I took a health assessment today as part of my new insurance plan. It rated my wellness in several areas and apparently, while I am doing a good job of maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle, I avoid tobacco and I stay up to date on vaccines, I am not healthy because I don't have strong social connections. It's funny because this is a theme I return to again and again in my mind; however well other things are going, however long it's been since I've had a panic attack or suicidal thought, however many social gatherings I attend, I always feel...unconnected. Now, that prefix might seem like a mistake - surely I mean disconnected not unconnected, right? But disconnected implies a former feeling of connection; that I was connected to something and somehow that connection ended. While it is logical for me to believe that I must have felt connected to people at some point, before all of the hurt and disappointment and protective wall building, it isn't something I can actually remember. I can't even remember or imagine what it feels like to be truly connected, to feel that sense of belonging or safety that humans require (or so I keep hearing). I have been trying so hard for so long to find it and sometimes it feels close, but always just out of reach. I am perpetually on the periphery. Like I'm in my own orbit but sometimes I'm able to slide along next to other people's even though I'm not really a part of it.
I'm a good friend; I'm reliable and compassionate and make people laugh. I work hard and usually get positive feedback from colleagues and supervisors. I even have a family, one who I see or talk to on a semi-regular basis. And yet, somehow, I don't feel central to any of those groups. I'm not the one my friends call in a low moment or ask to be their bridesmaid or feel comfortable just showing up at any time to hang out. I'm not an employee of the month and I don't get more than a perfunctory card for birthdays. Even my mom, who tries so hard to make me feel loved and accepted - it's like she has two circles; one that is me and one that is the rest of her life; her new husband, his children, her mom and brother, her friends, and although I know she wants me to be a part of that world and she is forever pulling me that way, I always end up bouncing back to my own solitary place. It has been my constant mission to change this. I have opened up to people about my past, I have asked for favors and offered my help and advice whenever I could, I have been slowly showing more of myself to the world and trying to back away from presenting a facade of whatever I thought a given person wanted to see, and I have done the therapy and the journaling and the self-reflection and yet...It isn't enough.
What else can I do? This health assessment puts it in such a straight-forward, black-and-white way; it is a risk-factor for an unhealthy life, just like eating trans-fats or sitting all day. That questionnaire, just like so many magazines and self-help books and TV gurus makes it seem like a simple problem with an obvious solution. So you don't have enough social connections? Go make some. Just like they're saying 'oh you don't get enough protein? Eat a hamburger!'. If it were that simple, don't you think I would have done it by now??? If it were as easy as going out and making connections, how lovely would that be? I have wracked my brain for years trying to figure out that missing piece, that one answer to this question of how to cultivate a sense of belonging, to have a group of people I can count on, to be connected to others...but it is not something I've been able to find. It's elusive and it hurts, it hurts so much to see that other people have it, to be so close to it, and to still not be able to claim it as my own. I don't know if that will ever change, if I'll look back in a year or five or twenty years and think 'ah yes, that was such a tough time, but now I have it and I see what I was missing.', or if I will die feeling this same way. Most days, I feel like it is worth the risk of the latter for a chance at the former. Most days.