Another blogger that I follow, Mike, posted what he calls a Ramble yesterday about being lonely – it is a great read like and very nicely written so I can highly recommend it btw – and today, as I listened to another one of venerable Ajahn Brahm’s dhamma talks, I started thinking about my own loneliness… And how I have almost come full circle in the last 7 months, now being back in a space where I actively need to balance being alone vs. being lonely.
And it is a nice place to be – I am very happy, being back to having the luxury of having to balance the two! 🙂
Being lonely is something I have written about before but maybe not as much as I should have, considering what an impact it has had on my life over the last 3-4 years. It was a lot because I was so incredibly lonely that I got stuck in my deeply depressive/self-medicating state – and I have touched upon this briefly in a few posts, including my last one: 6 months into recovery – and my life has changed forever!. But I want to elaborate a little on my loneliness and how it impacted me, because I think it is a very relevant topic and a common struggle for many of us – but something that few dare talk openly about.
There’s a stigma around being lonely, not all that different from the stigma that surrounds mental health issues in general.
And no, I am not saying that “if you are lonely, you are crazy”…. But you might actually end up crazy if you don’t take care. I almost did!
I have always been an outgoing and a quite social person but since I moved to Seattle (6 years ago this January), I have had very little social interactions. For various reasons, not all that simple to explain or understand, I held off on establishing a social network when I first arrived. It was a combination of waiting for my ex-husband to join me and working too much. That’s the short version.
When I first got divorced I was in a form of a relationship, for a couple of years, but it was restricted and unhealthy for many reasons though it did give me a small amount of social connection/human touch and probably prevented me from going into a complete depression a lot sooner. But all-in-all it was not good and I had to end it. I joined an athletic team around the same time and started training and racing with them and that kept me afloat for a while longer. But when the team started falling apart – people moving out and/or getting other priorities – I very quickly got very lonely. To the point where I was petty much completely isolated.
I’d come back to work on a Monday morning, chatting everyone’s ear off because I was so desperate for human interaction – the only one I’d had over the weekend being the exchange of a few words, with the girl at the QFC check-out stand….
So I stared drinking and smoking, to pass time. To numb myself from the loneliness. And to make each evening and weekend go quicker, so that I could get up the next morning, or the following Monday and go back to work. I buried myself in work as well, to the point where I was nearly burnt out from always and constantly working. It was my way to escape. It was something to do. It helped me keep my mind off being lonely. It ended up being a convenient excuse for not getting out of the house to try to meet people and make some new friends.
But the more I hid at home, the more I self-isolated. The lonelier I got, the more I drank and smoked to forget my loneliness and numb the pain. And of course, the more depressed I got. And the more I self-medicated… And the less confident I became!
I started deleting people on Facebook. I started cutting people out of my life. I even got to the point that when on a rare occasion someone did ring me, to invite me to join some outing or party, I’d say yes and be really excited about it but on the day off I’d bail out last minute. I lost my nerve. I couldn’t bare the thought of getting dressed up or dolled up to go out and interact with people.
I cried a lot. I had no vision, no hope. I was beyond indifferent. I was listless.
And after a while I nearly hit rock-bottom and I got to a point where I had to deal with it – I wrote about that in one of my first blog posts, Rediscovering myself, back when I started my journey of dealing with my mental health issues. When I decided to take my life back!
So, what inspired me to write this post today then? Well, first it was Mike’s post yesterday and then this morning, when I was at Atammayatarama Buddhist Monastery for my regular Sunday Service/Meditation and Dhamma talk, I realised I could not do it. I was so full of energy and things I wanted to do that my meditation sucked! I was nowhere near close to being able to let go. So, I decided not to try to force it.
After the morning meditation, instead of going to the dhamma talk, then giving alms and having lunch at the temple, I skipped out of there. I decided to go for a walk and listen to a talk by Ajahn Brahm instead, then go home and clean my house! Coincidentally, when I was browsing the hundreds and hundreds of dhamma talks that Venerable Ajahn Brahm has given, I came across one on Loneliness. And I picked it, because…
…I had realized that part of why I did not stay for the Dhamma talk and Alms at the Monastery this morning, was that I am close to feeling “peopled out”!
Yes, in the time since I started dealing with my issues, I have turned my life around to the point that the Ambivert in me, is now starting to feel a bit cramped and I actually have to start listening to her too – and turn some of the social events down in a week, to make sure I get enough “alone time” as well.
It is a great problem to have and I know how lucky I am. I am so grateful to being back I in a place where I have to focus on balancing “being alone” with “being social” to ensure that I get enough “me-time”…