Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 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, May 12, 2019

Social...or not

I don't understand me. My coworkers and few close friends are shocked when I refer to myself as an introvert. With them I'm happy, smiley, funny, confident and energetic. But put me in a group of people, even a group of like-minded people like runners, and I feel totally out of place. I often avoid such groups for that very reason.

But in an effort to expand my horizons, once again, I put my insecurities aside and went to a meet-and-greet with a local running group. These people weren't total strangers. I knew at least 25-30% of them at the get-together Thursday night. This group is extremely popular and from all accounts very fun. They do a ton of things together and also volunteer in the community. I've participated in some of their activities but never as an official group member.

I've stayed away from joining this group for years because drinking is a prominent fixture in many of their social activities. It was a big part of why the group was originally formed. However, in recent years they've expanded to focus more and more on running, training, volunteering, and including families in their events. There's still a lot of drinking, but I like what the group has become, a very tight-knit, supportive, community-centered, and fun group of people.

With all of that in mind, I went to the meet-and-greet event at a local microbrewery. They had a large tent outside and there must have been at least 100 people in attendance. They had games meant to encourage mingling and meeting others, free food, and several drawings for various prizes. The tent was loud, boisterous and filled with laughter. And I felt totally alone and out of place.

It was silly. I was frustrated. I knew many of the runners in the tent, yet I spoke with a total of maybe 5 people the whole evening. The only person to whom I said more than a couple of words also admitted to being an introvert, and I think we kind of clung to each other for much of the evening. If it hadn't been for her, I might not have lasted the 2 hours I did.

In attending this event I had hoped for something new and different, yet what I got was the same old familiar feeling. Discomfort. Loneliness. An outsider looking in. I didn't feel like I belonged. I was certain everybody else was having a totally different experience, one filled with joy, laughter, and connection. That's what I wanted to feel, but it just didn't happen. Again.

For as long as I remember I've felt the same way no matter how familiar the group. I don't understand me. I don't understand how I can think, feel and behave one way with my coworkers and close friends yet totally the opposite anytime I'm in a group. Maybe I'm a part-time introvert? I don't know.

As a result of this experience, I don't feel any closer to officially joining the group, but I haven't given up yet. I plan to attend at least a few of their upcoming group runs, which they hold a few times a week. Hopefully running side by side, even with a stranger, will encourage me be social and help me feel the connection I seek.


Paul said...

I joined a well-regarded and active running group for pretty much the same reasons you give, and after an initial few months of giddiness, I found myself in pretty much the same state as you. (They were also a "drinking club with a running problem"!) I eventually drifted away (literally - I couldn't keep up with the pack on the running trail). I am quiet and to-myself at work, yet in the past I had won an award for "best personality" (!!!!). I even dropped out of my book discussion group after 20 years.

I've come to accept this about myself. I am a loner, a solo runner, a man who works only to pay the bills, a solitary book reader. It's a lonely existence, but it seems to be my existence. I sometimes feel that I want social connection, (and more than one therapist has "prescribed" it), but every time I try I soon retreat to my room and have to recover.

etta said...

@ Paul: You always seem to understand, even when I don't understand myself. The only difference is I truly am very social, outgoing even, at work and with certain people. But I, too, am generally a solo runner and enjoy spending most of my time alone. But that sense of connection the people in this group share is enticing. I just couldn't pull it off. Again. And that makes me feel a bit defective, I guess. It's frustrating. Maybe I'm just trying to be someone I'm not?

Wendy Love said...

The book 'The Introvert Advantage' has contributed as much to my depression management regime as exercise, medication and therapy. Understanding how being an introvert affects me was a huge and welcomed learning curve. It can be hard to accept this about yourself but doing so keeps some depression symptoms at bay. I can't say enough about that. Hang in there. Discovering this and reading this book could be the best thing that has happened for you in a long time!

Katy said...

I understand what you are saying. It is easier for me to talk to people and not be anxious if I’m at an event that I don’t care about. If I’m at a group that is important to me, it is so much harder. I try to tell myself that it will get better over time. Unfortunately I do often hate it the first 15 times and have that awkward, alone feeling. You know the one- where you are in your own mind even in a large group. On the outside looking in. Doing actual runs or workouts with a group is a bit easier. Just the social activity by itself- so difficult. I think that’s awesome that you pushed yourself to go. That really demonstrates that you are doing better.

Katy said...

It just takes time. Be patient with yourself. No one can pull that off the first time. It takes patience and consistency. If it feels right, keep doing it. It WILL get better. The beginning is always the hard part.

Camille said...

So proud of you! It takes a lot of courage to try a new group. Meeting new people always gives me anxiety. I understand the drinking thing- I can't drink because of depression meds and it's just not something I enjoy being around. Yet my PT class was very into bar hopping, it made it difficult to connect. But once you keep trying and find your "people," It's so worth all the trials. Mine has been at my church, I pray you find yours too!

Winter said...

I can absolutely relate to this post! I also struggle with depression and alcoholism. I often try to socialize when others are drinking, thinking it will be different, but I usually end up with those same feelings you described: loneliness, discomfort, the odd one out. It's nice to hear that I'm not alone! Thanks for sharing.