This is an edited version of a podcast episode. If you prefer to listen, click Make Me Whole Podcast to find this and all my other episodes.
Hey there, and welcome back! I want to take some time today to chat with you about mental health and its relationship to the experiences of loneliness and isolation. Everyone moves through these feelings at some point, but they can be especially impactful for those in marginalized communities.
A little over a year ago, I was at a really dark place in my life where I felt that no one could understand exactly what I was going through. The word that resonated most with my experience was melancholy. If you’ve ever seen Sleeping Beauty or the movie Maleficent, imagine me as Maleficent. She’s among her demons in the dark, pissed off because she wasn’t invited to Sleeping Beauty’s presentation. She has that pervading sense that no one’s going to care about or understand her struggles, so she’s just going to keep it to herself and wallow in her negativity.
Loneliness and isolation are beasts that sneak up on us. We may not even realize it’s happening until we’re deep in it. There's this saying in Spanish: No hay peor soledad que la sentida en compañia. There’s no worse loneliness than the loneliness you feel in a crowd. And boy, isn’t that the truth. When you’re surrounded by people but still feel utterly alone, it hits different. Struggling with loneliness can be like wandering through the desert. You may be so thirsty for connection, but it feels like there’s not a soul around who understands or even sees your hardship. But here’s the thing: that desert is often an illusion, our mind seeing what it expects to see. The thing about me is, as a Latina, I was raised to be resilient and, oftentimes, too proud to share my feelings. I didn’t want to be seen as weak or a burden. However, when we think that way, it can lead us down a path of isolation where we think that we’re alone in our struggles, and let me tell you this: It ain’t weak to speak.
We’ve all had those moments when we question our worth, when our self-esteem takes a hit. The reality is that everyone has insecurities. That colleague with the Instagram-worthy outfits who seems to have it all together? She’s dealing with her own stuff, too. It’s so important to remind yourself that everyone is fighting their own battles. Feeling alone can make your own challenges seem insurmountable. It can feel like you’re carrying a thousand pound weight all by yourself. But the thing is, you don’t have to carry it all on your own. There is strength in reaching out and connecting with others, whether they are friends or professionals.
So what can we do when we feel detached or deserted? Well, there’s a few things you can try out to see if they work for you. First, of course, is to reach out. It might seem scary. You might feel like you’re imposing, but trust me, most people are more than willing to lend a listening ear. However, sometimes we’re just not up for a chat, and that’s ok too. In those moments, doing something small and achievable that brings you joy can help. Listen to music, dance around in your room, or read a good book. Taking some time for yourself to do little things can make a world of difference. Exercise can also be a fantastic tool for combating these feelings of loneliness. When you’re working up a sweat, your body releases endorphins, which are your feel-good hormones. Plus, exercise can provide a feeling of accomplishment and boost your self-esteem. Another important tool is practicing mindfulness. When you’re focused on the present and its value, it’s hard to feel lonely. Mindfulness brings you back to the here and now and helps you see things more clearly.
Now, these tools are wonderful, of course, but there is one more thing that is really important to remember. Sometimes our feelings of loneliness and isolation are more than just passing. They can be symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. And here’s the thing. There’s NO shame in seeking help. Mental health is health! If you’re feeling lonely and it's starting to impact your daily life, it’s crucial to speak with a licensed mental health professional. We can provide you with personalized tools and strategies to help you move through the feelings and start feeling better. Our training can help you discover and resolve the root cause of these feelings so you can make positive changes in your life and relationships.
Remember, even in those moments when you feel utterly alone, there are people who care about you and who would love the opportunity to support you. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor, they want to help. One last thing I want to say: as always, it’s ok to not be ok. We all have those moments, and connection is powerful. You’re not alone, even when you feel like you are. To everyone who’s listening right now. I want you to know this, to feel it in your bones. Your feelings are valid. Your struggles are valid. And your strength, well, that’s undeniable! Don’t let loneliness trick you into thinking you’ve been completely abandoned. Reach out and connect and remember: you’re stronger than you think. And if you’re feeling lost, remember that you have always been a force to be reckoned with. You are strong, you are resilient, you are capable. Your journey might be tough, but you’re tougher. Do the things that bring you joy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. Keep your head up, your heart strong, and remember you're really never alone on this journey.