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A man sits on the ground with his back against a door, light from a window shines on her and a cat approaches with concern

I Think We're Alone Now: Isolating With Depression

My friends and family often ask me why I don't go out more often. They know, after many years of knowing my mental health struggles, that I feel uplifted and happier when I spend time outside or with friends.

I know that to be true as well, so why is it that I don't spend more time away from my apartment?

Why do I choose to self-isolate?

The short answer is depression, a lack of energy, the sometimes-impossible task of rolling out of bed to put on shoes, etc. The long answer is also depression, but with some very important asterisks attached to it.

What happens when an introvert develops depression? That was a question that I found myself answering frequently as I furthered my mental health journey.

As an introvert, I prefer solitude

Introverts are traditionally people who prefer calm, quiet environments, or solitude, instead of lively parties or other large gatherings. Introverts tend to replenish their energy or capabilities after spending time alone, while extroverts recharge spending time with others.

A common stereotype for introverts is that they don't like spending time with others. I resonate greatly with that stereotype. If I have a choice to go to a busy party with dozens of people, drinking, and loud music, or to stay at home, reading books with my cat, I'm going to choose my cat and books every single time.

Isolation during a depressive episode

However, one of the more obvious symptoms of my depressive episodes is my tendency to isolate myself.

I am somewhat known for disappearing off the face of the earth for weeks at a time, only to emerge on the other side exhausted and struggling to put one foot in front of the other. These episodes start off as positive, energy recharging times that quickly spiral into uncontrolled depression.

Is it depression or something else?

One of my biggest battles in the ever-constant marathon towards recovery has been recognizing what is recharging from extensive socialization and what is the start of an episode of the TV series that I don't want to watch.

I have a 50 percent success rate in determining which is which, despite my and my therapist best efforts. That line is difficult to locate on good days, much less in the middle of depressive episodes.

Another hurdle to being social

That line is only further muddled because of my deafness. I wear hearing aids, technical marvels that amplify sound to ensure I can follow along and participate in conversations. However, my hearing aids amplify all sound, including background noise and high-pitched, headache-inducing noise.

Listen to the cars roar past, the thudding of people's footsteps, the whoosh of swinging doors, the Bible Study group at the next table over, the bass pounding over the speakers, and try to separate those noises from the person sitting in front of you, whispering softly.

Isolating to avoid sensory overload

I struggle greatly with sensory overload, which is only mitigated by time spent alone without my hearing aids activated. One hour alone turns into 2, which becomes a day, and then all of a sudden, a week flies past.

I'm now trapped in my apartment by the fear of auditory overstimulation, kickstarting a depressive episode. All I can do now is pick up the pieces and manage the worst symptoms in my day-to-day life.

Grateful for my consistent sources of joy

It's not all bad, though. Days spent alone are opportunities to get to know myself better, where every small step is a victory. Over the years, I've grown quite fond of myself despite the harsh "reality" that depression tries to force onto me.

I've found that even in the midst of depressive isolation, some things remain constant. My cat, music, books, games, all of these I can engage with all by myself and bring me such joy.

Embracing my support network

There are days where I find myself able to spend precious time and limited energy with others. Those days remind me that although I need my introvert recharge time, I still need the community and others' support. Sometimes I have to throw myself out of bed and walk down to the local coffee shop, no matter how loudly depression screams otherwise.

It is true that my bad days outnumber my good days, but I know that I am never truly alone. My family and friends are always there to help, even if it's on the other side of a closed door.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.