Every human being goes through times when they feel isolated from others, if not physically, then socially or emotionally. There is a basic human need to connect, to feel part of something, to feel like we belong somewhere, to not feel like we are missing out. For those with mental health issues or physical disabilities, there can be actual barriers in our way, like an environment that we can’t tolerate or a building we can’t get into, or any other reason we struggle to connect. The reasons we feel isolated may vary because each of us is different. What matters is how we handle it. So, what can we do to stay connected even when we feel isolated from those around us?
One way I have dealt with feelings of isolation is by reading. I can go wherever a book takes me. I know that novels are fictional, and yet I feel like I’m exploring other places, other times, and other perspectives. Reading about the struggles of the characters gives me ideas and tools that I can apply to my life. Even though reading is a solitary activity, I never feel alone as the characters come to life.
I have discovered that becoming genuinely interested in others is the first step to developing connections. If you have genuine interest, you are going to want to connect. It is a skill that does not come naturally to me, but I am working on it. Connecting to others is a great way to handle feelings of social and emotional isolation. If this sounds scary to you, it can be as simple as sending a text message, writing a note, making a phone call, inviting someone over, or meeting in a park. Start small and keep it simple.
I also find that uplifting music helps me feel less isolated. Recently I have been enjoying the music from Dear Evan Hansen. The main character is a 17-year-old with severe social anxiety who feels socially and emotionally isolated. At the beginning of the musical, he is figuratively waving through a window and wondering if anyone can see him and if anyone is waving back. Later in the musical, there is a song called “Disappear,” and its message is that no one deserves to be forgotten and no one deserves to fade away. Even if you feel like you’re barely in the background and the world’s passed you by, you still matter. “If you never get around to doing some remarkable thing / That doesn’t mean that you’re not worth remembering.” If these lyrics are helpful to you, I recommend watching the music video, which was released on YouTube for Mental Health Awareness Month in 2018.
There is no easy fix for feelings of social and emotional isolation. Different strategies work for different people, so the key is to find what works for you. Things that can help lessen it include reading books, finding small ways to reach out to other people, and listening to uplifting music. “Disappear” invites us to “think of the people who need to know” that they matter, and since they need to know, “you need to show them.” We can all do our small part to connect and show people that no one deserves to be forgotten or to fade away. If you strive to help others feel less isolated, you will feel less isolated yourself.