When Depression Makes You Feel Isolated From the Rest of the World

“What can you do when you see someone else trapped in his mind? You cannot draw a depressed person out of his misery with love (though you can sometimes distract a depressed person). You can, sometimes, manage to join someone in the place where he resides. It is not pleasant to sit still in the darkness of another person’s mind, though it is almost worse to watch the decay of the mind from outside. You can fret from a distance, or you can come closer and closer and closest. Sometimes the way to be close is to be silent, or even distant. It is not up to you, from the outside, to decide; it is up to you to discern. Depression is lonely above all else, but it can breed the opposite of loneliness.” — “The Noonday Demon” by Andrew Solomon.

It is the occasions that are meant to be deemed happy, memorable events that make the divide between my “Depressed Self” and the “Rest of the Functioning World” so painfully obvious. It is as if my brain has no recognition of such celebratory joy. I can sense the presence of a united pleasure but I cannot reach it. I am a visitor to a zoo, watching how its inhabitants interact, observing facial expressions, sounds, physical contact and analyzing these responses. Are these humans truly laughing, and if so, what does that feel like? Do they feel comfortable when someone touches their skin – is it a pleasant sensation? Or, like me, does their body tense up, their heart start racing and they become overwhelmed by the need to run and fight off the invasion of touch? And their bodies? How does it feel to possess energy and a desire to take part in activity? Just how does it feel to function with body and soul intact? I can’t remember. I’ve forgotten. The memories evade me.

And then there is the phenomenon which follows – instead of being more determined to join in, I find myself urged on to isolate myself further and maintain this at all costs. I am scared of these Functioning Beings – I feel so far away from Them that it feels beyond all realms to find a way to join Them.

And then there is the anger. How dare everyone function around me. How dare you enjoy yourselves. How dare you think I can keep up physically and emotionally with your capable level of living. I am bitter and resentful of all who have their mental and physical health. All unjustified I am aware, but it still eats away at me and further strengthens my depression cage.

The elephant in the room is my depression. Is it the fear that, on knowing what I am experiencing, it may drag anyone and everyone down who asks? Nobody wants negativity at a joyous time. How quick we are to react to physical illness, with our offers of support and thoughts. Physical illness has no strings attached.

I wonder how people could support me if they were to ask? I find myself fantasizing about what I would say if those I loved asked me what they could do to help. Their touch makes me recoil, phone calls are debilitatingly horrifying, emails too much in their requirement of a response (because that is the done thing to do), face-to-face too scary a proposition with the impending likelihood I will cry at a not always appropriate time. I conclude that a brief message of mental support would suffice — a text, a quiet word in my ear, an email with no strings attached, a letter. I’m under no illusion that anybody can fix this for me, but comfort can be brought in the form of acknowledgment.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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