Friday, April 9, 2010

Tough Questions

I am able to find out a lot about society and how people really live through my job. I ask questions and get personal information that most people never learn about others. I don't ever mean to stump anyone, but I often hear crickets chirping when I ask 2 questions. The first one is: what do you like to do for yourself? It's amazing how many people have no answer for that, or say they used to do things... before their job, their marriage, their kids, whatever. Granted, mental illness can cause loss of interest or pleasure, but that is usually not the reason for their difficulty answering. They have gotten into a life rut with no room for their own fun. Some people have no idea what they would even like to do. I find that tragic.

The second stumper is: who do you rely on for support? Some will name their spouse or their siblings or parents, but a lot of my patients have major problems with one or more of those family members! A large majority will also say their family is supportive, but then say they never actually talk to them about their real feelings. It seems common for people to have many acquaintances but no true confidantes. I sense a lot of loneliness even in very socially active people.

I think it's hard to meet friends as an adult. We have "work friends" who we never see outside the job, parents of our kids' friends who we never see outside of sports events, college friends who now live across the country, and so on. It is also a challenge to find new hobbies or interests outside the home. Joining a group requires taking risks. Trying yoga means I may be embarrassed because I don't know the poses. What if I go salsa dancing and everyone else has a partner?

We have a tendency to be cozy in our ruts, even if they are not healthy or even contributing to our contentment. I know I could use some work on my support system. I don't see my friends as often as I would like, I should call my mom more often, I should actually use the email address for my yoga friends to try to set up a coffee date. These are fairly low-risk ways to connect in a more meaningful way, something I think we could all do more often.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you ask your patients, "What do you like to do for yourself?" I tend to ask, "Do you have hobbies or interests that you enjoy?", but the way you phrase the question I think is clearer and more open.

    I also feel that there is a pervasive and deepening sense of loneliness and isolation among people, including myself. I don't understand it, but my sense is that it is widespread, and therefore a societal problem as well as a personal problem. We don't talk much about it because it can feel embarrassing and shameful. Who wants to say, "I don't feel that popular. I feel on the outskirts while everyone else seems to have a great social life."

    I could speculate why there is a sense of disconnection or loneliness in myself, in the people I talk with as a psychiatrist, and in society in general. Perhaps you may feel inclined to address that in future posts. But one thing I think is good is that through the internet and blogs, there is a sense of connecting with others, walls coming down. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.