There’s something to be said about complete disconnection. Disconnection not of your choosing, that happens spontaneously.
Imagine all the means to contact anyone you love and care about were to vanish. In an instant, any access to your support system—family, friends, loved ones, peers—was a rug swept from underneath your feet. The modern equivalent of becoming stranded on a deserted island, drawing “SOS” in the sand as planes continue to pass by without a glance.
You can probably guess how it feels, but until you’re stuck in that moment yourself, it’s only vague guesses. Sure, it’d be hard. It would get lonely pretty quickly. If there’s a volleyball nearby, guess it’ll be named Wilson.
As interconnected we seem to be with technology and basic socialization, the feeling of being completely alone, or at least the convincing illusion of it, is jarring.
I know I’m privileged. You don’t have to tell me twice. However, the way it feels when what I know and rely upon suddenly disappears, you feel really helpless. On top of that, you’re living abroad in another country. You couldn’t even walk anywhere that could provide relief.
As you can guess, that’s where I am. I write this as my wifi connection at home has been out of commission for over three days. My classroom at my elementary school doesn’t have wifi. I rely upon the ten minutes or so I have to use my school office’s sketchy wifi connection to spew out some words that won’t have a reply for hours, given the time zone differences.
My depression and anxiety, as a result of this abrupt isolation, are in full swing. Sleeping at night, even with a sleep aid, is becoming increasingly sparse. I feel numb, like I’m just dragging myself through the motions of the week. I feel guilty because I fear I’m dragging everyone else around me through the mud that is my mood. Simultaneously aching and involuntarily fidgeting, I struggle to keep my train of thought consistent.
I know these signs all too well. I’m very aware of my mental illness and the warning signs of a downturn. But the important way I cope and relieve those emotions isn’t even possible. I’ve made immense progress in my mental health because I’ve become more open and willing to seek out my people of refuge.
It’s a whole other story to mix in living and teaching abroad. That in of itself presents its own unique challenges that require some support to lean on. Whether it’s adjusting to a new culture, managing a classroom, or random bumps in the road, having a reliable soundboard to bounce off ideas is crucial.
Only in recent years have we been able to keep in touch so easily. No, social media and text messaging will never replace the potency of in-person communication, but in cases like this, it’s a great substitute. A Skype call with my parents and dog can turn an entire week from rotten to hopeful. Having friends from the States asking me questions remind me that what I’m doing really does matter. These simple opportunities are things I never take for granted. Especially right now.
Mental illness is never something to fight alone. It takes a village, millions of villages, to tackle the burden mental illness creates. We should truly be frightened by how invisible mental illness is, how easily it seems to seep into every aspect of life. I walk and ride the bus to school every day, and nobody would notice a difference based on how I look and behave. I seem decent and pleasant, but inside? I’m casually falling apart. At this point in life and in knowing my mental health, I’m not ashamed to admit that.
There’s only so much I can do right now. In the dictionary, it’ll likely be the definition under “making it work.” Tim Gunn, please intervene; I need a mental makeover, stat.
I’ve found some source of spiritual peace in taking an extra hour in my evenings to Bible journal. Disconnection has allowed for more reflection with the Lord, and maybe that’s what He wants from this. Only He knows. He also knows how much I’m struggling right now. My white flag is waving. SOS is etched into the shoreside.
All I can really do is pray. I find whatever sense of relief I can. Try to get some sleep, take care of myself physically, and patiently wait for the mental side to improve. In this case, that’s getting a badly serviced wireless company to get its act together. But that’s out of my hands. I make do, and I wait.
Don’t take for granted how connected you truly are. Remember those who love and care about you. Give thanks to the simple words that brighten your mood. They make all the difference.
Also, remember how close you are to others, physically, emotionally, and technologically. Without the virtual mediator, I’m left with a harsh reality: I’m very far away from all I know. It’s lonely and overwhelming. If you can empathize, then just do your best. Keep moving forward. You can choose to dwell in that empty pit, or you can choose to look for any good. The good is always there when you look for it.
Honestly, abrupt complete disconnection is ugly. But it’s not a death sentence.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie