The Illusion of Connection
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
In previous posts I have talked about my detest for social media, or rather, the inability to know how to make it work for me, and what I want/need it for.
Lately, I have found myself posting more frequently, more often, about basically shit that I know for a fact nobody cares about (...Because I generally don't care when people post similarly).
In light of becoming single earlier this year, and factoring in what appears to me to be steadily declining mental health, I have determined it is all in an effort to demand and command attention. To perceptively very little avail.
I wrote a post a while ago entitled "I'm OK", which upon reflection, at the time, I was. Now, not so much, and it's very easy to think in times like these that I won't be able to write a post where I can comfortably say that again; especially given that, last week, I felt like I was at rock bottom...Which is usually the indication to me of imminent mental improvement from my experience. But oh no, don't worry, apparently it can get worse.
I always feel that when you're at your worst, you discover who your real friends are. Except, I've been "at my worst", at the very least, 5 times over the past decade probably. I already know who those people are, and in fact, lately, have discovered some additions to these. My issue is, I don't reach out.
I have my therapist, which is great, and it's the only place I feel truly, and comfortably, brutally honest and open. But it's commerce, it's a service relationship. I pay money for what I get out of it. I don't feel grounded enough in my social transactions to warrant asking for help, or for someone to talk to, because I genuinely feel like I have nothing to offer back. Or that, if those people are in similar situations, they will do exactly what I do, and try to retreat, and hide away from it all, and not speak, and not discuss, and I won't see the signs even though I should, because I should be able to relate, and then I'm a bad friend for not recognising and helping, and subsequently end up distanced from the people I care about, all because I opened up and asked for help, and was never able to give it back.
This happens on the daily; It halts my progress, and barricades any efforts I may desire to try and speak out.
The other angle, is, I feel totally, and completely, not understood. The depth and complexities to which my nihilism and existentialism have taken root seems to go over the head of anybody I begin to delve into it with. My ex tried to understand, but she couldn't. She listened, and she tried, and that's more than I feel I can ever ask for from anyone at this point. But more and more, I'm beginning to feel distanced from people, as I used to tell her everything as and when, or at least, I grew to that level of comfort with her over the last year of the relationship.
I had held back a lot of my honest thoughts and feelings about myself throughout most of the relationship, purely for the fear of what actually surmised. The end of the relationship.
My thoughts and feelings seem to be so intense when brought to the surface, that all it has ever done, is drive people away. Yet still, people try to tell me I need to open up, speak up, reach out, and ask for help. But when I do, all it seems to do is sate the curiosity of the other without any sense of benefit to myself, and if anything, to detriment, because the more I open up, the more distant people become.
It's fair to say, that, even though I am functioning outside in the real world, performing my day job the best that I can, and sustaining friendships and social outings on request; I'm actually feeling, pretty fucking lost. Insular, and isolated, in my thoughts and life experience.
For the past 10 years, I've hopped very quickly into and between relationships. I've grown up with this notion, that to be happy, I need to be partnered. That in order to be grounded, I need to be rooted in somebody else. So needless to say that my bitching and moaning about people distancing themselves from me when I divulge too much, is only half of it. The other part, is that I expect too much, from someone else.
As explored in my 'Idioms & Other Things' post, I'm expecting a saviour from love connections. A philosophy that I feel I must overcome, and learn from if I am to have any hope of crawling out of this hole I'm in right now.
I've also discovered, and I have much more to research on this, that a lot of this connects to Emotional Addiction. Having traced back most of my depression to when I was 15, I was generally suffering in silence about it all (when not attention seeking), and avoiding everything rather than intellectually exploring as I seek to do now.
Emotional Addiction seems to have some kind of physiological biochemical response. In the same way people get highs from drugs, or drunk from alcohol. Emotional addiction triggers tell your brain to release cortisol and other hormones into your body, which create an effectual "high". This explains why my inherent predisposition and gut reaction to things is often overwhelmingly negative and pessimistic.
Most people in a professional setting who know me on surface level, will say I'm pro-active, optimistic, and happy-go-lucky. But believe me when I say portraying that attitude takes a lot of energy.
I do have an addictive personality. I get wrapped up so much in films or TV shows, or videogames or albums and songs that grab my attention.
After watching Bo Burnham's 'Inside' when it dropped back in May, I watched it twice more over the next week, and listened to the album to and from work every day for the next 6 to 8 weeks. Every now and then, I still put it on. The relatability of the content is what grabbed me, and I drew a lot of parallels to it.
Also, I can't help but wonder, if watching 'The Matrix', almost routinely, once a day for a whole week at the age of 11 potentially had a hand in birthing my existentialism and nihilism?
The point is, I seem to gravitate towards the negativity. When people offer me advice and help, another reason why I don't reach out, is because I innately always have something against it. I always have an excuse, or a justification for why I can't do or try something. So I stand still, and complain about standing still, and bitch and moan when pushed to take a step forward, with my subconscious trying to drag me two steps back by the heels throughout the whole experience.
I find solace in listening to the issues and traumas of other people, or rather, people I am friends with who I care about. I have a hero complex, so I like the idea of trying to utilise the exploration of my own damage to try and relate to and benefit others where the opportunity arises. I also enjoy the empathic and intellectual explorations of other people. I know a lot about how my trauma has affected me, through continuously trying to understand how my brain works and views things. Yet this is individualistic, so I get a lot of value in exploring through conversation with others, how their trauma has affected them and their views. It helps broaden perspectives, and makes way for these wonderful conversations that give sayings like "Love should be an addition to your life, not a saviour".
Is this purely intellectual, or does this all feed into my emotional addiction. Is it a trigger? Is the sense of helpfulness and value giving me that 'high'?
I've read that this addiction largely pulls us towards toxicity, and keeps us in unhealthy relationships because maybe I'm just ill equipped to function alone. Which is something, I very much feel right now. I am struggling massively with loneliness. As much as I value and need my 'me' time, and enjoy isolating myself and locking myself away to bury myself in entertainment. I've always done it in adulthood with the safety net of a relationship, or the prospects of one.
This time, I'm making a point of living with it, to try and grow and learn more about myself. I'm actively doing my best to avoid dating, and refuse to revisit dating apps hopefully indefinitely.
I need to learn to be comfortable and contented with myself and my own company, and it's very challenging when I feel a natural compulsion to be connected to someone.
The worst part is, when I feel that spark of connection, it triggers a sense of obsession, because of the emotional addiction. Everything feels so bad and difficult to bare without it, that a little taste of being wanted and heard puts my senses into overdrive, and I end up confusing it for love. Hence, all of my worst relationship experiences. I think some of this comes from how bullied and ostracised I felt at school during my formative years too.
There was this dichotomy where, I had a group of friends, which grew quite large. Held parties, went to some parties, but for the greater part, I was popular for being the one to hold the parties, but wouldn't always get invited to them, and when I did, often stuck to a small clique and struggled to get on with people. Which is crazy to think about now, because a lot of people see me as a social butterfly who gets on with anyone.
It was literally like, I was the old fashioned kid, seen, and not heard. People knew who I was physically, but nobody really knew me. And yeah, there's a lot of phases that followed, where I was too vocal and attention seeking about my depression, and then the polar opposite completely withdrawn. Then I put my trust in the wrong people, or sometimes, the right people, but drove them away from what I now think is emotional addiction. So now I try to be extremely cautious.
But it's tough, because having now left a relationship I finally felt a level of comfort and trust in, I was still too intense, and it completely shakes my trust in myself, and in the idea of any potential future endeavours. How can I trust myself and my own emotions? How can I distinguish between a genuine human connection, and emotional addiction if I feel the triggers for both are one and the same?
Maybe this is why I'm writing here, so I don't actually have to have this conversation with anyone. They can google me, read about all my giant waving red flags, and choose to run away from the forest of them before they even meet me.
Yet still, the hole remains, the solitude and the desire for companionship. But once I get to a point of understanding more about emotional addiction, and learn some coping mechanisms for it, I still can't fight my nature. I still have core beliefs, that opportunity and experience have yet to satisfy, but that I can't change or redirect. We all have our principles to stick by and there's nothing wrong with that. Is there?
Is it wrong for me to want what so many people around me have?
Is it wrong to want to be truly understood by someone (who you're not paying for once a month...Therapist...not a "sex therapist"...)?
So I sink back into the ways of what I always do, which is post more on social media. I try to get that brief sense of positivity and connection from the likes and comments and reactions on the inconsequential crap that I post. But it's never enough, because I know that they're all empty, because I react in the same way to others on social media.
It's all hollow gestures, and all these feeds seem more and more contrived as time goes on, and less and less genuine. I recognise that I am posting more now, and outside looking in, life looks busy and fun. In actuality, it's completely the opposite. But I feel this is true for most people? The more frequently we post on our feeds, for the sense of validation, the more isolated and depressed we actually are as people, perhaps because we are all looking to fill that void?
Maybe Plato's Symposium was right, we don't necessarily need to believe in the idea of a "soul" to yearn for a "soulmate", but what if that was his rudimentary understanding and exploration of what we now call emotional addiction?
Is this relatable to anyone...Or am I now just talking out my arse?