We Isolate And Withdraw When Life Is Hard. Why?

We Isolate And Withdraw When Life Is Hard. Why?

Wouldn't it be great if we can pinpoint one particular reason and solve it?


Some people say they need time to be alone to maintain their sanity. I am not one of those people. The more I isolate myself is often a sign that things are not going well. More often than not, it's a sign that there is something very wrong in my life if I haven't left my house all day.

But that begs a bigger question, a tendency I see in not only myself, but also the people I'm close with: why do we isolate when life sucks? Why do depressed people tend to isolate more, and what can we do when we're in that situation and we recognize we are withdrawing and isolating?

A simple reason is that isolating ourselves is what we perceive as avoiding risk. Things are so bad, we believe, that we don't want to risk anything that could make our situations worse. It is a fact, in our minds, that revealing how we feel or revealing the circumstances that led us to feel as we do to someone is an action that can ruin us and put us into unknown and uncertain territory. It would rob us of control in a time when we don't have control over anything.

Withdrawing is a band-aid solution that isn't going to help long-term. I know that; you know that; everyone knows that. However, we choose it not by choice. We choose it because the band-aid is the best solution we have right now. Isolation and loneliness mean it will get worse, that our minds will venture into darker and darker places. We see ourselves doing this; but doing something to change it takes all our effort.

In a particularly moving account of this vicious cycle of depression and isolation, Jacob Durn, a contributor to The Mighty, writes that "my mind shuts down and refuses to let me leave the house the next day. When it's spontaneous like this, there's no way of telling people." Dunn, when he has these depressive and anxious episodes, states that he has an urge to scream into the faces of everyone around him when life is like this, and shout something like "Why do I have to live like this?"

So, the best thing to do, in his mind, is to "compartmentalize the life around me and hide away from it." However, he acknowledges the paradox that "once you lock yourself in your room and resist leaving, it can become extremely hard to ever do so." The problem, according to Dunn, only worsens from here. First, it's something relatively innocuous, like "I no longer want to do work." Then, it becomes "I don't want to go out," to "I don't want to eat," and then suddenly "I just don't want to live. I don't want to feel this way anymore."

Finally, Dunn comes to summarizing the cycle of anxiety and depression:

"It feels not normal, and it feels devastating. It feels like I'm not right and don't fit in with the status quo anymore. And that's why isolation occurs in the first place. Because our first reaction is not to talk, not to vent. It is to shut ourselves down and wait it out. Even though it didn't work the last time, the first time, or the times in-between."

Dunn's testimony about his cycle of anxiety and depression is powerful, and extremely so. I believe, however, that it is a very human and natural tendency to withdraw when life is hard and we're stressed. We think the less people see of us in our most vulnerable states, the better.

I have made an active effort to not withdraw when life hits in the jugular, but I still fall into the perfectly rational tendency all the time. I tell myself it's easier to do so, because avoiding and escaping life's problems are natural coping mechanisms. But, like everything in excess, withdrawing myself turns toxic, and isolation is one of the most toxic habits we can fall into. Although reflective and introspective, I am very much an extrovert that gains energy from being around others. Being at work for 12 hours feels much less suffocating than being at home for three hours, alone.

So I turn the question inward: why? Why do I isolate and withdraw when life sucks?

One thing is for certain: I don't withdraw when I'm busy or have a lot to do. That excuse is a complete lie, a socially acceptable one I know people tend to accept. I get a lot more done when I'm working in the company of others, so isolation is often a method of self-sabotagingly shooting myself in the foot.

Yet, I also know from experience that isolation isn't just being at home all the time or not being physically present. Sometimes, a greater isolation comes from hiding in plain sight, completely refusing to wear my emotions on my sleeve. "Be a man," I sometimes tell myself to justify this behavior. Most of the time I feel pretty neutral and am just focused on day to day things to do. But then feelings of grief and devastation just hit completely unexpectedly, and what am I supposed to do then? I hide and have mastered the art of hiding in plain sight, because sometimes, that's all I know what to do.

Until recently, isolation in the face of life's difficulties was simply the norm. From my perspective, my family does it, my friends do, and seemingly every person I encountered did. Noticing that someone was "off" was always an indication that I should give that person space instead of reaching out and checking in. Some people really do need space to process thoughts and emotions.

But again, I'm not one of those people. Each situation and individual is complicated. That is also a lesson I learned a long time ago. Sometimes we just don't have the words and can't find them, so we go on pretending like things are normal, even though life has hit us hard.

So I ask myself again - why? To be honest, I don't know. Wouldn't it be great if we can pinpoint one particular reason and solve it? That simply isn't how life works. Sometimes the isolation is a stage we go through, self-imposed or not, until we're actually ready to move onto the next stage. Sometimes the isolation actually is the new norm. But whatever it is, however, we perceive it in our minds, it is not something we choose by choice, but instead something that we're tricked into. We all know that most of the time, it's not helpful and will only put us into a darker place. Yet we're drawn into it time and time again. There's a reason that it's the first instinct and reaction when life gets tough.

I'm one of the people that gets lucky time and time again. It's hard for me to isolate myself, as there are people who are always reaching out and checking up on me, that save me whenever things get dark and unmanageably bad. They stand by me in spite of my flaws and despite all my mistakes, In terms of isolation, these people will not let me fail. I can't keep any secrets from them. They make me realize that the isolation doesn't have to be a bad thing if I can fill that with something more. They give me hope that this is who I can be to others in the future, in both my personal life and my career.

Romans 8:31 says that "if God is with us, who can be against us?" Protestant Christianity's mission is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and in the context of this article, we can argue that one of its main goals is to resolve the problem of isolation. Because there will inevitably be times in our lives we have no one to turn to, when all we can rely on is God.

So the question here isn't why we isolate, because we'll never have an answer good enough to solve that problem. The question is how we deal with isolation when it suffocates us. From experience, my answer is to hold on to and be vulnerable with the people in our lives too precious to lose.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Not Only Does Lack Of Sleep Make You Cranky, But It Also Affects Your Relationships

In fact, the lack of sleep affects your ability to fully engage in healthy and long-lasting relationships.


When I'm sleep deprived, I feel like the world is almost coming to an end. I'm the most cranky and irritable when I experience a lack of sleep. I'm sure many of you can relate to this and the struggles of it. It is one of the worst feelings to have because most of your actions get affected by it.

Sleep is an essential component in our lives because it provides us with the energy and resilience required to tackle memories and obstacles during the day. Usually, people who are sleep deprived will end up forgetting to complete simple tasks such as putting salt while cooking or picking something up from the patio. The inability to forget to do simple tasks stems from the lack of sleep experienced by many young adults like me.

As college students, we tend to underestimate the paramount importance of getting that target "8 hours" of sleep. Feeling sleepy while at a lecture is the eye-catching symptom for most sleep-deprived students and it is something that happens to me. In the same manner, sleep is closely tied to your relationships as well.

Recent studies have highlighted the fact that the amount of sleep you get does indeed affect your relationships. In fact, the lack of sleep affects your ability to fully engage in healthy and long-lasting relationships. You will most likely end up not reciprocating to what your significant other expects from you and that will end up straining the relationship even more. For instance, imagine if your S.O. wants to speak to you about something extremely important i.e. a life-changing decision. If you or your S.O. are sleep deprived, the conversation will go nowhere and chances are both of you will end up fighting.

Hence, sleep is crucial for the longevity of relationships as well as for your mental peace. Establishing a common bedtime is key towards developing a more closer bond with each other. In addition, mutual respect for each other's sleep patterns and work schedules plays a huge role in strengthening a couple's relationship. If both partners are able to balance their respective schedules, then they will still be able to spend some quality time together. Keep in mind, the cliché "8 hours" of sleep is extremely vital for a well-rested mind and body! You will end up becoming more productive throughout the day if you are not sleep deprived.

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