Returning To The Outside World

Over the course of the past 12 months, I’ve felt very insular. I’ve been sequestered in my apartment and made a plethora of excuses to avoid going out. Some valid, some just excuses. It’s been a long year, and as a person who thrives on time to think, I’ve spent a lot of that time in introspection.

I’m starting to learn though, that I still need people. I need community. I need to be surrounded sometimes, by others who can carry me up and out of a funk. As much as I claim to be an introvert, being buoyed by people around me is what is starting to bring me back to a healthy mental state.

I don’t say this lightly, and I don’t think I’m mentally ill, but I know I’ve had a lot of things going on this year that have made it harder to feel happy. I haven’t been depressed, I do not suffer from anxiety, but I’ve been deeply upset and concerned and those feelings have lasted longer than I’ve wanted them to.

People I care a lot about have suffered in the past, and especially this year, with feelings of anxiety and depression that amount too much more than my limited experience can understand. They have needed the help of trained professionals to make adjustments in their lives to help them feel “right” again. Some of them haven’t gotten that help, even when they asked for it. I don’t want to diminish their experiences, but I want to share mine. Because I’m tired of hiding in a corner.

One of my default behaviors when I’m upset about anything is to try to get away from other people. Most often I’d rather deal with my feelings alone than in front of strangers or friends. This means I internalize a lot of my feelings until they come spilling over after a point. I only had a few days in the past year where I literally curled up in a ball and hid under a blanket to try to escape. Most days aren’t like that. I’ve had days I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work either, but I’ve also used work as a distraction and a way to cope with my feelings through sheer avoidance.

I had a turning point. I had high hopes that it would be sudden, a specific experience I could point to and say, “look, I’m better because of this.” Instead, its been a gradual crawl back to the new normal. I had a good day of escape, far away from reminders of my troubles, surrounded by people who care about me. A sort of retreat, but a retreat that let me advance past the state of mind I had been stuck in. I’ve made more progress in the past few weeks than I feel I have all year.

It feels like it’s been long enough for me to process all the things on my plate, I should be caught up by now. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it’s needed to make any kind of change.

The frozen feeling is finally thawing and it feels safe to make plans again, to look forward to things. A lot of those plans involve making sure I continue to spend time with my friends. As much as wanting to spend time with people is an indication of my improved state of mind, I also credit it as part of the cause for that change.

People are important, being around people is important. Trying to solve everything alone is not a sustainable approach. I’m learning it’s OK to rely on others and not expect myself to be OK all the time in “public”. So from now on I won’t be as reluctant to engage with the people around me even when I don’t really feel like it. I hope doing so will continue to surprise me in the way it improves my attitude.

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