Today we’re looking at loneliness as the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022. This blog will break down my thoughts on the theme and experience of being alone.
thoughts on loneliness
There are so many reasons why someone might be lonely. There are so many ways it can look and even those that may appear socially connected may be feeling isolated. Conversely, those that appear to always be on their own may like it just the way it is.
The truth is, we don’t know what someone is going through, and we should normalise having the space to have a conversation and check in with our mental health whenever we need to.
I don’t like thinking of these as formal, sit down discussions. Instead, it’s the confidence to say that you could do with talking to someone and the reassurance of knowing you will be listened to.
Having that understanding all the time doesn’t have to lead to talking about mental health all the time. But the space is there, and that’s what matters.
I’ve felt lonely for many different reasons, but the one I want to talk about today is bullying and maintaining friendships. This is something that I’ve always struggled with growing up. Now 20, I’m glad I’ve got a lot better at interacting with people though it’s certainly not something that comes naturally.
I found the struggle itself most challenging. It was trying to fit in, the act of approaching other people and initiating the conversations needed to gain friendships, but not finding success. Building up that confidence to change my situation and getting knocked back every time was really hard.
As many of my readers will know, I’m autistic, having been diagnosed in early childhood. This has always led me to be a bit different from everyone else, mainly not being able to pick up on where a conversation is going and responding in an expected way.
My difference was considered “weird” and meant those I was trying to maintain friendships with much preferred to be with their other friends. I got withdrawn. I accepted loneliness as something that I would have to endure. I made myself okay with it. I stopped reaching out, buried myself into myself, and detached from trying to maintain friendships at all.
I am getting better. Through recovery, I’ve gained a lot more self-awareness and maybe even started to understand people a little better. While I’ll always be different, and I’m ok with that, I’ve learned to spend time with people that accept me and invest in those friendships rather than worrying about being lonely or not fitting in with people I never really wanted to anyway.
Something else I’ve learned about loneliness is that you have to put some of the work in too. On the one hand, you need to build up the confidence to go out there and do stuff with other people. Kind of obvious but it doesn’t make it any less hard. On the other, you need to wait to find people accepting of you as you are.
Be true to yourself. Yes, you may have invested in building up the confidence and effort to talk to someone, but if it means you have to change who you are or are silently holding bad feelings in so you’re not lonely again, it’s ok to leave. Yes, you won’t have that friend but was that a true friend to begin with.
Try and find your people, those you may know already but have lost touch with. People that are interested in the same things as you. It sounds basic, but if you’re doing something about your loneliness, the best way of doing that is by staying yourself.
And there are times that I still get lonely and want more friends, and it feels hard. Something I’m looking forward to this week is getting some ideas for how people are doing something about their loneliness so I can improve my confidence and know where to go.
We all have a part to play in this. Being kind to each other and checking in with our mates are calls to action repeated in every mental health awareness week. But showing someone you know that you’re there for them and that there not alone can be so helpful in making their day a little better.
Having a strong support network can be so beneficial to recovery. It’s such a hard thing to do by yourself. Being part of that support network can be as simple as a cup of tea or a check-in text. We need to give more credit to these small actions as they can make such a difference.
As we go through this week, I hope it’s a good opportunity to connect with people we may have lost touch with and provide another chance to reach out and start a conversation about our mental health.
By Jake Symons
Jake Symons is an entrepreneur and passionate mental health advocate determined to share his story to help others through his blog and YouTube channel.