I think there are different forms to feel lonely. You can feel lonely in a group of people, in a partnership or when you are actually alone – which is probably what most people associate with loneliness.
I sometimes think the only reason I survived the past months as well as I did – like without going completely mental, which I think would not be unusual in such an extreme situation – is because that I am ok to be on my own and alone. I am used to it. I am fine to just be with myself and my thoughts and own company.
I am not sure people actually understand that I have not had any physical contact, not even with a distance to anyone I know – not family, not friends, not colleagues. Just absolutely no one I know personally. And I do not have a pet. So I have been physically alone for 13 weeks now. The only other humans I saw for the past weeks were strangers at the supermarket or out walking. I know there are others in the same situation and I always wonder how they do. My point is though, that even if someone feels lonely although they have people around them, they are not actually alone. There is a difference.
Being alone in that kind of situation can be very scary. At the beginning I was so afraid that if I got ill, I did not know who would take care of me. I know there would have been people and help out there in general, but in that kind of moments you do not think rational.
Obviously I had all kind of thoughts like it was my own fault that I was all alone (when I say that, I mean physically alone, not alone in the aspect of not having anyone to go to 🙂 ). But I chose to move countries, away from my family, I maybe did not make enough effort to find more friends, did not stay in touch enough with people and so on. I am not good at reaching out to people for help or to ask them for company because I have been let down too many times before. Like for example when someone suggests going for a walk or to meet but does not suggest a day and time and when you then ask when they like to go and you do not really get an answer, that is the kind of situation that makes me back off. I feel like I am bothering people. Ultimately that ends up in me not reaching out to anyone at all any more.
I had it so many times that people tell me they care, that I can rely on them, but when it comes to the point, I was let down. I have enormous trust issues by now and I think this is one of the reasons I have difficulties to find a partner because I am so suspicious. I don’t believe someone easily. I question everything they say or do. It takes me quite a while to trust someone. I have to deal with people bullshitting me every day in my job. I know when people are not telling the truth or hide something. I know exactly when something is off. It is almost kind of funny that every time I am calling someone out on it, they try to make me feel like I am the one being stupid to think something is odd. 95% of the time I am right though.
My point is, everyone who had someone close around during the lockdown does not know how this feels and why it is not easy to ask for help or to reach out in general. And that is ok. You are not used to ask someone else just because someone is THERE to help you no matter what. You know someone is THERE when you get ill, when you fall down the stairs, when you need someone to talk to. My biggest fear of living alone and not having family around is that I have an accident at home and no one finds me in time. But I cannot live in fear every day. I need to get on with my life. At the beginning of the crisis when everything was so chaotic and unforeseen, I had proper anxiety attacks. I had difficulties to sleep, to breathe deeply, I felt like someone was putting pressure on my chest, I had difficulties to swallow properly sometimes, which created even more panic. The 3 weeks off work, being on furlough, were especially difficult because I did not even have a structure in my day, no regular contact to colleagues and just no kind of normality. I had days, where I did not want to get out of bed because I did not see the point in it.
I can only thank those in my life who were and are there for me every single day. Who reached out to me, asked me if I was ok. It does not need to be long calls or texting for hours. Just someone checking on you, so you know someone thinks and cares about you which already helps to feel calmer. I understand that if you are feeling anxious yourself, it is very difficult to think of someone else. At least I feel that way. Although I care a lot about others, being in an extreme situation like this made it difficult for me to cope with other peoples challenges and problems. I am normally someone who tries to support as much as possible, listens to problems and tries to help, but especially at the moment, I just can’t. And I don’t mean that in a rude way or not as if I don’t care because I actually do. I just don’t have the strength at the moment as I need it for myself. I get told a lot how people admire me for being so strong and brave. Funny thing is, I don’t feel like it at all most of the times. But I understand why they say it and I feel honoured to be honest.
You need a certain strength to be alone, especially for a longer period of time. You need strength to keep calm and not go completely mental. You need strength to solve problems alone, not asking for help. You need strength to pull yourself up every single day, telling yourself this crisis will pass and brighter days will come again. You need strength to keep going and motivate yourself to still live the life you want and dream of.
You have to find that strength in yourself. No one can give it to you. You need to know for yourself where you want to go, what you want to do and why it is worth fighting for. No one can give you strength or motivation. Others can support you, encourage you, help you, be there for you, catch you if you stumble but they cannot live your life for you and tell you what to do to be happy!
I once learnt Happiness is a choice – you choose to be happy. It stuck to me. Even though I have so many struggles on a daily basis, this is a sentence that is always at the back of my head. It is my choice to be happy. And that is why I am happy about the smallest maybe most stupid things. I am happy seeing beautiful flower fields, taking a great picture, seeing crazy cloud formations in the sky, experience sunsets and sunrises which can make you cry. I am happy to read lovely messages from friends, nice compliments, receiving unexpected gifts, getting help from someone I did not expect it of. I am happy discovering new songs I then listen on repeat, trying out cooking a new dish which turned out great, having unexpected great conversations with candidates (I had a screening call with a guitarist of a metal band on Friday which was just crazy cool). I am happy to just sit at the beach, listening to the waves, I am happy sitting at a Loch watching the water and beautiful surroundings, wandering through the hills taking in the stunning beauty of the landscapes.
Choose to be happy 🙂