How often do you hear those words? Whether spoken out loud or written on a social media update, I find those words frequently. People have asked me how I cope living on my own as surely I get lonely. Back when I worked at my previous job, I’d leave work, get on the bus or, later, in the car and go back to my flat, all alone, no one there to greet me. Some believe that was the cause of my depression. I’m not so convinced but that’s another story.
But sometimes that’s how I like it.
People often say, when I talk about being on my own, that I have to get out more if I don’t want to be lonely. However, I’d like to challenge that today, as I think there is a profound difference between being alone and being lonely. Let’s see if you agree with me.
I’m Alone but Not Lonely
Sometimes a little bit of personal space is nice. Whenever I’ve been out and the depression or anxiety kicks in, there is nothing better than getting into the confines of my flat or my car, switching on my music or a video game and just blasting the thoughts and feelings away. Listening to music, playing that video game, both can work but it seems they only work if I can actually be on my own.
But I’m not lonely.
I’m making the most of my own personal space, with no one around. I can drop my mask and leave it behind, allowing myself to be exactly as I am, without the front. I don’t need it. Even when I’m around friends and family, there is that guard up because I don’t want to drag them down as well. Sometimes being alone can be the best thing ever. It allows me to just be me.
The inspiration for this post actually came from a P!nk song that someone’s Twitter tweet made me think of. Called Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely, it speaks of how sometimes that personal space is good, because it allows us to have that break. Too much of a good thing – or sometimes anything at all – can be too much, so it’s good to have a break. Take a listen if you haven’t already heard it.
I’m Not Alone, but I’m Lonely
Sightly harder to grasp, but it’s possible to feel lonely when you’re not alone. When people have absolutely no idea what you’re going through, it can be quite isolating. I distinctly remember walking into work on a really bad day, putting that front on and finding that only one person noticed. I was surrounded by people and yet so alone that it was unbelievable. Granted, it wasn’t entirely their fault because I’d put that front up, but it was a contributing factor that no one looked.
Similarly, it is a growing problem that those of us who struggle with mental health issues find that we are put into a box in society, simply because people don’t understand mental health. We might have plenty of friends – in person, on social media or on our phone – but we can be so alone. As I write this, the thought of “I’m in a room full of people yet I’m so alone” is going through my head.
Even when there are all these people around, it’s easy for me to feel like a bother and not want to open up to people for fear of disturbing them or burdening them. A difficult mindset to get out of, it isolates me. Thus, I am with people and not alone, but I’m lonely, because I feel like I have no one to talk to. Unfortunately, this is the category that a lot of people I talk to fall into. They want to talk to someone yet they feel they can’t.
Learn About Lonely
My challenge for you is to learn the signs for when someone wants to be lonely. It’s not that they don’t want your help – they probably value you a lot more than they feel able to let on – but they need a little bit of time away from everything else. It isn’t against you, far from it, but it’s something they need at the time. As P!nk says, “tonight, leave me alone, I’m lonely. I’m tired, leave me alone I’m lonely”. We will want you to come back, we just need a bit of space. It isn’t personal.
It never is.
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