Isolation and Mental Wellness…

…are incompatible. At least that’s what every Professional has told me since I was a wee Bipolarling . Self-isolation is one of the diagnostic tick boxes for clinical depression in the DSM–5. It can act as a harbinger of worsening symptoms and suicide.

But what happens when isolation, or Social Distancing, isn’t something we choose? If the studies about what solitary confinement does to a prisoner’s brain apply—even to a small degree— a different kind of crisis might be around the bend for those of us Around the Bend.  And perhaps for the Neuro-Normal as well.

Or not.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve had it drilled into me that being alone too much is BAD. Over the past two years, I’ve gotten used to not interacting with another soul for days. I’m finding that the less I interact with people, the less I’m able to interact, like the prisoners who suffered solitary confinement.  I can see and feel that socializing is a muscle that needs regular use to keep from being atrophied.  But my current therapist isn’t alarmed. I’m older now—geriatric—and she says solitude in that age bracket is normal.


I’m not sure what to think about that. Do I actually have permission to stop trying so hard to make connections? It would be like ditching the bra when you get home—such a relief! Or is there something more subtle going on. Depression in the elderly is more common than most people think. So, could solitude and depression still be in play? Is some level of depression considered (by Professionals) normal for older folk?

My therapist thinks not.  She says elder folk suffer more situational depression from death of loved ones, loss of income, physical debilitation and the like.  In my mind, that’s a lot of depression— situational or not.

I don’t want to atrophy.  I don’t want the World Brain to atrophy.  But I know it takes a lot of work to push past the barriers of isolation—work that’s gotten harder and harder to justify in my own cramped mind.  Will the World be willing to work that hard when the pandemic fades?


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kiki
    Apr 09, 2020 @ 09:28:36

    That, my dear friend, is the 1Mio$ question, cleverer heads than yours and mine, we like to have replies to! I think you formulate your feelings extremely well and I wonder if you cd help yr horribly conflicted gov.ment a bit with some “simple common sense”. Of which you have, I hasten to add, much more than many I know, who think they know it all. Be well, isolated, alone but not lonely, I hope.


  2. Catherine Cheng, MD
    Apr 09, 2020 @ 09:59:30

    Sandy Sue, thank you for this post… So much complexity here. ‘Finding connection’ despite physical distancing is something I keep thinking, saying, and reading; and it’s easier said than done. I hope you are able to find and maintain the connections that hold you up through this time, and that those who want to connect with you find you, too. And then when the current crisis is over, perhaps those new forms of connection can persist and hold you up even higher than before, and protect you against the next crisis?


    • Sandy Sue
      Apr 09, 2020 @ 10:09:49

      I was so hoping you’d weigh in here, even with ALL you’re doing now and ALL the people you’re supporting. Thank you, Catherine. I think of you often and send Light & Love into your Mission.


      • Catherine Cheng, MD
        Apr 09, 2020 @ 15:56:26

        Thank you, Sandy… I’m not doing much right now, mostly at home, supporting colleagues from afar, looking for ways to add value not on the front lines… On behalf of all of us, thank you for staying home. I hope it all ends sooner than we all expect.

  3. Val Boyko
    Apr 09, 2020 @ 15:54:47

    Interesting musings Sandy Sue. I feel connected to you 💛


  4. Writer Lori
    Apr 10, 2020 @ 08:44:27

    I so admire your ability to articulate these complex feelings so eloquently, Sandy. And for what it’s worth I, like Val, feel connected to you. Your magnificent artwork makes me laugh, cry, and pause to reflect. IMHO, you connect with others in a very special way. Sending good thoughts….


  5. jinjerstanton
    Apr 16, 2020 @ 17:32:31

    Are you an introvert by nature—not just illness? Do the professionals take such a thing into consideration? Just wondering. I am an introvert and I am not having trouble (though I do have a housemate). Many of my students are.


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