afford it, try and get set up with telephone counselling over the phone. Anther idea is to creatively use the Internet to find support groups in your area that you can attend as soon as possible. I always recommend The Schizophrenia Society first if you have one in your area because they do so much good and can take a person through the cycle of recovery and stay very supportive. When I was in this bad situation, I ended up calling the psychiatric hospital. The person on the phone was very helpful, she said that I could go to the hospital, but there was no guarantee it would make me any better off than I was then. This really made me pull up my bootstraps and soldier on into dealing with my illness. The main problem was loneliness which was causing depression. It didn’t make sense at the time to just treat the depression, but that was what had to happen until I got feeling better.

Something I want to note here is that it can be very tempting to let someone move into your apartment. In fact, a lot of major cities have roommate services and some ad newspapers like Kijiji have listings for roommates. I want to warn everyone that a bad roommate is worse than even being in the hospital. You need to make sure you know the person, it is best if they are family or someone you went to school with or knew for years. I had a very brief relationship with a young woman once and a few days later she called to ask if I could house her friend for a few days. A few days turned to weeks, and one friend turned into a dozen. Soon they had eaten everything I had and decided that I should continue to feed them. The result was one of the worst experiences of my life. My phone bill got run up to $800. People were doing drugs and drug deals and I found no peace until they left, at which time they stole everything that wasn’t nailed down. I never got one penny of rent from any of them and they told something so precious that was a gift from my now-departed mother that I could never forgive them.

So what is the solution? I should mention before I move on here that I saw a situation where some people thought it would be cheaper to co-rent an apartment rather than live in a partially supervised house. The place was carnage. There was some little asshole going around threatening violence to everyone while he wore his hat sideways and made a lot of gestures with his pinkie and thumb. Eventually I think they all got evicted and lost most of their stuff.

So, I wanted to give a solution. Many people are lucky enough to have loving, caring parents who are willing to support them and let them live at home, especially if they have a mental illness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, my advice is to volunteer to pay them and do as much work for them around the house as you can. Myself, I had to leave at age 18 and it made it just about impossible for me to get an education or live in a halfway decent neighbourhood. It was so hard to deal with the stress of working and I was still isolated.

So, what I recommend is getting a roommate. Try not to let in anyone under 25 and even then look for a number of red flags and when you see one, terminate the deal. They should only ever drink moderately, it helps if they are in a stable relationship, they should have a regular job even if they have a mental illness and are on disability. A volunteer job is great. Regular meetings and revising of the rules, which you should have written out and posted (no drunk friends, only your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner can stay the night and no long-term house guests). Certain chores will rotate and should be done on particular days. Write everything down. and also be realistic about food and expenses. I once had a roommate move in and he was using my towel after his showers without washing it and he smoked more of my cigarettes than I did. We tried to work out a deal for me to shop and then share the cost of food, but it never worked from day one. Food should be separate if at all possible.

I once had a doctor give me a great idea. She said I should go to the University and put up a posting on a bulletin board for a psychology student to share an apartment. The idea was that they would be free support and possibly even free therapy.

Well dear Readers, I hope you learned a bit from my blog today. Keep in touch!

Leif Gregersen

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