Good Today, Bad Tomorrow

Something is happening to me, good in the short-term, but leading to a problem of probable epic proportions down the road. In the middle of last week, I realized I want to be alone. Over the next few days, I discovered that I was actively avoiding human contact. Apparently, social me was unable to find happiness or peace unless isolated.

I have been here before, more at peace when it is just me, books, tea, and a soft blanket. It is necessitated by a lack of energy so profound that I am left choosing between survival and everything else – tending my emotions, trying to be a better person, and my social life amongst other things. While my choice of survival is fairly obvious, if I do not pay attention to my social life, it has an unfortunate tendency to crumble.

With no other viable options and a social life disintegrating, I avoid the entire mess. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, social interactions act as reminders that there is a world out there I currently cannot engage. Instead of constant reminders of this painful truth, I create a world where I can find pleasure in activities done solo.

Thus solitude has a few things going for it. It is easy to maintain, has no risk involved, and relies upon nobody to say or do a thing. I can fill my world with books that either thrust me into a reality imagined by another or, in the case of the memoirs I’ve been reading, allow me to feel a sense of kinship with other disabled people. If I select the right reading material, there is also laughter. When nothing else feels possible, this is not an unpleasant fate.

At its core, I worry this is a case of self-delusion: If I can convince myself this solitary existence is enjoyable, then I do not have to feel painful isolation. Perhaps it is more a case of a highly-evolved coping strategy. Maybe I am finding very complicated ways to convince everyone including myself that this is not depression. Possibly I’m afraid of confronting what my social life will become when I cannot nurture it and others, for whatever reason, do nothing. For better or worse, I do not have what it takes to cope with loneliness, so I pick the easier path of isolation.

Now for the inevitable problem I will encounter. Sooner or later energy will return to my body and then this world of isolation will no longer be a necessity. Instead, I will be hiding in it, avoiding the hard work necessary to reenter the human race. Life outside my four walls means interacting with idiotic non-disabled people who make me want to scream, constant reminders of how worthy of ignoring many find me, and all the typical challenges of social interaction. It necessitates balancing my need for human contact with my body’s requirements. While I find other people to be energizing, there are costs to a social life, and leaving comfortable isolation to reshoulder those challenges is daunting. I will have to find the clarity to realize it’s time to reenter the world and then the strength to do it.

Were a social life to fall from the sky into my lap, I would not throw it away as long as it did not require effort on my part and it possessed a frequency of human contact that would not leave me longing for others. Unless people are a consistent, reliable presence in my life and do the lion’s share of the work, it will simply be painful reminders of what I have temporarily had to forgo. What people believe they are relieving with a random call or visit will in actuality be intensified.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

3 thoughts on “Good Today, Bad Tomorrow

  1. Excellent posts above, thank you!
    You’ve given me much to think about, including possibly some “re-contextualizing” of my understanding of my own circumstances.I use a wheelchair, and have associated most of the social (incl. especially housing barriers, limiting opportunities to visit with people in their homes) and employment barriers with my own (d)evolving “medical uncertainties;” the particular demands of my individual “disability-related” health circumstances have found me acting as an unreliable friend, I’m afraid.
    I take note from your commentary that an unreliable, random, “once-in-a blue-moon’ social call might prove over time to be more painful than pleasurable!

  2. Male47,

    Isolating myself was a temporary state of affairs. It helped me cope with a drastic change in social contact while my body was recovering from surgery and I had the energy of a wet noodle. At the time, it was about painful reminders of what I wanted to be doing and was unable to do.

    Now I’m much better. People coming to visit etc is just fun and not the equivalent of dangling chocolate in front of a six year old but never letting them partake.

    Basically, I was a mess for a little while, but now I’m much better. I’ll be honest and admit I cope best with reliable and consistent, but I can handle unpredictability especially if there’s a good reason like factors beyond another’s control.

    I actually like random visits as long as my visitors don’t mind dirty sweats and messy hair. *smile*

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