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Solitary Confinement: Mental Illness and Isolation

I had a tough year.  I typically have a lower mood once October kicks me in the ass, but this year was worse. I watched seven seasons of Lost in one month–granted I had never seen it before. But still! I even went as far as to abandon writing this blog. I was not thinking clearly. Writing this blog is an important part of my life.

As usual, you are probably wondering where I am going again. Yes, the woman who wrote a memoir on mental illness and addiction should perhaps stop talking about her own misery. But this morning–back on my feet again–I remembered that time and the words “solitary confinement” came to mind.

The Connection Between Mental Illness and “Solitary Confinement”

First, let’s refer to Wikipedia to help define a complicated term: “Solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact.”

I knew this term would be connected to words like “prisoner” and this is exactly why I believe we can twist it around and apply it to mental illness. If solitary confinement is a “. . .Special form of imprisonment” so too is isolating ourselves to an unhealthy degree. It is, I believe, a special type of isolation–a scary one.

We build high walls to lock people out; walls so high they often cannot climb them. And we cannot find our way out.

The words “. . .Isolated from human contact” fits in nicely. When we are unwell, people who are well are kind of scary, at least I think so. They laugh and smile and do all sorts of weird things like get out of bed!

Mental Illness and isolating go hand in hand, but they don’t have to. We don’t need to live a solitary life.

Becoming Part of Life. . .Even When Life is Hard

Picture this:

Your alarm clock goes off. The sound is akin to shattering glass to your ears. Lately, noise feels either amplified or you are unable to hear it at all. And so you turn the alarm off. If you have to go to work, you sort of wander through the day and each hour feels longer than the next. Or, if you cannot leave your home, you might stay in bed. Creeping out to use the washroom or pull the curtains tighter.

If you live alone you turn the phone off; if you do not perhaps you pretend you do. People do not understand how you are feeling; you don’t even understand. And so you isolate. And you isolate. And you isolate until you forget a life outside of the small one you have built. Surrounded by walls and under blankets. Safe. But scared.

These feelings, this desire to be alone, is normal when we feel awful. But we need to work to step out of our comfort zone.

A few ideas:

>Answer the phone. Just answer it. And be honest if it is someone you trust. I am always surprised at the support I receive.

>Make a short list of things you can do: Get out of bed, hell make the bed if you can, eat something healthy, go for a walk. Even when it is pissing rain out here in British Columbia my dog forces me out. Ask if you can walk someones dog once and a while! Honestly, it makes both parties feel better. Animals are healing.

>Have a hot bath or a warm shower.

>Check in with your mental health team!

Yes, self-care!

Isolation is normal to a degree  but remember that we don’t have to live that way. Recovering from mental illness involves getting to know ourselves and letting people in.

What your experience with isolating is: Do you struggle with it? Please share your experience and what works for you. We need to band together!

12 thoughts on “Solitary Confinement: Mental Illness and Isolation”

  1. Warning: Reading the Gospel of John in the Holy Bible will cure depression. It will give you Hope. It will make you realize that you are loved with the biggest love available: Divine Love. It will show you that you don’t have to be alone and afraid. We have a Supernatural Helper. The Gospel of John will open your eyes to Divine promises you might not have realized were for YOU! Check it out. What do you have to lose? Misery? Sadness? Pain? Your call.

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