Not to Be Reproduced
René Magritte, 1937.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Sometimes the feeling of isolation creeps up out of nowhere and ambushes me swiftly, and I can do nothing but become its hostage.
I suppose it’s a bit similar to a paper cut in a way that this type of cut almost always happen abruptly and the wound hurts a lot more than it should.
I’m quite familiar with the spiral and dread that only loneliness can induce. Sorrow seems more like an old friend.
Let’s not even mention social media, which does nothing but to exacerbate the feeling of uselessness and self-doubt. We’re essentially all presenting the most glamorous sides online, and not the mediocre, let alone the downright horrid sides we are exposed to nowadays. Or, as I’d like to call it, the reality. This overexposure of positivity, wanderlust adventures, and enormous bursts of excitements manage to shade our loneliness not just a bit, but a lot more.
I feel it, you feel it, we all do, yet in spite of all this, we feel like we’re the biggest individual loser of all.
Don’t believe me? See if you can relate to any of following below (and chances are – I’m willing to bet good money on this, you can):
- There’s that friend who got married and is on his / her honeymoon with the love of his / her life on one hand, while you’re single, feeling stuck, and meeting “the wrong ones” – they’re not necessarily bad people, but they just don’t treat you with adequate respect and care, or they do but you happen to not have any reciprocating feelings for them.
- Even the ones who aren’t stepping towards marriage are seemingly in a long-term, loving, and supportive relationship, and the ones who are casually dating are completely content with having three or four on rotation while meeting…more people? How? Also, what is it with your loved ones telling you that “you’ll find someone when the time is right”? Easy for them to say as you secretly want to roll your eyes to the ceiling of your skull despite knowing that your friends do care about you.
- There’s the other friend who is skydiving for the umpteenth time at another exotic destination, while you can’t even muster a speck of courage to do that, let alone afford it. Plus, who has that many vacation days?
- Let’s not even start with the foodie who spends a fortune on Michelin starred restaurants…almost every single week, or is it every other day? How the hell does that person have the palette, not even that, the money to afford $300 – $500 meals (or more, depending on whether or not wine is included)?
- How about the fashionista who just went on another shopping spree for the best shoes and handbags when you can’t wrap your head around, let alone justify the exorbitant fees from these brands?
- Do we want to start the discussion about that popular friend who rubs shoulders with celebrities and attends the most exclusive parties when you can’t even find someone to hang out with on a normal basis?
- And don’t you just want to roll your eyes when the model complains about his / her weight and how much he / she has gained just by, what – breathing? You must be fucking kidding with me.
- You can’t help but to sigh and marvel at the friend who loves his / her job, or the one who has managed to change his / her path to pursue what he / she actually wants, and the other one who is making a breakthrough with his / her startup. It seems more like a wonder to work in an industry that you love, and a dream to succeed in it.
- Also, how in the world do does one get a dozen of good / best friends when in reality the closest friends you have can be counted within one hand?
I think I probably described a majority of what goes on in our social media feeds pretty accurately, other than a few rare exceptions along with the negative, and passive aggressive remarks.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these posts and news up there can be inspiring and uplifting at times, however, they do not possess that sort of influence when you are feeling alone. We’re all wary about showing our sorrows and vulnerabilities that we tend to only want to flash the pinnacles of our lives to others. It’s lousy to feel like and be the wet blanket, so we tend to avoid that route and overcompensate at times by displaying our picturesque “happiness” for that spark of attention and admiration.
This is totally normal and human.
So, what do you do when you find yourself in a rut and stuck in this endless cycle of loneliness?
How do you get out?
The Empty Picture Frame
René Magritte, 1934.
Before you go off running into a brick wall (as if you didn’t mentally do that a hundred times already), here are a few tips for combating the vast void you are currently feeling now – tested out by yours truly:
#1: Go offline.
Yes, you read this correctly. One of the most crucial things to do is to logout, block, and / or even delete your social media apps. I’m also looking at the dating apps, whether it’s Tinder, Bumble, and whatever is out there nowadays. Take a break from all of them.
It’s probably and partially against intuition to do this, since the polar opposite of being alone is to be social.
However, since we’re so prone to only post about the good parts, our brains basically mess us up and we start to consciously and unconsciously compare ourselves with other people and the glimpse of their lives that they want us to see. Shut that down.
Well, how about online dating then? Chances are, you might have that friend who found his / her significant other on Tinder – the uncommon yet modern love story in this day and age. That’s great. However, the odds of you meeting the one? Significantly lower than meeting people who fade out, ghost, or are just looking for a hook up – not to mention the tedious and repetitive introductory conversations you have to go through with each stranger.
It’s exhausting, and meaningless small talk while you’re that loneliness state of mind makes it even worse. Trust me. Turn it all off – you can come back to these apps when you are feeling more refreshed.
#2: Take a grain of salt and / or disregard (to a certain degree) some advice you get from friends and family.
I don’t mean this in a negative way, as I’m sure at least some of your friends genuinely care about you and your well-being.
We all know that loneliness is something we all have to face from time to time, as no one is immune to it. We also have friends who tell us to keep our chins up, smile, think and stay positive and everything will work out and be okay or more than okay in the end.
…and we all know that hearing these advice doesn’t actually fucking make us better, too.
I think we’re all more self aware than we give ourselves credit for as we know what we should do, say and think, and how we are supposed to act in order to achieve a certain mindset or goal.
We don’t need to hear any of that lecture and advice that we can easily Google.
I know, it’s such an awkward conversation to have as it is so difficult to assist someone out of that infinite rut. It’s all internal demons that we need to fight and fend off from, as ultimately no one can help us but ourselves.
Perhaps we tell them to vent or for them to listen or both, but I honestly believe that we voice our worries and vulnerabilities to a special few so that they can act as reassurance that we are not walking down this path alone.
#3: Take your time when it comes to with communicating with others.
Do you feel the urge to respond to others immediately just so you can see your phone flashing with notifications or flooding with calls?
There’s this flash of instant gratification when someone does respond to you within a short period of time. It’s a great feeling since you know for a fact that the other party is paying attention to you right now.
A lot of the topics discussed in instant messaging are usually ephemeral and, well, pointless. Think of it as fast food: it tastes good during that specific moment, but then it gets way too greasy, and now you’re bloated and drowsy from all the junk you consumed.
Not worth it; take it bite by bite – it’ll taste a lot better and fend off occasional boredom.
#4: Stop comparing yourself to others who are “better” and “worse” off than you.
This is somewhat related to advice #3, because we’re constantly bombarded by how we should be grateful that we’re not in a war zone at the moment and that we’re able to afford food as well as a living space.
I mean, we should be grateful for all of that, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re feeling down and like absolute shit, none of this comparison will make you feel better, even if it is with those who are worse off than you are, not to mention people who seem to fare a lot better than you are at the moment.
We tend to try to make ourselves feel better through all these comparisons, all the “at least we’re this, not that” phrases, but they don’t, because they are irrelevant to the situation at hand. When we do that, we tend to have guilt for feeling lonely with all that we have, which causes us to spiral. Stop and / or minimize all that contrasting.
#5: Go out even if it is for nothing, even if it is for a minute or two.
Even when you’re feeling lethargic, exhibiting annoyance towards the entire world, and the sense of loneliness looms over you and increases exponentially as you see other human beings…
Go out and take a walk (unless it is raining). Take a deep breath. You can still feel like the loneliest person in the world, but your body appreciates it.
Staying stagnant in the same place over a long period of time, even if you do feel comfortable (yes, I’m relating to myself right now), will turn suffocating even for habitual hermits.
#6: Sleep early and sleep more (if you’re not getting adequate sleep), but don’t overdo it.
First of all, if you’re feeling alone, why not take that opportunity to adjust your sleep schedule anyway? I’m sure you’re aware of the health benefits of adequate rest, and let’s face it – if you’re feeling lonely along with the despair it brings with it, why not be unconscious?
Not only are you working on your physical health, but you’re also working on your mental health that way.
However, don’t sleep too much as that tends to backfire.
#7: Dive into any of your hobbies and interests, or try out an activity that you’ve always wanted to but never had the chance to yet.
This is pretty self explanatory – I’ve been in slumps where I felt absolutely indifferent about even my interests. I had absolutely no drive, and even basic tasks including eating took tremendous amount of effort for me to execute. However, that was during my depressive states, so the story here is a bit different.
When I managed to reintroduce myself to the activities that I am passionate about, it started out quite slowly, but snowballed eventually. I was reminded as to why I loved certain hobbies, and it brought some sort of spark and excitement to even the drabbest days.
#8: Stop drinking alcohol (or copious amounts of it).
I’m all about instant gratification at times, especially during times of success and reward. Don’t get me wrong about that.
However, alcohol is a depressant, and as bubbly and joyous you might feel when you’re on your third shot of whiskey, you might not feel as swell tomorrow – whether it’s nursing your hangover or recuperating mentally or both.
The last thing you need is another boost of sluggishness with that feeling of isolation.
#9: Don’t snack too much.
Everything is great when it is done in moderation – especially when it comes to junk.
Look, I get it, when you’re feeling alone, you just want that tub of ice cream or that family pack of chips with a glass of wine or two to accompany you while you Netflix, gorge and chill as you wallow away in solitude. I’ve done it before, and chances are, you have, too.
What I’ve learned is (after multiple lessons) that I usually end up feeling shittier afterwards. I’m not only lonely, but I’ve also managed to down almost an entire bottle of wine along with an excess amount of ice cream, cookies, and chips. It’s not just the inebriation but also the physical queasiness that accompanies your loneliness.
You’ll feel like a slob while lying down after eating and wondering if you’re going to die alone as Netflix pops up and asks you if you are still there.
I wouldn’t recommend it.
#10: Drink water and eat healthier.
I mean, I always feel slightly better about my life choices when I tend to stay hydrated and eat more nutritionally balanced meals.
I think I pretty much just convince myself that even though my entire life (yes, I know, I’m exaggerating here) might be falling apart now, at least I’m doing not one, but two things right over here, and that my body will thank me in the future for it.
I hope you’re feeling better today.
I can definitely relate.
PS: As difficult as it is, practicing gratitude does make a monumental difference once it builds up.