Thank you for your reply! I’m glad to hear that you’re doing slightly better. And it’s good to see you.
For your question, sorry by advance if my response is mostly some ramblings… I’ll just reply as it goes to my mind. Hopefully it could help a little.
I surely felt that way - if not always, but for different reasons. You mentioned “self imposing isolation” and “taking time to be alone”, which I’d like to see as being different, as it can imply different kind of motivations. I can’t remember where I read that, but I agree with the idea that there is a difference between isolation and solitude. In both you’re alone, that’s a fact. But for me, the difference is: - if you chose or not to be in this situation, - if it helps you to grow or not. So “why” this situation, what consequences it has on yourself, your well-being, will influence how to get over it.
A few years ago I would have replied to you that I feel guilty in both situations. But with time I tried to learn to accept that it’s okay to take some time for yourself, to be alone, away from distractions or social interactions when you need it. Just because this world can be so overwhelming in itself. And you can find some growth through solitude, through those moments when you reconnect to yourself.
On the other side, I guess the next step would be to work on forgiving myself when I actually isolate, this time for wrong reasons, to actually hurt/”punish” myself in a certain way. If I drown myself into isolation, it’s with the intention to be away from others, most of the time because I’m struggling and feel like I don’t deserve to receive any sort of kindness from anyone. And it just hurts even more to do that… on purpose.
I think when you’re aware that you tend to do this, then you’re getting some helpful knowledge to prevent it to happen again and again. Or at least in a way that is less damaging. Doesn’t mean it’s easier to fight against this urge, but it’s still something that can be changed over time.
Anyway, I guess the first question you could ask yourself is “why do you feel guilty”? Because the way you will respond to those reasons could be different. For me, it depends on the situation, the circumstances. But most of the time it’s a mix between the following reasons: - I put my life aside, feel like I wasted time and sabotaged myself, like I wasted the efforts I’ve been doing before; - I behaved in a way I didn’t want to, just because it’s difficult to think clearly when emotions are intense; - I realize that I lost the battle against the urge to isolate myself; - I wasn’t available for those I love; - I feel like I betrayed others love/trust/kindness, like I failed at honoring that. And it clearly reinforces the guilt, disappointment and internal self-bashing. Because I become aware that I did the wrong choice, as it only added more pain to a situation that was already difficult.
I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but when I get slowly back on my feet after some time of self-isolation, I feel like a giant storm just crossed my way. That I have to deal with the damages I have caused to myself (or even others), to repair all the broken pieces. Whether it’s by the pile of things that has to be done and it’s way too late (bills to pay, work that has to be done, appointments that I avoided…); by how I treated my body and physical health (stop cooking and just eat what I find basically, sleeping way too much or not enough, not going outside anymore or as less as possible, not taking some time in the bathroom to just take a shower, brush my hair or anything); by the way I treat myself mentally (trying to numb myself with things that doesn’t allow me to think or feel, mostly things that aren’t inspiring nor fulfilling at all). Not mentioning all the negative thoughts about myself that are spiraling over and over.
It just hurts to go through this. And I guess the very first thing I try to do most of the time is not to rush. I take my time to heal from the wounds I opened. I try to do things that needs to be done, just like you mentioned, so I can get rid of that pretty quickly and it gets less stressful. I try to reverse progressively the things that were undone, step by step (one shower, one easy meal to cook at dinner, one walk outside…).
But I also try to create that transition between isolation and solitude on a more… spiritual/meaningful level (sorry I don’t how to name that). Actually, I’m in the middle of it right now. I hitted some pretty dark corner of my mind last week. But I have this kind of “list” of things that are meaningful/inspiring/fulfilling to me, that I can use depending on how I feel. The main idea with that is to give myself the time I need to reconnect with myself in a more gentle and loving way. Without added pressure. Well… I know our rhythm of life doesn’t allow us to do everything we want when we want. But we can still dedicate a specific moment everyday to just chill, relax and do something that is actually interesting and nourishing to our soul. Especially when we feel vulnerable. Especially when an emotional storm just drained our energy.
When my mind is spiraling, and when I’m in a place where I can consider to try to take care of myself, I find creative activities very helpful. Because it allows you to feel in a different way, to find yourself in a different temporality. And the cool thing is: because there are so many different kind of activities to try, then there’s a high probability to find something that you could appreciate. I like playing music, drawing, doing photography, reading, writing, singing, dancing. I’m not an expert of any of this and I don’t try to be. I try not to put any sort of challenge in those activities or, at least, in a very gentle way towards myself so I can see some progress. That’s probably the rule I try to stick with. And through all of this, I can feel in a different way, I learn to be a friend to myself, to forgive myself for the choices I made and repair the broken pieces.
These days, drawing helps me a lot. Doing it allows me to focus on a specific action, to reconnect with some physical sensations. But also to try, erase eventually, and try again. Just like we do when we fall down then get back on our feet. And I saw your drawings on Dan’s Discord. I’m not saying : “hey, drawing is important to me so this should be the same for you”. And maybe for you it’s just one thing between others. But I can only encourage you to keep doing it if that’s something that brings you some peace or joy or any positive feelings.
I’m sorry if this is a bit abstract or a too personal response. I just can’t underline enough how much having those creative spaces in your life can be helpful to actually give yourself some grace. Feeling guilty before, during and after self-isolation are still on the same line of self-depreciation. You certainly know what you appreciate, what makes you feel great, what makes sense to you, what motivates you when you’re doing okay and remains healthy to you. Those are things you can always hang on to when you need to clear your mind, when you need to slow down the lies spiraling again and again. There is some kind of grief when you get better after being in a dark place. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that. And you can always ask yourself: what would you say to a friend who would be in the exact same situation? What would you do to help them and make them feel better? I am sure you have the answers deep inside.