Someone you have come to know as a vibrant life of the party, extroverted entrepreneur is now acting more like a recluse, which is throwing everyone off. She comes to work and attends the required meetings, but soon thereafter she retreats to her office to be alone.
This often happens for several reasons when it comes to mental health challenges. I know that when I was diagnosed with a mental illness and returned to work after being in a treatment center, I temporarily lost that spark. I was at a recent mental health program and the most common question asked was why do people with mental illnesses isolate?
I liken someone who finds out that they have a mental illness to someone who returns home from the military. That person has to get her sea legs because they are no longer the person they were before the diagnosis. Upon receiving a diagnosis, one's life shifts and changes instantly. You perceive that you are treated differently, and you feel and think differently. People will isolate out of fear of the stigma associated with mental illness or that it is way too difficult to deal with people when feeling the many emotions that accompany various mental health challenges.
When society often withdraws from individuals with mental health challenges, it's no wonder that people recoil into their own safe space. This could mean coming to work and leaving on time, which may be unusual when you are accustomed to that person arriving early and leaving late. You may find people with their door cracked or closed when they support an open-door policy. They aren't attempting to not be there for you, but rather they may need solitude to be there for themselves. Here are a few things that I suggest when you feel like you need to isolate.
Give Yourself Permission
You may need time alone to recalibrate. If you are on meds you may be attempting to find your mental balance. I recall sitting in front of my monitor for long periods of time. This was a clue that my meds we're too strong. Give yourself permission to be alone, but pay attention to what you do in that alone time. If you notice that you aren't working then there's a definitely problem. If you are productive but need alone time though, it's OK. Don't beat yourself up or allow others to do so because you need the quiet, and you seek tranquility that is found in being alone. But be ever so mindful if you are finding that you never want to engage others. Then that can be a problem for which I recommend seeking professional help.
Give Yourself Time
Allow yourself time to heal. Receiving a diagnosis or discovering that you have a mental health challenge can be devastating, and you may need time to heal and adjust to a new way of life. Maybe you don't need to stay home to recuperate, so give yourself a block of time at work where you can be alone, close your door or retreat to a safe space. You may even find that years after being diagnosed you still isolate because you are always seeking balance. So don't rush the healing process or believe that something is wrong with you because you need and want to be alone.
Let People Know of Your Needs
Isolating was the most difficult thing for my employees to handle because they were so accustomed to my being involved with everything and playing a major role in the organization. I was vocal, jovial, and animated. But I needed to escape to rebuild my confidence, trust, and self-esteem, all of which are impacted by mental illness. So be kind to yourself and allow yourself to be a little selfish in getting what you need, which is being alone, but not lonely. I had to let them know constantly that I was fine, and that there were no conspiracy meetings taking place behind closed door.
You may be asking, but what if I don't have a mental illness, but my colleague is pulling away, what can I do? There isn't a lot that you can do because it's about that individual. Telling her to come out and play only serves as a reminder that something appears wrong with her, and that she isn't fitting in. Be gentle and extend invitations for that person to attend functions or meetings. Let them know that they are valued and that their presence will add value, but give them the space that they need.