Loneliness isn’t just about being alone. I’m rarely alone – family and friends often hang out here and there’s always someone popping by or bumping into me – but sometimes I feel lonely.
I’ve always liked my own company and I don’t feel the need to be around people. I’m an introvert in an extrovert’s job so I spend my working hours interacting with colleagues at a frenetic pace unseen outside a speed dating event. Stepping so completely and relentlessly out of my comfort zone is exhausting, so I enjoy time to decompress and shed my alter ego. And of course, as much time as I spend with people, they only get to know the work-me or social-me, not the real me.
Three years ago everything went to shit: major changes at home and work; relationship exploded; too much alcohol, too many cigarettes, not enough food; insomnia. I was shattered trying to maintain some normality and losing weight so quickly people thought I was anorexic.
I kept it all to myself for as long as I could and then one day, I cracked.
Someone said I looked rather rough (no shit Sherlock, I wasn’t feeling my best funnily enough), and I just gave up trying to keep going. I spiralled so quickly I was scaring myself. A trip to the doctor’s and I was presented with a antidepressants, and six sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy.
As an aside, it has always amused me how people will ask if you have had dark or suicidal thoughts when talking to you about your depression. Serious suicide attempts aren’t a cry for help: they’ll be carried out at a time and place that ensures no interruption, so inevitably the answer here would be “No”, surely?
Despite clawing myself out the black hole and launching back into life, my mental health took a major beating in January. Work fucked me up. I have never felt so alone in my life, there was no one who was prepared to support me, even though they knew I wasn’t in the wrong. I wasn’t sleeping, eating, coping. The GP sent me home with a box of medication to help me sleep/wake up/calm down/digest food/retain food/lower blood pressure/control pain, and the offer of further therapy.
After some very, very hard days I took the decision to resign. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve done but every single day since I’ve woken up feeling it was the right one.
This isn’t one of those uplifting tales with a happy ending. I’m still depressed (and I use that word clinically), but the panic attacks are fewer and I can get out the house. I’m even washing my hair and showering more frequently!
When I’m on my own, I’m in the company of someone I “get”. It’s actually when I’m in the company of others that I feel my loneliness most keenly. They don’t get me.