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Social isolation has made me depressed: Nick's story

The following story was told to HOPE Therapy and Wellness. Names have been changed for privacy.

 

In late 2019, I moved from California to a small town in the Midwest. At first, I really liked shifting gears. Life felt a lot slower than I was used to, and I really liked the whole activity of resetting and rediscovering myself in a place no one knew me. I felt like this was a real opportunity for me to grow and figure out where I wanted to go, with very little pressure.


It all hit me really fast. I got sick during the first wave of the pandemic, and it was really hard. I never went to the hospital, so that was good, but I was really sick. And for the first time, I think I realized, I was alone.


I didn’t have friends yet, just people I knew at work, but no one who would come over and make me soup. I wasn’t about to ask my parents to fly out to see me – my pride wouldn’t have any of that. So yeah, for the first time, I was having to go at it on my own, and when you’re sick, everything’s elevated anyway, so not only was I physically sick, I got pretty emotionally sick too. Really fast.


Even after I recovered, I don’t know… I don’t think I ever considered how hard making friends at this age would be. I came from a pretty tight-knit family, and had always lived in the same neighborhood, so the kids I hung out with in sixth grade were the same kids I graduated high school with. We all went to different colleges around the country, but there were enough of us who stayed nearby, so I never felt alone. When I decided to move for this new job opportunity, I think I was really cocky about it. You know, if my friends Joe and Sam could do it, why couldn’t I? I’m a nice guy, I’m smart, I’m good with money – I thought I had it together.


I still think I have it together. On paper, anyway. But you know why I think I’m so sad? Why I’m so depressed? I’m really (expletive) lonely. Guys aren’t supposed to admit that. At least how I grew up, you’re not supposed to say things like, “Man, I need a hug,” or “I just need a friend to watch the game with me so I don’t feel like such a loser.” For a long time, I don’t even think I could admit that to myself. Now, though, it’s been a while, and I’ve really thought about it, thanks in part – okay, thanks in a big part – to my therapist. We had one session and she just kept asking me and asking me these questions and all of a sudden it was like, “Bam.” Wow. I’m lonely. I’m really, really lonely.


It’s been two years, and social isolation I think is what has contributed to my mental health decline and my distress. I work a lot, but I work from home now, and I guess life isn’t as I imagined it would be out here. I’ve had a really hard time connecting with anyone. I used to think, “Well, it’s because I’m single and all the guys at work are married,” and that kind of self-pity thing. I even started thinking, “It’s me. I’m depressed so I’m repelling everyone.” I’d even think, “You can’t get happier until you make connections, but you can’t connect until you’re happier.”


At least now I know, I’ve given it a label, and I just intentionally make it a goal every day to at least be friendly with people and challenge myself to celebrate that little win. Even if I don’t find a best friend out here, at least I’m trying. I haven’t gone to a game or the movies or to golf with a group of buddies in a long time and now I’m wondering if I’m actually the issue – if I’ve now made my depression my identity and I’m the only one blocking myself from these friendships I know I really need.

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