Before Covid-19 came along, we were already suffering from a global pandemic: Loneliness. And it can affect anyone of any age.
And for me, it’s personal.
This post has been difficult to write, and has taken a while. I’m laying my soul bare, and there is a scary vulnerability in that.
At the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, I had a low-level fear of how I might be, how I may feel and react, spending so much time alone.
I am acutely aware that my 20-something self would have struggled enormously. I didn’t realise at the time, but I lived with chronic loneliness. I would fill my life with busy-busy; and would make sure I had plans for both Friday and Saturday night. That was in the context of a well-paid job I loved, working for amazing companies, gaining expertise in business and achieving financial security along the way.
Loneliness has such a sense of shame around it. Of unworthiness. That to “confess” to loneliness would see me at best derided, perhaps pitied or, at worst, ignored; in all cases humiliated. To combat the feeling, for many years, I was the person out at the weekend apparently confident and having fun, always shopping for new clothes, the person to be relied on for a night out, and always available as a shoulder to cry on.
And I thought that was all great, until I began to realise a few things. Few of the people around me could be relied on when I needed them, and as we all got older and our social lives reduced, I often felt as if I had no-one.
How I’d date anyone who’d have me, culminating in one coercive control relationship.
When that ended, I told myself I had to get used to being on my own as no-one would love me. I remember that painful moment like it was yesterday.
A few years passed.
Eventually, thankfully the light inside me, at my darkest time, gave me the strength to pick up the phone and start counselling.
I needed to know what was wrong with me.
I put my laptop down for a moment then. I’m about to write a phrase that, even now, I want to avoid.
There is a painful (and shameful) saying along the lines of “to find love, you have to love yourself first”. My problem with that sentence is it reads as though we don’t deserve love until then.
I wonder if there’s a way to re-write it. Because, really, it’s about knowing we are worthy of love and connection, exactly as we are. I prefer:
“I want you to know the actual-you is worthy of love;
then you will see and receive the wonderful love you deserve”.
It isn’t about finding out “what’s wrong with me”, rather it’s about discovering how wonderful your ‘actual-you’ is. Not the mask you show to the world, but the person behind all of that.
I am so grateful for the long-term therapy I had, allowing me to connect with the ‘actual-me’.
Returning to March 2020, I remember I’m no longer in my 20s; therapy and hard work mean my life is very different now. Through therapy I worked out what to keep, and what to lose or change. I’m still a work-in-progress, as we all are, but my life has been transformed.
I now have many tools to deal with the highs and lows of life, and can see I have people in my life who love the actual-me. And I learned it isn’t about never being lonely; loneliness is a signal in the same way as thirst or hunger are.
I know the warning signs when I’m missing some level of connection, and I’m now equipped to close the gap. I’ll be sharing various tools and ideas for reflection over the weeks, months and perhaps years to come, via the Campaign for Connection and maybe I’ll see you for therapy.
Hopefully you’ll see from my experience, (now it’s finally written!), why the Campaign for Connection is so important to me. I’ve been there, and come out the other side, and I hope I can help you do the same.