I’m an introvert who lives alone in a small community so social distancing, social isolation, is nothing new to me. I’ve done it all my life. However, this time it’s different. Previously, if I wanted to I could visit friends or family. If I wanted to I could go to a movie, visit a bookstore or a library, go to a mall. Currently, none of these things are possible. So it’s social isolation of a different kind. And it’s this difference, this forced isolation, that’s dangerous. For the truth is, no-one is prepared for it.
No-one, that is, except those who already know the dangers of forced isolation and have learned tools to manage it, those who periodically suffer from forced isolation from a different source, their illness. I’m one of those, someone who undergoes periods of deep depression that come with forced isolation. Forced because it comes from the illness, not from choice, just as our current social isolation comes from an illness, not through a choice.
All isn’t lost, however. You can manage this social isolation, this social distancing, just as I manage my mental illness, and the tools are much the same. And they’re deceptively simple. Here’s what I’ve been doing to occupy myself during this difficult time.
The most distracting thing I’ve done is set up my desktop computer. In my old apartment, I didn’t have room for it so it languished in a box. Now I’ve got more space so out it came.
Realizing that it was massively out-of-date, I began with a factory reset and then the updating of all of my software. It took hours, too many hours. Each update leading to another, a domino effect of updates. It took so long that I made a decision – enough was enough! I decided I’d explore an operating system I’d used many years ago, GNU/Linux. So I downloaded many variations of it and played about with them until I found the one that I liked. It also happened to be one with loads of online supports.
I decided to install Ubuntu and I’m glad that I did. The mistakes that I’ve made in getting it set up just so, have left me uninstalling and reinstalling it quite frequently. Each has been a massive distraction, forcing me to concentrate on what I’m doing to the exclusion of everything else. And I’m learning. I’m putting this old brain back to work, remembering the way GNU/Linux used to be and admiring the progress that’s been made over the intervening years.
Now I admit, that’s a pretty extreme distraction even if it’s very effective. Not everyone has the inclination to work on a computer. But there are other things that I’ve been doing as well. I’ve been writing. For a long time, I was in a fog, part writer’s block but mostly depression. I seem to have come out of this depression and have been filled with the desire to write. It’s something that I enjoy, even if I’m not all that good at it, lol. So I’ve been writing a lot, posting to this blog, creating new thoughts. That has been and continues to be, a marvellous distraction.
I’ve been going outside to walk, perhaps not as frequently as I might. My community is small and there’s plenty of room to walk alone without fear of troubling someone. When I do meet someone on my path, we both give each other ample room, respecting each other in this difficult time. The walks themselves have been, are, uplifting. It seems that nature is more present when people are scarce. This allows me to be more present, more aware, more now.
I’ve been reading. Depression robbed me of the joy of reading. It robbed me of the ability to read for a very long time. That joy and that ability have returned and I’m taking full advantage of it. This allows me to escape from this forced isolation into other worlds. And since I switch my reading between fiction and non-fiction, I’m often stretching my knowledge, learning, which adds to the distraction that reading provides.
Watching tv has been another distraction. I didn’t subscribe to cable in my old apartment but decided to do so in my new home. I’m glad that I did. There’ve been many nights when watching tv has kept my thoughts away from the horrors outside my door. Thanks to the generosity of my son I can also view Netflix though I don’t do that much.
Watching the sunrise is another distraction I enjoy. I’m fortunate that the view from my window is quite spectacular and I frequently see a marvellous sunrise. I’ve taken to photographing them and posting them to Twitter. Seeing that sunrise, enjoying the stillness of the morning, listening to morning birds, all coalesce to make my day better.
I haven’t yet begun to paint or colour, but I will once I finish my unpacking. My supplies are still in boxes waiting for that to happen. Colour is very beneficial to me, often reflecting my mood or uplifting it. Once my supplies are out, I’ll put colour to use.
I’ve been listening to music. Like reading, this was an activity that depression robbed me of. It took a very long time for the joy to return. But now that it has, I’m exploring my joy with a vengeance, lol. I’ve an extensive discography on a portable hard-drive that I need to catalogue. Until then, I make extensive use of Spotify. Again, thanks to my son I’ve got a premium subscription so no annoying ads.
I meditate. My mornings begin with a short meditation. I sit in silence, gather myself and breathe. I ease into my day, readying myself for what it may bring. If the sun is out, I’ll spend time meditating on the beauty of the morning, on the joy found in listening to the sounds of morning. I remain silent but I open myself up to the sounds of life and the warmth of the day.
So you see, there are ways to distract yourself from isolation and they aren’t that difficult. All they take is a decision, one small decision, to go for a walk, to pick up a book, to turn on a show or a song, or to sit in stillness. It could be a decision to go for a drive, to write, to sing, to dance, to chat with a friend. If you garden, now might be the time to start getting things ready. Or if you’re a craftsperson or hobbyist, now might be the best time to pick up these crafts or hobbies again. One small decision is all it takes.
I hope this post has given you ideas on how you can cope with the isolation caused by social distancing. If you have ideas of your own, please share them. I’m sure that they’ll be of benefit to others as well.
Image by John Dickson