The Pain of Loneliness

No one wants to say they are lonely. It seems like such a shameful thing to admit. We’ve begun the conversation around mental health; people are open and willing to discuss their anxiety, depression, low mood. But I have never heard anyone say simply, ‘I am lonely’.

So I am going to say it. Am I the first?! I am lonely. I am really lonely.

That statement fills me with embarrassment and shame. I never thought that would be me. I expected loneliness would visit me when I am old, you know, eighty plus, having raised a family and been in a long happy relationship, maybe having recently been bereaved. That’s my picture of loneliness. But that’s not how my life turned out.

Is it because I am not in relationship that I am lonely? Is partnership the ingredient to ensure loneliness doesn’t descend? I’m not sure. I think I could be in relationship and still be lonely, I’m pretty sure some people are.

Loneliness is my general state of being. That’s not to say I don’t have times where I connect, where I have fun, where I am happy. I have friends that I love, parents I adore, and siblings that I get along with just fine. But just underneath, it’s almost imperceptible, there is a low level pain, an emptiness, an ache near my heart which tells me things are not quite right, this is not how things should be.

I spend a lot of time on my own. Saturday morning is my favourite part of the week, a time where I delight in being alone, when I go downstairs and make coffee, fill my hot water bottle, and come back up to bed to read a book. It is sheer bliss. In these moments I feel blessed. I feel extremely fortunate at my position in this world.

So being alone is not the issue. I’m talking about when I am with others and I just don’t get it, where I don’t feel wanted, where I’m sure I don’t belong.

And honestly, I wonder if this is just how society is today? I’m not sure we know how to connect anymore, how to be inclusive, how to look out for each other. Are we all just pretending? Pretending we’ve got it all going on, have lots of friends, have crazy busy social lives doing a wide variety of fun and interesting things. Why do we feel we have to prove this? Is it not a bit desperate updating Facebook so the whole world knows what a great time we are having?

What would it be like if we all disconnected from technology for one day, for one hour for God’s sake! Could we do it? How about we not only disconnect from technology but we connect with each other? How does that make you feel? Are you uncomfortable with that suggestion? Think about it. If you had to, right this very minute, put away your phone, your iPad, your computer and disconnect from the world wide web, and simply turn to the person nearest to you and talk to them for one hour, could you do it? Would you want to?

It’s an interesting question and probably gives an indication of where we are, what kind of society we have become. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to do it either. But if we don’t, are we all not just sharing a planet but living separate, and perhaps pretty empty lives?