A Survivor’s Guide to Social Isolation

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Dear Reader,

The details of my life experience are a bit too dark for most people. I survived Satanic practice in some bizarre hybrid cult as a teenager. Some hallucinogenic poisoning even caused me to have symptoms of lucid schizophrenia.

But the end result of this whole experience is social isolation. It’s not past tense. My life is still there now. Still completely devoid of sound relationships, even with my biological relatives.

Take this guide as my a survival report, not a ‘girl’s guide to life’ or a Boy Scouts’ manual written based on experiences long ago. I write this message live from the same trenches of that illness you are suffering. From the middle of the blood, the sweat, the tears and the rest of the beautiful disaster that makes up most days for people like us.

Take this guide as a message in a bottle of sorts. The seas that have carried it to you are the oceans of trouble which have rolled over my short and ridiculous life. What I have gathered and set down here is all that I have of wisdom. It’s all that the silence and the loneliness of depression taught me thus far.

This is what works for me:

1. Innovate

Be innovative with yourself. Spend less time analyzing and more time finding a path that works. You are unique, and this fact is the greatest asset you have and also the biggest challenge you have in the search for a solution to your trouble.

2. Put Faith to Work

I love God and hate religion. The truth is that religion is so self-contradicting as to be self-defeating. Paradoxically, life without God is so ironic to me as to be almost comical. There was no way I could have survived my life without a deeply instilled sense of faith. Because I was in living Hell, there must be a Heaven to gain.

Additionally, focusing on the opposites contrasting your story can actually help you if you allow it to. Add some differences to your life. If your life is bad, then working toward changing it will reflexively make it good. What can you try that’s different than what you’ve been doing so far?

3. Get to Work

Am I the poster child for muscling through each day? No. There are times when I want to sleep my life away, or when I still consider climbing inside of a bottle indefinitely.

But giving up won’t be an option.

Getting up every day, keeping my mind occupied and in problem-solving mode is one of my coping mechanisms. It doesn’t sound like the ideal alternative to depression, does it? But it’s the out-of-the-box drive that helps me keep moving forward.

It’s a daily drag for me. Commuting through industrial highways, with endless day shifts piled on top of night shifts with only 4 hours of sleep hampered by continued near-sleep hallucinations.

On top of that, the constant demands or absence of my large but preoccupied family, the complete lack of social connections and the shunning. This sounds like something from a Charles Dickens dime back, doesn’t it?

I’m not telling you to become a workaholic, but I am telling you to keep your mind busy. Hey, don’t focus on the daily grind. Focus on the color-by-numbers of your days.

4. Get Moving

During the day I feel like I am dead and invisible to other people. The few that I do come in proximity to never speak to me. I try to reach out them, but they are so rude that I withdraw into my little clamshell of emotional depravity.

Is this comatose or smoke signals? Is this shouting at rescue choppers, being muted by the sound of the whirring busyness propelling others through their days? Depression for me is a tangle of self-deprecating confusion.

And then comes the night shift.

Now darkness is added to the mix of things that go bump in my head. The token people I work and live near are all in bed. No one else to scream at so now I am just bouncing off on my own with the work I have to do and the hallucinations that my brain produces in HD.

Still, you can’t stay holed up indoors all day every day. Trust me, when someone is as socially isolated as I am the whole ‘staying at home alone with the box of ice cream’ trope is pure fantasy. I literally feel rooms imploding on me. The air gets thin and clingy all at once like it’s made of paper.

For all the rudeness and absentee behavior of my close contacts, I have to get out and get moving. I do it for me. This is why. For me, getting out of the house and the office and going to the cinema alone is a study in anthropology. It’s an excuse to proactively become part of the scenery I am being melted into. Acceptance? I prefer to think of it as defiance. Instead of disappearing, I become self-contained and ultra-aware.

Oh, and all that I take in! The chain-rattler trains and their smoke. Shopping malls and the stink of groceries mixing with cheap cigarettes. Road rage and subwoofers. The sheer madness of people and places and being a part of this oddly orderly madness, this optimistically disastrous wonder that is this world!

You just have to live.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds, right?

That’s because it’s not.

But if I lied to you, what could you take away from this? Nothing.

5. Invest in Yourself

Forget all those other happiness goals they tell you. Money, things, and other people will never fill the hole. If you don’t invest in your heart, you will not be alive within.

Whatever it takes to acknowledge that person inside and convince them to see the world just as the real you wants to see it not as depression makes it seem, do that.

Baby Eagles

Eagles have an interesting experience when they leave their nests. The parent eagle rips all the stuffing out of the nest to poke the eaglets with the nest’s brambles making them uncomfortable, so they are forced to get up and learn to fly.

A Survivor’s Guide to Social Isolation - Baby Eagles

If your life feels as bad as it’s ever been, I’m sure it probably is. So isn’t now the golden opportunity to leave the comfy nest of life as you know it and make a better life? Something that will outshine the bleak gray when you plug in the techno-colors.

The truth is there is no easy way out of your condition. You will have to make an effort. There isn’t medicine for the metaphysical aspects of this disease, my friends. You have to change your heart. You won’t be able to totally fix your head otherwise.

So allow your pain to be validated, embrace your life unconditionally and work toward the goals you secretly desire.

And most of all stay alive. Because you are alive and you are your own excuse for being.

Rachel Brooks
Rachel Brooks

Rachel Brooks is the owner of a small writing service and the web media manager for Shiloh-Goshen Foundation Ghana. She has struggled with depression for years after surviving a religious cult as a teenager. Through Sad Runner, Rachel shares her story so that others can learn from her experiences and know they are not alone.