But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. – The Fault in our Stars
I thought of this quote as I began this blog post, reminded of the scene just before I began typing. It felt rather poignant to the term lonely too.
Loneliness is not a side effect of mental illness. Loneliness is a side effect of living.
I have spent a huge amount of time thinking about loneliness over the past week, not in a depressive personal sense, but on a broader scale. I have been considering mental illness and the feelings of isolation and aloneness, which took me beyond that… I then considered the sense of loneliness we each feel as we exist in this world.
For my weekly twitter chat #OKtoChat I chose to explore loneliness hence the motion of thoughts. A podcaster and blogger, Mike Douglas, alerted me to the stress we put on communities to eradicate loneliness in the older generation.
The problem being just that.
We make the presumption that this is only an issue for one generation. Assuming to be lonely you must be unable to access forms of socialization or have lost many of those you once considered your dearest friends.
So in this post, I consider loneliness as a side effect of living. Loneliness instead as an emotion we all feel, in all stages of our lives.
I cannot imagine how those who sit old, frail, and widowed, feel. Looking out the window reflecting on what has been and what is left. However, I can imagine that my past and my present would feel far more precious than my future.
I mention this because when I feel lonely, I think of my future.
Loneliness comes for me with an impending sense of fear that this will last, that I will never be accompanied in my journey. That I will never truly find a heart, mind, and body that will stand beside me through choice. That I will never find someone to share myself with.
This is why for me I find it easier to imagine being lonely the younger I am, but as I age the feelings being replaced. This may be by regret and heartache, or love and gratitude. And probably with a dash of sadness and a pinch of fear too. Though I believe I will feel lonely at times, the notion of loneliness lasting feels unlikely as I would have little left to share.
I also realize here that one feeling alone and one feeling lonely have different meanings to me.
Considering that, interestingly in the chat almost all responses when I enquired when people felt most lonely, they were not physically alone. This is something I similarly agree with.
When I have felt my most lonely I have been in a crowded room.
Loneliness for me comes when I cannot be the person who I truly am, and when I feel like the person I am is not what those around me see. This connects with mental illness as the stigma, though less, makes it hard to feel like those around you see you as simply human. As just you.
I am not entirely sure where I am going with this but so far what I am saying is that we all feel lonely. Age, mental illness, physical illness, endless factors can increase and prolong loneliness. However, nothing will ever stop us from feeling lonely in our lives.
To exist in a world with so many people in, all of which unique, makes loneliness inevitable.
Not one of us has a pair, a herd, or a pack. We may have families, friends, communities, teams, groups and squads; but we create them.
Companionship is not prescribed to us and our lives, in my opinion, are not entirely deterministic. This means it would be strange for us to never feel alone or lonely. When the truth is though each part of us has company as a whole nobody will ever really know all of you.
To be lonely, to feel alone, is to be human.
If you were a robot you wouldn’t feel lonely, but you wouldn’t feel companionship or love either.
With the good comes the bad. But boy does sugar tastes sweeter after something sour.