FEELING ALONE WITH OTHERS

  Mental illness can be a very lonely illness. It’s a battle within the mind and a heavy burden to carry. It’s very hard to explain to others what is happening within you, so you put a smile on for your friends and family. You pretend like nothing is wrong when in reality you’re dying inside. Your friends and family members are laughing, talking and having a good time, but you’re not. Suddenly you feel alone while surrounded by people. You can’t tell people how you feel. You don’t want to ruin their fun. So you suffer in silence.

   I felt this way when I was ill. I thought my illness was my battle and no one could help me and no one would understand. I went to work with a smile across my lips; I talked and laughed with my fellow employees. I put on a show for everyone, but inside was a terrible darkness. I had to force myself to smile, to laugh, even to talk, and it was hard to make myself go to work, but no one knew. I felt so alone. It was like I was the only one on earth suffering. I was surrounded by hundreds of customers and employees, yet it seemed like I was by myself.

   I tried to avoid going out with friends. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want to ruin their fun, and I knew I would only become more depressed. When I did hang out with them, I felt like an outsider. They were happy while I was sad. They were having fun and I was struggling to see beyond my hole. While they enjoyed themselves, I sunk deeper into the darkness. I was with my friends, yet I felt like no one knew I was there. I was fighting a battle no one knew about, an internal battle that was all mine to bear. So I thought.

   In time, I started making excuses why I couldn’t go out with my friends. I started hiding at home. I’d go to work and return home to my room. I spent hours feeling isolated from the world. I was alone and lonely. I had no one around me and I desperately wanted someone to say, “I know what you’re going through, let’s talk.” I wanted someone to spill all my feelings to, but I kept them to myself. I didn’t think anyone would understand. This only made me fall deeper into my hole of depression and led to self-injury.

   It seems impossible to be alone when you’re surrounded by people, but it isn’t. When you’re struggling with an illness of the mind, it’s hard to explain to others what’s going on within you. People find it hard to understand what you’re facing when they have never been through it, but if you give them a chance they will try. If they don’t want to try, then find someone who will. Don’t try to fight your illness alone. Turn to family, friends, and a therapist for support.

   You’re not alone. Other people suffer with the same illness and there are groups on-line and off where you can find those people. Ask your therapist or contact NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, to find groups near you. You can find NAMI on-line at http://www.nami.org/.

   When I was in the hospital, a caseworker arranged for me to participate in a Borderline Personality Disorder group when I got out. It helped to talk with people who were facing the same things as I. It helped me realize I was not the only one on earth with this terrible sickness.

   When I came to the realization I could not handle my illness alone, I turned to friends and family. With their help the burden became lighter and the loneliness faded. I learned that some of my friends have faced a similar illness themselves or have family members who have. Some of my friends and family members became my biggest supporters and partners in my struggle to reach for the light. With the support of others I no longer feel lonely. I now share the burden of my illness with friends, family, and my husband. I no longer feel alone and that helps me stand tall within the light.

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