Depression and loneliness

“Your responses on the depression scale indicate that there is over a 90% chance that you are suffering from depression.”

Why did I take a depression quiz? Because I just bought a Twix bar at the market, brought it home, and ate it. Only later did I remember that I don’t eat chocolate that isn’t fair trade.

How can you forget a thing like that about yourself? It would be like forgetting you’re a vegetarian. Memory loss: Symptom one. Also, my appetite is off and my sleep habits are disrupted. Worse, I’m so indecisive that even with only three days left on my current lodging, I haven’t booked a place or even chosen what country it will be in. I need to book my flight to Belgium, but first I have to decide where I’ll be flying from.

So I wondered, could I be depressed?

Well…yeah. I’ve been alone for a month now. I eat all my meals alone. I have no one to talk to. It’s almost impossible to laugh or to feel deeply joyful or even broadly smile when you’re alone. I still appreciate the wonder of everything around me, but it is muted, dulled.

I knew this would be a problem. If I were an introvert, it probably wouldn’t bother me, but I am not an introvert. I love connecting closely with people, and sharing things. Sharing things on Facebook and on this blog have probably saved my sanity, along with occasional Skype chats with my daughter — but it’s not the same as having a person next to you to share things with.

I’ve had a few nice encounters with fellow travellers recently.  But random meetings with strangers are no substitute for close companionship. “Where are you from? What do you do? Oh, that’s very interesting” isn’t the same as sharing your fears with a close friend, or making each other giggle until Pepsi comes out of your nose. Those things don’t happen with strangers.

Oddly enough, one of the things I’ve always daydreamed about is long-term solitude. Those daydreams mostly happened when I had young children at home and a business to run and I barely got to be alone long enough to use the toilet. But still, I did daydream about it. Those dreams usually involved a little house and garden on a mountaintop, with a helicopter to bring me supplies quarterly. Come to I think of it, those daydreams also involved finding a hot wounded woodsman and bringing him back to my house to heal…heh heh heh. But until he came, I was alone.

Why did I want that? I thought there would be spiritual growth in solitary retreat. I’m sure there is. Ironically, I’m living out my solitude fantasy and my travel fantasy at the same time.

I hope there will be growth on the other side of this loneliness. I hope to become a little more self-contained, and to know myself better. I hope to become more centered, and for my purpose in life to become more clear. I hope to be more in touch with my own spirit.

But I have to be careful. I can definitely feel the edges of depression creeping in on me. I expected it, and I think I can cope with it. I think rewards lie on the other side of it. But it’s dark, and cold and unpleasant for sure.

It’s not for long though. I’m very much looking forward to spending a week with a friend in Belgium as soon as April comes, and then I’ll be in London where I’m looking forward to meeting up with several delightful people. After that, my solitude will be balanced by volunteer work (which should bring short-term relationships) and meetups with several friends who are coming to Italy.

I suppose I can always set up another VaughanTown week, for nonstop talking with people from 9am until midnight every day!

 

Published by Lauren

I'm a nomadic freelance writer, out enjoying the world!

16 Comments

  • Melody

    March 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm Reply

    I wished I had the means and availability to hop on a plane and join you for a week or so, NOW!!! 🙂

    We would be talking, laughing, drinking wine, laughing, letting our souls guide us, eating too much food, laughing, talking….eating chocolate. Having PJ parties & spilling our guts to each other; maybe shed a few tears together, drink some more wine! And laugh some more!!!

    I can’t wait until September gets here! I will have a new grand baby AND be enjoying birthday celebration with you in Italy!!!

    Hang in there sweetie!

    Mel

    • Lauren

      March 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm Reply

      That would be so wonderful!

      We will do all that and more for our birthdays in Venice. Having things to look forward to is critical, and probably the other thing that’s saving my ass right now. Thank you!

  • Mardi

    March 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm Reply

    I empathize with your description of the single traveler, dealing with loneliness and bouts of depression, even in the most exotic of locations. While reading what you just wrote, I must confess, even as I downsize my own life, here, in familiar surroundings and a home base, my own loneliness creeps in. I have struggled to accept it, as part of the human condition, or as part of the explorer, within me. I have always felt the need, even as a child, to explore the less traveled path. And, like you, I pride myself on my independent, strong willed nature, but, with that, comes bouts of loneliness. Nevertheless, with some fear and trepidation, I will continue to explore the world, with my loneliness, as part of my belongings…. If I could say one thing here, as you are on the other side of the world, in less familiar territory, your blog and the eloquent writing that you share, with your many readers, does transport us there, as if, for a moment, we are sharing, the varied scenery and new and different places, with you….. Lauren, you are such an inspiration, to many women. In this, you are never alone. Thank you….

    • Lauren

      March 15, 2014 at 7:56 pm Reply

      Thank you so much, Mardi. I hope you fiind your way around your loneliness. I think it’s good for us to learn to be content on our own. But it’s very good to find ways to connect as well.

      Tomorrow I’ll write about the ways I’ve found to keep myself going and keep the depression at bay. Maybe that will help someone.

  • Catherine

    March 16, 2014 at 12:06 am Reply

    ah, depression, my old friend. Welcome to my world. Surrounded by people but realizing no one is my friend and I am not traveling in a foreign country. I am getting a sense that I couldn’t travel by myself even though I have done plenty on my own. But traveling by myself can be limiting too. hard to explain that one right now.

    I’ve been feeling major disorientation around the dance workshop scene. I am feeling like I am on the edges of it now instead of involved. I am not sure what I want from it but feel that it isn’t real to me in many ways. So I experience this loneliness with all these people around. I think I have alienated myself with all these people and not sure I can call any of them friends at this point.
    believe it or not, I skipped out on the “big show” tonight because I don’t like the place where they moved it (smoking by all those egyptians plus others even though there is an ordinance against it in restaurants here and i have huge smoke allergy problems) and the dynamics of trying to interact with people when I feel back and disconnected.

    Not sure why I am writing all this but I wish I had someone to sit down and talk about this stuff with. Most people don’t want to hear it. What happened to me?

    • Lauren

      March 16, 2014 at 6:14 am Reply

      It’s helpful just to put it all into words, isn’t it Catherine? I know what you’re saying, even when I was at home I was surrounded by ‘friends,’ but most were social friends. I liked them, I was happy to have them in my life, but I couldn’t seem to get close to them. The intimacy and closeness that I really craved only came easily with a few people, and often their intimacy needs were being met at home, by family and spouse, and they didn’t have time for me. Being single is lonely. Sometimes being part of a couple is even lonelier. Maybe the only answer is to learn to find happiness on our own somehow. At least, that’s my journey.

      What happened to you? I’m only guessing but depression seems to me to be a thought/emotion spiral that makes us unrelentingly negative. That drives people away and makes us judgmental and closed. I think we have to find ways to cope with the depression, and especially to resist negativity. And think about other people, reach out to them, care about them, encourage them, of course, because friendship starts with us. I hope you start feeling better soon and thanks for posting. Talking about things helps me a lot, and writing this has clarified some of my thinking as well.

      • Catherine

        March 16, 2014 at 9:20 am Reply

        thanks for “listening”. I have noticed for several months that I am feeling “small” and hyper-sensitive. Good grief! I spent a lot of time in therapy when I was younger and felt I had gotten past a lot of the issues. Most people like to say that you grown out of it. Ha! My life is much more complicated than that i guess . . . 🙁 . . . sometimes I want to run away. Oh, you know that the travel is part of my running away . . from work, from family (you know all those other people that have expectations about how you should “be” with them, ugh). Then I got roundly castigated for not being home enough in the past few years when I went home in january for my mom’s funeral and stayed a few days with my brother to “help out”. There are so many things that revolve around the issues of “all the things I want to do in my life” and “mortality”. and “parental relationships”..

        Is it the tightrope or the hamster treadmill???

        • Lauren

          March 16, 2014 at 9:37 am Reply

          Your comment about feeling ‘small’ really resonated with me. Have you ever read anything about ’emotional flashbacks?’ Here’s a link. This article has helped me tremendously, and there are some *really* useful coping mechanisms at the end.
          https://www.psychotherapy.net/article/complex-ptsd

          • Catherine

            March 16, 2014 at 7:17 pm

            emotional flashbacks?? hmmmm, I have flashbacks of some incidents . . . boy, do those make me feel small/bad. I used to joke about having a memory like an elephant. The problem with that memory is that it contributes to my inability to let go of anything. I really need to refocus / redirect my efforts on something different. Now if these stupid allergies would just let up!!! 🙂

  • Trini Marquis-Hobbs

    March 16, 2014 at 12:22 am Reply

    Hang in there, I’ve been in the same place traveling Costa Rica alone and could relate to so much of what you wrote. Thank you for your vulnerability. And know you’re not really alone, many of us are silently watching and appreciating your journey.

  • Trini Marquis-Hobbs

    March 16, 2014 at 12:32 am Reply

    I don’t know you in person, but I am rooting for you and so moved by your vulnerability. I think that you already have the growth you are hoping for simply in revealing your fears. Bravo, hope we meet someday.

    • Lauren

      March 16, 2014 at 6:15 am Reply

      Thank you so much for both your comments, Trini. You brought me smiles this morning that I really needed. It’s good to know I’m ‘connected’ even when I don’t always feel it.

  • Debbie Carter

    March 16, 2014 at 8:42 am Reply

    So sorry you are feeling so lonely Lauren. Wish I could be there with you. I too feel loneliness in a crowded room. How do you know when it is depression or just self pity? I’m never sure. I’ve cried more this past few weeks then I have in years. I thought I should be stoic and strong and think positive but I am just plain tired. The truly happiest and close times I feel are in my, as you phrased, “Grandma World” Thank you for that.

    I did just read that saffron is good for depression. Go back and get that delectable chicken and saffron dinner you had the other night. Sounds like it should do the trick on many levels. LOL

    • Lauren

      March 16, 2014 at 9:41 am Reply

      I think if the circumstances around you would make anyone sad and stressed, that you are just sad and stressed, Debbie. But you’ll know you’re moving into depression when your sleep habits, appetite and memory are affected (I know, it’s hard for women our age to know if our memories are affected. LOL). At any rate, probably a good idea to take care of yourself just in case.

      I ate the saffron chicken dish for lunch! Good instinct.

  • Artemisia

    March 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm Reply

    meals with company coming up when you get here 😉 hang in there and enjoy the sights!

    • Lauren

      March 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm Reply

      Whee! I can hardly wait!

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