Isolation

Being and feeling isolated is a common theme for anyone who is a little different from the norm. Especially people with mental health issues or from the LGBTQ+ community can experience this. As I tick both those boxes and I also am a single parent and a student studying from home it is extra difficult to connect and interact with other adults.

As a child experiencing and witnessing domestic violence I also felt extremely alone. But not just alone, I felt alienated, expelled and rejected from society. I could never find a safe and comfortable place anywhere where I felt included and accepted. I didn’t have friends, not real friends anyway. I was bullied. No wonder I felt suicidal and desperate to be accepted the way I was. I was desperate for touch, for love, for friendship, for comfort but off course because of that I was vulnerable. Predators were out looking for adolescents like me, even as an adult. So I got raped and abused again and again until I decided a few years ago, no more.

I isolated myself, and deliberately retracted from social interaction out of pure self preservation. I was so afraid of being abused again, and also that I would lash out and hurt another person that I just worked, slept and ate and that was pretty much all. But even that didn’t fully protect me. I was also worried for my children, I wanted most of all to protect them from any further harm. To me, the only way was not to get into another relationship and not having friends. But this meant that I got completely stuck in more than one sense. I found that I couldn’t keep a job, I kept getting into trouble in one way or another and got sacked. I worked extremely long hours, 45 hours a week plus, and the jobs I did were always precarious through agencies. This meant that I hardly had time with my children, only about 2 hours a day, and they suffered emotionally. My chronic backpain got gradually worse and worse, my mental health was in decline. The situation got untenable.

But how to get out of it? How to improve? How to change? What to change? I had and still have not much of an idea. I stopped working, simply because I couldn’t carry on physically and mentally. I started looking for help. I got help from my daughter’s school, and from social services. Then I asked my GP and mental health team to re-assess me. They gave me different and additional medication and put me in a ‘skills group’. This got the ball rolling. I started to look after my physical health. I started to think. I started to talk. And now, I am on my way although I still don’t know exactly how I can get better. I still have no real friends that I talk to. I don’t talk about what I find difficult, when I struggle, when I really don’t feel well.

I am sorry if you read this and consider yourself my friend. I am not intentionally rude or out to upset you. But the problem is, I don’t know what a real friend is. I think a real friend is someone you can be vulnerable with, who you tell difficult stuff to, and who offers you safety and comfort. Someone who shows you respect, and who you show respect to. And that is the problem. I don’t allow myself to engage with someone in that way, because I feel I can’t risk it. I struggle to communicate my boundaries, and to stick to my boundaries. I am basically too nice. I make excuses why I shouldn’t stick to my boundaries, probably because it feels like I demand too much of someone, and I am not worth it.

‘Isolation’ pencil on paper, Mayola 2020

I think that is what lies at the basis of this; the overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. I know that to overcome that, I have to set boundaries and stick to them, because only then you will get self respect and value. A friendship can not be real without value. And a friendship only has value when both participants respect each other’s boundaries, and give as much as they take.

People with EUPD (Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder, formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder) keep others at arms length whilst demanding them to stay close. So I have a strong feeling of wanting to be near someone, even to the point of being needy, and at the same time keeping that person at arms length and pushing them away. That can be extremely distressing for both parties. It is impossible. Still, I think there is hope. I think I can improve, with practise and careful management.

One thing which would be very good is by aiming for a L.A.T. relationship (Living Apart Together). And then also an important ingredient is patience, taking it slow, one step at a time. I think what I described before, setting boundaries and sticking to them is probably one of the first things to do. It is also extremely difficult. Because if I really like someone, I so desperately want to go all in, but I really shouldn’t. I know this won’t end well. Another symptom of EUPD is being impulsive and engaging in risky behaviour like promiscuous sexual contacts. And all this behaviour whilst absolutely starved from intimate social contact is a recipe for disaster.

But the biggest problem I feel is that I am irresistibly attracted to unhealthy people, and even toxic people. No. 1 is alcoholics. I can’t allow myself to engage with any of those, but how do I get attracted to other people? I honestly don’t know. If they are not alcoholics, they are either addicted to something else or have similar experiences as I have eg. abuse, neglect and abandonment, or have been adopted like my sister. In short, they have been traumatised somehow. But maybe I should just accept that as an inevitable factor and try to work towards engaging healthily with those people. I am hoping that my study (Criminology & Psychology) will help get answers to these issues, as well as my weekly sessions with a councillor. If you read this and you have suggestions for me, please get in touch!

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