What It's Like When Loneliness Is Your Best Friend

What It's Like When Loneliness Is Your Best Friend

Depression, anxiety, and the isolation of being forgotten.
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Since I was around 12 or 13, I have been horribly, desperately, painstakingly alone.

I've been alone for so long that oftentimes I forget how unnatural my loneliness actually is. Humans are social creatures, we thrive on connections with each other. And yet, every single night I find myself alone in my room wondering how I ended up so utterly disconnected from the world.

The idea of hanging out with friends every day is foreign to me; I hang out with friends once every few weeks, if that. Relationships? Never been in one. Parties? Never been to one. What's familiar to me is going to school, going home or to work, and then shutting myself in my room until I wake up the next morning.

And trust me, I know that's pathetic and I hate that this is ritual to me. But when you come to realize, as I have, that you could disappear entirely and no one would notice, it really cuts at your willpower to go out and exist in the world.

I don't actually know much but being alone. In middle school I had a pretty tight-knit friend group, but after one of them texted me "we're getting pretty annoyed with you" — a message I can still vividly picture popping up on my extremely hip Verizon LG Chocolate phone — I began to isolate myself from people. Every time I try to trace back to where everything in my social life started to go wrong, I arrive back at that moment.

My social anxiety, my self-consciousness, my inability to believe that anyone would ever actually want to get to know me... it all stems from the moment I was told that my own best friends thought I was annoying (no wonder I've always had the fear that everyone secretly hates me).

In an effort to prevent myself from being a nuisance in anyone else's life, I disconnected myself from the people around me. And I guess to an extent it's worked: I don't have that many people in my life that I'm close to, and in turn I don't have many people to risk letting down.

I don't mean to discredit those that I have been lucky enough to have support me. The people I do have are the reasons I stay alive. But keeping strong connections has only gotten harder as I've gotten older and as my struggles with depression and social anxiety have started to manifest in my relationships.

Friends move away to college, get in more serious relationships, get jobs, make new friends...they start new lives, lives that don't include me. I just fall behind, folding in on myself until I disappear completely. I fade away into the background, and it's like I never existed in the first place. It's like I never mattered.

That's the hardest part about loneliness—being forgotten. It's not intentional, I know people don't set out to erase me from their memory (at least I hope not). But somehow that makes it worse. I'm not given any thought at all, good or bad. My presence isn't enough for people to realize when it's missing. I'm not enough. I don't matter.

My depressive episodes normally spiral around the idea of mattering. When I start to slip into an episode, nothing matters to me and I don't matter to anything or anyone. I can't see past the immediate moment to a time where the things I do or say will matter, and in turn, I become cold, closed-off, and apathetic. I drive myself away from people so that no one has to be victim to my pain. People don't mind being around me when I'm happy, but no one wants to be there for pathetic depressed mess I become during my episodes.

I think it's important for people to know how to be on their own. I see how dependent some people are on those around them, people who need to be in the company of others 24/7, and I almost feel sorry for the day that they're going to be forced to learn that they can't rely on somebody else for their happiness. But the problem in my case is I've had way too much practice in the art of being alone. I'm an expert, but by circumstance, not by choice.

I used to take pride in knowing how to be alone. It made me feel headstrong and independent, and I didn't worry about disappointing anyone as I had back in middle school. But now it's just left me cold and cynical. I go out of my way to avoid making connections so I can save myself the misery of people losing interest in me. I've resided to the inevitability of my loneliness, and as much as I want to blame everyone else for that, I know it's all my fault. I just wish I wasn't so forgettable.

I don't want to place blame on others.

I don't want people to pity me.

I don't want people to drop everything in their lives just to try and make me happy.

All I encourage people to do is just check in. Ask someone how their day was, send a "good morning" text to someone you haven't talk to in a while, stop putting off those plans to get coffee with an old friend, tell the people you love that you love them. Just check in. It's not much, it lets people know that there's someone out there who hasn't forgotten about them. One small action can make all the difference.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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A Love Letter To The Girl Who Cares Too Much About Everyone But Herself

You, the girl with a heart full of love and no place big enough to store it all.

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Our generation is so caught up in this notion that it's "cool" not to care about anything or anyone. I know you've tried to do just that.

I'm sure there was a brief moment where you genuinely believed you were capable of not caring, especially since you convinced everyone around you that you didn't. But that just isn't true, is it? Don't be ashamed of this, don't let anyone ridicule you for having emotions.

After everything life has put you through, you have still remained soft.

This is what makes you, you. This is what makes you beautiful. You care so deeply and love so boldly and it is incredible, never let the world take this from you.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

You are the girl who will give and give and give until you have absolutely nothing left. Some may see this as a weakness, an inconvenience, the perfect excuse to walk all over you. I know you try to make sense of it all, why someone you cared so much about would treat you the way they did.

You'll make excuses for them, rationalize it and turn it all around on yourself.

You'll tell yourself that maybe just maybe they will change even though you know deep down they won't. You gave them everything you had and it still feels as if they took it all and ran. When this happens, remind yourself that you are not a reflection of those who cannot love you. The way that people treat you does not define who you are. Tell yourself this every day, over and over until it sticks. Remind yourself that you are gold, darling, and sometimes they will prefer silver and that is OK.

I know you feel guilty when you have to say no to something, I know you feel like you are letting everyone you love down when you do. Listen to me, it is not your responsibility to tend to everyone else's feelings all the time. By all means, treat their feelings with care, but remember it is not the end of the world when you cannot help them right away.

Remember that it is OK to say no.

You don't have to take care of everyone else all the time. Sometimes it's OK to say no to lunch with your friends and just stay home in bed to watch Netflix when you need a minute for yourself. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done because you are worried about letting other people down, but please give it a try.

With all of this, please remember that you matter. Do not be afraid to take a step back and focus on yourself. You owe yourself the same kind of love and patience and kindness and everything that you have given everyone else. It is OK to think about and put yourself first. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You are so incredibly loved even when it doesn't feel like it, please always remember that. You cannot fill others up when your own cup is empty. Take care of yourself.

Cover Image Credit: Charcoal Alley

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First-Semester Blues Is Very Much A Thing, Trust Me

The truth about first semester feelings no one really talks about.

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I love college don't get me wrong. The first month of college has already beat my high school experience by a long shot.

Last week, I got the chance to return home for a while during my fall break. Of course, I took advantage of the opportunity and spent some time back at my old stomping grounds in my high school yearbook class. I got to talk to students about how yearbook shaped me, led me to my career, and helped me build one of my favorite lifelong friendships. I caught up with some old pals and had long conversations with my yearbook advisor.

During one of my conversations with my yearbook advisor, one question she asked me helped me to finally admit something.

"What is one thing that surprised you about college?"

How emotionally challenging it is for me to go back every time I come home. How sad and lonely I feel walking back up to my room after being surrounded by so much love for a short time. How much I wish I could just go home some days and never come back.

I have so much going for me at ASU. I joined a sorority and I'm radio DJing. I even want to join another club next semester.

I got myself as involved as I possibly could, but I still don't understand why I'm so unhappy.

According to an article in Seventeen Magazine,

"Last year UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute (which has studied the lives of incoming college students every year for the last 50 years in its American Freshman report) found that the 150,000 freshmen they surveyed rated their emotional health as lower than any class since 1985. When asked to rate their emotional health compared to their peers, only about 51-percent said theirs was 'in the highest 10 percent' of people or even 'above average.'"

Life truly does move fast. It feels as if just yesterday I was entering my senior year of high school. Now, I'm in college fighting to make a name for myself all over again.

It's hard and every single college freshman will tell you that. No one will admit it right away, but transitioning into college life actually isn't easy and it doesn't happen right away. It's October and I'm still not fully settled yet. It's emotionally draining.

While it may still be a challenge now, someday things will get better. No matter how sad I get and no matter how hard life may seem, I will keep chugging along. The light at the end of the tunnel will show up sometime.

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