Recovering From Rough Patches

Spent the last couple days out of my hometown while visiting family.  It was pleasant to unplug and unwind while enjoying the company of my parents.  Didn’t get much done on this trip other than unwind and touch base with family.  I was needing at least a couple days of different surroundings.  I visited my family at the acreage.  It was good to be back around nature and less rush.  While I am a self admitted city slicker even though I grew up in a rural area, it was still fun to be outside again for a couple hours at a time without being paranoid of being watched by nosy neighbors.

I sometimes get paranoid around even individual people nearby, especially when I want to be alone.  When I was in college, I used to take my trash to a dumpster on the other side of town because I was afraid that people where going through my trash.  I used to be afraid that neighbors and even family were listening in on my conversations.  But the real paranoia I am working against now is that I fear that I am losing favor with my neighbors and fellow tenants in my complex.  I may not be the greatest tenant in my complex, but I still try hard to be friendly with people and just avoid arguments as much as possible.  Fortunately in my over ten years at my current address, I have had real arguments with only three tenants that I can think of right off hand.  Fortunately those cleared up really quick and the problems were resolved shortly afterwards.

Paranoia is indeed strange.  I know in the reasonable part of my mind that my paranoias aren’t real and that I’m essentially worrying over nothing that can’t be easily resolved.  But, the irrational part of my mind keeps replaying these paranoid thoughts on an endless loop.  Drowning out the paranoid thinking process with positive news that is actually happening helps. Positive thoughts help, especially if they can be shown to be true.   That’s why I spend a lot of time researching science advances and medical news. Yet, even then, occasionally the paranoia gets the better of my reasonable side.  The problems I had over the last few days, fortunately, tend to get more rare and even less intense than even a few years ago.  I was happy that I was able to go through this last round of problems without yelling and acting out.  I’ve notice the breakdowns I do have anymore don’t seem to be as intense.  I hope I have gotten better with letting off a little at a time rather than holding it in for a major meltdown.

I was more depressed and weary than angry and irritated these last few days.  I guess that depression and weariness are becoming stronger than irritation and anger at this stage in my life.  I’m glad that it takes more to anger me than in years past.  I no longer avoid driving because of fears of going into road rage; I avoid driving now partly because I find it kind of boring and I don’t like being on the lookout for people who just aren’t paying as much attention to the road as they should. It doesn’t make me angry, but it does make me think ‘how bad do I really want to go out tonight when I can still contact friends from home.’ I used to love to travel.  But I don’t enjoy the travel as much now.  I enjoy the company of friends and family more now.

Overcoming Loneliness

Loneliness is often a problem for those of us with mental illnesses.  Our loneliness is often brought about because we are scared to socialize with “normal” people because of stigmas that still surround mental illness.  Loneliness can also be caused by the paranoia that accompanies many mental illnesses.  Loneliness can also be caused by depression when people are to sad or depressed to go out and socialize with even close friends.  Any one of these alone can make the idea of socializing daunting.

Loneliness can be overcome.  It can take a long time to overcome, though.  It certainly takes a great deal of effort to overcome a fear of socializing and opening up to people.  The topic of your mental illness can scare anyone into thinking that no one would want to socialize with him/her.  However, it is not necessary nor advisable to discuss any aspect of your mental illness the first time a new person is met.  Only when any person has earned your trust should you feel like you could discuss it with him/her.  Even then, discuss it only if you feel comfortable doing so.  

There probably will be times when you have new friends who wish to discuss aspects of your illness before you are ready.  In such cases, it is necessary to be polite, tactful, yet firm that you are not ready and do not wish to discuss such issues about your illness at that time.

Fears of socializing can be overcome by with practice and by gradually pushing your limits.  There is no need to feel that you have to conquer your fears all at once.  A fear of socializing, like any fear, can only be overcome by repeated acts of gradually increased bravery and courage.  It just may be just enough to say hello to your neighbors or someone in a store as a first step.  A second step may be to make some mundane comment about something as harmless as the weather to the clerk at the grocery store or anything like that.  From there, you can build up and branch out.  Socializing is by no means an exact science.  It is not something that can be learned from reading a few books or watching others do it.  It has to be learned by trial and error.

From my own personal experiences, I was by no means an extrovert growing up.  I didn’t learn a great deal about ‘normal’ socializing until I was well into college.  I don’t know how much of this was due to my illness or my being a natural introvert and I’ll probably never know.  The fact remains I would have never learned what social skills I have now had I never attempted to work on my skills.  I took a risk, faced my fears (and there were a lot of fears and paranoia), and came out better because of it.  You can too.  You just have to keep working at it.  There are no easy ways around it.