Thinking back, I guess I felt disconnected for much of my life and still at times struggle with that today. Growing up gay in a small, rural, very conservative town, I always felt disconnected from my community. I also felt very disconnected from my father who continually shamed me. It left me with an overwhelming feeling of being detached from people, things and spirit.
I suppressed my emotions and disconnected from them. Rather than deal with my issues, it was much easier to just disconnect by occupying myself with other things. Now many years later, I am dealing with them.
Feeling disconnected from myself, others and spirit is a painful place to be. Of course, I’ve had moments of feeling very connected, blissful and in touch with myself. Unfortunatey, those moments have been fleeting.
It seems that, more often than not, I am still plagued with feeling profoundly alone and disconnected at times. Enough already. Time to deal with this head on.
But how can this be? How can I feel disconnected? I have awesome friends that love me dearly. I am a successful writer and critical care nurse. I have a relationship with God. How is it possible to be surrounded by others and yet feel disconnected?
Being connected is important. For me, being disconnected feels like being part of the living dead. Dead to my emotions, spirit, community, the environment and myself. It’s as if I am going through the motions of everyday life as if I were a robot, just allowing joy, passion, energy and connection to die.
With the advent of so many social media outlets, there are more ways than ever now to connect. Yet at times I feel so disconnected. Instead of picking up the phone to say “I love you” or “Happy birthday,” we send the message via text or social media with no real personal connection. I am so connected that I am disconnected if that makes sense.
Is disconnection always a bad thing? No.
I have found it necessary to disconnect from people in my life that bring in negative energy and do not support my growth. Sad to say but sometimes this can be the closet people to you. In this case, disconnection is essential as part of the reconnection process.
I am learning the value of stopping the search for home in others and instead lifting the foundation of home in myself. I have found there is no connection more intimate than the connection between my mind and body when I decide to be whole. This powerful truth I know, but I still seem to struggle at times.
Still, there are ways we can better stay connected to ourselves, and to each other.
Physical Activity: When I am feeling disconnected and isolated, I have found exercise to be beneficial. It connects me to my body.
Spending Time Outside: This allows me to connect to the environment and feel grounded. A 15-30 minute walk usually does the trick for me when I start feeling lonely and disconnected.
Mindfulness Practice: Practice paying attention to the present moment without judging, taking time to be aware when I am feeling depressed and disconnected without berating myself.
Becoming More Involved: Volunteering in the community not only helps others but brings a sense of goodness to oneself. When we help others, help shows up for us.
We are spirits in a human body. I often forget that and identify with the physical form instead. It is my intention to focus more on my spiritual being and staying connected to that.
For me, I believe that is a huge part of the key to unlock my disconnection and the feeling of being profoundly alone.
Vince Shifflett lives and loves in Atlanta. What’s your experience? Have you experienced 'the LGBTQ Disconnect'? Let him hear from you at vinceshifflett.com
This article originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue below, and pick up your hard copy around town.