“If you are suffering from loneliness, you are not alone.”
As I learned through my journey being diagnosed with burnout and depression is that depression isolates you from others and that burnout robs you of energy to spend and enjoy actual time with friends and family.
I was raised as an only child. I always wished for an older brother. Later on, understanding the older brother wasn’t a realistic option, I begged my mother for a dog. As an 16-year old I thought it would be good for me to go outside with the dog, have some movement and to have a reason to leave my books behind for a while. Never got the dog.
In elementary school I had a bff and a rabbit. Maybe not quite the same, but equally important in my world as an 8-year old. I was also very fond of my school and the teachers. Since I was spending a lot of time alone or in the company of my mother I enjoyed other adults in my life. We moved when I was 9. I lost my friend and my rabbit. My rabbit was given to her because they had a garden and well, the rabbit got eaten by a dog in the night. Bye rabbit, bye bff and bye school.
Not to worry, I did read a TON of books and escaped into the fairyland of pop music and songs. I love listening to lyrics and imagine a whole story behind it. In high school I had a tight group of friends. They were there for me and I believed life was clear on that point. At home I studied and listened more to music. My grades were good and there was no need to have a very close interaction with my mother. We don’t get along.
When I went to college I thought that things will roll on; naturally. Well they didn’t. I lost contact with my old friends but made some new friends. I changed too, became more critical. I didn’t like to go out just to get drunk. I loved a nice atmosphere, with good music. A good discussion. Not about politics or the college we were taking but about beautiful things. Pieces of art, books and music that touches your soul. Not with the purpose to impress somebody, not to be cool or fancy but to understand and feel what makes us human. I started to dislike the superficial commercial mentality. Not judging here, it’s just not for me. I found a new ‘home’ in a café I really enjoyed working but times changed when the café was taken over. I started working in the field of psychiatry and focused on that. I really loved to make an authentic connection with my clients. I found a new niche. Then I fell ill and now I don’t have the job anymore. It leaves me lonely. I feel robbed of my social persona, the value I can add to the world, my identity to put it more dramatic.
I noticed that some people are not willing to stick around because of the events that took place in my life. I’m fine with that. At the moment I have a boyfriend and three good friends. None of my friends live in the city I live in. But that’s enough of the pity party already.
What is there to say about loneliness? Or the lack of a (human) connection?
We are born alone and we will die alone. I have to tell it like it is. It is difficult to bear but a burden shared is half a burden. So we are in need of human connection. A balance of enjoying alone-time and be able to share time with others. To know other people, talk to them, understand them, to feel that they care makes me feel safe. It makes my mind to be able to relax. To live only inside my own head – a wonderful creation as it may be – is a burden heavy to bear. Others can be a burden too but you know, it’s about the balance.
Loneliness makes me live in my head and withdraw into more negative thinking. It’s easier to laugh about problems when you’re with somebody. When I got my hands on the internet I jumped on it, it is really made for me. I can connect with people all around the globe, I can choose my friends, yes those people who talk about ‘all things beautiful’. It went well for a while but now I feel that the online connection doesn’t fill the need that I feel. For me meeting with a friend in real life leaves a more long lasting impression. On the other hand, I’m afraid that those online connections will disappear with a click. The internet connection is very valuable for me, it gives me joy when it can exists next to connection in real life. I can feel that need now.
A real connection for me happens when you’re able to be honest with yourself and with the other person. Honest about your passion. Off course I could talk to my colleagues at work about the workload and how I spend my weekend but there was no real connection, there was no shared passion. When you connect with someone, you feel at ease, like when you’re at home. You are allowed to feel and say what goes on in your life. You can take the time needed. It’s so important – I realize now – and it went out of the window so quickly. Work became far more important…I lived in a paradox, my job became the solution and at the same time it drove me more into isolation.
I am so afraid to be hurt again and to lose again, I obtain sometimes from people. I’m afraid to do or say something wrong that will drive them away. So I overdo it, I am too sweet. And I know it. It’s good to be sweet but it’s not good when it’s driven by anxiety. To seek validation only from others and lose yourself in the process is what happened. I tried to do the good thing but due to lack of a real connection it left me with no value of return. It left me on empty.
It is so bad to feel lonely?
What I didn’t know is that loneliness is harmful to your body . It makes us more vulnerable to diseases, depression can stem from it. Loneliness can lead to an early grave, like smoking or diabetes.
Loneliness is painful. You can feel it. I feel it my gut and in my mind. I can go crazy, sad and anxious, when I feel lonely. It’s in a chronic state now, the foundation was laid many years ago. It makes me so vulnerable at the moment. I used to really enjoy my freedom of living alone, being by myself and just be goofy. But is that really so? Is loneliness an imperative for true freedom or is it an illusion? Will I be protecting myself forever behind my big emotional wall or will I jump over it, to a possible not so gentle fall?
But wait, what are we actually talking about?
Loneliness is subjective, there is no tool to measure it. So, when we feel lonely, we are. Now that I am aware of my loneliness, is it just me? Are other people more connected due to better developed social skills? Loneliness is a feeling as we stated before; it means that the connections you have are not (sufficient) enough for your needs. It’s not about social skills or beware – social media.
Loneliness is a feeling, not just ‘a thought’ to shake off. It really is, it’s not some romantic feeling from the 19th century. I learned that the feeling of loneliness is a signal from the brain and not your emo teenager who lives somewhere in you. It is a signal we can understand as the feeling of hunger that makes you look for food. When we feel lonely it’s a signal we should take action to protect our social body. It signals a need that is not being met.
This knowledge makes me more brave to reach out to people. I can’t deny myself something as important as food. I don’t feel it yet but I understand. I am an creature driven by my mind. “Now I understand, now I can do”, is my truth.
I will take the step to open my eyes, heart and mind to others. To step out of my own shadow and to reach out. No matter the consequences. It is needed for my own personal survival and it scares the living hell out of me. But all things have their time and place and the time is already here.
 Odds ratio for dying earlier: loneliness 40% more chance of an early death compared to: excessive drinking +30%; obesity +20%, air pollution +5%
Online source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0hxl03JoA0&t=608s ; (2019)