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Self-Isolation

For depression-related posts.
Of all the times that I complain about being lonely, I've had something of an epiphany. Recently, I've been reading a lot of James Joyce, due to a class of the same name and subject. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus in Portrait of the Arist as a Young Man and James Duffy in "A Painful Case" in Dubliners, suffer from something of self-imposed isolation.

Stand back, folks. This is a long one.



Stephen is so self-absorbed both in himself and the things he does (such as dive into being a devout Catholic to the point of nearly becoming a priest) that he doesn't seem to have a connection with anyone around him. Duffy purposely isolates himself away from Dublin and pushes away the only woman who shows any sort of returned emotional investment. Studying these stories has made me realize that, especially lately, I've been doing that, as well. It's also made me realize that I've likely been doing it far longer than I realized.

For example, whenever I have my computer on - which is 90% of the time, since I have a bad obsession with surfing the internet - I also have MSN on. But to avoid talking with anyone, I have the "Appear Offline" option selected. It's not to avoid anyone in particular, but to avoid everyone. I've been invited to parties on Facebook and almost always just say "No" since I'll be working. This is mostly true, but it's also that I hate socializing in a large setting. There was a party some years ago that my roommates at the time threw. I came home from work, exhausted after an 8-hour shift and saw the place packed with strangers drinking and having a good time. For me, this sort of setting isn't fun or relaxing, but stressful, overpoweringly terrifying work. It's not that I can't be social, but I work much better in a smaller setting of half a dozen people where I'm not feeling overwhelmed. This might originate all the way back to when my parents would have a big party with either Dad's office or tennis friends and I would be quietly put in a room by myself, feeling like I've been locked away like some kind of shameful dog or something. This is as opposed to, say, when I had a few friends over that would number no higher than half a dozen to play video games, watch wrestling or watch movies. It might also explain why I tend to try to go be by myself during large family get togethers; not because I don't like my extended family, but because I don't feel worthwhile to keep around.

The majority of my time is spent alone, isolated away from everything and usually wasting that time surfing the web (usually revisiting the same sites over and over, even when it's not updated). So often, I think about doing something and never have the motivation to do it. This includes homework, exercising, writing or writing that e-mail to someone I keep meaning to stay in contact with. I wish I could understand why I put myself through this self-destructive pattern that has gone on for years. Sometimes, I'll have a boost of motivation or inspiration and start to work on it immediately (such as this post). But most of the time, I just sit at my desk, chin rested on my fist and dully surfing. And for the life of me, I don't even know what else I could be doing. I rarely even go out, unless it's to go to work or school. I should realize that it's healthy to go out, since I tend to feel energized after a good class or going to work (no matter how monotonous it is).

As far as social interactions? I barely talk to or see my friends or family. A good friend of mine just moved from Toronto and we saw each other few times when she first got here, but barely since. In fact, other friends of ours came up from the Maritimes specifically to hang out with us and I was too busy working. I have an aunt that lives not too far away from here (Brampton) - an aunt that I've always adored (she took me to see the Masters of the Universe movie when I was a kid) - and since living in Toronto for two years, I've never even so much as called her. One of my sisters - who was always a big inspiration for my waning to be a teacher - I haven't spoken to in I think years. I know that communication is a two-way street, but I haven't even tried. There's a fellow writer who has praised all of my work so far and has been a big mood lifter for my ability as a writer. We've e-mailed back and forth a few times with some lengthy e-mails, but again, I keep faltering. I keep thinking about e-mailing him and asking if he'd help look over the outline for my novel, but I hate just contacting someone out of the blue just to ask them for something. It feels selfish. Which brings me to that point.

When I was in first year at St. Thomas, I lived with my sister and her family. At one point, a huge argument broke out and I was rightly accused of being self-centered. She pointed out that during any conversation, I would try to steer it back to focus on me. I had no idea at the time and it's something I've always tried to fight, but I think I've fallen back into that habit. In fact, just looking back at that sentence, I feel horrible writing "I" so much. It's not even something I do intentionally and I don't know where it even originated. I find it hard to talk to people sometimes, especially when it goes beyond the realm of "small talk"; something that I might excel at due to working in customer service for so long. But I don't even know what's going on in most people's lives unless I read about it on Facebook or something. I never know what questions to ask or how to ask them. I never thought to ask Mom how her and Dad are coping living in an apartment for the first time in their life, or living in Halifax, now. Or how my sister is doing with her newborn daughter. Or how my other sister is doing teaching. Or how her kids are. Or how my friends are with anything going on in their lives.

I've started to realize that maybe I am a selfish, self-centered bastard. I've moved from one set of roommates to another over the past two years, with mostly negative memories or with the knowledge that they hate me (at least the last two groups of roommates, anyway). I don't know if people think I'm creepy or a loser in real life or make them uncomfortable or what because it seems like I rarely hear from people. As I said, though, this could be a combination of my own self-centeredness or my self-imposed isolation. What's worst of all is I don't even know how to change any of this.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Nov. 25th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
change
What I've read here is that you've noticed patterns in your life that you don't like and behaviours you'd like to change. I think you're too hard on yourself in some instances, though.

The best thing I can tell you is that now that you've noticed these things, you need to think about what you would like your life to be, how you would like to be, who you would like to be, and what you need to be happy. You know what you don't want in your life and of yourself: so what do you want? Then think of how to get there. This isn't a one-time only, static process; it's something that you'll continually consider.

This is what I've done. It's what I continue to do. It's not always easy. You and I have the sometimes obstacle of mental health, you with depression and me (mostly) with anxiety. I know one of the things I need in my life is stability, and I've worked hard to get that stability. When things are unstable in my life, that increases my anxiety. So sometimes we'll fall, but the important thing is not to stay fallen. That sometimes means we have to do the hard thing--I totally hear you on the self-isolation thing because that's me at times too--and reach out to others.

Talk to your sisters. Talk to your aunt. Tell them you miss them and want to rebuild relationships with them, if that's what you want. Ask your mom and dad how they are doing. Talk to the friends you miss. Communication, as you say, goes both ways, but someone has to start the conversation. You get to decide what you want to say, just as they get to decide what they want to say.

You can change these things; it's within your power. But you'll only change these things if you truly will it and take action.

Beatrice
kwsapphire
Nov. 30th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
See, I'm not entirely social either, but that's how I prefer it. I just don't like people, certainly not most people I'd encounter at a party thrown by someone else. Can I start up a conversation about Star Trek or City or Quantum Mechanics? Do all they want to talk about is their kids, or reality TV, or some other topic in which I have absolutely no interest? I don't think being slightly antisocial makes me a bad person.. I just enjoy hanging out with MY people, talking about interests that we share, and I'd really rather not have to deal with the rest of the world. Then again, I'm not upset about this fact, I rather like how my social life is going at the moment. I'm having my best friend (not counting Master or my mom) come down this weekend, I haven't seen her in a couple of years, we barely talk except to comment here and there on each other's LJs.. but that's fine for the both of us. She gets more social interaction from other friends, and I get enough interaction that I'm happy.

But yeah, if you're not happy with your situation, it's within your power to change it. I think Beatrice perfectly summed it up, honestly.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 1st, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
I'm not incredibly social either-bars-forget about it. Most parties, meh. I don't really see the point of drinking. I'm much more of a homebody, with my preference for small gatherings of friends rather than large crowds-I haven't been comfortable going to church lately with so many people-that's just me, though. Look at it this way-at least you're not the other way around, where you have to be with people all the time, and are phobic of being alone.

You're independent, which is what most of us strive for.

Love always, Amy
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )