Someone asked this question today. (Thank you, because I really had nothing to write about and was gonna take th easy way out and sleep tonight. ;])
What do you do then, when you’re so lonely in a crowd?
Well, you always have options. If it’s a crowded street, you can continue standing in the middle of the crowd. Or you can try weaving through people, you can sit down, you can walk a little or you can remain standing there if you choose.
But you’re never stuck. Even after you’ve made choice 1, you can continue choosing: You can look up at the sky, you can close your eyes and think of nice things. You can plan to take a trip to a nearby town, go see a movie at the cinema alone (it’s an amazing feeling to be alone at the movies), go see/do something new. You can plan to take a hike all by yourself or to try to write. (Or if you’re really tired of doing things alone, you can promise yourself to log on to the national Web site meetup.com and meet new people through your interests.)
Or you can start pondering things. Your mind and inherent creativity are amazing resources that can keep you entertained forever. Think things like why is the world this way? What do I really think about God?
But don’t think of the pain. Acknowledge that it’s there, then say, “Pain, I’ve not time for you right now.” Then go on to other things.
The trick is to keep going. Objects in motion stay in motion, some wise guy once said. Well, I think he was right. If you stop and concentrate on how bad you feel, you’ll lose the game very fast. The pain will suck all the amazingness straight out of you. Like a drug addict or a vampire, as long as it feeds off you, it thrives.
So you have to acknowledge it in the crowd, then let it go. Try this after the above: After the crowd subsides, go home, sit on your bed and bawl. Cry your heart out, simmer in your sadness. Crying will not only make you feel amazing the next day, it also clears your eyes and makes them sparkly. 🙂 See? You feel better already at the thought.
The thing is, I’m not just pulling this out of thin air. I’ve practiced. I know it. I used to be depressed, and everything felt like crap. Everything. What brought me out of it? Distractions, little by little. It’s hard to come out of a bad feeling, especially when it’s legit, and the bad things that have happened to your life have only logically led to you feeling this way.
But you deserve much better than being sad, especially after having found yourself in such tragic life circumstances. That’s the guiding thought — that it’s your right to do nice things. So do them: Challenge yourself to climb a mountain on a Sunday. Spend an afternoon reading your favorite magazines. Have a comedy film marathon. Dress up really nice and go out with a friend. Do something you’ve never done before.
But that’s all for later, to deal with the aftermath of the shock of being in a crowd and feeling so bad. What you do right then? You take a deep breath and acknowledge how you feel, then you think of how amazingly strong you are for feeling so shitty yet putting up with it. You visualize the feeling you’ll feel when this situation is over, the relief, the way you’ll look back and think, “Man, I’m so glad I got through that. I’m so strong for putting up with feelings like that without making a scene or going off on someone or having a public breakdown. I’m practically made of steel, because that feeling was so devastating I felt it was consuming me.” Then you high-five yourself and do all those nice things you were thinking about — movies, magazines, writing, etc.
In summary, the recipe to surviving that pain is to:
1. acknowledge the pain,
2. understand that it’s only normal you feel that way because something bad happened in the past that it’s made you feel like this, and were anyone else in your shoes, they’d feel the same way,
3. realize that you have a well of strength for enduring so well, because yes, anyone would feel the same but not everyone would come through it with such grace,
4. reward yourself for being strong with things that make you happy — fun, relaxing things, big or small —
5. remember hormones (this is my roomie’s tip, and it’s a good one): Often, we think that when we feel bad it’s directly related to our life, but much of the time it’s not. in fact, much of the time, our ups and downs are related to hormones — ESPECIALLY for women. So remember that, and suddenly, knowing you can’t do anything about biology, you’ll instantly feel better.
I really believe all this. No matter how huge your pain is, tiny distractions all add up to days of comfort. Comfort is often disrupted by bouts of unhappiness, but as long as you remember our battle cry, aurrr!, you can survive almost anything.
One last r to add to our battle cry: reach for instant comfort. No, not a cookie off the shelf. But just like you did today when you just dropped it plain and simple: “what do you do when the pain of being alone in the middle of a crowd is simply too much?” Reach out to a friend, online presence, peer or stranger. Be honest and direct. Ask for what you want. Confide. Sharing a feeling, no matter how small, makes the other person feel connected, and they in turn, may help you with some thought or tip you hadn’t thought of before. And no matter how deep their tip is, that interaction will make you feel connected. Feeling connected to another person works insta-magic.
And finally, and I can’t believe it’s me recommending this, the best person to confide in to help us through things we can’t talk to others in our immediate life about: a psychiatrist. The first time it was suggested to me, I was offended. I thought they were calling me crazy or trying to get rid of me. But they weren’t; they were trying to help me. PsychologyToday.com has this amazing tool, where you just type in your zip code and what you’re looking for help with, and it lists psychiatrists in your area along with their training, fees and even pictures.
I’ve been too scared to go to therapy myself, but I finally emailed three psychiatrist last night after using that online tool. It’s my own challenge for the new year to try it out.