Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Belonging

It is characteristic of alcoholics to feel alone in a crowd. It is also a symptom of my depression--feeling alone, separate, or on the outside looking in. The cruel irony is that I've been a member of defined groups most of my life. I've always been an athlete, and athletes spend a lot of time together! In high school and college, my teammates and I practiced together for hours every day, played games together evenings and weekends, and then gathered to socialize and party with whatever time we had left. Despite the constant contact, I recall never feeling I belonged to any of those groups with whom I'd spent all that time.

In my professional and personal life since college, not much has changed. Though I've continued to participate in many groups, I've always felt like an isolated cog within a connected crowd. Whether I've been with runners, church members, or coworkers, I've been on the outside looking in. I've never felt like an integrated part of the whole.

Perhaps some of this has been my doing. It is certainly safer to keep my distance. It's harder to get hurt if I never let people get too close. Yet feeling separate, being alone in a crowd, is very painful. When my depression flares, it is one of the most hurtful things I must endure. I'm sure some of you can relate. Even when I'd desperately wanted to feel like a part of a group, for most of my life, I hadn't felt like I belonged.

I hadn't felt like I belonged, that is, until this weekend. Sitting back from the table I shared with five sober friends, I suddenly discovered a very foreign feeling two nights ago. I was a part of the whole. I wasn't on the outside looking in. I was actually in. This feeling repeated itself yesterday while celebrating my birthday, again, with three running friends. It was unusual, and relieving, and warm, and nice. I belonged for perhaps the first time in my life.

Belonging felt nice. I didn't know why I'd suddenly felt it. I didn't know how I'd made it in. Certainly sobriety and less depression had something to do with it. Perhaps letting others get a little closer to me helped as well. Whatever the reasons, I hope I continue to feel a part of, rather than apart from, those around me for a long, long time. Instead of a fleeting stranger, I hope belonging becomes my familiar friend.

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