Depression vs Loneliness
When trying to decipher the differences and similarities between two things, it’s always a good starting point to define the things you are examining. In this case, the things I want to examine with you today are depression and loneliness.
The definitions for which are as follows:
Depression: a medical condition in which a person feels very sad and anxious and often has physical symptoms such as being unable to sleep, etc.
Loneliness: a feeling of being unhappy because you have no friends or people to talk to.
As you can see, there’s a common theme of sadness running through them both. Loneliness and depression are two conditions of the mind that can often go hand in hand with each other. More commonly one usually leads to the other with either having the ability to take the lead. For some people the lack of company and friends will lead to depression, while for others it’s the constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest in life that will lead to loneliness.
The chicken or the egg?
It’s tough to try and determine which order they came about for me. Because I’ve tried to block out many things from my past, my memory is hazy for things that I wish to look back and reflect upon. I can remember times of being a sad little boy and deliberately shying away from people and feeling lonely because of it. Yet I also have vivid memories of being in the playground alone while everyone around me seemed to be having the time of their lives and feeling a heartbreaking sadness.
With how much of my memory as a child is a blur, I feel as if I might as well rewrite that part of my life as this compelling origin story to hopefully get picked up by Marvel. “The adventures of Depression Boy and his perpetual sadness”. His superpowers would include: incredible strength (to push trauma deep down), invisibility (to other children) and shapeshifting (into a person that pretends they don’t have depression).
But I digress…
These days I’m relatively numb towards a lot of things that happened in my past. I have the ability to share stories and not really be able to comprehend how sad they are until I share them with others and see their reactions. But to this day, thinking back to me as a sad child still leaves a lump in my throat. I feel robbed of my childhood in a way. A boy that learnt too fast the cruel ways of others, called “mature for my age” by adults simply because the exuberant child disappeared far too early.
I still get depressed about the thought of being alone.
Loneliness by choice
Regardless of which one came first, I feel that depression is an illness that causes your inner compass to point inwards. Your mind, heart and soul are all telling you that something is wrong and it needs to be addressed fast. It feels as if these three pillars of our existence cannot support the heavy burden that is this illness. So they all direct all thoughts and energy towards rectifying what it deems to be a problem.
In doing so, it closes off all inputs from the outside world because nothing feels more important than ending this feeling. At times it has felt as if I’m on a sinking ship and one half of my brain is screaming to try and plug the hole and the other half is wishing to get dragged under to end the misery.
Normal life is carrying on around me, but at this moment no responsibilities of life can compare to the seemingly endless problem at hand. It’s why for weeks, months and years throughout my life, I’ve let the world pass me by while I’m trapped in my own head.
Depression makes you feel as if you’re the only one going through it and further perpetuates the need to stay alone. Friendships and relationships need nurturing to continue and develop. But when you feel as though all your energy is being used up trying to stay afloat, these relationships eventually die out.
In a way, I made a decision to be lonely. I chose to isolate myself in fear of showing those around me my true self. My self-confidence wouldn’t have been able to take the hit if people didn’t actually like me for who I was, so instead I shut myself away and didn’t allow them to make that choice about me.
It felt like being alone freed me to contemplate and figure out how to get through life. As Kid Cudi said “the lonely loner seems to free his mind at night”. Days and nights merged into one to the point where everything felt as though it were happening at the black of night. I thought being free of distractions would make me free to think, but in reality I was locked in the jail of my own mind, with a constant thought playing in the background like elevator music as it took me lower and lower...
“I’m alone and I’m depressed. I’m depressed and I’m alone.”
And so the endless cycle continued.
“He’s all alone, some things will never change…” Or will they?
It’s funny because I used to love the fact that I felt independent. I felt as though I never had to rely on anybody for anything. But I think I was just trying to make the best of a bad situation. I was alone, so I convinced myself that being alone was best for me. But we are all social creatures by nature. We crave relationships and the positive reinforcement that they bring. We gain energy from other people and they in turn gain from us.
I was a fool to think otherwise.
Sometimes I wonder how I’ve gotten so far in life with these warped backwards views of myself, people and the world around me. There’s going to be a hell of a lot of “do as I say, not as I did” in my household when I eventually have kids.
As they say, knowing is half the battle and I’m glad to have half the battle behind me. I know what it’s like to be alone and I don’t want to be alone again. The grass is absolutely greener on the other side and now that I’ve jumped the fence, I’m never going back.These days I feel blessed. I have a wonderful support system around me that will never let me feel alone again.
But for every person who has that, there are countless others that don’t. There will be people of all ages dealing with their depression alone and I can feel their pain. I want to make a difference in those people’s lives but I don’t know how. I suppose that’s another question for another blog, one that will keep me up at night. The phrase “you can’t help everyone” springs to mind, but that doesn’t feel good enough. As people who are not alone, we owe it to those who are to pick them up from their pit of despair. If you’ve made it this far, please take a moment to think of somebody in your life who might be alone and reach out to them. It is your duty to help those who feel as though they can’t be helped.
Until we speak again, keep hanging in there.