Overcoming Loneliness as a Gay Man

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Loneliness can be a bitch at times, and for some people it can hit harder than for others. And regardless of how one might identify sexually, loneliness can sometimes overwhelm those within the LGBT+ community.

At least it does for me at times, though don’t know if it’s specific to me being gay.

For some, this loneliness can stem from sexual or gender identity discrimination, or even from rejection from their biological families.  Though some might say these feelings of loneliness is to be expected despite our community’s supposed mandate of love and inclusiveness, and trying to ‘choose’ our families.  Unfortunately not everyone can fit into the existing cliques or social circles.

I was reading an article about gay men battling loneliness and it got me thinking about my own life.  A lot of the time, I feel isolated from others but this is something that comes and goes in my life depending on what’s going on at that point.  One day I can feel great, loved, and on top of the world.. but the next I can be curled up in the ball staring at my phone thinking nobody even likes me enough to call.

Obviously, left unchecked this can lead to depression, anxiety, loss of confidence, and all sorts of other issues in my life.

When it’s really bad, I feel like I’m on a deserted island looking across to the mainland where everyone else is enjoying life, and I can only watch as there’s no way to get across to the others.  So in others words, I’m curled up on my sofa feeling sorry for myself, watching people’s posts on Facebook or Instagram of how fabulous their lives are.

Obviously social media isn’t an accurate depiction of people’s lives, but when you don’t hear from people sometimes that’s the only way to hear about what they are up to.

Anyway, the article I was reading (link is at the bottom of the page) listed several ‘tips’ on how to overcome this loneliness.  And although accurate with its advice, it was fairly generic if you ask me, with a focus on substance abuse and reaching out to a therapist.

Often people will tell me if I’m feeling lonely then I just need to get out and be around other people.  Because apparently (in their mind) it’s just that easy.  And for them it probably is.

What those who don’t suffer from feelings of loneliness don’t understand is that you could be standing in the middle of a crowd filled with people you know, and you’ll still feel alone.  It’s like there’s a disconnect from others around you.

When we were all first coming out or realising our sexual identities, we would isolate ourselves or pull away from those around us to ensure our ‘secret’ isn’t found out.  That proverbial closet prevented us from making meaningful connections with others (family included) because of how different we felt from them.  This was probably an emotionally stressful period for most.

After coming out, those feelings of isolation probably went away for most people as they started to meet other people like them and build new social circles.  But for others, that might have highlighted for them how they don’t fit into the groups around them.  Even when those groups are comprised of other people supposedly like them with similar interests.

When I first came out, I met an amazing group of people some of which I’m still in virtual contact with now over 20 years later.  We were mostly all new to being out and living in a small town, so we all came together to support each other.

But like anything in life, this only lasted for so long as people moved away, moved on, found relationships and so forth.  It’s a recurring situation through life, and sometimes it’s hit me harder than others, contributing to those feelings of loneliness as I would try to move past it all to find new friends all over again.  And again.

Most self-help articles advise the best thing to do is to join a social or interest group as a way to feel less lonely.  And for some people this works.

For me, this was only fleeting as I tried several different outlets over the years – gay softball or bowling groups, naturist social groups, gay geeks, cinema groups, etc – but nothing truly fit me.  Sure, I’d meet a few new people and start going out a bit more, but then as people broke off as they tend to do, I was still left in the same situation wondering where everyone went.

So where does that leave me?  Trying to meet guys through the ‘dating’ apps or nightclubs usually leads to failure as these are more for those looking for sex and they’re focused more on physical interactions.  And after all these years, I’m just so over the whole bar and club scene these days.

I try to reach out to people when I’m feeling lonely, but unfortunately that doesn’t always work out.  People (in London) are generally always busy or booked up well in advance, so there’s little room for last minute plans.  Or they are the type that only want to be around when things are going good, so will purposely avoid you when you’re down.

Like anything in life, this too will be a work in progress as I try to help myself.  Or maybe I’ll just wear out my Netflix subscription by spending another weekend at home alone on the sofa.

Who knows. 😉

Source: 5 Tips to Overcome Your Loneliness as a Gay Man

Stepping Up to Mental Wellbeing

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Everyone deals with stress, anxiety or depression in different ways, and there’s no true set rule on how to deal with any of them.  We’ve all read countless online self-help articles touting themselves as being the ultimate list of how to do this or that.. when in reality, most are just rehashes of the same things over and over again.

One thing does ring true though regardless of which articles you read – If you don’t at least give them a shot, then you’ll never know if they truly make you feel more positive about your life, or even help move you down the road to your own happiness.

Side note – Happiness isn’t necessarily a destination, but more of a state of being.  And everyone’s ideal of happiness is different, so find your own happiness. 🙂

What is mental wellbeing?

Per the below NHS site, mental wellbeing is defined as such:

“Feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it’s far from the whole. Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are too.

“So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do. And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.

“Of course, good mental wellbeing does not mean that you never experience feelings or situations that you find difficult. But it does mean that you feel you have the resilience to cope when times are tougher than usual.”

Sarah Stewart-Brown, Professor of Public Health at the University of Warwick

Like anything in life, the more you put into something like your own well being, the more you’re likely to get out of it.  And if you’re waiting on someone else to ‘give’ you happiness, you’ll be waiting for your entire life.

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Steps to Mental Wellbeing

Below are a few suggestions we could all take to boost how we’re doing.  As previously mentioned, this isn’t an exhaustive list and some may work better for some people than others.

Connect with others

All too often when we’re feeling down or a bit blue, we’ll find ourselves pulling away from our loved ones.  Instead reach out to the people around you, be them family, friends, colleagues or neighbours.  Just be willing to make that step to open up the lines of communication.

Be active

This isn’t necessarily about going to the gym or starting some massive work out regime.  It’s more about just finding an activity that you enjoy and incorporate into you daily life – take a walk, go for a bike ride, go for a swim, and so forth.

Keep learning

Sometimes all you might need is to boost your own wellbeing is to engage your mind in something constructive.  It could be learning a new skill, taking a hobby class , getting that certification you’ve been dreaming about.  Or maybe just read that book gathering dust on your bedside table.

Volunteering your time

Being a volunteer in any capacity can not only help you feel like you’re contributing more to your community, but it’s a goldmine for networking.  But you don’t even have to go so far as to actually volunteer – sometimes the smallest thing, like smiling at a stranger or giving a kind word to something, can make the world a difference.

Be in the present

This could be called ‘mindfulness’, but it’s mostly about being aware of what is going around you at any given moment.  This can include the world around you, local/national/international politics, your thoughts or feelings, and most importantly, your own body.  However, don’t allow yourself to get so immersed in this that you block out other parts of life, as that’ll have an averse affect.

This post has been influenced by — Five steps to mental wellbeing – Stress, anxiety and depression – NHS choices

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Identifying Depression

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Sadly in this day and age, depression is something that still isn’t talked about enough and generally can go untreated for long periods of time.  This is mostly because of the stigma surrounding it that it makes most people feel like they’re weak or unable to cope, when in fact all they need is some help.

Portrait of Man Looking Through WindowI’ve been somewhat open about my own depression over the past year or so, and have written about it a couple times – mostly in the posts It’s Depressing To Feel Nothing and Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression | Psychology Today.

But after recent events and viewing a video embedded into the article How Do You Know If You Have Depression? on Upworthy (video is at the bottom of the page), it got me thinking back on that period of time, as well as looking closer to my current situation.

As I’ve written recently, I’ve been going through a bad bout of insomnia lately, mostly caused by recurrent headaches that don’t seem to want to go away despite everything I’ve been doing.  I’d been feeling better over the past weekend, well enough to get out of the house, hang out with a friend on Saturday evening, and just seemingly get back to me.

But come Sunday night the throbbing in my head came back with a vengeance, and I ended up not sleeping at all that night… Meaning I was in no shape to go back to work on Monday.

All through the previous week while I was off work ‘sick’ with these issues, I hadn’t bothered to contact my doctor to seek help, as I thought I was doing everything they would have suggested.  But because I was still like this after a week, I finally broke down and called the surgery I’m registered at, and was able to book a phone consultation.

I was totally expecting the doctor that called me to suggest making an in-person appointment in order to get to the root of the problem, but instead we spoke on the phone for about 5 to 10 minutes before he said he was going to sign me off work for a week and give me a prescription to help me sleep.

frydrepressionNow I’m glad he made it fairly easy for me to get something to help me sleep, but at the same time I wonder if perhaps it was too easy.  Shouldn’t a prescription only be given out once all other non-drug avenues have been attempted?

But what surprised me is he didn’t prescribe me sleeping pills or even headache tablets – instead he prescribed me a mild anti-depressant.

That’s what got me wondering if perhaps this was just a depressive period I’m going through, and that the headaches/insomnia are the markers that should make me take notice.  It was something a mate had mentioned to me the precious week, but I hadn’t given it much thought.

I admit that things in my life aren’t where I’d like them to be, but I am trying to find a way past where I am and get somewhere better.  It won’t be easy or instantaneous, but I have to at least make the effort.

I would have thought that because I’d made a conscious effort to look for a new job and work more on my writing, that any stress or anxiety I might have been feeling about my life would become more manageable or become less of an issue.  But instead, I’m sitting at home all week trying to make myself feel ‘better’ when I should be out there living life, not locked inside my house tapping away at my laptop.

I’m not saying I feel depressed or anything, but perhaps it’s for the best that I’m on this medication at the moment as maybe it’ll help me regain my focus and move forward with what I want to do in my life.

Every case of depression is different, and it’s not always about feeling ‘sad’ or physically depressed.  It could be a feeling of emptiness, an overall anxiety about life, an ennui where you don’t want to do anything at all.  Or it could be related to low self-esteem, where you feel like you’re not competent or a worthwhile human being, or even actually liking yourself as a person.

I’m not saying everyone who feels those things are depressed, because if that was the case then pretty much every single person would be considered ‘depressed’ at some point in their life.  And some may say depression is a ‘selfish disorder’ because you’re completely focused on how bad you’re feeling or the negative thoughts you’re having.  Because you are not being there for those around you who may need you.

get over itBut apparently two thirds of those who do actually suffer from depression don’t actually seek treatment, or aren’t willing to accept that they need help.  And that isn’t good.

If you feel something is not right, then go talk to someone about it.  It doesn’t have to be a doctor or mental health professional, but at least be willing to open up to someone about what’s going on.  It can be very cathartic.

Please watch the video below, as it definitely puts a different light on depression.. or at least it did for me.

Getting Out of the House

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It’s remarkable how easy it is to stay indoors for a long period of time without leaving the house.  We all have times in our lives where we just want to stay in the comforts of our home, and then there are other times when we’re somehow stuck at home for one reason or another.

manlookingoutwindowAnd sometimes, at least for me, I find myself becoming anxious about being around other people or even out in public in general.  It could be a form of agoraphobia, though that could just be me being overly self-analytical about whatever situation I’m about to put myself into.

So, I haven’t been out of the house all week.

Since last Saturday or Sunday, I have been dealing with an ongoing sinus headache/migraine and a bout of insomnia, the combination of which has become a viscous circle where one is causing the other.  I’ve spent several nights awake until quite late unable to sleep, which in turn is causing the headaches to continue.

This of course has caused me to miss an entire week of work, which is never a good thing.  Even if I don’t particularly like my job.

Yeah I know, it’s probably all in my head, or psychosomatic or whatever you want to call it, but the pain in my head has been real.  The headaches have been bordering on becoming migraines, which are most likely stress-caused even if that stress might be self-created.Man with Headache

So despite the headaches continuing today, I’ve made myself get out of the house and take my laptop to a cafe in Brixton just so I’m not sitting at home like I have been all week.

Probably the worst part of it is how helpless it’s made me feel all week, like I was trapped in this never-ending cycle that wasn’t allowing me to sleep properly and making me seemingly incapable of getting up for work everyday.

Or maybe that’s just a cop-out so I didn’t have to go into work.

So I took a page out of my recent post ‘The Health of Stress‘, and discussed what’s been going on with a friend of mine to see if that would help with the ‘stress’ I’d been feeling.  In fact while chatting to him about all this, it was him who said maybe it was my subconscious hate of my job that was causing the headaches and insomnia to continue, instead of subsiding after a day or so.

And yeah, perhaps that’s exactly what’s going on.

The next day (Thursday I think) I got up feeling more motivated than I’ve felt in awhile, and I spend a good part of the afternoon going over my CV, updating my job hunting profile on a couple sites, and even applying for a few jobs.  I haven’t heard anything back from the jobs I’d applied for yet, but I did get a call from an agency I’d dealt with last year when I was job hunting full time.

On her advice, I modified my CV for a specific job they were recruiting for, so fingers are crossed I get something out of it.  It’s not what I’d truly love to be doing (writing full-time) but at least it’s something I know I’d be good at and would hopefully feel fulfilled by doing.

I also finally got around to writing some fiction, the first piece in quite awhile.  It was only a short story working-in-a-coffee-shop(about 2000 words or so), but it felt good to be creative in a different way from how I write here on this blog.  And I think it’s gotten my creative juices flowing a bit, so I definitely need to make find time to keep writing more stories, perhaps make it a series of some sort.

I may eventually post some of it on here, but based on the content of what I’ve written, I may not.. It’s more in the vein of erotic M2M fiction, so wouldn’t exactly fit with the format and feel of my blog here.  But we’ll see how it goes.  May just have to start a sister blog just for those stories.

So, here’s to (hopefully) getting myself back on track and back to work this coming week, regardless if I enjoy the job or not.

And yeah, to getting out of the house more, even if I feel trapped or whatever about going out in public.