Me, You, Us & Lonely
For myself, loneliness is both lived reality and state of mind; you can live alone and have not one friend to talk to. Yet, you can be amongst friends, chatting, but feel distinctly separate, apart from everyone else, you feel you are on your own, you feel alone.
Nevertheless, both lived reality and this state of mind are real, both experiences are valid, because both situations start a spiral of emotions, from isolation to frustration onto a despondent emptiness; thus manifesting into an all-consuming sense, in a knowing, a state of loneliness. Privately, for too long, I endured this state of loneliness, where it seemed depression was my only friend and my illness didn’t want me to have anyone else?
There were times I had friends, close friends, but depression steered me to isolate myself, to feel disconnected, and, unhappily, repelled people away I’d once considered friends. Eventually, depression forced me to quit work, move home and simply exist, alone. Also, being a young-ish person I keenly felt this expectation that I should be constantly socialising, it reinforced this stigma of loneliness and made me feel…shame? Unsurprisingly, shame, compelled me to not tell anyone, even my counsellor, for me, it was my last taboo. Slowly and painfully, I produced a confession “I feel like a fraud! I feel there’s a sign on my head that says ‘LONELY’ and I’m constantly afraid because…I think someone might find out”. My desolate solitude created hours of daydreamed conversations, weeks where my only outside contact was my counsellor or doctor; to find relief from depression, I needed to find a path out of loneliness.
Establishing this route began by attending a Depression Alliance support group and being introduced to the website Friends in Need. By joining and becoming a member I’d already reached out; within hours, I was making contact, within days, I was involved in conversations and after a week, I experienced something I hadn’t for a long time - I was connecting with other people. Gingerly I’d point members to information that could be useful, console worries, or impart my knowledge of the mental health system and through this, I regained something unexpected – a small sense of purpose. Whilst offline one day I recalled another member’s experience of overcoming a problem which I, myself, was now facing, yet I knew “it’s alright…this is to be expected…it’s OK”; a comforting community and my contributions made me realise I still matter, I was now, again, part of something.
This epiphany, that I’m a living being of this world, not a gloomy spectre doomed only to haunt the aisles of Tesco, it enabled me to relieve myself of the shameful burden of loneliness. It made my lived reality of being friendless seem so much less of an insurmountable obstacle, because, I am on my own, but through Friends in Need, I’m not alone. There are others, just like me, taking this path out of loneliness, and if you want to? We can walk it together.
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