For the purposes of this blog post ‘the L word’ refers to loneliness. Sorry to anyone who was expecting a post about love! The word loneliness is often associated with images of an elderly person sat alone in their house, and this is of course valid. It may also be associated with individuals who are unwell, for example loneliness is one of the symptoms, and is a cause, of depression. However, it would be inaccurate to assume that loneliness only affects the elderly and unwell members of society.
I am a fit and healthy 25 year old and I often feel lonely. I live with my husband who I consider to be my best friend and I speak to my parents every day. Despite this, I do feel isolated. I am a friendly and sociable person but I have found since I left college, when I was 18, that I have fewer friends than I would like. I have never struggled to form good relationships with work colleagues and other people I have come into contact with, but none of these have translated into meaningful friendships. I have a few friends who I am still in contact with from school and college but unlike me, they went to uni, and they developed a much larger social circle than I was able to do while working and studying via distance learning at home.
When I moved to Nottingham with my husband when we were 18 I truly understood what loneliness is. He would go off to uni each day and I would be left at home, searching for jobs and studying. We had no family or friends in Nottingham so the only person I saw on a daily basis was my husband. I began to resent him for going out to uni all day and it put strain on our relationship. Even when I found a job I still felt isolated because my work colleagues, while friendly, were much older than me and they had their own lives. Over the three years we spent in Nottingham I would make the mistake of looking at my friends’ photos and posts on Facebook. They were always surrounded by other people, at parties, clubs, etc. I thought they were all having a great time while I was feeling isolated and upset. Speaking to these friends years later, I discovered that they may have appeared to be having a great time but they also had times when they felt lonely. As I said on a previous post, Facebook is great at showing the positive bits of other peoples’ lives while leaving out a little thing called reality.
Since moving back to North Yorkshire things have improved because we are within easy travelling distance of family. However, I still have days where I feel utterly lonely. Currently I am at home most of the time because I left my job. I actually feel less lonely since I left my job despite seeing far fewer people on a weekly basis. In my last job I had some colleagues who I got on really well with but I felt like they were quite guarded; possibly as a defence mechansim due to us working in mental health. I would sit in an office full of people and feel totally alone. All I really wanted was for someone to show a genuine interest in me. Now, when I am alone at home I find that I enjoy my own company. However, I would absolutely love to have someone I could swap the odd text message with or pop for a coffee with.
The town where we live isn’t the town I grew up in and I don’t know anyone who lives here. I have tried to find ways to meet people; classes, activities, etc. but there is basically nothing going on here. I find it frustrating and upsetting. I am a firm believer that it is always better to have friends outside of your family circle, and during my Psychology degree studies I learnt that people need to have a good group of friends in order to feel happy and to promote their wellbeing. I know I am not the only ‘young’ person in this position. We increasingly live in a society which promotes the use of technology and social media in order to keep in touch with people. It seems to be becoming more and more difficult to make friends in the ‘real world’.
I apologise if this post reads as being depressing. I wanted to write about loneliness because it is something that affects people from all walks of life and it needs to be better recognised. Maybe we all have a part to play in decreasing the loneliness of others around us by saying hello to people as we pass them, by smiling at others, by finding ways to include other people in our own lives when we can. I would be interested to hear from anyone who reads this about their own experiences with loneliness.