L – Loneliness

We are always, at some point in their life, going to feel lonely. There’s not always going to be someone right by our side, unless we have superglued them there against their will.

While this is a part of living (being alone, that is, not superglueing people), it gets a lot harder if you’re suffering from a mental illness, because with it comes an extra layer of isolation, self-criticism and loneliness. No one seems to understand exactly what chaos is going on in your mind, or what it feels like to have overwhelming thoughts plague you every day. It’s hard to truthfully answer the question “how are you?” It’s difficult to rock up to school, uni, work, and put on a brave face when you just want to run away, hide and curl up in a scared little ball of human vulnerability.

 

Yet there are always positive pictures and stuff, saying “you are not alone in this!” and while they may sometimes seem too cheerful, they are actually true.

 

Because over the years I’ve learnt something important. No matter how lonely you feel, when it comes to mental illness, there is ALWAYS someone out there who is experiencing the same emotions, fears, thoughts and feelings as you.*

 

You could comprehend this by looking at it from a statistical perspective (which can be boring or fascinating depending on your interests.) I got stuff from a few different countries to try and encompass the scale of it all:
-350 million people worldwide suffer from depression
-Approximately 14% of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period
-Over 18% of the population in the USA suffers from an anxiety disorder
-In Australia, approximately 1 in 100 adolescent girls develops anorexia nervosa
-Around 1 in 20 people in the UK will be suffering from a type of personality disorder at any given time
-Eating disorders are a daily struggle for 10 million females and 1 million males in the USA
-In Australia, suicide was the leading cause of death for people under 44, a rate higher than road accidents or cancer.
 -Around 1.5 million people worldwide have schizophrenia
-In Australia, 1 in 12 people between the ages of 15-24 engage in self-harm
-The incidence of bulimia nervosa in the Australian population is more than 5 in 100. 

…Ok, this is getting rather depressing, so I’ll stop. But statistically speaking, you are not alone! You have number friends!

 

You can also look at it from personal experiences. Here are some of the times I thought I was utterly alone in a thought, behaviour or fear, but turned out not to be:

 

 ~ Crying in The Shower: One night, while people partied away in the city, I was squatting like a hobo in my own shower, crying my heart out. The events of that week had been too much for me to bear, and the many fears about my future threatened to engulf me. Shower water mixed with tears and I felt utterly alone and pretty pathetic. The next day, in group therapy, a girl was describing how she had trouble dealing with the aftermath of a challenging dinner. She said she was having a shower and then just started crying and crying and couldn’t stop. Somehow, on the same night, at the same time, someone else was crying in their shower too, just as I was, over similar fears. There’s probably more shower-criers out there.

 

~ Binge Eating: the time I ate $30 worth of cashew nuts and being called disgusting, the times I picked up and ate food from the footpath, the times I furtively ate scraps from the household rubbish bin, the times I secretly ate other people’s leftovers, the times I asked to borrow money so I could spend more on food when going home… I could go on. I thought I was alone in what I perceived as disgusting greed. Turns out, somewhere out there is a person who ate their sister’s wedding cake. There is a person who pretended to have children so she could buy more sweets from the shop. There are people who, like me, hated themselves as they bought a family’s load worth of groceries from the supermarket and then ate it all that afternoon, simply unable to stop themselves. There are people who threw out their binge foods in an attempt to stop the behaviour, only to go back out, fish it up and eat it all. I met some wonderful people when I was in hospital, but my homies were the ones who had suffered from binge cycles and knew what the secrecy and shame felt like.

 

~ Opening Up: I was on exchange overseas. On the train after class, a friend I had recently made at the uni was having fun stalking through my old Facebook photos. “You look really different in this one,” she commented, pointing to a two year old photo of an underweight-me. “I was sick,” I answered, trying to play it down. She  (melodramatic warning, but honestly true for me) then said two words that I won’t forget:”Me too.” We then quietly told each other our stories and our struggles. Despite knowing her for only a few weeks, she was the one who held me in the girls bathroom when I was sobbing, terrified by suicidal thoughts. I had blubbered at her, asking if she minded my snotty face and irrational thoughts. She didn’t, because she had been there too.
 

This realisation that we’re not alone in our suffering can sometimes come with feelings of sadness and distress. It’s not fair, nor is it a nice thought, to know that there are other innocent people out there struggling too, who feel the same pain you do.

 

But I, at least, feel less lost when I know that there are so many individuals who, like me, are labouring on a daily basis for things that seem invisible to many others. I am losing count of the amount of times I have opened up to someone and told them my ‘issues’, only to have them admit their struggles too. People who I thought had it all together, who seemed confident, happy and carefree, I now know have had, currently suffer from ,or are recovering from: anxiety, eating disorders, depression, BPD, hallucinations, self harm, trauma, PTSD and bipolar. I have high-fived a guy I met because after 5 minutes of talking we found out we went to the same hospital. I have read so many stories of people who have low self esteem, self hatred, addictions and unsure of their futures. There’s a reason why many mental health services have a waiting list…

 

Trust me, you are definitely not alone, nor will you ever be.

 

* Of course, if you were to test this by going out and riding a unicycle through the snow wearing nothing but purple gumboots and balancing a potato on your head or something, and shouting “I HAVE A MOOD DISORDER,” it could be said that your experience is unique.

** Source: Google.

 

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2 thoughts on “L – Loneliness

  1. Pingback: A – a letter to Anorexia | ENCYLOPEDIA OF RECOVERY

  2. Pingback: T – Trauma | ENCYLOPEDIA OF RECOVERY

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