There will be a lot of people out there like me who don’t find all this isolation and social distancing to be a stressful thing. To be frank, I don’t get out much and that’s something I need to push myself to change, but it’s a wee bit tricky right now (yeah, thanks COVID).
I have Bipolar Disorder and severe social and generalised anxiety disorder. I run my own business from home (Pocket Admin) to manage all that; a virtual business that means I don’t have to get out and be sociable or stressed by the workplace. Add to that the fact that I moved to a new town late last year and don’t know a soul … and you have the ultimate social distancing package.
Why do I need to get out, though?
I have everything I need around me. Wonderful husband, my own office, my cosy recliner in my cosy home where I can be smothered in cute cats.
It’s simple, really. Humans are social creatures, it’s deeply ingrained in our very fibre that we need that social outlet, if only for our mental health. You can bet even hermits say hi when they get their groceries.
I take complete blame for my chosen lifestyle. Not that there’s any need to run around pointing fingers, but really – I know that the only person who can change me and how I cope with the world around me is ME.
When struggling with a mental illness, pushing yourself can be exhausting and upsetting. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve cried because I’ve just had enough. That’s where avoidance comes into play.
I know it’s time to do something about it, though, because I finally find myself wishing for a familiar face when I shop for groceries or wander around town. So, I’ve made a promise to myself in a very public way: I am going to explode out of all this self-isolation in spectacular fashion! … or, you know, just meet people and stuff.
Now for my plan of attack
I Will Leave My House More Often, Even If It’s On My Own
This is a great starter step.
Honestly, it all got to the point where hubby did all the groceries and errands. The thought of going out was panic-inducing and my home was cosy and safe. I felt protected, perhaps even from my own demons most of the time.
Pyjamas became my uniform; I’d just shower and change into a new pair. And really, it’s great and comfortable and all but it’s not acceptable. I didn’t realise it but in hindsight, I had basically given up.
Now to gloss over my dramas. In the last 6 years, I’ve been through the trauma of separation, hospitalisations from breakdowns, a divorce, job instability due to mental health issues, a miscarriage, and most recently waving off my 13-year-old son as he went to live with his dad.
Enough. I’d had enough and refused to deal.
But at some point, you have to get tough on yourself and this is that time.
So right now, as I write this article, I am sitting in the local park with my laptop, enjoying a gorgeous autumn day. I may not be socialising, but I am back out in the world. A part of something.
See? This is me being tough on myself!
I’ve Admittedly Been Hunting On The Down Low Already
I always find that the easiest way to find out about local groups isn’t by Googling but by typing the locality name in Facebook search and hunting through what comes up, for instance, “Warwick” or “Southern Downs”.
You find some pretty incredible pages and groups; a lot more than you’d ever think (once you wade through the over-saturation of buy-sell swap pages). For instance, I discovered we have a croquet club! Heck yeah, that sounds just my pace! I’ll be in contact once they’re up and running again.
Maybe the chorale society, too. Though I don’t know that ANYBODY is ready for that!
Heck Yes, I’m Going To “Out Myself’ in Facebook Groups
I could Google and Facebook search until I go cross-eyed and never find my way into the hidden layers of a community. The best way to find out about local stuff is to ask locals!
So, I’ll do it. I’ll just post a discussion in a group or two about how I’m a sad and lonely weirdo to find out what kinds of groups are in town, especially social groups.
I won’t lie, I’ll have a ton of anxiety after I hit send, but I have to push myself out of my comfort zone more. Some people might judge me but I’m telling myself, with faux confidence, that most of them won’t.
I’ll Let Go Of Age-ism and Other Assumptions
So, when I did my initial research into some groups, something became glaringly obvious to me.
40-something seems to be this awkward age where you don’t fit in with the young ones and you’re not quite part of the senior pack either, of which this town has plenty. And that made me hesitate in joining groups when I first moved to this town.
I want friends my own age, don’t I?
Well no more! Who cares if my friends are 20, 40 or 100! I don’t recall seeing a rule that you can only befriend people your own age. I’m bucking the trend!
At the end of the day, I just want to fill my life with happy, friendly people who will occasionally have a cup of coffee with me. The rest is just demographics and statistics.
Most Importantly – Be Accepting Of Who I Am
This is a really tough one for me. Self-love doesn’t come easy and I’m always jealous of people who are so confident in themselves. I want to be able to chat to someone without rushing and cutting corners because my brain is saying “Hurry, don’t take too long! They’re bored, they don’t care!”
I will be open and honest and true to myself. Mental illness is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Nor are my huge, dangly cartoon pencil earrings and my glittery star-spangled jumper! I’m going to meet people as ME – dorky, a little odd, mental illness flag-waving.
But I won’t let my mental illness define me, either. I plan to define myself by what makes me happy – whether that’s pencil earrings and terrible jumpers, being the person sitting quietly in the corner at a gathering, or the giggling, sarcastic woman who wants more silliness than sadness in her life.
Want to make this promise with me?
- A Promise Made To Myself: Don’t Get Used To The Isolation - June 11, 2020