Lifelines-Exploring Life Issues

When You're Sad and Lonely...

"No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."

- - Meditation XVII
John Donne

No one wants to feel lonely, yet each of us has felt alone at some point in our life. Perhaps it was as a single person, just transplanted to a new city and job. Perhaps it was after the diagnosis of an illness, though you were surrounded by family and friends. Or perhaps it was a conscious decision to isolate yourself, having been hurt by others once too often. Human beings are social creatures, and most of us are not built to be hermits. This is evident even with infants who, though they cannot understand the concept of loneliness, suffer from a condition called "failure to thrive" when they do not receive enough attention and physical contact.

Feeling alone when we want to be in communion with others can lead to feelings of sadness. Ironically, when people are depressed, the last thing they want is interaction with others. This can be a vicious cycle. This social isolation is one of the symptoms mental health professionals look for when diagnosing depression. Other symptoms are disturbed sleep (being unable to sleep or wanting to sleep all the time), a change in appetite, low energy, a loss of interest in the things one once enjoyed, sadness, concentration problems, feelings of worthlessness, crying and even thoughts of self-harm.

If you find yourself with several of these symptoms, and they last more than a few days, there is help. A competent mental health professional can diagnose depression and make recommendations for other treatment options. These might include ongoing "talk therapy" and a referral to a physician for treatment with antidepressants.

People who feel depressed often feel that they are a burden to others. They imagine that no one wants them around and that they are unloved. It is important to remember that though it may feel this way, there are others who care. If you are a spiritual person, when you are depressed you may feel that God has abandoned you. In reality this is the time when God carries you closest, waiting for you to reach out from and with your pain and sadness so that, with the help of God, your broken spirit can begin to mend. There are also people who are there to help. Crisis hotlines are operated 24 hours a day. There are family members, friends and coworkers who will listen to and support you, if you will allow them to do so.

One of the most effective treatments for depression is activity. Though it may feel as though it takes every ounce of energy you can muster, forcing yourself to rejoin life, getting active and reaching out to family or old friends counteracts depression. When you let others support you, you'll find that you are not alone, and you'll be on the road to recovery.

Catherine Morton, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist
Samaritan Counseling Center

Find out more about pastoral counseling.


Copyright ©1999-2007