We use the word as a verb often these days. I’m isolating a lot. She started isolating. He tends to isolate when he gets depressed.
Isolating is different from just being an introvert or enjoying solitude. Isolating is ducking phone calls, declining invitations when we do get them, shunning gatherings or meetings we used to attend.
We do it because of depression, or shame, or pain and fatigue. We do it because we are too tired to face the dreaded question “How are you?”
Then we keep doing it because we feel guilty about having done it for a while. Guilty about the phone calls we ducked and the meetings we skipped. Overwhelmed at the thought of trying to explain why we flaked out on interactions when we don’t really understand how it works ourselves–or, if we do understand it well, we may have also learned that understanding it doesn’t make it any easier to explain.
It’s dangerous for us. It can make depression worse. If we are in recovery from an addiction, it increases our chance of relapse. It’s bad for our physical health and narrows our world in a way that can let our negative thoughts and traits begin to dominate.
So how do we stop doing it? How do I stop doing it?
One thing that’s really hard for me to accept, even after years of work, is that my mental health issues may always manifest in cycles of mood and ability to interact. For me, the struggle is about harm reduction and trying to reduce the shame and fear that extend a cycle of isolation past its natural life span.
And when I find a foolproof way of doing that, I’ll be sure to let you know.