“Should I disappear to get my shit together?”
Be it after a major life issue, a break up, a job loss, or during depression.
This is one of these questions I don’t answer with a simple yes or no.
Disappearing is when you self-isolate and withdraw from social interactions.
It can be a full-blown disappear. You literally become out of reach.
Or it can be a withdrawal, physical or emotional, in which you are somehow unavailable for human connection.
And here come the questions and doubts.
Is that a good thing to do?
Will it help me get my shit together?
I am already too exhausted for any human contact, so I want to disappear for a while. But I am afraid I will lose my people.
I am going to be a burden on those I love. I will go back when I am feeling well. But I am afraid I don’t know what to do while alone. I am afraid of myself.
Will it help?
OK, let’s examine that. Let’s examine the reasons, the motives, and the consequences.
Before we do that, let me tell you that I am not going to talk about how to get your shit together. Check that link; it’s an article that explains that step by step.
I, in this article, will do my best to answer the question: to disappear or not to disappear?
I want to answer as many questions and cover as many sides to help you make an informed decision.
Let’s do that logically, step by step. One question at a time.
What does “disappearing” mean?
It can mean to physically disappear, meaning that you go to a place where no one can see or contact you.
That can be short like locking yourself in your room/apartment for a while. Or it can be long like locking yourself for a long period or traveling to another country and locking yourself there.
Or it can be shutting down emotionally to those around you.
You are there. With them. But you are not emotionally available.
And because that’s, in most cases, an unpleasant experience for everyone, you prefer to just stay alone. In this case, you can go with locking yourself and staying unreachable.
What a dilemma!
The challenge is real. But there’s a good way of coping.
It starts with identifying who and what exactly you are disappearing from.
Who/what are you disappearing from?
To some extent, a few social interactions here and there are inevitable. Unless you want to lock yourself inside of your room.
So, I am going to mainly talk about people.
Usually, we want to disappear from those who are closest to us.
We also want to disappear from people with whom we have unpleasant social interactions for whatever reason because we already have enough on our plate.
And then we have the rest of the people. The acquaintances. The superficial relationships. Your collageous or co-workers. And so on.
If you feel you need to disappear to get your shit together, it’s OK to disappear from the last two categories, people who are a pain in the ass and superficial relationships, as much as you like.
The tricky thing is with the first category: the people closest to you.
This is what the rest of the article will tackle.
Sometimes, they are the ones we desperately want to disappear from during the times we are feeling unwell and ashamed of ourselves.
But even if you feel like no one is that close to you or that no one cares about you, read on. This is still for you.
Why do we feel like we want to disappear?
There are many reasons.
Let’s count a few popular ones that likely drive your desire to disappear.1Again, keep in mind that we are talking mainly about the people closest to you and whether you should isolate yourself away from them or not. The rest of the world? It’s not a big deal if you feel it’s helpful to disappear.
No energy to interact with people
With depression and low moods come low energy levels.
And it can feel daunting to have conversations and act “normally”.
Sometimes, however, some people won’t understand this and would assume we are just being dicks. This makes us want to interact with them even less, which will anger them more.
To keep it simple, I believe it’s OK to have low levels of energy.
Don’t beat yourself up for that. Accept it and don’t fight it.
You may walk away from superficial interactions because you just can’t/don’t want to handle them.
You can cancel plans and not go out to gatherings.
You may explain that you just have no energy or you may not.
In either case, you have the right to say no to what you feel you don’t have enough energy for.
Speaking of the people closest to you, even if that is one person (which is enough), you should explain the fact that you have no energy to be “normal“.
They ought to respect that and not call you lazy for it. I am assuming that you have a good relationship with that person that they will understand if you tell them you’re just tired. If you don’t have these kinds of relationships, then maybe you should consider investing time and effort creating and finding such “safe” relationships. And believe me, I mean the word “safe” quite literally.
So, have this important conversation with those people.
Tell them about how low you feel.
It’s extra nice if you could just be around them with all your “laziness” and low energy without being judged.
I want to save my energy for fighting
This is related to the previous point. But it’s not exactly the same.
This reason indicates that you are just too consumed to do most of the normal things you usually do. And you want to save what little energy you have for what matters.
Again, say no to whatever consumes your energy.
But more importantly, you can let those closest to you help you with saving your energy.
Ask them to help you with a few things, like home chores if you are partners, for example, to help you with reserving your energy.
Ask them to not take it personally if you are gloomy and just sad.
Whatever that helps.
This will help you in two ways. You will save more energy and you still can disappear and focus on what matters while being supported.
This leads us to the conclusion that you shouldn’t isolate yourself 100% of those people.
You might not be your best self around them, but it doesn’t make you less worthy of their love and acceptance.
Those are the ones who can see you suffering and not judge you or try to fix you or, hell, ignore you. They understand and show empathy and acceptance.
And usually, if we are lucky, we have one person or two people like this in our lives. and that’s more than enough.
We will expand on this point in a minute.
I feel like a burden
When we are suffering, it’s easy to believe that we are too much. That we are a pain in the ass for those around us.
And I get it.
The mental health stigma is real.
And then there is this feeling that you shouldn’t be feeling this way. That there must be something wrong with you for going through such struggles.
All this stuff is burdening you.
And with the low moods and low energy and the actual problems you are dealing with, you rightfully believe that you are just going to be burdensome for those around you.
Even if those people care about you, you still can’t shake the idea of being a burden.
You might reason that they already have enough on their plate. And you might be right.
Or maybe it’s your past that made you believe you would burden people if you asked for help or support. Or that you would burden people if you were even slightly gloomy.
You know, a family where someone else’s pain was always bigger and more important than yours. And should you talk about your pain, you will be ignored and theirs will increase.
There are many reasons for feeling like you are a burden. But there are horrible consequences to that. One of which is that it makes you feel unloved and uncared for.
You know, like you don’t deserve to be helped and supported.
It’s also addictive with a downward spiral.
I mean once you start isolating yourself because you believe you are burden-some, all the negative emotions will intensify. This will make you feel more like a burden-some, which will make you isolate yourself even more. I discussed that in detail here.
Also, it’s an indicator of a deeper issue, which is…
Shame. I don’t want anyone, even those close to me, to see me like this
Everything I know about shame I learned from Brene Brown and her books and videos.
She briefly defines shame as the fear of disconnection. That is, it’s when you believe that you are too flawed to the point that you don’t even deserve connection, love, or belonging.
Isn’t that what we feel when we want to shut off and disappear? Isn’t what we feel when we isolate ourselves?
According to her, what shame loves most is secrecy and silence. It grows bigger when it finds them.
She stresses the importance of putting shame into words and telling your shame stories. That’s a part of what vulnerability is, which is a topic she talks about as well.
But she stresses the importance of telling your shame stories to those who have earned the right to hear them. You don’t go out there and indiscriminately tell shame stories to everyone you know!
Shame grows bigger with silence. But it also grows bigger when met with silence, rejection, sympathy, or lack of empathy. That’s why we need to pick carefully who has earned the right to hear such personal stories and which relationships can withstand the weight of such stories.
This brings us back to the point of having at least one person who can listen to you and show real empathy, not sympathy.
However, it’s still hard to go and open your mouth and speak. Even with those we trust.
This is where vulnerability comes into play.
It’s hard. It’s painful. And there’s this dark belief that vulnerability is weakness, especially if you are a man.
But Brene describes vulnerability as courage. And she says that it’s the first thing we want to see in other people but the last thing we want to see in ourselves.
We instinctively recognize it as courage when we see it.
And that makes sense. Why?
All the courageous deeds require putting your neck on the line, which is close to an accurate definition of what vulnerability is.
Anyhow, when shame takes over and vulnerability feels impossible, we feel like disappearing, hiding, and isolating ourselves. We feel it’s the best choice to get our shit together. Or to, at least, not lose more shit.
Nobody cares about me
Yeah, put all the reasons we discussed above together and good luck feeling that anyone cares for you.
Not to mention what shame makes you believe when you are loathing yourself.
That’s just a toxic belief. There are people who care about you. And if you can prove me wrong, there are people who will care about you.
The people around me are putting me down
(Note: if you are struggling with people who put you down in your life, and who are toxic, then this might help.)
I believe this is a legit reason to distance yourself.
If you are going through tough times where you just need to get your act together, and you are in a toxic environment, that’s not helpful.
The toxic environment will consume you. And you are already consumed and exhausted.
In the toxic environment, you are less likely to get support or, at least, understanding and empathy. You are likely to get judged, get demanded from, and get shut out.
The toxic environment will make the already hard situation more difficult.
While it’s always a good idea to leave toxic environments and draw clear boundaries with toxic people, it’s even more important when you are trying to get your act together. Heck, maybe that’s part of getting your act together.
So, I believe you can and you should disappear from such environments to get your shit together. And when you get it together, you might even like this distancing and keep it in place.
I want to take my life
If you are isolating yourself because you want to take your life, or you want to think about taking your life, then at least consider the following. Especially if you have a plan.
I might not know you personally. I might not know your family and friends. And I might not even know how much you are struggling unless I sit down and really, really listen to you.
However, I don’t wish you would take your life. I believe there might be something you can hold on to. Something that keeps you away from doing that.
I won’t pretend that I am an expert and that I can help you out professionally. I am just a guy who is trying to help.
So, should I disappear to get my shit together?
First of all, there’s a difference between “disappearing” and “isolation”.
Isolation is bad. It comes from shame and it’s about hiding and escaping.
And it can be dangerous in many ways. It can add more damage to our already damaged lives.
Disappearing can be good to some extent, given that you do it right.
It involves respecting the negative feelings you are having and not trying to fight them by acting sociable. And it involves reserving your energy for your plan to get your shit together.
However, you should not take it to an extreme and disappear from everyone. In this case, it’s isolation and it will hurt you the same way isolation will.
There should be one person or two to three people in your life who are your safe land.
Those people understand you, love you, respect you, and communicate with empathy and care. Again, it can be one person and that’s enough.
You should not isolate yourself from those people. Interacting with them during those tough times can be therapeutic. Yes, it still requires a bit of vulnerability to do it, but remember that vulnerability is courage.
I will say it again in case it didn’t sink: interacting with them can be therapeutic. That can help you get your shit together.
Don’t be deluded that you need to do it alone and be ‘independent’. It’s not independence to suffer alone and not ask for help; it’s cowardice and a sign of weakness because you are actually trying to prove something, either to others or to yourself.
And it’s not like you are either independent or dependent. There’s something that’s called interdependence that doesn’t get talked a lot about and I don’t know why.
But again, practice your interdependence with people who are trustworthy and reliable. People who love you and care about. People who can take your shame stories and mix them with their empathy to tell you that you are not alone.
If you don’t have such people in your life, maybe it’s time you started creating meaningful relationships in your life. Maybe that’s one of the ways you should get your shit together.
(Final note: you still need practical solutions for your problems and you still need to take action and move. You still have the responsibility to get face your suffering and take something out of it. While I don’t believe that deep relationships are the solutions to every problem, I believe that the benefits of deep relationships can improve your psychological and physical being. Unlike loneliness, which is fostered by isolation, which damages both of them, leaving you unable to get up and fight.)