Living with loneliness

I was reading a feature in the UK edition of Glamour, January 2015 issue (page 46) earlier today, which informed me of the maybe not too surprising statistic, ‘48% of us have felt lonely at some point’. Although this is quite a high percentage and often it looks as though everyone else is sorted with loving family and friends and hectic social lives, so many of us actually struggle with this issue. And I have to admit that I’m one of the people struggling.

There are a number of causes and triggers to my loneliness and I also choose to fight loneliness in a number of ways. The feature in Glamour UK was useful as it consisted of contributions from readers as to how they coped with the causes of their loneliness.

Causes/triggers of my loneliness

The first of the main causes of my loneliness is being disabled and having mobility problems. I live with a form of arthritis known as Ankylosing Spondylitis which affects a number of my joints and bones, especially my spine and my knees. This causes a lot of pain, I struggle to travel far and rely on crutches to help me get around. Because of this even getting to the nearest bus stop to my place left me in agony so I am mainly a recluse, reliant on other people to visit me or pick me up. This is extremely frustrating, especially at my age (29) when most of my friends are out socialising or partying and I can’t even make it to the local corner shop. I cover some of the issues I face in the post: https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/juggling-posting-with-ill-health/

The second cause is having a mental health problem and the stigma that is attached. Aside from the mobility problems that result from my physical disability, my mental illness only adds to the isolation and loneliness as I have a habit of pushing people away or hiding from the world when I’m struggling. Also I have a habit of thinking very negatively and few people are willing to stick around when I’m like that. I cover my struggles with posting with both physical and mental health problems in the post: https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/reasonsexcuses-for-my-lack-of-posts/ .

Another difficulty that I face that leads to a great deal of loneliness is having a loved one in prison. In the post https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/life-spent-loving-someone-behind-bars/ I explain in more detail how having a loved one in prison affects me in so many ways, including the loneliness I feel as a result. In my last post: https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/absent-loved-ones-this-christmas/ I explain how living with a loved one in prison is more common than we think, especially for the 200,000 children who have a loved one in prison at Christmas. The main thing is again, the isolation. For many people, they take for granted that their partner is there for them when they need them but I have to wait for a phone call or a visit and as my partner is so far away and my mobility problems and pain levels impact on me so greatly, a face-to-face visit is incredibly difficult to arrange. Not only that, I tend to bottle up my feelings quite often instead of sharing everything with my partner, because I don’t want to cause him worry when he is quite powerless to help.

Another cause of loneliness that is also, I expect, quite common in people my age, are friends becoming acquaintances. As most people my age and younger get married, have families, move away or have challenging careers, their priorities shift. Whereas in the past they may have had time and patience for my dramas, now they have more pressing needs. It’s hard to let go when it’s once someone you were so close with, when there’s such a strong shared history. More and more often though, I’m beginning to see how holding onto these newly acquired acquaintances is more likely to cause loneliness and pain than completely severing all ties. Seeing that you’ve been replaced or just aren’t thought of in the same way, can be hard to accept and the two main ways of dealing with those feelings, internalising or confrontation are rarely very successful. You find yourself longing for what was instead of accepting what is.

Another thing many of us are guilty of that contributes to our sense of loneliness is comparing ourselves to people on social media sites. On social media very few, if any reveal their complete true selves so while we find ourselves envying someone who has a ‘perfect’ lifestyle or ‘dream’ career, it is easy to forget that we are often looking at things through rose tinted glasses. It does nothing for my self-esteem and confidence when I judge myself against the achievements of others as, whatever I do, I will usually end up falling short.

Over the years I have moved around quite a bit and living in a new area usually adds to feelings of loneliness. This feeling is increased when you have to tolerate nuisance neighbours or less than perfect home decor. I spend most of my time at home so the way I feel about where I live impacts a great deal on me personally. Our home is meant to be our refuge but it doesn’t always work out that way. That doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful to have a roof over my head, it just means that I have a long way to go before I see the place I live as my home.

Strategies for dealing with loneliness

One of the things that helps me to tackle loneliness the most is having a carer. She has been working with me for some time now and although it is a challenge to afford the help, I wouldn’t have got this far without it. One of the ways she helps me with loneliness is to get me out of the house but she has also become a good friend and provides lots of encouragement and a listening ear as well as helping in many practical ways too.

Another strategy that is of great importance for me is to keep in touch with my partner and close friends on a regular basis. This could be via his daily phone calls, the email a prisoner service or writing a letter or card. For my friends I’m quite reliant on Whatsapp as many are so busy that they rarely have time to talk. We do try to arrange meet-ups in person as often as possible although I am still struggling to become as reliable as I would like to be.

What also helps is to recognise that you ‘can’t please all of the people all of the time’ and that some people are only meant to be in your life ‘for a season’. It’s rare for me to want to let go of the people in my life but sometimes instead of wasting time fighting for what is lost we should open our eyes to what remains and our hearts for what is yet to come.

Something that has made a huge difference to my life is beginning to blog about my experiences and joining blogging communities. I have received so much support and encouragement already from other readers and bloggers that it really helps me to feel part of something and less alone. The post https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/how-i-cope-on-a-daily-basis-inspiration-that-keeps-me-focussed/ explains a bit more about why I blog and how I feel to be part of the blogging community.

Another thing I try to do is as well as following people on social media who I can look up to and admire for their successes, I also try to have an equal balance by following people who I can relate to. It especially helps me to hear about other people facing similar issues and struggles, and learning from them how best to cope, without feeling like it’s impossible to measure up. I learn from people at all stages of the recovery journey, especially those who remember what it’s like to be in the bleakest of places and who instead of pretending they know it all, admit where they have gone wrong as well as what helps them to get it right.

I think that the important thing about loneliness is remembering that almost half of us will face it at one time or another and that we really aren’t alone with feeling lonely. Being aware of triggers and issues that contribute to loneliness is important because once we know the causes we can begin to figure out how to find the solutions, although often it will be a case of trial and error.

Do you find loneliness a struggle? Or have you found successful ways of dealing with loneliness? What works for you? Feel free to comment below, on Twitter @spursbythebeach or email brokenglassshimmers@hotmail.co.uk .

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About brokenglassshimmers

I’m 30 and have BPD and arthritis. This website will detail how I deal with my health issues, reading and writing. I am in the process of writing books and I will keep you posted about how that is going. I also want to run an online book club and writer’s circle. Please feel free to comment on the site and to let me know if there are any improvements or changes you would like to see. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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