It seems to me that everybody has one friend that is busier than everybody else. They become thought of as the strong friend, the friend that is doing an amazing job at life, the friend that doesn’t need your help. I guess it’s human nature; we equate sadness and loneliness with the image of a person who sits at home and doesn’t see people that often, or talk to them that much, a person who spends a lot of time alone. That’s the person friends will remember to check in with.
I’ve learned that it’s never so simple. Being alone and being lonely are worlds apart. I’m a big believer that people should spend some time alone. Happiness should not be dependent on external factors, and you should be able to enjoy your own company, perhaps even as much as you enjoy other people’s. But being lonely is not the same as being alone. It is an aching void that can’t always be filled with running around doing as much as humanly possible. Even though it may sometimes be hard to believe, your busy friend may also turn out to be the loneliest, and seriously in-need of your love and support.
Recently, my life is so much busier than it has ever been. I find I’m now planning weeks ahead, instead of days. I have far too many group chats that are work-related. Most of the time, I don’t particularly mind how busy everything has gotten for me: I like having things to do and things to look forward to. But a part of me knows that I’ve made myself busier as a distraction from loneliness. There’s a reason I tend to say yes to most things now, and that is because I’m lonely.
“I don’t tend to open up about myself very often, if at all, and I don’t really like talking about myself. So, my thoughts and feelings just stay in my head, which in itself is an isolating and lonely process.”
Loneliness is a feeling that I am by no means a stranger to, but it has definitely intensified in the past year or so. It’s a feeling that is always there in the back of my mind and one I always end up coming back to. A feeling that has the ability to be so raw and so painful, it can leave me breathless. A feeling that I sometimes just can’t put into words when trying to explain it to others. It is powerful and fierce: it has made me feel so small, and it has made me seriously doubt myself. It’s something that doesn’t feel like it has an end and has often left me thinking – what if it’s always going to be this way?
I’ve been trying to sit with this feeling and I guess just feel it properly. To see what might be contributing to it. There’s the obvious things, like long distance friendships and recent heartbreak.
“We’ve got phones and the internet now and that’s great! But it really isn’t the same as seeing your best mate in the flesh to cry about said heartbreak. Or to be whisked off for a song and dance for the night.”
The vast majority of my friends do not live in the same city as me, and most have migrated to the big smoke. So, I don’t see them as regularly anymore. There is also, of course, the global pandemic currently raging on. I definitely took that for granted in the past – having your friends nearby. It really does make the world of a difference.
And yes, we’ve got phones and the internet now and that’s great! But it really isn’t the same as seeing your best mate in the flesh to cry about said heartbreak. Or to be whisked off for a song and dance for the night. Living far apart does also mean that it’ll be inevitable that you miss out on some things. Completely normal, but still has the ability to make you feel lonely. Especially in the age of social media where we can constantly see what people are doing and who they are (or aren’t) doing it with.
“I like to stay busy and distracted because I’m lonely, but then the very distractions can also end up exasperating the loneliness instead. You’re watching a film and start to think how nice it would be to be watching this film with a certain person…”
I think one thing that I’ve come to realise about myself, and will definitely play its hand in my lonely state, is that I’m quite a detached person. I don’t tend to open up about myself very often, if at all, and I don’t really like talking about myself. This has always been the case with me, but definitely more so recently. Going through life feeling detached, and somewhat numb, means that I don’t always feel close to others and don’t always feel properly understood. So, my thoughts and feelings just stay in my head, which in itself is an isolating and lonely process.
I like to stay busy and distracted because I’m lonely, but then the very distractions can also end up exasperating the loneliness instead. You’re watching a film and start to think how nice it would be to be watching this film with a certain person, thoughts which subsequently turn into feelings of sadness, and you just end up being reminded of how lonely you are. This has happened to me a lot, and has even happened when I’ve gone on a run. It has the power to take over my mind completely at times.
Despite this, I know feeling lonely isn’t permanent, and this too will pass eventually. The lock down has meant I’ve had no option but to face my loneliness head on, what with going from having lots to do to very little. So, I’m now just letting myself feel lonely, instead of actively avoiding it by filling my time with empty tasks. And it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. But please remember to check in with your loved ones, especially the ones you see as strong, because even the strongest of us can feel lonely.