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.