Mental Health 101…Loneliness

Didn’t bother to search if Carl actually said that…it speaks truth to me.

i wanted to be a hermit at more than one point in my life.  It was usually one of my manic adventures.  i never actually built a little cabin in the woods and lived there by myself.  Oops.  Guess i did.  Well, we did, Sarah and i.

When i get manic i feel like a cat on a hot tin roof.  i don’t know what to do next.  Every noise and movement catches my senses, pulling me away from the task at hand.  It’s great from the perspective of energy…tons of that!  But no focus, no direction.    This blog, for example, would not be possible were i manic.  i’d be too scattered.  i needed to learn new software.  No bloody way would that be possible!

i thought if i could just move to the mountains, build a cabin, live off the land, etc., i would be just fine.  You want to see people, you go to civilization and then, when you’ve had enough, you return to your isolation.  This is the closest i have come and it is not what i expected, let me tell you.  And that is why i really don’t want to talk about loneliness…because i am a lonely man.

Please don’t bother with the boo hoo’s for me.  Pity degrades its object, if you ask me, so no pity.  One thing i have been fairly consistent about all my life:  integrity means taking honest stock of myself every so often and making changes based on my self-learning.  It’s generally birthday related and it is helpful to me.

i am a lonely man because i have a tendency to isolate myself.  i have always had plenty of friends so, as in the quote, it is not for lack of people.  i would not take all the money in the world to move back into some caged existence in the city.  The children have moved out long ago, so the need to be close to schools and so on, is not necessary.  The city holds little attraction for me.  Too many damn people in one place never seems to lead to beneficial outcomes.  Up here we don’t run riot through the streets because the Cochrane Crunch won the playoffs.

Back to the lonely man.  So if not lack of friends and societal contact, why?  Because i isolate.  i insulate.  Not from the people, but from any sort of involvement with their emotions.  To be a healthy caregiver (pastor, chaplain) a little professional distance is necessary.  Not lack of empathy.  Others are counting on support.  And i was good that way.  i exercised regular, i was busy and healthy and rarely did i carry the pain of my job home with me.  Not so i am aware, anyhow.

After my car accident in 2001, my life changed dramatically and a head injury left me with memory and focus issues.  It also opened up a whoopass can of long-buried treasures i had squirrelled away for such times.  Pain from all sorts of places.  And something else changed.  i felt everyone’s pain.

i’ve always been a sensitive guy.  i’m the one who cried in movie theatres.  i have cried in front of others.  i do not like it.  So basic empathy is not the problem.

i moved a lot as a child.  Dad was in the military and that was part of the package.  Due to location changes and going through junior and high school, i was in a different school every year from grades 8 through 12.  So i have always found it easier to say hello and goodbye…people come and people go.  So don’t get attached.  Have fun, live life, but don’t get attached.  That shit hurts.

That attitude became a real survival tool when i got too overwhelmed with people’s pain after my accident, but it is not healthy.  Not for me.  It leads to depression and more isolation and…well…you know.  After awhile, no one wants to be around you.  More isolation.  More depression.  Crap.

People would stay overnight or for a few days.  Picture this.  Grump morning John gets his coffee, puts on his headphones and turns away from the table and toward the computer.  To play games.  WHILE I HAVE FUCKING GUESTS!!!   Really?  I didn’t see that as an issue?

So i can’t stay this way. What can i do?  Is there a way for me to help myself by being more involved with others?  Can i do it safely in my current emotional raw state?  Of course.  No one is going to want to spill their guts all over me.  It is ok to talk to people and, you know, be kind and friendly.  That is a relatively painless solution.

i don’t get tons of contact with folks out this way, but walking the dog (exercise is a key to good mental health…sorry…it is true) has given me the chance to say hello to folks who live near us.  It’s not like i’ve ever been shy.

i now go into town twice a week (weather permitting) and have encouraged myself to go into different businesses, introduce myself and say hello.  i give sincere, random compliments to people.  i don’t know what they think.  You see how i look, after all.  The Mad Miner of the North kind of thing.  It’s especially bad if i forget my teeth.

And someone is here for dinner at least once a week.  I know community is easily built when good food is being consumed.  And i am a decent enough cook.

Most of all,  i take the chance and reach out when i am lonely.  i find someone to talk to.  online, telephone, whatever.  And i am not so lonely these days.  I am not alone.  And i remember what it is i like about people.  And it feels good to connect again. And remember:

St. John of the Hermitage


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