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, and the belief that one is in fact unlikable, surplus to requirements. The consequence of these feelings are predicable, depression, despair and even suicidal thoughts. It is the knowledge that one is alone, feeling one is or 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 acerbated 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, leading to further feelings of shame and inadequacy. To prevent such feelings arising you avoid and shun difficult interactions, your comfort zone gets smaller as you become ever 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 the VCKC Wellbeing is a start.
Telephone conversation can be difficult but is easier at first 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.
I was put in contact with a telephone befriender who, soon was genuinely interested in what I had to say, 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.
There is no magic cure for loneliness and breaking out of isolation can feel daunting but ironically you are not alone, across the UK there are millions suffering from degrees of loneliness.
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 activites in the community to help you feel less isolated.