By Nancy Virden (c)2020
One of the first symptoms of depression is isolation. I cannot speak to why other people feel it necessary to withdraw, however, for me it was both a lack of emotional energy and social anxiety.
Of course, for each case, there are varying degrees. As is true for this whole series, I base my ideas only on what I have perceived in hundreds of support group meetings.
In this series: self-doubt, hopelessness, toxic shame, jealousy and envy, dependency, self-loathing, blame
I do not want to bother anyone. People might look at me. Small talk and conversations are terrifying. I’m going to make an excuse for not attending even though I said yes. My phone is off. I’m not answering the door. I’ll hide in a room, a closet, the bathroom, the car, the back row, or anywhere because I feel overwhelmed.
Anxiety and depression are good friends and seem to go almost everywhere with each other. Anxiety over specific concerns may become debilitating (for example, irrational fear of germs). Anxious isolation as it relates to depressive thoughts has such potential.
When depressed, isolation often seems like a safe hiding place. It does not remain safe for long. Our need for connection to family, friends, and humanity in general, goes unmet as long as we secret ourselves away. We may avoid helpful treatment. We might suffer unemployment due to absenteeism. Impatience from loved ones creates more stress. Unfulfilled need or a weakened sense of purpose pushes us deeper into anxiety and depression. Suicidal thoughts can grow in isolation.
Another kind of hiding place
Aloneness is not intrinsically unhealthy. Even God calls us into solitude to focus on him and our relationship with him. Jesus taught, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” (Matthew 6:6).
Anxiety is connected to biology, trauma, stifled memories, reality, and who knows what else. Two years ago, anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks for a full year following a diagnosis of cancer. Long after this health problem was resolved, hiding in fear was tempting. Understanding how dangerous anxious isolation is, I spent time with people even when it didn’t seem like a good idea. Nonetheless, it was by praying alone with God that I felt grounded and safe.
Psalm 32:7 reads, “For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.”
The author had just confessed his sins to God. By doing the same and placing our faith in Jesus, God becomes our shelter of safety. We can run to him at any time. Our anxiety is not going to drive him away.
Anxious isolation is challenging to overcome. We do have a choice though. Instead of it is too scary out there, we can reach out believing, it is scary out there, but God is my hiding place.
Today’s Helpful Word
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!