How I managed and overcame loneliness
Since the theme of #mentalhealthawarenessweek is loneliness,I thought I would share a bit about my experience.
When I first heard about the theme, I initially didn’t thinkit was something I had experienced, but it slowly dawned on me how much “loneliness”defined my late teens/early 00s.
My anxiety was at its peak during these years and I found myselfconstantly consumed with fears about a multitude of things, and socialising waspretty much out of the question, other than going to work. And though I didn’t realise it at the time, lookingback I can see just how cripplingly lonely I was.
The biggest reason behind my anxiety was being gay and beingafraid to come out. The fear of being rejected by friends, family and societyin general made me feel as though I could never be myself, and putting myselfin social situations were fraught with danger as I would constantly have topretend to be somebody I wasn’t. Also, I just didn’t understand a lot of theworld, how people connected and communicated, and I didn’t want to put myselfin situations where I could get it wrong and humiliate myself. Consequently, I became a bit of a shut-in.
I had a small group of friends I’d made via online forumsand would spend most evenings chatting with them but deep down, I’d be tellingmyself I needed “real” friends. I’d watch TV shows and films, with groups offriends living life together and I’d pine for something similar. I wasdesperate for connection and community and this longing left me feelingincredibly lonely. The lonelier I felt, the “weirder” I felt, and the more Iisolated myself.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, two things happenedwhich ultimately broke this vicious circle. I started to accept myself and mysexuality and slowly started coming out, and surprise surprise, I wasn’tbanished to some hellish netherworld, and people accepted me for who I was. Thenslowly I began to accept myself too.
Then I also realised how much my online friends meant to meand how much they’d helped me to accept myself. The way I was judging myselffor not making “proper” friends was holding me back massively, and it was up tome to define who a friend was, and nobody else. I embraced these friendshipsfully, and we eventually started meeting up regularly, and I still count themas dear friends today.
In all honesty, the whole process of breaking this cycle of lonelinesstook about ten years. That’s probably not very inspiring to somebodystruggling, but I hope I’m proof that you can come out the other side, andthere’s no rush or deadline for living the life you want. Bullying and shamingyourself for not living up to somebody else’s rules is just going to keep youstuck in the same place. You can blossom and grow a lot easier when you startmaking your own rules.
If I were to synthesise the steps I took down into “soundbites”,I’d say you need to learn to love and accept yourself, don’t live by anybodyelse’s definition of living, don’t compare your journey to anybody else’s, talkto people you trust and take as much as time as you need. These are all BIGthings but let me assure you that they’re achievable, because I’m living proof.
And if you want or need support from a counsellor ortherapist, go for it, or if you need medication to calm your worries, that’sfine too! Loneliness isn’t a life sentence, it is something you can manage andhopefully overcome, bit by bit, step by step. And I’ll be here rooting for youthe whole way x
If loneliness is having a serious and detrimental impact on your life, please make an appointment with your doctor or GP, or get in touch with any of the support services listed below:
⭐ Mind – www.mind.org.uk – 0300 123 3393
⭐ Samaritans – www.samaritans.org – 116 123
⭐ Rethink – www.rethink.org – 0121 522 7007
⭐ Gofal – www.gofal.org.uk - 01656 647722
⭐ Young Minds - Youngminds.org.uk
⭐ Find a counsellor near you:
🗣 British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy - www.Bacp.co.uk
🗣 Counselling Directory - www.Counselling-directory.org.uk