Sunday 6 January 2013

"All By Myself"

All by myself
Don't wanna be
All by myself
Song lyrics by Eric Carmen
When you are suffering from depression you feel so all alone. Painfully alone. The antidote for that is to get out of your house and hang out with some friends, right? Ironically, one of the things that would most make you feel better, being with friends and family, is often too difficult to even comprehend. It's one of the great contradictions of this illness.
Loneliness and depression go hand in hand. In my experience, and I know this is the case for many of my comrades in arms who have also fought this illness, I have had the overwhelming desire to withdraw from people and community in general. And I have done just that. You know, deep down inside where there is still a little bit of light and hope, that it would make you feel better to be with people who love you. But you can't quite bring yourself to do it. You can't quite gather the energy and, yes, courage, to stir from the darkness. It starts to almost feel safe, that darkness.
I have a memory from early in my battle with mental illness. I was about 25 years old and just learning what depression was and its role in my life. I ran into my best friend at the time on the street in our neighbourhood. I could not look him in the eye. I just couldn't. This was my best friend! I felt that if he looked into my eyes he would see all the pain and suffering. That was too much for me to bear. I cut the conversation short and walked away. I was unable to express my feelings because I still didn't understand them or recognize them myself. Our friendship drifted away slowly and then it just wasn't there anymore. I am sure that there were a few reasons for this but I am equally certain that my illness and its impact on my personality played a role in its demise.
During the second major depressive episode that I have experienced, I had a moment of clarity in which I knew that I simply could not be alone. I knew that it was unhealthy for me and extremely dangerous to remain alone in my apartment. I still remember that moment when I called my brother, sobbing, begging him to come and get me as fast as he could. I spent the next couple of months living with my parents, letting them nurture and love me and nurse me slowly back to health.
Through the time of my disability leave from work and the worst of my illness, I stayed connected with friends but not always directly. There were a few close friends that I did see but most of the time I just didn't have the energy. It was challenging enough to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get dressed and leave the house. Thankfully, social media and email helped me maintain a connection with my friends. They could send me silly notes, dirty jokes or words of encouragement and I could respond in the moments when I had the strength.
Here are a few things that I have learnt about those bosom buddies, depression & loneliness:
- Depression is a pretty self-focused illness. It makes you question yourself, doubt yourself - you think you are not smart enough/good enough/pretty enough. You spend a lot of time "in your head", so to speak which makes it difficult to relate to those around you.
- Because you feel all alone, you feel like nobody else knows or understands your pain. Frankly, sometimes this is true. There are still so many who think that depression is all in your head (um, yes, it is - your brain, to be exact).
- Sometimes we don't share our pain or seek help because we buy into the stigma, too. There were many times during the early days of my diagnosis when I berated myself for being weak. I don't do that so much anymore, thankfully, because I have come to understand that depression is an illness just as much as cancer, diabetes, or the flu. It's a real thing.
- "So, how are you feeling today?" Ugh! This is a question that I dreaded and was one reason why it was often easier for me to stay disconnected from people or to maintain a relationship via email for the duration of my illness. It's a loaded question although well-meaning. Depression is not a two-week flu bug. It takes time to feel better and recover. To be frank, in the course of one day your emotions and physical symptoms can run the gamut from back pain and headaches to laughter to tears and back again. On top of that, you often feel a bit of pressure (self-imposed, quite often) to reassure those that care for you that you are feeling better. Yes, "How are you feeling?" is a complicated question.
Today, thankfully, I am healthy and well. I realize that relationships and connection played a large role in my recovery. I am thankful and grateful for the love and support that I received as I waged my wars and fought my battles! And, I do what I can now to cultivate those vital relationships and try to be there for each of those wonderful souls as they were for me. I try to pay it forward when I can.
The beauty of going through a difficult experience is discovering the strength of those connections in your life. Yes, some were weak and broke but most were incredibly resilient. I guess it turns out that I wasn't all alone after all. Imagine that.
KB xo
P.S. Have you taken up the challenge to commit 52 random acts of kindess in 2013?  I'm onto RAK #3 - it's ready for delivery to my unsuspecting target this week.
Are you on Twitter? Please Tweet your act(s) with the hashtag #52acts and let's change the world!



  1. For all the potential negative that internet and social media can provide, this is a perfect example of it's positive. Think about all the people you unite = amazing ripple effect.
    BTW, when you say "There are still so many who think that depression is all in your head (um, yes, it is - your brain, to be exact)." It's not exactly true. Several years ago Candice Pert, PhD found that our 'molecules of emotion' are actually found on a cellular level (not 'just' in our brains). We literally feel joy, anger, sadness at our cellular level. We can have an angry liver, happy toe ... it's that pervasive. Just something I thought I'd share. xo LF

  2. Hey, Dr. F!
    I am a big believer that social media (facebook and Twitter, in my case) can be great tools to connect people and inspire - like anything, it's what you make of it.
    And thanks for your comments about the "molecules of emotion" - of course, you are right! I was taking some poetic license. ;-) The emotional absolutely manifests in the physical. In fact, depression is often first diagnosed as a result of the physical symptoms that present themselves. But you know that, too, right? Love ya!

  3. Your blog entry paints a vivid picture on how depression affected you in this experience. As always, very well done :)


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