Solitude, loneliness and mental illness.

Last year I wrote about one of the topics that lies near and dear to my heart; loneliness. I was (and still am) dealing with depression and I lived alone at that time. Since I fell ill I my circle of friends diminished, I didn’t go to work anymore and having nice get togethers for let’s say a birthday party were out of the question.

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I suffered from loneliness. Everything became that much harder because I needed to be self-reliant in a time period where I really wasn’t up to it. Rumination became my not so nice friend and anhedonia made everything very hard to do. Looking back perfectionism made me feel overly responsible for my ‘failings’ not being able to take care of me. I had one job and I failed …

I started to look at the internet and after watching hours and hours of YouTube I thought that my outlet could be found in blogging. I wasn’t going to start a YouTube channel, way too complicated for me at the time. In the blogging community on WP I found people who were really understanding of my situation.

In last year’s post I investigated ‘loneliness’ and it’s harmful effects on mental and health in general. It takes years of your life, that was the main conclusion. Having a network, too expand a little out of your own head, is one of the protective factors that can help build a shield against depression. Loneliness is harmful.

Depression and loneliness.

“If you are suffering from loneliness, you are not alone.” As I learned through my journey being diagnosed with burnout and depression is that depression isolates you from others and that burnout robs you of energy to spend and enjoy actual time with friends and family. My story. I was raised as an only child. … Continue reading Depression and loneliness.

With COVID coming around and people pushed into self-isolation, I was curious how something like that could affect one’s mental health. Admissions due to mental problems are on the rise in my country. Looking further into isolation, loneliness and solitude I decided to turn the page on loneliness and to speak about the possible positives that can be found in solitude. I do strongly believe that we as a species are meant to live together and that we need each other to survive but  there is also that other side of the coin that most introverts like me like very much; being alone.

First we need to determine if it’s solitude or loneliness we’re talking about.

Is your isolation harmful or does it brings peace to mind? To have an inclination what the two concepts are about, you can ask yourself the following 4 questions[1]:

  1. How does your body react to the possibility to social interaction? Does your stomach drop when the phone rings? Does your heart race when you are invited to a party?

This already can tell you so much about your state of being. When your body reacts with raised heartbeat, sweaty palms or worries it can point you to something that needs to be addressed in your life. It can be that you’re dealing with social anxiety or that you’ve been avoiding social interactions for a long time. Listen to your desires; would you like to have some company over or at least not dread the possibility to see someone? Maybe it’s fear that is holding you back.

2. How do you feel when you’re alone?

When you feel ok with yourself, maybe happy, positive, you feel you can do things than it may very well be that you’re an introvert. When you feel a reaction along the lines like relieve that you don’t need to go to that party or that you can stay in to finally relax, that can point you to take a different approach. When you’re avoiding social situations because of fear or feeling uneasy, than that is something you might try to change. I’m not saying that you need to change right away and there is something wrong with you. I’m simply trying to unravel some needs within you. And by using ‘you’ throughout this post, I must say I also mean ‘me’. I feel happy alone most of the time but when the alone-less-ness becomes too much, it plays tricks with my mind. I need to have some people around me to throw around some hypothesis around about how I’m feeling at least. I need to offload some of my thoughts before they become ingrained into my brain. Hence the purpose of my blog. My starting point was to turn to the laptop and to offload the thoughts that overstayed their welcome in my limited brain space.

3. Can you be yourself around others?

Do you worry if or when ‘others’ could see the ‘true’ you? When you’re trying to please people and therefore need time to recuperate to be ‘yourself’? That can be a telling sign that the environment isn’t the best fit for you at the moment. Maybe you’re feeling not good about yourself and a talk with a friend or even a therapist can be helpful.

4. Most important, does time spent alone keep you from living a happy, fulfilled life?

When my mental health starts to wobble and it wobbles of the charts, I use being alone as an escape. An escape from a world I can’t participate it (at that moment) because there is too much pain and all is overwhelming. Sometimes I can really enjoy my solitude, my ‘me-time’. I use it to completely relax and to recharge.

The weird thing is that it switches in my brain. One moment I am happy to be alone and I feel fulfilled, just to become very anxious the other moment. Solitude is so difficult to understand. The positivo in me tried to take advantage from solitude and that’s what my next post will be about. Hope to see you then. In the meanwhile, let me know in the comments what you think about loneliness, solitude and its ties to (mental) health. Do you think that there is something like too much alone-time? Is there an upside or do you experience negatives when alone too much? Are you comfortable when you’re alone or is there something nagging at the back of your brain? I’m curious what you think!

[1] Online article. The Mindsjournal. The difference between solitude and loneliness.

35 thoughts on “Solitude, loneliness and mental illness.

  1. Do you know anyone who really leads a happy, fulfilled life? Or maybe I’m just cynical after being a loner for so long. Someone once said: We don’t even ask happiness, just a little less pain. 🛎

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The post is about the two extremes in a way. I don’t think we can be totally happy and fulfilled in our lives, that sounds even like it could be painful. But when being alone chips away at what is possible it can bring harm to levels of happiness imo.
      Thanks for your thought out comment!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right about depression making the need to be alone bigger. It makes me think that I’m a burden and that I don’t have the energy anyway to interact with people, so why bother?
      I try to find some middle way into this but it leaves me quite exhausted. People like to talk a lot … but they don’t like the listening part so much … (I know that’s a very broad generalization). But still I enjoy seeing friends but I notice when my energy levels drop. They do that in a surprising fast way. I guess it’s tiring to pretend that everything is ‘normal’ …

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I enjoy solitude more and more as I grow older, but then I am in the luxurious position of having someone who lives with me, so there is constant interaction. But did you notice how lockdown affected people? Some really went to pieces, I never really felt locked down.
    I don’t suppose any of it is a big deal, unless we have a problem being with (or without) other people.
    I’m quite happy to skip such-and-such a social engagement, but that’s just getting older. My wife says the same. Yet, I would be in the bar every night when I was twenty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was surprised to see some people coping very well and others really don’t with self-isolation.
      I’ve always been more alone than in company so I don’t really know anymore. I know I need my alone-time but I’m not that all independent as I wanted to believe.
      I do miss the freedom of having a party but not the party in itself.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I always thought it was strange when people (both men and women) would stay in a relationship were they were clearly dissatisfied, just because they didn’t want to be on their own. And I was, like, why? Even in my twenties. Consequently I spent a lot of the time on my own, learned to go on holiday alone, dine out alone etc. But those relationships I *did* have, I have fond memories of them all. The other person was “worth” being with. Well, in general 🤣. But independence is now a major cause of arguments between me and my wife – she naturally wants to help but I need to be left alone.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. In my humble opinion; when you can’t be on your own, you’ll fall for the wrong one. I have a friend like that, zero patience. 🙄 When you can be on your own, you have more freedom and a solid basis to begin with. Being on your own without being lonely is almost a form of art.

        That’s a difficult one I can imagine when your wife wants to help (she is a nurse as I remember it well) and you need your independence.
        I’ve learned to leave Pierre in peace. He needs to learn some things on his own, like cooking. When I try to help I add to the stress. I always wait patiently till he asks for tips or a hand. People need to learn on their own.
        I guess every couple has their own sources of arguments.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a very relatable blog post. In my “about me” section I wrote that I deal with loneliness and depression. I’ve been a loner as long as I can remember. It’s not ideal but it’s what I know…. blogging definitely helps a lot and I find it really therapeutic!

    I do value marriage though and can say that having a good husband is 1000x better than living by myself. I still struggle with loneliness on a day to day basis. In the past I’ve been suicidal due to depression and loneliness – it slowly eats away at people. When we do not feel fulfilled and we aren’t being are true selves, that’s when these monsters emerge and get worse. It’s totally doable living a life being a loner and being depressed without meds. It’s not easy but doable. But take away everything I stand for and that’s when life does not feel like it’s worth living anymore. There’s a fine line that separates “I’m okay” from “help me.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Hilary for your great response. I value every word of it. I agree with loneliness paired up with depression slowly but surely eating away at people.
      I do value my relationship a great deal, I’m so thankful for not being alone but more, to have found such a wonderful partner. Still loneliness can be felt inside me. It’s easier to bear but it remains hard to cope with, because it also eats at my self-esteem.
      Do you recognize that fine line between ‘I’m okay’ and ‘help me’ easily? I’m always a bit late and surprised when I find myself in one of both categories.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m glad that you can relate to how I feel. Yes, having a partner and still feeling lonely IS valid. People tend to think that finding a great partner will take care of loneliness and depression but it doesn’t. The internal battle lies within ourselves.

        I’m quite in tune with my body so I can often detect the subtle changes. I spend most of my time in my head due to being a loner. My mind and I aren’t besties by any means but I can often tell when something is off. We have that internal dialogue (often negative and pessimistic) inside our heads. I call that the chatty voice (aka Chatty Cathy) vs. intuition which is a feeling in my heart. The chatty voice is often a bunch of nonsense, and when I find myself being negative or feeling bad I need to shut that voice off. It’s not easy and I don’t meditate, but I can totally see why meditation would help. For me, I write or spend time with my cat. It gives that chatty choice something else to focus on. 😌

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Oh thanks Hilary, that is really helpful to me. I have a busy head too. I notice when ‘clouds come’ and the internal dialogue becomes darker and ends up in a monologue. But than I’m too far gone to change things.
        It’s a good tip to try to act when Chatty comes along! Maybe I can catch her early and lead her – gently but firmly- onto another route.

        The battle does happen internal so while a good support network can make all the difference, we need to fight our battles alone.

        I tried meditation and it wasn’t possible at the time, I tried now and it’s getting better 🙂 It all depends on Chatty!

        Thank you again for the tip, it made me a bit more hopeful that I can learn that too! ❤

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Even when you feel like you’re too far gone, you can still change the dialogue. It’s tricky and sometimes nothing at that point of “too far gone” will shut up Chatty Cathy. The mind is clever because the mind will convince you that there’s nothing you can do at that point. When you do reach the point of too far gone, this is when you really need to act on it. You could sleep or meditate or practice deep breathing or wash the dishes or take some vitamins. What you don’t want to do is drink alcohol, get takeout, binge watch Netflix or spend hours on social media. Anything that gives short-term pleasure is most tempting when we are feeling low, but the first list can help us change the dialogue.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I’m going to try/do it. Thank you very very much!
        I want to get in control over Chatty Cathy as she has too much power in my life. Everybody needs to know their place. I’m setting my boundaries right this time.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. The stuff I learn comes from YouTube and podcasts and some books. Having this knowledge
        helps me with my mental health.

        I used to think that having a chattery mind was normal and assumed that everyone has a mind that doesn’t shut up. Our minds will chatter on and on even when we aren’t thinking about anything. However, many people have learned how to find peace of mine through mindfulness practices. I didn’t even know that having a calm mind was an option for me! Knowing I have an option to shut up Chatty Cathy for peace of mind (even if that peace is fleeting)? Yes please! 🙋‍♀️

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Mindfulness helps me too. I’m reading up about it. It was only effective though afterI got stronger through meds. All things, tips, experience and knowledge make us stronger!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Super interesting! I like your four questions as different ways to think about loneliness, rather than just panicking that I’ll never make any friends. I’m also a huge introvert and love the freedom of spending time with myself, but also like hanging out with friends. I think in relation to depression, a big issue with me is when I stop engaging in a social situation. Sometimes I’m at a party around loads of people and I feel completely detached and alone, or I’m physically alone and have no desire to see people which feeds isolation and more depression. So I think for me that being alone is not an intrinsically bad thing; but depression can make me feel lonely in any situation, regardless of whether I’m actually alone or with other people, if that makes sense!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For me that makes great sense. When I’m depressed I don’t have the energy to deal with other people as my head has enough worries about me. Depression draws you inwards and it doesn’t matter if there are people around you or not.
      I also like to be with myself but depression makes that not rejuvenating nor pleasant.
      I think you’re spot on in your comment. Thank you very much for sharing your insights.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I can really relate to your experiences with solitude. It’s a slippery slope. As an introvert, I often recharge in solitude. This feels very healthy for me. Yet solitude combined with depressed feelings tends to tip me into a dark place.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s definitely a balancing act for me. I have leaned heavily on being alone in the past, but in the last year I have forced myself in being social a couple times a week. I’ve found this small interaction does help my mental state and helps keep my depression in a bit of a check. Thank you for getting this topic posted and comments from others. It helps😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I also like to be alone but noticed what you’ve said. Too much of something can really make it tip into the other direction. I was very proud to be so self-reliant but I must admit that it’s not the golden way to achieve balance in my life.
      I’m still stuck into more thinking than doing about being social. I force myself too but it takes me a lot of energy. I think it’s something I need to get used too. I think it get’s better over time. Like you wrote about forcing yourself. Social interaction really can be beneficial for mental health and for depression in particular. It is said to be a protective factor.

      Great hearing from you again Dwight. I hope you’re doing fine and thanks for commenting! I’m glad the post and the comments helped. Comments and connection are so important.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Too often, it seems we are encouraged to fear being alone, to think of it as inherently bad. Seeking other people when you need them is a healthy thing, but we each have our own needed quota of alone time. I will never forget how empowered I felt in my late teens when I was able to stay at home alone while my family was out doing errands. I finally had the space to make choices, to express myself without hesitation. I could dance with a broom as I swept to music or watch a movie that I feared might seem “childish” to others.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There is a certain form of freedom in being alone. Being your ‘goofy’ self is one of them. I love to be silly, to sing, to dance and try out make up when nobody is around 🙂 I guess I can feel more like a child then. And “childish” movies can be so great. They teleport us into a state of worry-less-ness 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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