Combating Loneliness

Loneliness is not a lot of things. It is not solitude; it is not even isolation or alienation, though it often involves these things. It is not a promiscuous desire for any company, irrespective of quantity, quality, or motive. And it is not a consequence of misanthropy, or simply being unlikeable.

Loneliness is experienced both internally and externally. It is an empty room or an empty feeling; sometimes it is both.

Loneliness carries with it shame and stigma, which runs on a continuum from embarrassment to feelings of chronic and searing shame. To the belief that one is in fact unlikable, surplus to requirements. The consequences of these feelings are predictable, depression, despair and suicidal thoughts. It is knowing that one is alone, feeling that one is or knowing that you are literally friendless.

This situation can arise for a variety of reasons, divorce, bereavement, retirement, geography, – e.g. family members moving abroad, changes in income, or physical capacities. All these exacerbated by a difficulty in finding new friends, striking up new relationships. Once you become isolated, it starts to feel increasingly difficult to find a way out. As contact with others shrinks, you get out of practice, which in turn can make even minor social interactions feel daunting. This leads to further feelings of shame and inadequacy. To prevent such feelings arising you avoid and shun difficult interactions. As a result, your comfort zone continues getting ever smaller, as you become more and more isolated in a vicious cycle. How can this cycle be broken?

Firstly, you need to admit you feel lonely and are not just self-contained and solitary, – though you may be these things too. You are one of thousands in this city alone, young and old, rich and poor, fit and healthy, sick or disabled. No shame attaches to this, it is an inevitable consequence of how society now operates. You are not to blame. 

The next step is reaching out. A phone call to a service like a Wellbeing programme is a start.

Having a telephone conversation can feel like a difficult first step, but also easier than face to face contact. If an initial call feels difficult, email can be even less threatening. This is the step I took. The important thing is to feel comfortable and in control of the process. You will be treated with respect and admitting to feeling lonely does not detract one iota from worth, intellect, experience, or abilities. 

The Wellbeing programme here at the Volunteer Centre quickly put me in contact with a telephone befriender who was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and in my views and interests. Regular telephone contact with someone who is interested in what you have to say and can gain from engaging with you is the first step in regaining self-esteem. It can then enable one to engage with other services and service users. In my own case this led to a gradual process of accessing other services run by the Wellbeing programme. Leading to a greatly improved quality of life. There is no magic cure for loneliness and breaking out of isolation can feel extremely difficult, but, and here is the  irony, you are not alone, across the UK there are millions suffering from degrees of loneliness. The first step is however only the relatively easy step of an email or telephone call.

By SM

VCKC Wellbeing Client

Are you are feeling lonely? Get in touch with our Wellbeing team who will work to pair you with a befriender, or find activities in the community to help you feel less isolated.

Email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required or call us on 020 8960 3722 for more information.