As someone who has struggled with mental illness since before puberty, I am well versed in the isolation that breeds with these ailments.
Human sociology is built upon pre-existing set of rules of conduct and socialising. Most of us don’t even consider the expectations and the naturalisation of society and interaction. I expect you to do this, in turn I will react in this way. If we both do well and have enough in common a friendship may occur, or at least mutual understanding. Mental illness impedes this. Acting outside of the norm jars the ability to socialise. In my personal experience anxiety, mood swings, and phenomenally low moods are really good at isolating me from the people around me. It’s a pretty common occurrence to pull away from those around you when you’re struggling. The more aware one becomes of their own shortcomings, the more impeding it feels, and the more it gets in the way.
The problem with any kind of sickness, any amount of suffering, is that despite any empathy or sympathy of those around you, you know that they cannot feel what you are feeling. The human predicament is that we are trapped inside of our own brains, brains that float around in bone-filled meat sacks. Only we can experience our own feelings and think our own thoughts. It’s fucking irritating.
I have found myself exasperated with close friends struggling with their own mental illnesses, because despite being in similar situations to them in the past, it is still difficult to understand as an outsider. I hate people who say ‘snap out of it’, I want them to fall in a hole, but I understand them completely. When you are not under the heavy influence of a sick brain it is somewhat easy to believe in the power of control over your own mind. The minute the chemicals in your brain aren’t doing the thing that they’re meant to do, you’re left sinking into your own body. Drowning in a pool of yourself. It’s hard for people to understand, and it’s extremely lonely.
The longer you are ill, the more you are isolated, the harder reaching out becomes, it seems. Especially depending on the individual features of each different illness, it impacts us all in different ways.
There is no neat way to wrap up this article. Perhaps I could conclude that those of us who have felt this great loneliness have more empathy for others but that’s not always true. We’re all different people in different circumstances. My narrow understanding cannot speak for every person who has struggled with mental illness. We need to move towards an open and frank conversations about mental illness. Talking about the struggling and stigma related to any mental illness could result in a time where less people feel lonely.