Every (Wo)man Can Be an Island

AngelForgive the kitschiness of my title.

I am aware that, technically, there’s no such thing as a person who is an island. Even the most disconnected person has a sliver of contact with the outside world. One has to buy food and so forth.

If you pay attention to my blog, though, you’ll notice I haven’t been around much. For months, posting only sporadically. I have been isolating, you see.

I have spent as much time as possible holing up with myself. Oftentimes I feel irritable when people are around me; I just want them to leave me alone.

Why do I isolate? Why do I feel no desire to change the situation? I ponder these questions, analyze myself, and this is what I come up with:

It’s safe.

The answer is as simple as that.

As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. I don’t have to worry about anyone, which sounds callous and reflects poorly on me. I’m not saying I don’t care about anyone–I do, and it’s too much. I can feel so much empathy that I won’t be able to function. I will twist my knowledge of what others are going through upon myself, inspiring my blaze of self-hatred to roar more deeply. I feel guilty for my inability to cope with my own life, you see, because what would happen if I went through the terrors others are going through? I’d break like the weakling I am.

I care, but sometimes I feel like I don’t have a right to care. Like the other party wouldn’t want anything to do with me. Or I feel like a liar when I claim I care, because I’m isolating.

But this is not meant to be a pity party. That’s just one facet of what’s behind my isolation.

Without forming attachments, I don’t have to face eventual disappointment. Because I do get too attached and usually find the other person doesn’t value the relationship as much as I do. Or maybe the other person tires of me because I’m too boring.

I am a person who requires a lot of alone time, even if I weren’t isolating. Being around people can be exhausting. It tries my nerves since I’m so anxious all the time. I can’t help it.

In the past, people have mistaken this need for alone time as indifference to them. As disinterest in social activities or spending time with them. It’s not. By isolating, I don’t have to deal with that misunderstanding.

By isolating, I can lose myself in other worlds and not worry about my own. In a way, void my existence without actually, you know, voiding my existence.

I don’t have to fret about where my life is going. I can distract myself from feeling like a failure. And give myself what I (feel like I) deserve–being cut off from others.

Is it lonely? Of course. But maybe that’s just the only way I can be. Plus, as I said, it’s safe. My depression hasn’t been as intense as it was before the isolation started. I’m not happy, either, but at least I’m not at the bottom of the depths of misery. Perhaps the status quo isn’t healthy, but if I’m staying in the shallows of depression, rather than drowning in the deep end, does that matter?

I’m not sure if my motivations for isolating mirror those of others. I suspect some of them do. Like the two word summation, “it’s safe.” The safe and the familiar–it can be a comfort.

© Angel Fractured and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Angel Fractured and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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18 thoughts on “Every (Wo)man Can Be an Island

  1. ‘ Oftentimes I feel irritable when people are around me; I just want them to leave me alone.’ – I can completely identify with this, and you’re right – it’s ‘safe’.

  2. It’s like you just described my life. When I come out of my lair, it’s dangerous out there. People mistake me for somebody else. I open my mouth and out come snakes and spiders. So I go back inside where it’s safe and even though right now through my window I am hearing the celebrations all around me (it’s a Jewish holiday and I live in Jerusalem), to which I was not invited because I am a recluse, and I feel some wistful, I know that it’s better that I had my small meal at home alone, because this way I don’t risk the dangers of being put among ’em. Guess it’s the way I’m made. Think I’ll try to sleep now…thanks for your great post, I feel less alone knowing you’re out there somewhere….

    • Thanks. Knowing people can relate makes me feel less alone, too. Oftentimes I feel pathetic and lonely holing up with myself when others are having more exciting lives, but when I am around people, I’m nervous. And it does make me more vulnerable to being hurt. So it’s safer to be alone.

  3. I can relate as well to so much of what you say. Though my reasons for isolating recently have been different, I understand your feelings, and honestly, they make complete sense to me.

    But the title you chose, it’s interesting, because I don’t view it in quite the same way. You aren’t an island, no one is, because your life has a ripple effect and others (who may only now be lifting their own heads above the surface), have thought about you a great deal, wondered how you were doing. Kind of exactly like what you talk about but in reverse. People who care about you may give you space because they get a sense that it’s what you want — and that’s okay, that it’s what you want — but we’re still here if and when you want to reach out.

    Now I feel like I’m just babbling (and changing pronoun use mid-sentence)! In any case, know that you are never forgotten in your isolation, and that some people do understand it’s not from any kind of indifference — nor do we take it personally. You need what you need to keep well.

    Oh, and the irritability around people — yeah. Like some days I want to snap off a head because someone walks past my (closed) door.

    • I think I’m the sort of person who could very easily be an island, though. Go to work, buy groceries, go home and read, write, or watch TV . . . I mean, if the Internet didn’t exist, that’d probably be all I am. I used to think that my life had a ripple effect on others, and maybe it does marginally, seeing as there is some minimal contact with the outside world, which I think for most people is probably unavoidable.

      I think I do want space, but for how long can I isolate before people forget I exist? It seems to me that, eventually, too much time would pass for me to be able to reach out again. Besides, if I do, then it’s clear I’m selfish because I’m appearing only when I want something for me. And in any event, me with my social anxiety, with my constant fear that I’m bothering people, etc., it’s hard enough to reach out, and then after a period of isolation, it’s even harder.

      But anyway. Thanks for your comment. It does mean a lot, more than I can express coherently right now.

      Also, I have been irritable all week, like if I’m at the store, everyone’s in my way and I want to seethe.

      • As someone who has isolated with regularity for most of my life, I will tell you the hard side of things, which is yes, most people won’t understand and will move in other directions. “Flowers wilt and so do attention spans.” (Gillian Flynn) But if you are lucky, you will find one or two people in your life who get it, and who will let you go for as long as you need and welcome you back when you are ready, and who won’t think that it’s selfish on your part, because it’s not. It’s just how you’re wired, and that’s okay. And these people will never forget you, and there will never be a period of “too long”.

        In any event, I think you should do what makes you happiest and what you feel is healthiest for you. Never base decisions about your mental well-being on what common opinion, society models. It’s lethal, dear Angel. (My opinions don’t carry such a high mortality rate, but of course they shouldn’t factor in either, only your own should, ultimately.)

        • It’s hard for me not to base my decisions on others’ opinions, though, especially if I’m close to them. It’s a big problem of mine, gauging what I should do or how well (or not) I’m performing based on external reinforcement. It’s because I’m so insecure, and it has to do with all my issues of feeling excluded and whatnot. To me, I’m lucky if I find someone willing to talk to me once in a while, and the idea of me finding someone who will “get it” is unlikely. All my life, oftentimes I’ve been amazed if people somehow even remembered my name, so anything further involving people would be a stretch. I can’t go into further detail without writing a novel, which I don’t feel like doing, so that’s all I’ll say about that at the moment.

  4. It’s all well and good me saying that I TOTALLY understand you. But I know that doesn’t give you much of anything by me saying that. But I so deeply understand your situation because I was in this ‘place’ too when I had the breakdown 3 years ago.
    And now after long hospital stays (and isolating myself there too) I am back living alone, I am really trying to balance the ‘being alone’ time with also making sure that I go out, even if it’s to walk to the mall, walk around and come home, or go to my sister’s apartment, but that’s iffy because I am aware that she likes her own time there to be with her kids and husband.

    It’s SUCH a difficult situation to be in. The situation of isolating yourself. I totally recognise that it is safe. I know for sure that if I just kept to myself and ‘laid low’, then I would have far less anxiety, depression, self-harm moments, substance abuse, etc. (Triggers in general). HOWEVER, I recognise that when I isolate myself, it’s pure AVOIDANCE. And I now I can look back and have seen that my life passed me by whilst I was hiding away like that. And it’s not healthy. Or at least, it’s a waste.

    This isn’t meant to be a lecture or something. I am purely speaking from my experience and what I think is good and bad for ME. But it may relate to you too. I don’t know if you feel the same way.

    I am forcing myself to limit the isolation that I have, which isn’t much right now, because I know that I’ve got to learn how to cope with the outside world in order for me to function in it, interact with people, get back to work some time, make friends (somewhere) and become less of a lonely soul. We don’t all need tons of people in our lives, and I’m that type of person. But a few would be nice.

    That’s the gist of what I wanted to say.

    I wish you well and hope to read from you soon xx

    • Thanks for the kind wishes. It does help to know that people understand me, and I appreciate your perspective. It’s always helpful to know what works for others. Oftentimes my isolation is avoidance, too, like with the part about losing myself in other worlds. I do that to avoid my own anxieties at the moment. I’m not 100% isolated, of course, because I do go to the store and go to work as well as venturing out for other errands. But other than that, I’m mostly isolating. And the longer I isolate, the more fearful I get about breaking the status quo. I know in some senses life is passing me by, but I feel like I can’t help it. Even if I weren’t deliberately isolating, life would be passing me by because my timidity and social anxiety hold me back, I think, and those are things I just can’t change. I’ve tried.

  5. I so know this feeling. I eventually got to the point where I felt like being safe wasn’t actually all it was cracked up to be. Safe and low was still low. I had to take risks if I wanted to feel anything good. So I did. It was worth it.

    But that kind of thing has to happen in its own time.

    • Yeah, I suppose. I’m just not in a spot where I feel less than petrified when it comes to risk. And as I mentioned, even though I’m low, I’m still not as low as I’ve been before. So, safe with a mild lowness vs. the chance of feeling good but the greater likelihood of being at rock bottom–I just feel feel more comfortable with the former. I’m timid, and safety has its appeals.

  6. Very helpful to me.
    I’m through the same exact situation of isolating my self. and its bothering me.
    atleast I have learnt something

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