In the world of bipolar and unipolar depression, we learn to look for clues that will alert us to problems. This is a huge part of dealing with our disorder. The more knowledge and insight we have, the better prepared we are to deal with our mood swings. Many of us look for clues such as energy levels, sleep patterns, anxiety level, and so forth. But one very important indicator that’s often overlooked is isolation.
Isolation is a fact of life for me. I am functional, outwardly normal, and know a lot of people, but I keep everyone but immediate family at arms length. Things are so crazy in my head, and in my house, and everywhere else, I’m afraid to let people in. One glimpse inside and I’d certainly scare anyone away. Immediate family is different – I try hard to stay as open as possible with them. But when I close myself up to family, that’s my isolation cue – things are wrong.
We all need time alone, that’s human nature and shouldn’t be mistaken for isolation. Ditto privacy. We need our privacy at times, and that shouldn’t be interpreted as isolation. Conversely, many times we can be surrounded by people but still be isolating. The fact we may be working or out in public doesn’t mean we’re not isolating. So it’s important we have ways to identify, and deal with, true isolation when the behavior surfaces.
When isolation is recognized, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, have a support chain. For those who maintain a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), make this a part of your plan. Tell your loved ones to be observant of this behavior, and come up with strategies for dealing with it.
Next, do what you can to bring others into your immediate life. Pick up the phone and call someone. It doesn’t matter if you have anything important to say, just call. Ideally you’ve told friends or family in advance that you may do this from time to time so it’s not unexpected. But it’s important to interact, to have that human contact. My community has several depression and bipolar support groups, some of them meet weekly. That’s a great opportunity to get out and interact with peers – people who have experienced exactly what you’re experiencing.
If you don’t have anyone to talk with, or your support life-line isn’t available for some reason, keep your mind active. DO NOT hole up looking at the walls. Read, write, work puzzles, plan the menu for a holiday meal next year, just get creative. It doesn’t matter what it is, the important thing is to keep your mind occupied.
Another thing that helps me is to get active. Go to the gym and do a hard physical workout. Jog, take a long walk, do some brisk exercise, take a swim. The recuperative values of exercise can be amazing.
Finally, it goes without saying, but avoid drugs and alcohol. Even if you feel you’re not at risk for substance abuse issues, avoid them during times of isolation.
Isolation is something we all experience. If we’re tuned in to our emotions and our moods, recognizing isolation can be something that is used to our advantage to help stave off depression or mood swings that might follow.
Has anyone learned any techniques to recognize or work through isolation? Leave a comment and share them with us.