Mental Health Blogs

Mental Illness and Defining Loneliness

When you are diagnosed with a mental illness it can feel like your entire life has collapsed. You fight to pick up the pieces only to have them slip from your hands. Recovering from mental illness is tough. Largely because of this, we should want people around us, to help us pick up those pieces. Right?

Defining ‘Loneliness’

I have not pulled out my Thesaurus for a while. I think it might have dust on it. Or coffee rings–both, actually. But the word lonely–the state of feeling lonely– is complicated. Let’s break it down a bit.

Loneliness is defined as…

>Singleness (this not the same as, say, not being married etc…I did not need to point this out, sorry about that.)

>Lonesomeness. Hmm.

> [to] seclude or sequester or isolate oneself

> [to] feel out of place

> [to] paddle one’s own canoe (it really states this. I included it for…I don’t know…comedic effect? Maybe you do paddle a canoe?)

That’s great. We learned a couple of things: Loneliness involves feeling out of place, being single, and paddling a canoe. Sorry, I’ll be serious. I like to joke about things that are really tough for me and connecting with people, getting outside of my own head, is tough. It’s lonely.

Why Does The Diagnosis of Mental Illness cause Loneliness?

When you are diagnosed with a mental illness or have been living with one for a loooonooong time, you might isolate yourself. You might feel different because you are different. We are all different.

But mental illness can make a narcissist out of the best of us; we can believe our pain is unique, and while it is unique to us, pain is a shared experience.

It’s natural that when you suddenly feel different you suddenly want to be alone. You pull away from society and the longer you stay away the harder it is to find your way back.

But people need people–we really do. It took me years to understand that, yes, I could live a life limited to less people, but I could not live life alone.

The Importance of Reaching Out to People

Mental illness can be crippling. When you’re in the midst of an episode, or first diagnosed, the last thing you probably want to do is pick up the phone and call someone. You probably believe nobody wants to talk to you.

And your wrong. I was wrong.

An example: You have a friend you love. Your friend has recently become very sick. This person is told recovery will take a long time. You try to call him or her but the phone is never picked up. You knock on the door, your ear to the crack, and the door does not open.

What is your natural reaction? You are probably afraid. You are worried. You want to help. You wonder why this person won’t let you help them.

Mental illness involves isolation and isolation causes loneliness. Loneliness makes a person isolate further. It’s a nasty cycle but one you can break if you take small steps.

Answer the phone! Even better: Call someone! Even if you don’t want to. People need people, I hate to say it, but it’s part of being human.

Living with a mental illness does not mean that we need to be alone or that we cannot reach out to other people. Just give it a shot.

The reality? It’s much more difficult to recover from mental illness alone.

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4 Responses to Mental Illness and Defining Loneliness

  1. I know that you’re right, but for me I sometimes find being with people just as hard as, if not harder than, the loneliness itself. This was a good post…. thank you. I want to say more, but I’m not sure what.

  2. Nell says:

    I do isolate myself often. I struggle most because I have little patience with people who do not understand telling me what I should do or how I should feel. They just make me angry. :-(

  3. Hi, Nell:
    I know it’s tough. I think I mention in the post—-or should have—that it’s important we find out who supports us in our recovery.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Natalie

  4. Anniem says:

    Maybe if the mental health system didn’t immediately label us and isolate us from mainstream society by suggesting only support groups and day hospitals and therapy sessions and pills and more pills and even more pills that numb our senses and emotions and incapacitate us so that we can no longer function at a job, never mind remember what we did this morning…well, then maybe loneliness wouldn’t be such an issue now, would it?

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