ARE YOU BECOMING MORE RECLUSIVE?
This blog lies awfully close to my heart as I have noticed more people becoming reclusive during this COVID-19 pandemic. I have even noticed it with myself and although I have the tools, knowledge and willpower to pull myself out of my own shell, some days just require a little more motivation than others.
But what does recluse mean? According to www.wikipedia.org, a recluse is a person who lives in voluntary seclusion from the public and society. To become reclusive or more socially distant have many causes. It could start from experiencing violence or abuse which could manifest into PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) (could the trauma stem from the media coverage associated with COVID-19?). It could be that somebody or something infringes on your privacy repeatedly or makes you feel threatened (do you feel that your life and livelihood is threatened by COVID-19?). Sometimes it could be because of safety. By guarding yourself against violent criminals, terrorists or even a pandemic can cause somebody to feel grief, anxiety and fear. Sometimes somebody might simply not have the funds to interact socially and then decide to rather stay at home instead of going out to spend money that they just do not have. Even that feeling of inadequacy could cause you to withdraw from society. Some might have the fear of being ridiculed or rejected which could cause them to withdraw and avoid people in general. Have you ever experienced a time in school when you waited anxiously to be called to play on a side during or after school? Did you start to doubt your abilities? Other times could purely be for privacy and comfort reasons. It could be that life and other people become mere distractions. Whatever they keep themselves busy with will have (according to their own thoughts and feelings) a significant influence on the world and the people that inhabits it.
But do not think that reclusive people sit around doing nothing, sit in a catatonic state or is necessarily lonely or sad. Most reclusive people are very productive, they could be writing, creating or working towards a personal goal. They feel content and happy. Some reclusive people, on the other hand, could suffer from depression or anxiety. It could be that their depression has developed over a long period of time or that their anxiety is reinforced by events that they witness or hear about and this prevents them from venturing outside where they might feel unsafe, insignificant or exposed to uncontrollable factors.
We are encouraged by Government to maintain social distancing and although this may provide relief to people with social anxiety, a lack of interaction could maintain this social anxiety extremely negatively. There are so many worries, like worrying about health and safety, worrying about access to food and supplies, worrying about financial stability and on top of that the feeling of loneliness and isolation. Basically, at the end of the day, humans are social animals. We have a desire to connect and be accepted by others. It is the fear of not being accepted or being exposed to health risks that can cause withdrawal into a reclusive being.
How do we help then?
What can you do to help yourself or others who have withdrawn from society?
- Talk or Listen: It could be viewed as an honour if you are given the chance to listen to a reclusive person. You are given the opportunity to listen to them and help them see the beauty, not only of who they are, but also of the beauty that surrounds them. Hear them, listen to their stories, use your non-judgemental, undivided listening skills and use your influence to potentially change a life. You might even want to work on a plan together on how you can help your friend or family member towards happiness and social interaction. Try to do something together to ease the fear or awkwardness, a short outing might just be what is needed. But please do not force the person to do something that they do not want to do. It must be their choice and they will have to have the willingness to see what the benefits are if they do step out of their comfort-zone. If you are the reclusive person, reach out to somebody that you trust. Talk openly and be willing to listen to suggestions and advice. If you are the person reaching out for help, you have taken the first important step in allowing yourself the opportunity to become part of society again.
- Encouragement: A little bit of exposure at a time can make a tremendous difference. Encourage the person to step out and do something outside and preferably with others for at least 5 minutes at a time. Set realistic intentions to venture out into public and push through with a plan.
- Become comfortable: Become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable and learn to welcome these feelings. You could practice meditation to help with anxiousness, this can also help you to expand your mindset to accept that others may not always accept your perception of situations.
- Learn: Try to learn as much as you can about what you are experiencing. Start a journal to log your thoughts and how you behave in certain social situations. Do you notice a pattern? Have you noticed over-thinking habits or paranoia taking over your thoughts? Are you more susceptible to stress during this pandemic?
- Therapy: Therapy is highly recommended, but it could be difficult to convince somebody to seek therapy. Do a bit of research and see which therapist or therapeutic approach could work best. Social Skills Training and Exposure Therapy can be extremely rewarding. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has shown wonderful results and can help with processing of thoughts and social awkwardness. Mindfulness encourages regular exercises and quality sleep, but also helps with focusing on the here and now and what we have control over. Various different therapeutic approaches are also implemented in the treatment of Depression, Anxiety and PTSD and some of them might include appropriate medications.
- Social Platforms: Because our movements are restricted, we can still use technology to connect and reach out to people. Zoom and Skype are wonderful to use, as well as WhatsApp Video Chats. I even heard about Zoom dance parties and to be honest, that sounds like great fun. Sending an email or a text could also encourage a healthy connection with others. Healthy relationships can still be maintained through these various platforms with just a click of a mouse.
The following poem was written by T.H. and when I read it, I could feel the anxiety, sadness and desperation, but yet, there is hope for a wonderful tomorrow. This poem is like the Phoenix who rose from the ashes. There is hope, there are new dreams, new goals and a new path to a better world. We all need to work together to help one another, support one another and encourage one another and allow our world to bloom into its full glory.
The world is burning.
All the truth is being revealed in a time of masked faces.
Stepping out from behind a screen onto a street.
Frustration born form pain, isolation, fear
Spilling over in the teary streams
“I can’t breathe”
Chanted in a world that’s drowning
Fighting for air
Through fire water and empathetically barren landscapes
I hear the screams
“Black lives matter”
In my dreams
The world is burning
And it should.
Let it all burn to the ground
To make way for the new life
The new truth
That enough is, finally,
No longer can we sit in quiet desperation
Shout it, scream it
Run through the streets of every heart
Every. Single. Soul.
Use what you have to tear the bandage off
The festering, rotting wound
Let its stink fill the air
Curl into nostrils
Of the ones with eyes blind
And hearts closed
Let there be no escaping
That this world should burn
“I can’t breathe”
Let your lungs fill with the stench
Off the necrotic flesh of your denial
Let your eyes tear up
With the thickness of its meaning
This is not just now
Wounds take a long time
To the point
That you should amputate
Use what you have
To dig its grave
I finally know what to use
I’ll use my words
It’s all I have
But they’ve been here
For many years
Can we stay silent
It’s time to be heard
The world is burning
Let the pleading screams
Rise from the flames
Released to the heavens
Let them rise above the noise
Let them fill your mind
Then your being
Let them form you
That will not let it lie
Whatever causes you to pull back into your own shell and to pull away from society, I want to clearly state that you are not alone, and that help is available. There are people out there who cares and are willing to help in any possible way. It might be scary, intimidating and uncertain, but please do not take your struggles on by yourself. If you do feel that you or somebody that you know are not coping, please reach out to me or another therapist for help.
As always, I like to end my blog with a quote or two and the following might give you a bit more insight on reclusiveness. The first one if from Shirley Jackson who said, “… very lonely and., often, very unhappy, with the poignant misery that comes to lonely people who long to be social and cannot, somehow, step naturally and unselfconsciously into some friendly group.”, and this one from Bob Mortimer who said, “I have always been a bit of a recluse, but I really was after the heart thing. And everyone new.”.
As a reminder, GEM Mental Health Therapy and Coaching has decided to offer Skype Video Calls, Zoom Video Meetings, WhatsApp Calls and WhatsApp Video Chats in order to reach as many people as possible. I have also decided to incorporate Counselling via Email, which seems a bit unorthodox, but some clients do not have the freedom and privacy to discuss heart matters in the enclosed environment that they find themselves in at this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out so that we can work together on your mental health as we face these challenging times.
Thank you very much for reading my blog. I truly hope that it helped somebody, somewhere. Please send any feedback or comments to email@example.com and remember to have a look out for a new blog every week.