It’s crazy how much of an impact other people can make on our lives. Leaving giant footprints behind that even during the heavy rains stay imprinted on us; whether it’s big and obvious or just a slight twitch in our minds. All of the scientists and a lot of the crew have left the ship I have been living and working on and I didn’t realise until I was waving them goodbye just how much being constantly surrounded by people has affected me. Having someone say good morning to you every day without fail, the odd little chats in the hallways and the feeling that there is always life surrounding you. I didn’t realise the entirety of this comfort until it became eerily obvious how silent and empty the ship seemed whilst I was wandering back to my cabin. These people whose faces I have seen every day for two months and whose voices and personalities have become familiar to me, have suddenly disappeared from my life as quickly as they arrived in it. Apart from a couple of the gang who still remain, the whole ship feels like a dishevelled lemon, sad and juice-less. Abandonment issues? Or just an aching realisation that all good must eventually come to an end.
Studies show that people bond more when in a situation of great stress and trauma, having someone else share the pain with you can make it a lot easier to cope, building friendships on common ground if nothing else. Although being on the ship is far from a trauma situation, I think the same is to be said about bonding in confined spaces. These people, these same faces become as familiar as the dusty furniture in the living room; perhaps not noticing their presence until they’re gone and they leave behind an uncomfortable space. One of my main concerns about joining the ship was the prospect of loneliness; loneliness is my strongest personal killer. If I’m going to lose a battle, it’ll be a blood thirsty war with the demons of my own mind that due to lack of personal contact have taken over and devoured all my carefully constructed strands of stability. I expressed my dread at not being touched or loved for two and a half months to my dad, who laughed and although understanding said ‘Imagine if I had worries like these! A forty eight year old guy wondering around the boat looking for cuddles.’ Is it neediness and sensitivity, or is it okay to have the need for care? I have grown up being cuddled, kissed, squeezed, loved; is it so wrong to crave these things or is it a weakness to express the desire for affection?
I am perfectly comfortable in my own company and am one of those people that will happily take myself out to dinner or a movie, will easily keep myself entertained on long journeys and will often take myself for a lie down to listen to music and switch off. Although I have found in the past that I can end up doing this too often, shutting myself away in an attempt to feel better when actually the company of others could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Thankfully I don’t experience this so much anymore but in my past, especially times of feeling low, the thought of sitting in a room with other people simply chatting and laughing made me feel horrendously isolated. I was so caught up in an inescapable web of desperation that I felt like the cheeriness around me was nothing but a bully, taunting and teasing me; a constant reminder of something I felt I couldn’t have.
I have always thought of myself as an introvert. In the past settling for the fact that because I was dealing with a mental illness that none of my friends could understand it would be easier for me to just be alone. ‘I’m just not really the socialising type.’ Then why is it that when I think of all my happiest moments they are all spent in the company of people I love? People who fill my chest with bubbles and who flood my heart with joy and euphoria; snapshots of rib-breaking, literally-can’t-breath laughter with my brother or enthusiastically skipping down the street with my dad (yes, we do that…). In fact when I look back at all the golden moments of my life, the ones that make me smile without realising, they are all moments when my happiness and the happiness of those around me climb mountains, getting higher and higher and reaching new levels that radiate for days and even weeks afterwards. Why don’t I (didn’t I) fully let myself enjoy the company of others? I think it could be because I always felt a little guilty, like perhaps I was running away or hiding from myself and ignoring my feelings by allowing my attention to focus on others. Letting myself escape my own head and immersing myself in social situations seemed to me like an easy way out of facing your problems head on; but as it turned out this just caused unnecessary upset that could easily have been avoided.
Is it such a bad thing to share other people’s happiness in order to help sculpt your own? If people are willing to lend out their positivity then what’s the harm in accepting it if it’s going to loosen the burden and make your own life more enjoyable; isn’t that a big part of what love is, sharing life’s heavy loads and maximising the good times? There needs to be more of this I feel, especially for me. I don’t want weak connections, acquaintances, small talk. When those closest to you know you are struggling with something but choose to turn a blind eye and pretend it doesn’t exist, whether they don’t care or just find it easier to ignore it- elephants in the room are the worst and nine times out of ten people could really do with the support. Sometimes the people closest to you are the ones who have no idea about what pain you have been carrying and to utilise the relationships we have with these people could potentially have the power to heal. On how deep a-level are you connecting with the people closest to you? What is the point in these people if you can’t entrust them to listen and help you sift through all the nitty gritty shit? And although I am not suggesting you become one of those irritating people in the queue at the supermarket who tells you their whole life story after all you asked was whether they were having a good weekend, but even slightly breaking down the barriers you have with the people in your life might just reveal some beauty and comfort you didn’t know existed.