Have you ever had a conversation that became the pivotal moment of realization for you? Maybe a person said exactly what you needed, or didn’t need to hear at an exact vulnerable moment? This morning my Mother called, as she sometimes does, just to chat. After a few minutes of catching up about what we had been up to the last few days, she started talking about family and relationships. Within seconds an anxious flood rushed through me and I started to cry. I didn’t even know why or how it was possible to still have tears stuck inside me with how much crying I had done the past few days, but there we were. I don’t think it was so much what my mother said, but more the realization that for the majority of my life I have prioritized so many things over the pursuit of my own happiness. Now here I was, 34 and alone.
At the age of 34, I have been struggling with long-term loneliness for almost four years. I had been lonely at certain times in my teens and 20s, but nothing prepared me for the way I would feel in my 30s. Feeling alone in a crowded room, not being able to connect with other people, and even disconnecting from once close friends. My doctor and I talk about depression and anxiety, even bipolar disorder, but loneliness is a strange affliction that’s never mentioned. When I tried to mention it to my doctor — a married woman, with a husband, two children, and a busy practice — she just laughed and said that she’d love, yes, love, to have some time alone. This sort of reaction did nothing for me except intensify my feelings. So this means as a lonely person I am left with two problems: I feel insanely isolated, and I can’t talk about my sense of isolation, which means it just becomes more compounded. I not only feel alone but feel alone in feeling that way.
Loneliness has become a major problem of our time and the stigma against loneliness has gotten worse. Social media has made us more vulnerable to it than we used to be. We have more to fear. Even though we’re more connected in some ways, friending’ each other on Facebook, and posting pretty pictures to our Instagram followers, in a lot of ways, this makes us more alone than ever before. People will do just about anything to hide their sadness and loneliness from others these days. Being lonely is almost seen as something that’s contagious, like flu, as if it is something we all need to shield ourselves from and avoid.
If I told people I was writing about loneliness, they’d take a step or two back, as though I were infectious and wonder if I was “okay” as if okay is something we all just are. No one is actually okay. Some are just better at hiding it than others. For example, I had strongly admired a particular individuals life on Instagram for nearly a year before I finally had the opportunity to have a conversation with him. When I brought up how glamorous and exciting his life looked, his exact response to me was “It’s all smoke in mirrors.” Why do we all feel this deep urge to only display the good parts? Maybe because with sociability so glamorized, so normalized, it’s no wonder we lie about loneliness. Who wants to admit to not fitting in, to having some of their most basic human needs left unfulfilled?
Being that today is New Year’s Eve, I want more than anything to create a solution, but as of today, I can only try to think seriously of trying to live up to a new ideal or to improve myself, because as of this moment I feel split into pieces. Setting unreal expectations is the fastest and easiest path to failure. Which consequently, will have me feeling more separated than ever, and most likely increase the lonely and cut-off feelings which make me currently so set apart from others. I guess this post was just some random thoughts as I battle the feelings of pressure for new beginnings, joy, and peace as other countdown looms near.
Happy New Year?