All the Lonely People: readers tell their stories
Many contributors say they felt better just by reading how common loneliness is
‘If you were to meet me you would never guess what I have experienced. Anyone who is feeling lonely or alone: just hold on.’ Photograph: Thinkstock
‘Are you lonely? Do you experience feelings of isolation? How do you cope with those feelings?” These were the questions we posed to readers this week as part of our series on loneliness. You responded with stories as eloquent as they are moving. They arrived throughout the week, and, although we do not have space to print them all, there is an expanded version of this article available on irishtimes.com. Many contributors made a point of saying they felt better about their own situation while reading about the experiences of others. Here is an edited selection of those stories, which are anonymous due to their sensitive nature:
Not in the clique
I get so jealous when I hear others say they are meeting up for drinks. I once took the initiative and asked could I go as well. I arrived in great form, bought a round and was left to myself for the rest of the night as everyone else got into little cliques. I was so embarrassed and humiliated I can’t even put into words. I cried for days afterwards.
For me loneliness is a universe of black in a small little space in my head and heart. It seems to be embedded in my core that I can’t make friends. I have joined clubs and courses to no avail. With no family, I am terrified of getting old alone. Thank you for highlighting this topic.
I had never really known what loneliness felt like until my husband of only a few months died suddenly. He was my best friend. I was pregnant with our first child. I went from spending my evenings after work with him, and feeling secure and safe, to being surrounded by so many people but always feeling like the loneliest person in the room. Baby scans, doctor appointments, shopping for buggies, nursery stuff, clothes. I was never on my own, my family and friends made sure of that, but I always felt lonely. I’d see couples discussing whether to paint the room pink or blue. Couples in Holles Street [maternity hospital in Dublin]. Holding hands, him rubbing her ever-growing tummy, all the proud dads with balloons and flowers. I had my family and friends, but I was so, so lonely.
I lie about the weekend
one really touches you when you are single and 42. I don’t mean sexually. At work on a Monday morning, colleagues ask about the weekend. I make up a short lie on the lines of “quiet really, just dinner with friends on Friday”. In reality, my friends were Netflix and a bottle of wine. There are odd weekends when my only social interactions take place in shops. I understand now why old people confide in postmen and greengrocers.
Loneliness is compounded by the shame of being lonely. Which is a pity, as I suspect there are a lot of us out there.
Fighting the system
I wish better services were available to families of children with special needs. We need social workers, psychologists and sibling support groups to get through the year. We spend our time fighting the system for health and education, and we fund-raise. We fund-raise for everything our children need. Our children deserve more. We love our kids. But we are tired and most of all we are lonely.
An emigrant’s story
I am a wonderful actress. I deserve an Oscar. And nobody knows. If I told my siblings of my plight, they would laugh out loud. My adult children would be shocked. My husband would look at me, clueless.
The pain started deep inside as a little ache when I was 20. As soon as I landed in a country halfway around the world, I knew. It was a mistake. My heart was in Ireland and now, more than 40 years later, nothing has changed for my heart. I am perceived as funny, gregarious, happy and strong. I am another person completely. My non-Irish husband has a job that has taken us all over the world. We have lived in wonderful countries and seen awesome things. We have met lovely people who would make great friends. And we have left them all behind. I have great memories. I have no friends. I have left every friend I have ever loved. Visiting family in Ireland is bitter-sweet. It’s too late. I cannot go back. Too much time has passed. It’s over. I can visit but I can never go home again. And my heart breaks, missing the Irish life.
A survivor of abuse
I moved from one town to another in the hope I would make more friends or build a better relationship with my mum, who lived there. I thought my life would be great. After a few months I became so lonely. I lived alone and, driving home from work in the evenings, I would get such a horrible feeling as I knew I was alone until I got to work the next day. The only way to pass the time was to get into bed at 7.30pm, as at least I could sleep for a while and time would pass quicker.
I felt so isolated and my relationship with my mum just got worse. Loneliness and isolation gives you time to think. If I didn’t become as lonely, I would never have faced up to my demons as a survivor of sexual abuse. I went to a doctor, who referred me to an amazing counsellor. There I was able to really talk it out. I was lonely. I felt lost, trapped and confused.
It’s taken a great deal of time, mindfulness and patience to get to where I am now. I try to be kind to people; don’t judge them even if you think they have it all, I can guarantee they don’t. If you were to meet me you would never guess what I have experienced. Anyone who is feeling lonely or alone: just hold on. There is always someone or something out there that can help. I hope even one person can reach out and get help after reading this.
Here I am in my mid-30s, single, great job, great friends, great family, all living close by and yet there are times when all-consuming loneliness hits. I live on my own and my friends tell me how lucky I am: I don’t have to report to anyone, compromise with anyone, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. But that can be hard too. Sometimes I want to do things and I have nobody to do them with – cinema trips, holidays, walks along the pier, trying the latest restaurant, a drink in the local. The reassurance that there is someone standing up for me, in my corner, and the loneliness and anxiety that hits when you realise you have to do it all yourself. It all got too much at the start of the year and I made the decision to go to a counsellor. It’s a long process but I am learning I am important, and my opinion is valuable. And I don’t have to feel lonely any more. The strength that we can find in ourselves in immeasurable.
If you have been affected by these issues, Alone helps older people who are homeless, socially isolated, living in deprivation or in crisis, 01-6791032, alone.ie. Jigsaw works with people aged 12-25, jigsaw.ie. The Samaritans are available 24-7 on freephone 116123