Loneliness – The Cambridge dictionary defines this as: the state of being lonely.
This is not the only definition of loneliness as it does not describe the feeling of being lonely.
Feeling lonely is a perfectly normal emotion for us all. We are social creatures who need positive social interactions with others human beings to thrive. Positive social interactions are how we learn, develop and grow as a person.
Over the past two and a half years we have had this need hindered by the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and restrictions. Now that we are getting back to some normality it can be difficult to feel safe in this unknown climate. Add on top of that the stress and pressure we are all feeling from the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine. It’s no wonder I have been asked to write this blog about loneliness and why this year mental health awareness week is focusing on loneliness.
Although everyone will experience loneliness to various degrees in their life this can look very different for every person. Loneliness is not always about being alone. You could be a parent at home with your children all day and crave adult interaction. You could be a single person with no children craving social interaction. You could have a long term health condition or experiencing a period of poor health, either mental or physical. You could equally be surrounded by friends and family and still feel lonely.
Loneliness to me is the feeling of not being understood and feeling that you are alone with whatever you are going through. It’s like no one will understand or even want to be burdened with your feelings.
“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them – words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear.“ — Stephen King – The Body
This quote puts into words feelings that I never could, it resonates with me and also helps me to understand that I am not the only one feeling this way. If a famous author like Stephen King felt it was important enough to feature in one of his books (which was later made into the film “Stand by Me”) then I can’t be the only one.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” ― Mother Teresa
“When you’re surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you’re by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don’t feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.” ― Fiona Apple
“Loneliness is my least favourite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me” – Anne Hathaway
These quotes I think show that loneliness is not a new concept or feeling for human beings. It is something others throughout history have felt and been quoted on.
So why after all these years have we not found the solution? Why does it feel more prevalent than ever?
My personal opinion, the lockdown. The fear of this new unknown world we live in. Social media. These all play a massive part in contributing to this feeling of being alone.
Do I wear a mask? Do I not bother? Am I safe? How do I pay the bills and still eat? What do I cut out of my monthly spend? How do I do the things I need to do to gain that positive social interaction that we all need without spending too much? Is the gift I bought not enough? – ‘susan’ down the road spent much more on that gift. Is my relationship right? – All my ‘friends’ on social media seem so happy and have everything sorted.
All of these questions and thoughts can feel so overwhelming. It’s very easy to succumb to them and ‘give up’.
The hard part is not letting these thoughts and feeling take over. It can be done. There are many things we can all do to connect with each other more and help others to connect. I have written a list below of some of the things I have found useful. These won’t be for everyone so there is some useful websites at the end of this blog. The important thing is to find what works for you, recognise this feeling in its early stages and do what you find helpful.