Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Much like depression and anxiety, the feeling of loneliness, while experienced by many of us, is isolating in that no one experiences it in the exact same way. For me, loneliness is that sinking feeling, or weight on my chest. It is that uncomfortable lump in my throat when I feel like I don’t belong anywhere and the sudden unexplained plummeting of my mood when I am confronted by the fact that I have no shoulder to cry on.
In short, it is an annoying and exhausting emotional response. And it is a response that is especially pronounced during holidays, festivals- anytime there is a gathering of family and loved ones. When the day-to-day routines are interrupted, and I am forced to examine my life more closely.
Loneliness is more noticed now than it was before because for one, we are more aware of our emotions and for another, everyone broadcasts their joys on social media, always encouraging us to count what is missing in our lives.
I am particularly aware of it when I am surrounded by people. It is the oddest, confusing feeling I’ve had to contend with. When confronted by my extended family or acquaintances, I tend to put on, what I call, my socializing mask. It is something that helps me field questions about life, future plans etc. but it is also very isolating. In that it makes me think that nobody else around me feels that drained or on edge. And in the midst of mingling with my family it is not something that I can easily shake off.
Idealizing The Normal
Being in my late 20’s, fear of missing out, milestones to cross, 30 under 30 to achieve- the things I am supposed to do and be and have been insane and endless. And the pressure I put on myself to fit into these idealized versions is even more so.
One of the most common contributing factors to my loneliness is that idealized version of a partner. And the thing is, it doesn’t exist. Relationships don’t start out perfect, it takes work from both sides. And of course, honest communication. But for those of us who find putting ourselves out there difficult, it is not fun. Also, even if you are entirely happy being single and content, society and social media remind you of what you are supposedly missing out on.
Denying its effects on you is never the way to go. It took me a long time to admit both that I am content for now on my own and that, simultaneously, I am affected by my friends pairing off. What also helped is to understand that I have many rewarding, fulfilling relationships in my life. It may not be the romantic kind, but it is no less loving.
What Therapy Taught Me
Until I started going for therapy, I didn’t realize how much loneliness is not just loneliness.
Most of the time, when this feeling overtakes, it spirals down into shame, unworthiness and self-pity. It is an amalgamation of many negative emotions that leave me feeling like I am standing in the dark without a flashlight.
Therapy has taught me to take time out for myself when I am overwhelmed by all these emotions because being by yourself is not the same as being lonely. It helps to be aware of the signals my body is giving me, the need to take some deep breaths, to reassure myself, to be kind to myself.
Another thing that helps is telling someone. Of course, it is not easy because human beings are not coded to admit to things, they consider a weakness but once I get that first sentence out to someone, I consider my safe space, it is much easier to cope with all the feelings. And 9 times out of 10, they would’ve felt something similar at some point in their lives.
Loneliness is not something that goes away entirely, but it is something that can be understood and dealt with. It is still a part of you that needs attention and care, and it is your job to give it. So, this festive season, take deep breaths, be honest and remember to be kind to yourself! Written By - Deepti Prakash
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