Whilst thinking about this months post and what to write about I found myself in the midst of a bit of a deep funk (not like Bootsy Collins, the other kind). I was questioning myself and how I approach relationships (or my lack of them). Then out of nowhere articles kept popping up about loneliness and people in my support group began talking about it so it was making itself the very obvious candidate for a blog.
I’ve touched on the subject of loneliness a few times in other blogs but it was something I only ever really glossed over, I think that’s because admitting you’re lonely is hard. It’s another of those things like jealousy that we don’t talk about. There’s no place in this ultra connected society with lots to do for being lonely and if you are, well then there must be something wrong with you. What I’ve found is that we seem to be more lonely now than ever, there are reasons for this such as online connection replacing personal interaction, don’t get me wrong social networks can be a lifeline for me to be around others when I don’t have any energy; they help us connect with people from all around the world and that’s a wonderful thing BUT it’s very easy for it to become a crutch and replace physical connection. I fully admit I often kid myself that I don’t need people around me because I have the Internet. Trust me, being around other people is good for you.
So far, so logical right? Well this is where it gets complicated. Brain injury survivors and their caregivers (and other chronies too I’m sure) are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea (no idea what that really means, but I like the sound of it). Firstly there’s the distinction between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is good, I choose solitude, it’s a recharging place, a place to be at peace and gather and fill up with good juju. Loneliness is its flip side, the naughty cousin, the place of sighs and sadness and frustration. Brain injury for me is an awkward dance between the two, as a brain injured earthling I need solitude often to help me heal. I can’t cope very well without it and this is how my problem started, it is at times an avoidant behaviour something that keeps me safe because ‘out there’ is mean and nasty. I use solitude like a shield to push away anything that might make me uncomfortable, I’m often telling myself ‘no I can’t do that thing today with that person because it will make me tired and I need my solitude to balance’ sometimes this is true and sometimes it’s the fear talking.
I’ve been quite happy to let the fear disguise itself as meaningful recovery because it’s suited me, it’s stopped me doing anything that ruins my equilibrium. As I have so often discovered throughout my healing, sometimes the equilibrium NEEDS ruining. I need it to be pushed so I can grow. So as you can see I’ve painted myself into a very lonely corner. I fully admit to you here and now I am terribly lonely and terribly frightened to do anything about it. I know I need to shake it up and that’s what I’m shakily walking towards over the coming months. But I’m not ashamed to confess the sadness that overwhelms me as I realise how isolated I am, how the tears fall easily and how unlovable it makes me feel (this I know isn’t a fact, I am lovable but it can FEEL that way after being alone for so long). I know this a problem of my own making but it is also a feature of brain injury, it is not something that I can just ‘do’ sorry positivity junkies but brain injury life doesn’t always work that way. My brain and therefore my ‘self’ has changed, I became a very different person and finding my way back is rocky and tentative.
I know Mr Braingirl is the rock with the lighthouse to which I anchor and I’m very grateful he is here but he has his own life and I want my own life too. Aside from him and online friends I don’t really see much of anyone on a day to day basis. I crave belonging, I want to feel like part of a group, I miss having people to talk to and feeling connected enough to people to be vulnerable with them and laugh with them. Everything has to be so carefully done, I have to ration my energy but also ensure that the people I choose to spend time with are not energy drains. Authentic, realistic, good and upbeat, I can’t tolerate people who are excessively pessimistic not because I think I’m better than them but my energy just can’t absorb that kind of vibe anymore. This is another new step for me and one I’m sure will do the inevitable brain injury shuffle, that special backwards/forwards dance that serves to drive you crazy. I hope to continue to have healing solitude but to also begin to mix with others again.
I always think of this quote by Thay whenever anything new has to be assimilated into my life, try it, it’s a great way to be.