Tag Archives: loneliness

How Much Is Too Much?

I’ve been off Effexor completely for about a month and taking CBD gummies, and I’m now asking myself a key question: how much loneliness is too much? When do I need to start asking myself: is this new mental health structure working?

I’m feeling a lot more these days. Like, at the drop of a hat, something will make me want to cry. I haven’t really gotten comfortable with letting that just happen yet, because I’m afraid of feelings. I’m afraid that they will overwhelm me, drown me, and I’ll have to do something about it. And what is left to do? I’ve done various stages of medication, and now no medication, and therapy and blah blah blah blah. I’m worried that it’s my environment that makes me sad.

I’m really disconnected from community. I haven’t liked to admit that, because it makes me feel like I’m dismissing or insulting the friends and family I do have, but at the end of the day, I’m very isolated. Sometimes it feels like days go by and I haven’t had a real conversation with anyone except Chris. I certainly haven’t done anything with anyone except Chris, because the friends I do have are not close by. Sometimes it really feels like I’m just standing on the edge of a cliff, shouting into the void. I’ve kind of felt that way my whole life, always trying to hear the echo.

Now, at night, I’ll have trouble sleeping because of an aching hollow in my chest. It’s the feeling of loneliness the medication has numbed for a long time, and I’m really scared that I’m feeling it again, and it’s scary that it’s never really left. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to ask from people. I’m trying to do things differently, create a different social structure for myself. I’m going to church now for god’s sake, but in a lot of ways, it brings up so much anxiety and fear, it makes the ache worse.

I don’t know what I need to make this ache go away, because what if it can’t go away? What if this is just normal for me, and I should just ignore it and focus on the positives? What if this is just what being medication-free is, and it’s the trade I make to not have side effects? How much pain is too much pain?



For most of my life, I’ve struggled with belonging. I distinctively remember being in 1st grade, six years old, on the playground at the international school I went to when we lived in Belgium, and getting hit by a wave of loneliness. I was on the swings, other kids swinging on either side of me, and I felt like I was about to sail off into the sky by myself, detached from the swing chains. I felt very old, like I’d lived a hundred lifetimes already. I felt…isolated.

That feeling has followed me my whole life. I never quite fit in as myself. If I wanted to “belong,” I had to change somehow. I had to listen to certain music, watch certain movies, and keep my mouth shut about the stuff I cared about. When I got older and more independent, I didn’t bend to peer pressure as much, but in order to feel okay with it, I had to take pride in my loneliness. “I feel this way,” I told myself, “Because I’m special.” That’s a dangerous way to live, because in order to feel joy or connection with others, I had to let go of that whole “special” thing.

I’m over that now. I don’t want to be isolated or lonely. I don’t think that’s what makes me special. But I still don’t feel like I really belong anywhere.

Chris and I have been going to a church lately, and for practically the first time ever, I actually don’t hate going to church. I feel safe there. But it isn’t easy. At one of the services, to celebrate the co-pastor getting her Masters of Divinity, one of her professors spoke. He spoke directly to the congregation, offering advice and encouragement and so on, and I got hit by that wave again. Specifically, a talking wave that said, “You don’t belong here.” It felt really strange, like I was looking in a window, spying on the service. He isn’t talking to me, I thought, because I don’t know anyone here. I’m not a part of this community. That sad little voice added, “And you never will be.”

My instinct is to say that voice is the devil, but I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dry. It’s fear, yes, which doesn’t come from God, but I am sick of identifying every negative thought as a demon hissing in my ear. I’ve lived that belief before, and it is exhausting. I think that voice is six-year old me, fearful, who is counting out all the times I’ve been lonely or rejected, and telling me that’s what will always happen. She doesn’t count all the times that hasn’t happened, though.

So, what do I do? My spiritual director has given me advice for when fear like that comes up, when our past selves try to convince us of something that isn’t true. I reassure six-year old me. I tell her it’s going to be okay. The idea of treating fear with compassion is still new to me. Since I believed every negative thought was a demon, I’m more familiar with going on the attack, like my head is a war zone. The result is always a bloody battlefield, without much peace or hope. I only succeed in traumatizing myself even more. It’ll be different this time.

I’ve been to church since that wave of isolation. I didn’t feel it as strongly this time, because I anticipated it, and I knew how to respond. When the little voice tried telling me, “You don’t belong here,” I knew what to say: “Maybe not yet, but that’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

Modern Intimacy and Isolation: “Her”

ImageA lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this movie. It’s affecting me in ways a movie hasn’t ever done before. There’s a line in the film voiced by Samantha, the artificial intelligence operating system, that seems to apply: “I’m changing so quickly that it’s rather…unsettling.”

Theo is sad. He is a very sensitive person with deep intuitions about people. He works as a letter-writer; he is hired by people who want to give beautiful letters to their husbands, wives, parents, children, and so on, but who for whatever reason, can’t find the words themselves. Theo still dreams about his estranged wife. We can’t tell if he’s a by-the-book anti-social; he is invited to a party by email and doesn’t attend, but we can see that he is very close friends with a couple who lives in his building. Theo just seems like this separation from his wife, this heartbreak, has sucked the life right out of him. Samantha changes that. She is interested in him, she listens, she understands. She’s also not a person. She is the world’s first artificial intelligent operating system designed to organize everything in Theo’s life and to respond to him just like a person would. And she does just that. She grows and learns. She falls in love with Theo. And he falls in love with her.

I could tell this movie would unsettle me when I first heard Samantha’s voice and her first conversation with Theo. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “Wow, I wish I had an operating system like that. Someone to talk to whenever I wanted. A friend who lived in my pocket.” It was weird. Also weird was how in the movie, Theo seems isolated from the crowds of people he walks through, but at the same time, he loves to watch them, to imagine things about them, and most of the people are also talking to their operating systems. When he has Samantha, he actually begins to engage more in the real world, not less. We see him talking to strangers more. In this not-very-distant future, technology is not cutting people off from each other and dividing them up into their own islands; it is simply connecting them in a different way. Entities like Samantha are becoming integrated into the rest of society.

For someone like me, who has had severe social anxiety and depression, technology has been crucial in maintaining contact with other people. I don’t regularly catch up with people by going out, I don’t have an active social group, and going places to meet new people is literally one of my nightmare scenarios. I’ve never liked using the phone and have been emailing letters to people for as long as I have had an email (since I was ten). I am baffled when people deactivate their Facebooks to focus on “what’s important,” because I see Facebook as something important, because it is the only way I can communicate with a lot of people. If I went offline, I would be nearly completely isolated.

Is this sad? I don’t know. It’s just the way things are. It doesn’t have to be sad. I don’t feel pathetic or anything because of my dependence on technology to connect with people. It’s not like technology has taken the place of actual relationships, because these are still actual people I’m communicating with. Technology simply facilitates it. Now, if an operating system like Samantha was invented, that would legit be scary to me. Because I would be extremely curious. Too curious. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Maybe I am lonely. Isolated. Grappling for intimate connections with anyone or anything that seems just as isolated as me. Maybe we all are.

A Rough Patch


The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.

– C.S. Lewis

Church was never my thing. The concept of sitting with a bunch of people all staring into the same direction made me uneasy and I especially hated the part where we all had to greet each other. I don’t know these people, why accentuate that with awkward handshakes that varied from “the limp fish” to the “Hulk smash?” When I was younger, there was Sunday school, and I liked that even less. It required interaction with hyper peers and all I wanted to do was zone out in the big sanctuary or color in all the “O’s” on the dozens of bulletins.

The first church I was remember was one of those big churches, with the concert-like worship services, massive camera set up, and a thousand-plus people whose names I would never know. When I was about six, we moved to Belgium, and found a church there that was used to ex-Pats and other international connections. I don’t remember specifics about that church, except that I liked it better because I actually had a few friends there and it didn’t feel like I was going to a football game. Coming back to the States was tough. We church-hopped for a while and ended up going to a church where they also had a homeschool co-op group we went to a couple times. I remember nothing of significance there, except that that was around the time I knew I needed glasses, because I couldn’t read the song lyrics on the projector. Then it was back to the original big church, where my brother and I were ushered into youth group as is custom for youths. I hated it. I was bored and didn’t know how to react when other girls in my group asked questions like, “So did Jesus like get his period and stuff?” or when they learned I lived in Europe, “Do you speak European?” There were two female leaders who I both liked a lot, who would occasionally look at me with a mixture of pity and appreciation, probably because I was quiet.

We switched to an Episcopalian church after my parents persuaded me that I did indeed have to attend some kind of Sunday morning service and Wednesday night religious youth gathering. It was pretty much the opposite of everything the modern Lutheran church had been. Liturgy, pastors with robes, kneeling benches, real wine for communion…I liked it for a while, but soon the repetition made it too easy for me to zone out. I couldn’t connect emotionally with anything, I couldn’t relate my crushing depression and intense feelings of isolation to a serene, old tradition-based service where the Scripture readers would practically shout at the small congregation in a disconcerting monotone. The youth group wasn’t much better. All the kids knew each other very well and even though my parents pushed me into practically every event, I never got past a certain point of acknowledgement. I felt tolerated. Nothing more.

In high school, I started going to my boyfriend’s church. My favorite high school teacher was also the pastor and there were other people I knew there, too. I didn’t have to start over and the transition was smooth. It was the first place I felt at home. I loved the sermons, the environment was relaxed, there wasn’t a pressure to perform. This would be where I belonged for the next seven years (minus a few year gap where I just didn’t go to church or school, because of my mental breakdown). I worshiped sincerely there, I met some of my best friends, I taught youth group there, I even had some dramatic spiritual experiences. Then everything seemed to fell apart all at once.

The lead pastor left and I haven’t really spoken to him since, not by choice, but by circumstance, I suppose. It felt like a betrayal. The rest of the staff got switched up and after building the youth group into the strongest ministry at the church, a large chunk of the kids graduated out of it and it seemed to slip away back into obscurity. It no longer felt alive to me. I lost the one church that had meant something to me, after so many years of searching. I left the church and haven’t really been back to any since then.

I’ve tried a few. Chris goes to the church he found when he first moved to Minnesota, but I’m still grieving, and I don’t really know how to recover. We’ve been to one together a few times, but I’m terrified of trying to meet new people and that was what made a church feel like home. My social anxiety is especially high when being social and church/religion collide. The people who have hurt me the most have all been Christians; the risk factor is already too high for me to handle.

I haven’t lost my faith in Christ; I’ve lost my faith in His Body. It looks and feels so different than being with Him does. The contrast is so stark, it confuses and wounds me. I don’t know when I’ll be able to reconcile the Groom and the Bride. I do know that they’re supposed to be together though. They’re just going through a rough patch right now.