It seems in recent years, more people are willing to have a conversation about depression and spread awareness. Although widespread awareness is a good thing, we must also be conscious in the ways mental illness affects us in our daily lives.
As an introvert, I have always valued my alone time. In fact, I would much rather spend days by myself than spend more than 6 hours with any one person. When I was in high school, I had no choice but to have some sort of social interaction whether it was with my friends or teachers. However, I hadn’t realized at the time that it was keeping me afloat. Once you graduate high school, no one tells you that you don’t have to know people. You can operate by solely going to work or college classes, barely talking to anyone. For an introvert, this has a lot of perks but, for a person with depression, this has a lot of drawbacks.
My mother always stressed the importance of being social to me over the summer. She encouraged me to hang out with my friends but, I almost never did. Over time, it becomes harder to reach out to people because the depression kicks in. Especially in new places. When I would get a new job, my coworkers would make an effort to make small talk with me but, I would be short and distant. Not because I didn’t want to talk to them…well not 100% percent, because I didn’t want to talk to them. Half of the reason was because I had so much anxiety I didn’t know what to say and it was easier to have them stop talking to me. The other half was because I didn’t want to have to take my headphones out if we ended up on the same train to work.
When I started college, I never made friends in my classes because of anxiety. I always put my foot in my mouth and it was much easier to be a mouse than to suffer from public humiliation. At the end of classes or when I had to give up my summer job, I would look around at my coworkers and my classmates and see that they had built relationships while I had succumbed to invisibility. It never takes long before I am feeling lonely from my self imposed alienation. Can there be a balance between “me time” and depressing solitude?
The answer is: OF COURSE. Being conscious is the key. Sorry to have to tell you this my fellow introverts, but, if you have depression you may have to force yourself to hang out/talk to your friends even when you don’t want to. You can take your me time, but it’s important to be social.
After a while, it can become difficult to tell the difference between whether or not you just want to be alone or you’re giving your depression control of your life. Isolation’s effect on depression can be terminal. Don’t let alone time take you out for good.
Written by Maya Luna