While studying in my room one night, I heard laughter and music outside my window and smelled gas and burgers. I looked outside, and half a dozen people were having a wonderful time sitting around a grill, sharing food and stories about upcoming final projects.
And that’s when it hit me—I’m so lonely that I don’t even know I’m lonely. I’m so lonely that I forget how much I miss spending time with people—until I see others doing it.
I know a lot of people at my college, but I maybe only have one or two close friends. Maybe…
Why is that? Despite the lies my social anxiety tells me, I don’t actually think I’m that unlikeable. Even factoring in the minor tics I now live with on a day-to-day basis and my OCD rituals, I’m not so weird that people should avoid me. I’m not unkind—on the contrary, I bend over backwards for the people I love. So where are my friends?
The problem is that I never go to anything I don’t have to go to, and I never do anything I’m not required to do. How can I make plans with anyone when I never know how I’ll be feeling in the next few hours, let alone in a few days? I try to explain to people that I’m ill, but if you don’t spend time with someone, how can you get to know anyone?
In my entire college career, I’ve only once gone to a party—and I left after a few minutes. People invite me to parties and concerts and other outings, but more often than not, I decline. And yet I still wonder why I’m always alone on a Friday night. And some part of me always wishes things weren’t the way they are.
You see, it takes too much mental energy for me to go anywhere. I can hardly get to class sometimes because of my lingering cognitive deficits in planning, organization, and memory. I’ve had nights where I cried for an hour just thinking about how hard it would be to get ready and make myself get out the door to class the next morning. Do you really think I would willingly put myself through that unless I had to? No wonder I don’t go anywhere. No wonder I’m always alone.
Another reason I choose to be alone is that I don’t want to get exposed to any illnesses. It’s gotten to the point where, if I see a crowd or hear about an event, all I can think about is how many germs will be there. I know how bad my flares are when I get sick, and I don’t want to increase my chances of flaring. I’m sure that my contamination OCD only makes the fears worse—and when I do get sick, all of my symptoms (including the OCD) get worse, sending me into a vicious cycle. So I stay alone.
Even if I did make it to a party, I’m sure I would have a sensory overload. Sometimes, I can’t stand the sound of people talking, especially if it’s loud talking. Sometimes, even when I’m just spending time with my immediate family (whom I love), it gets to a point where all the words and back-and-forth conversation and noise become too much for me to handle, and I have to go be alone in my room for a while. How could I possibly go to a wild college party (even if I wanted to)?
If I didn’t have a sensory overload, then I’d surely have to deal with my social anxiety/OCD. After almost every interaction I have with someone, I get this feeling that I’ve probably offended them somehow, so I go over the conversation over and over again. I think about it a lot and imagine what that person must think about me. When I see that person again, I always think, “She might not like me anymore because I said x and did y,” and I sometimes don’t talk to her as much because of this. In reality, I know it’s irrational, but my brain always replays my conversations anyway. Should I willingly put myself through a whole night of obsessing? No, I think I’ll just be alone…
On a great day, I can spend time with my roommate cracking ridiculous jokes in the living room or maybe even taking a bike ride around campus. It’s much easier for me to interact with one or two people at once.
But when I can’t do that, most of the time, I’m actually quite content to sit in my apartment alone with a cup of hot tea and my ideas. Or if I have enough energy to get out the door (but not to talk to anyone), I’m quite happy to go for a run by myself in a quiet park. After all, I’ve always been an introvert, even before I got sick.
But sometimes, every once in a while, I wish I felt like I could choose to be on the other side of my window, hanging around a grill with my friends without a symptom on my mind…
6 thoughts on “Alone”
It’s tough to be social when so much is dependent on your mood from day to day. I wish there were something I could say to help. From time to time I force myself to go to a thing that I think might be socially stressful and sometimes that helps a little. Maybe you can have just a few people over and hang out inside? I feel most relaxed around friends who understand my disorder. I don’t feel like I have to perform for them and then I’m less anxious whenever I hang out with them. Hang in there!
I think I probably will have to make myself do more socially stressful things in order to get out of this box. Thanks for mentioning that. I suppose it’s a form of ERP therapy. I’m probably going to go back to my psychiatrist for more CBT again, so hopefully that will help. I’m glad you have friends that understand your disorder. I hope I can find some more people like that where I live, too. Thanks for the comment!
You sound so lonely. I’m always here to talk if you want – I’m going through some quite similar things to you. I hope that you can beat your illness’ one day – no one deserves to feel like you do.
Thanks so much, Anna! I’m not always that lonely–when I have fewer symptoms, I can get out and do more things. But it sounds like you know how debilitating depression and OCD can be, which is what I’ve been dealing with so much lately. I know I’ll beat all of this someday, but it’s just going to take time and a whole lot of perseverance.
I’ve enjoyed readying your blog and can relate to a lot of it–especially what you wrote about OCD and depression. You both are brave and awesome for sharing your experiences, and I wish you all the best in beating your illnesses someday, too. 🙂
Thank you so much 🙂 you are also both brave and awesome! X