When you think about being alone, do you imagine calm serenity, or the panic of being stranded on a dark and isolated road? If you are trying to beat depression when you are alone, how you experience depression will be different if you believe you can draw strength from solitude, or if you feel fearful, abandoned, and lost.
Solitude vs. loneliness.
Many years ago, Georges Moustaki sang lovely lyrics that translate as “no, I am never alone… with my solitude.” Most introverts know this feeling well. And even gregarious people can long for solitude if they feel overwhelmed by the weight of other people’s demands. When you are on the verge of collapse, even depression can be enticing… like a wonderful escape into nothingness, where the world is forced to leave you alone.
All of us need some quiet time. Time to reflect, meditate, or put green mud on our faces with some privacy. It is not always easy to learn how to ask for solitude, but it is a skill we must develop in order to recharge our inner resources. Building in regular moments of peaceful solitude amidst the stress of life can protect you from an all out dive over the cliff into the depression void.
Unlike solitude, loneliness hurts. The loss of a spouse or parent, or the end of any significant relationship where we felt part of a team, can hit us as a sudden shock, or grow from a long goodbye. Even a job move to another part of the country can leave us cut off from our support network and emotional resources, leaving us feeling adrift, scared, and even unloved. Depression attaches itself to grief and loneliness like a magnet. We feel that nothing matters because we no longer seem to matter to anyone else.
Learn the joy of solitude to ease the anxiety of loneliness.
Even in the midst of depression, solitude can bring us comfort if we let it. Being alone gives us full license to be good to ourselves, without others we have to please. If our psyches need a few days in bed, then it may be exactly the reprieve we need to get back on our feet.
Meditation, music, laughter, exercise, and good food are all things we can do alone, just for ourselves. We can watch zany movies or lose ourselves in a monster sized novel, and sniffle and sob to our heart’s content. To paraphrase author Chris Cade, one good book is worth more than a host of bad companions.
Give thanks for real friends and family who have blessed your life in the past. Even if they are no longer with you, the time you spent together was a gift you can still cherish. And if you had wonderful people who cared for you before, know that other people will enter your life again.
Group support or therapy can also do a lot if you need to talk out the loss of a loved one, or feelings of abandonment. Check your local paper for meeting times in your area.
Avoid isolation by giving of yourself.
While a little solitude is good for you, the time comes to go back into the world. If we fight depression alone for too long, we may isolate ourselves from the very people that could help us back up. We may tell ourselves we have nothing to contribute, or that we won’t be missed.
Don’t believe what your depression is telling you. There are plenty of people who could use your help, and helping others is a very effective therapy for helping yourself. Volunteer organizations always need extra hands, whether to serve meals, build houses, care for abandoned animals, or a myriad of other causes. You can feel refreshed by doing good, and the people you volunteer with may become a new source of friendship and care.
If you cherish yourself when you are alone, you will have more courage to step out and interact with others. Before long more people will share your life, your sense of purpose will be renewed, and you can beat depression whether you are alone or not.
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