Colleagues and family members of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox have launched a campaign to tackle loneliness.Mrs Cox had started work on the cross-party campaign before she was killed in her constituency last year.The commission, in her memory, will work with 13 charities including Age UK and Action for Children to come up with ideas for change.They will provide findings as part of monthly campaigns on people such as new mums, carers and the elderly.
I think this is a good thing but I wonder how much mental health issues are taken into account when taking about loneliness. Of course social anxiety is probably one the most serious conditions and combined with depression can be devastating. I often don’t have meaningful conversations for weeks but the social anxiety creates intense doubt and lack of confidence so just being in the presence of other people has always been quite unsuccessful. If you are socially awkward, have no job, no relationship and are as miserable as shit I think it’s a bit far fetched to imagine going to some club or meeting every week and assume that you will learn social skills or will make many friends. In reality being anxious not only makes its hard to make friends or even have conversations but also it was patently obvious that people disliked me and so avoided me in future. This of course creates even greater paranoia and avoidance so demanding you just keep doing the same thing despite anxiety and depression is not always accurate. I always wonder if much social anxiety advice is simply for people with moderate shyness and assumes they do great once they start talking.
Searching for the news article on loneliness today I came across yet another self help forum offering help but despite the urge to join I know there is little point as almost all forums actually make me feel more lonely and even more depressed as I almost always never get on with anyone. This is of course even worse now that I am older and most forums are used by much younger people. Its also because the people advising using forums always seem utterly amazed that a depressed lonely person with paranoia and no confidence doesn’t make witty banter and make friends or that this mad behaviour repels normal people. It’s like the idea of going to meet ups. Experience has taught me that my anxiety makes other people feel awkward and avoid me so the quite stupid and false idea that I am just overreacting is utterly wrong. After so many years and so many failures I think it’s also quite natural to assume people don’t like my personality at all so the paranoia and negativity just get worse. Therefore getting angry at someone for being negative is quite ignorant and stupid and makes them feel even worse.Working in the same company for 20 years where I got on with so few people and at times felt hated just confirmed all this.
Shy people are egotistical, vain, self centred, narcissistic? I have heard all this before over the years and that part of having SA is all about your ego as you must think you are so important if everyone is looking at or thinking about you when you go out. I think this concept is mostly balls and heaps even more guilt on people often already racked with guilt for something they did not create or want. Its similar to the idea still having shyness past a certain age is all your own fault for not doing enough to get rid of it and so its really self inflicted and you have no one to blame but yourself. Of course many people who have had some success overcoming their SA still relapse and feel guilty for not doing enough and like nothing better than to inflict this guilt on everyone else too.
In reality you think everyone is looking at you as you see everyone else as a potential enemy. Like a wounded animal on the plains of the Serengeti.This is often from experience as you have had negative events happen to you from school days on-wards. It’s also because there is a vast history of people picking on anyone who is different and of bullying. This happens with people with physical disabilities and despite our enlightened times when they come on TV they often talk of nasty and quite vile bullying and comments said to them from other kids at school, walking down the street or if they force themselves to go to clubs, bars etc and try to be normal.Now they also get abuse online. Despite the fact that the vast majority of people don’t say anything if it’s a common occurrence even once every few weeks out of thousands of people you pass in a busy city this still puts barriers up and creates a mind set of paranoia.
This is often the same for people with mental health problems. Despite the fact that people don’t know of your condition, after years of often isolation and not being liked our minds still starts to see everyone as a potential enemy and all the bad thoughts return. In fact we often manifest our mental problems in physical reactions so people can see that there is something wrong with us and do see us as strange. For instance I blushed, stammered, looked awkward and nervous and as I have said before even got punched in the face for walking strangely so I was on the lookout all the time for potential scumbags. I also got disliked for simply being quiet and boring during many years at work. It has f**k all to do with thinking you are more important that other people, its more to do with that you have a history of not fitting in and not being liked so your brain sees potential enemies everywhere. This may be seen as self centred as you are thinking about yourself all the time but its in the same way that an injured person thinks about their injury above all else and tries to prevent further pain. It’s more like a defence mechanism.
Without any shadow of a doubt one the most irritating pieces of advice for social anxiety is that you must do and go to everything and never turn an invitation down and then when you do go somewhere and act shy or anxious people still criticise you. Someone said on the forum that they were criticised for not dancing at a club or even going to a pub or club alone. I’ve heard men criticised for not talking to girls and then when they try, not saying the right things, having a weak voice, blushing, acting awkward etc. They are criticised for standing around and not making an effort to mix, in fact not being normal from the off.
This of course is the very reason so many socially anxious people stay avoidant and dont go to places any more as they fear looking different and being ridiculed. Then if they are already thought of as no fun, boring, a bit weird no one wants to befriend them or go out with them anyway so rather than get better they get worse as they are isolated from any social groups and have no way back in.When you do try on a good day when you feel confident for a change people reject you as they have already classified you as weird or not good enough so your confidence is sent back to rock bottom. Bearing this in mind I dont really understand the insistence still on so many self help forums that continuous social exposure will make you better. Then the idea that if you get worse its somehow your fault for not pushing yourself enough seems to totally ignore that failure and ridicule in social situations are the very reasons you get worse. The idea that no matter how bad your anxiety is you just keep doing things and then improve is absolutely complete bollocks as every time you have a negative experience you totally relapse again.
Oh and Theresa May, how great to go on about mental health and raising awareness. Perhaps loads more people will now go to their doctors for help and find that they are actually vastly overworked, underfunded and that most doctors have no idea how to help. Have some tablets, have a few weeks in group therapy after a 6 month wait if you are lucky to even get offered therapy and then f**k off and dont come back. The only thing that can improve mental health services is vastly more money.
I want to turn on the lights
I want to keep your hopes alive
So where do I begin
To help you believe again
Makers of secret planes
Keepers of our last remains
Dream of a holy state
In a nightmare time
I spent the week before Christmas at my friends place. It was nice although I came back on the 23rd so spent Christmas week alone. I have tried to stay calm and not dwell on things and also keep to come kind of routine. I had watched some more youtube videos on CBT before Christmas and they depressed me so much I felt awful for days and began to think about suicide again. No wonder I choose to be avoidant. CBT for anxiety makes me feel more hopeless so any optimism collapses.On Christmas day I went to the cemetery for the 4th year running to visit my parents grave and new years eve I watched the fireworks on TV as I always have, even in 1999, yes I am that old. The highlight of the year was undoubtedly staying for a week in Cornwall with 5 other people although I only knew one of them so I was quite anxious. I wish I could find some optimism for the year ahead but its hard after all these years with no change and seeing no way out.
As usual I did a Flickr album of my year in 100 pictures;