The First Year is the Hardest: Loneliness & Depression

Loneliness isn’t something I see mentioned or talked about a lot (Until I wrote this post, then I swear I saw the topic everywhere, from both cruisers and my landlubber friends!). I know I can’t be the only one. Granted, I also struggled with loneliness on land many times, too, but the seclusion seems so much more intense out here. Its not *just* the physical distance, but also the fact that a lot of our long time friends have apparently distanced themselves from us since we left. At least one of my friends was blunt about it and said she was feeling too jealous of me to interact much right now. Which I get, but still, I’m no less in need of friends now than I was before. Just because I have more gorgeous photos to post than a lot of people, doesn’t mean that my life is suddenly magical. I’m not sure that any of my friends really even get what this lifestyle change has meant for us, because I’m not sure that many of them would be at all interested in taking it on! Its not all butterflies and rainbows, to say the least. This transition is hard as hell for many reasons, and although I would still choose to take it on… not everything is as perfect as it appears:

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I got this awesome, gorgeous photo of Paris and Jazz because we were broken down. In the middle of a VERY tight, very shallow, very BUSY channel… right after having spent a bloody fortune on a marina, rental car (because our van broke down) and repairs to our engine. With our son and his girlfriend on board for a visit. Living the dream, right here.

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These gorgeous underwater shots were taken, yes, in an amazing location… but one where we were treated like dog shit on someone’s shoe, because the uppity people at the only marina we could fit in to dock at (we just needed a pump out) didn’t like cruisers and I imagine, in part, they didn’t want our old bedraggled boat parked too close to their fancy expensive boats. We were even kicked off of the public beach and told that we needed to take our boat and move along. Nice, eh?

Yes, I’d love to make new friends and meet people that are living this same lifestyle, because it would be awesome to have someone who understands the unique stresses to this life. Someone who knows the frustrations and reality, who might have some advice or at least get where you’re coming from when you complain that your head has overflowed again (I’m talking bathroom-head, not my brain, although that would probably be accurate as well!) There is even a lot of stress with the thought of trying to make new friends when I have so much freaking social anxiety!

At any rate, it would be really nice not to feel so disconnected from those friends that I’ve known for years. I’m not a different person, and there is history there that you build on for years, even if its only online… I can’t seem to even maintain my online friendships (for the most part). Its making me fairly… well, soon I won’t even have online regularly. I wonder if I’ll even be able to keep in touch with anyone. That is a really depressing thought.

Its like we left town and everyone just disappeared off of the radar. Even people I thought I was close to don’t seem to be interested in keeping up. I can count on one hand the people that I’ve had any private contact with since we left, and even then, its pretty much been a one time thing via text or fb message. I get it that people don’t like to talk on the phone, hell, *I* hate talking on the phone, but sheesh… even tag me in a funny photo, I mean, damn. I’m not that picky. When I do have internet, there’s nothing I like better than to be in public, trying not to crack up and have to stifle my laughter until tears are falling down my face.

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I’m Stuck Inside my Brain

Then thing about living on a boat is that you have a LOT of time for introspection. Even when your boat is a full-time job of repairs and fixing things, you still end up with a lot of hours in a day to think. In our case, we’ve been limited on electricity in the evenings, so even binge watching movies as a distraction is out (which I don’t enjoy anyway, but Patrick does). The boat is often rocking just enough that I can’t even read without getting seasick. It leaves you with a lot of time just in your own head… and in some cases, that’s not the greatest place to be. So yeah, I can see someone going, “Hell, I wish I had that much free time! Quit complaining!” and I’m not really complaining, just saying its different and has an effect on my brain that I really didn’t expect.

For me, I need to write. I can’t just sit and think or my thoughts tend to just roll around and twist and turn until I’m feeling depressed, anxious or just angry and frustrated. Writing helps me get out of my head and make some sense of things (thus you see these novella-posts). Being on a boat with limited electricity, limited ‘sit up’ seating inside (the ceilings in our cabins are way too short to sit up) and very little privacy AND motion sickness issues means that a lot of the bad weather, cold and gloomy days leave me with a lot of time just swimming around in my own head. Not the best recipe for peace.

Patrick is even having an even worse time of it. He’s used to working at least 50-60 hours a week, listening to talk radio, keeping his mind busy and distracted 90% of his waking hours. Now that we’re out here, he’s struggling big time. He’s prone to depression as well. Maybe not as much as my bipolar self, but he is. All of this free time to think and dwell inside of his own head with no distractions is having quite the opposite effect from what he was expecting to experience on the boat. Yeah, it doesn’t help that SO MANY things have went wrong and the weather has been shit. It makes things worse that our expenses went through the roof and chewed up a good portion of our budget in the first two months (yes, we planned on a big ‘fix it’ budget, but it exceeded that by quite a bit anyway). Even so, having the time to think on everything that he’s been pretty much pushing to the background of his brain for 10-20 years is hard. Its really damn difficult.

So we’re both struggling a lot emotionally and physically. The physical adjustments have been crazy difficult for both of us. My hormonal self is all over the place, the stress of the changes and dealing with the sudden appearance of anxiety attacks again after YEARS. Patrick had several horrible allergic reactions and severe skin issues that were exacerbated by the unexpected cold and wet weather that we encountered. During all of the repairs and work that *had to* be done as quickly as possible on the boat, he was walking around with cracked, bloody and incredibly painful feet. For the entire first two MONTHS His feet looked like a lepers feet. The skin was sloughing off, the heels and under his toes were cracking deeply and bleeding. You can thank me for not posting photos. All the while, he had to keep moving, walking, standing, because he was the only one who knew how to fix the engine (also because he’s stubborn and has a really hard time letting people HELP, but that’s another issue altogether and we’re working on it). That’s not even touching on the other issues he had over the course of these first few months.

So all of this is going on, just touching on Patrick and I, and I have no one to talk to. Patrick has no one to talk to (and he’s really bad at talking about things like this anyway). Patrick and I can (and do) talk to each other, but when both of you are so beaten down and struggling to keep your head above water, it really doesn’t help that on top of everything else, you feel forgotten.

To the people who’ve distanced themselves (and yes, I realize they won’t even read this in the first place, but it helps me to write it out and think that at the very least, I can help someone else feel a little less alone), just know, this isn’t a permanent vacation. This is our home. We still have stress and struggles. We still have dishes to do and kids to remind to pick up after themselves. We still have a lot of our old struggles and a lot of new ones. We have bad nights when we can’t sleep or the dogs/kids are sick. We still come home exhausted at the end of the day and wish we could just order pizza, but its not in the budget (or there are no pizza places to go to!) There are 6 of us in a very small space, so there is VERY little privacy and there is pretty much always noise of some sort going on. I very much miss my kids left on land and I may not even be able to see them again this YEAR because of all of the excess expenses, repairs and costs that happened in our first two months.

So yes, we are currently freed from the need to get up and go to a job outside of the house every day. Yes, we are VERY lucky in that! Yes, we have the incredibly amazing luck to have the ocean as our back yard. It is phenomenal that our kids get to go outside on nice days and paddleboard or windsurf because they have no other commitments. Yes, we are so very thankful for the opportunity to have this chance for adventure, seeing new places that we’d otherwise probably never see and we’re happy to have the chance…

But it doesn’t mean we don’t need friends. We’re also fairly isolated. In the last month, I think I’ve had three conversations in person with humans outside of this boat. One was another cruiser/blogger that I met at the last marina (hell, I think it was over a month ago at this point). One was a lady who stopped on her bicycle to ask what kind of dog Tiberius was and then asked if we lived nearby and the last one was a librarian who was really curious as to why the kids and I were there for the second day in a row to sit on our computers for 6 hours at a stretch. That’s it. I remember feeling isolated when my kids were little and I was stuck at home in rural Iowa. This feels a lot like that did.

That being said, I am fine MOST of the time being alone with just my family. I don’t have any desire to get out and become a social butterfly all the time. Neither Patrick nor I are the type to hang out with friends every night or even every weekend.  That is probably part of our problem. We’re out of practice and socially awkward, but I really need to connect with someone outside of our little bubble!

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I suppose we need to learn a new ‘social normal’ in this new world. In the meantime, I hope I get to stay in touch with my ‘old’ friends as well. I would hate to think that all of those friendships will fade into nothing just because we live a different lifestyle.

I guess I need to just ‘put on my big girl panties’ and deal with it. And give a big thank you to those people in my life who felt like hanging around, even if we can only hang out virtually…

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