By Larry Drain
A woman came recently to one of our support groups for the first time. She had never been to one before. More than anything she talked about isolation. In the midst of family and "friends" she had never—not once—opened up and talked about the issues she was struggling with. She talked about the fight to get out of bed. She talked about the pain of being alone in a crowd. She talked about the pool at her apartments and how she watched people go and wished she could go to. And she talked about how often she wanted to die.
She was alive because she thought her death might inconvenience other people. She talked about trying to find a month when no one had a birthday or there wasn’t a holiday or a special event. She didn’t want to make something good into something bad. She was thoughtful to the max, but didn’t think she was worth a thought.
She talked. Then she cried. Then she talked some more. I think she really surprised herself with how much she had to talk about. It is hard to have faith in yourself if no one around you has. It is hard to treat yourself as important if no one else does. Isolation isn’t always about how many people are around. Sometimes it’s about how you are around people.
We told her how she deserved more and how she was worth more and how much courage she had. She is not used to good news and although I think she liked what she heard I think it made her uncomfortable. She is sadly comfortable in the theater and feels awkward at the thought of being part of the movie.
I hope she comes back. I think she might. She at least said so. Mental illness for her has meant being alone. Always. She was married for a long time, but even then was alone. She talked about her husband for a while. "You know," she said, "We were together for years. I never even knew how much he made...."
Chronic isolation is a form of death before dying. For too many with mental health issues it is a death too easily found. Remember God gave us hands for reaching out to others. Say "hello" to someone today.
Larry Drain runs a blog for mental health recovery that can be found here: http://hopeworkscommunity.wordpress.com/