One of the things I deal with in my life that I wish more than almost anything to go away or be different is feelings of loneliness, emptiness, confusion, and depression. I went on a vacation with my family over the weekend, and had a lot of laughs, fun, and made memories. I honestly had a good time for most of it. But on that same vacation, I experienced overwhelming and consuming feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, hopelessness, and emptiness. And sometimes those feelings would follow directly after a positive experience, and seemingly for no justifiable reason at all.
Feeling depressed or lonely in these moments that I believe I should be feeling the opposite (loved, connected, and happy), actually made those feelings worse as it took them from just being loneliness or depression, and suddenly carried a feeling of shame because I felt like I must not love my family enough to have a good time around them. I must not be a good enough son, brother, or grandson if I’m not happy when I’m with family. Sometimes I feel safest physically isolating myself by going into a room and closing the door because then I feel that I have a justifiable (even if self-inflicted) reason to be lonely. And somehow, even though I am then literally alone, it seems better to feel alone in that situation than to experience shame by feeling alone around those I believe I should feel most connected to.
Another difficulty that leads to even further self-inflicted isolation is I feel the need to police my own words and actions. I listen to my sisters, mom, and grandmother comment on how good looking certain guys are that we see on our vacation, and sometimes I agree, and while my sister can enthusiastically express how cute a guy was, I constantly feel the need to suppress and completely bar any similar expression from my own mouth. For me, it’s a fear of the potential perceived sexual intent behind any such expression…Because of my insecurity about views of culture, or even about how my family would react if I did express such feelings, I just bury it deep inside. And sometimes it’s honestly suffocating. Yes, there are many things to talk about beyond attractive people… But feeling like I can never talk about it at all is suffocating. I don’t blame my family for it. Even if my family were to assure me that such expressions are fine, I would still monitor and filter everything I said, and would probably feel uncomfortable about it anyway.
I look at my friendships, and feel shame there, too… For so much of my life I would cry any time I finished watching the Lord of the Rings. I wanted so deeply to have a friendship as deep and trusting as what I saw expressed in film between Frodo and Sam. And right now in my life, I honestly feel like I do. Sure, the relationship between Frodo and Sam in film could be considered a highlight reel. There’s so much you don’t actually see. And that’s why I feel like I have that relationship now. It’s not perfect, but I feel honestly cared about and loved in that relationship, in many of the ways I yearned for from watching those movies. Yet the same shame I feel around my family carries over to my friendships, too. Being with my friends, I still have times where I feel totally alone. I still have times where I feel like I need to carefully monitor and filter anything that I do or say. Even with my best friend, who I feel the most comfortable with and loved around, I still have times of being with him and feeling alone, depressed, or fearful for what he may think of me.
Then I look at my other relationships and feel bad… I want and need other relationships. Yet I struggle so much to keep them alive. Setting up time to spend with friends leads me to experience really overwhelming anxiety, even though when I finally make it happen, I usually have a really good time. And there are times with my other friends where, while with them, I feel alone, depressed, or like I need to police my words and actions.
When I go to church, I usually sit alone. It’s usually because that’s when I feel safest. Does it leave me feeling alone? Yes. But sitting alone seems far less stressful. And even though I’m really not doing much of anything when I’m sitting alone, I feel more authentic to myself by doing so than by sitting next to someone purposefully and then feeling like I need to nit-pick everything that I say. When someone does sit next to me and talks to me, or even when I push myself and decide to sit next to someone, I usually feel good about it. I often leave the interaction with a positive outcome. At least temporarily. But even after an interaction has concluded, I spend so much time dissecting every little thing I said, and trying to determine what that person took away from the conversation and what they think of me.
Before I get too off topic, I want to point out that I really did have a good time on the vacation with my family... I really did feel loved and connected. But during that same vacation, I had moments of feeling alone, depressed, and lost. And I guess that's what I'm trying to write about. That I can have a great time, even a great time for the majority of a certain event, but even at the highest moments of happiness and fun in my life, I can also feel those deep negative emotions, and I feel that I carry a lot of shame and confusion about it, and I fear to really be open and talk about it, especially in the moment with the people I am with.
I really don’t know what the answer is at this point. I just felt like I needed to write. Honestly sometimes I really don’t feel like I even know who the real authentic ‘me’ is. I feel like there are so many sides to me, but I don’t know how to acknowledge them… are they fully independent parts of me? Are they independent parts that come together to make a whole? Are they just feelings that come and go, but don’t define ‘me’? Or maybe each one is ‘me’ and aren’t separate at all? I don’t know. I don’t even know that that makes sense.
I value those that I have deep relationships with. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I feel comfortable being the most authentic with those I truly trust… and sometimes that includes the negative side of me that I usually try to keep hidden and suppressed.
I believe in God, I believe in the church. I know, at least in that area, how I want to live my life. But there are so many areas of my identity that I feel like aren’t set out clearly in my mind and lifestyle. I’m still trying to figure out how to be me. How to authentically interact with those around me, and what ‘authentic’ in those circumstances really means… because I think there’s a difference between conduct that is appropriate and conduct that is not… but I’m not sure where those lines and authenticity meet.
I have a lot of decisions before me right now… I’m at a big crossroads with my current job. I can either keep my current position, with some tweaks in the hours I work, or I can move up higher, accept a lot more responsibility, and there would be risk involved, but the potential benefits would be higher. I’m working on my spirituality again. It’s been a long time since I’ve read scriptures consistently, but ever since conference I’ve read at least one chapter from the Book of Mormon each night. I don’t know… life is confusing and stressful.
I’ll keep moving forward. I have a lot to figure out. Life keeps going, even if sometimes I wish it would slow down. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to best deal with loneliness, depression, and anxiety, and learn to be authentic to myself.