What is loneliness and why I wrote an article with such title?
At the essence of loneliness is the feeling of not being understood.
You could be surrounded by people yet feel alone. And you can be all by yourself but don’t feel lonely.
Remember this point as we will refer back to it.
I am writing this article with a strange idea.
If I can figure out that those experiences are painful and bring loneliness, that’s something.
But if someone else can agree on the same, it might make whoever reads it feel less lonely once they know others feel the same, too.
So, my goal is to make people feel less lonely in this digital, busy world.
And I do not really know if this idea will even work. But let’s give it a shot.
If one person could relate, I am successful; I know I am not alone in experiencing and understanding loneliness this way.
I understand, and someone else does. This tackles the root of loneliness, which is not feeling understood.
Before we start . . .
Those experiences I will describe may vary from someone to another. Some people may not feel lonely experiencing them, but some may.
It depends on individual differences, the quality of your social circle, communication skills, and your relationship with yourself.
That being said, those experiences tend to be quite lonely and painful in general.
Let’s get started.
#1 Having good news you can’t share with someone
One of my friends told me a heart-melting story.
She was in the metro heading back home. It was kind of crowded, but everyone was minding their own business.
However, she noticed the lady next to her was staring at her. The lady was about to tear up and was breathing heavily.
Despite that, she was staring at her as if she wanted to start a conversation.
So, my friend took the initiative and said hi. She asked her if everything was okay.
The lady’s eyes got more watery, and she whispered something underneath her breath to my friend like, “can I hug you?”
My friend, getting emotional, said yes and hugged the girl.
The girl burst into tears and hugged my friend real tightly. She cried as if she never did before.
When she calmed down, my friend asked her what happened.
At this point, almost everyone around them was watching.
The girl, catching her breath and whipping tears from her eyes, told her that she had passed an important exam that meant a lot to her.
She was so happy. But she didn’t have anyone to share this with.
She didn’t have anyone to share her good news and happiness with.
That lady felt better after hugging my friend and sharing her good news publicly.
Almost everyone who was watching started to get emotional and congratulated her.
I believe she did the right thing by hugging a stranger and sharing the overwhelmingly good news.
And I hope more good things happen to her and that she would find people who will listen to her good news and wish her well.
It just saddens me that someone has to hug a total stranger in a metro because they have no one in their lives to share their good news with.
Again, I really think the lady is brave and strong for doing that. And I wish more great things happen to her, including love and friendship, and companionship.
#2 Being sick and going to the hospital alone
Being vulnerable when you’re sick is not the best feeling in the world.
What makes it even worse is being alone.
There was a time when I used to regularly go to a nearby clinic.
I would go alone, but I wasn’t so sick as I only come to follow-ups.
So, I was %80 healthy and capable of being on my own.
But I would see some people coming alone. Most of them were guys. And they were really tired, weak, and vulnerable.
They would sit in pain, avoiding eye contact, and waiting for their turn.
And I guess seeing families, couples, and friends waiting around them wasn’t the best feeling in the world.
One of the saddest things is seeing someone in the hospital almost fainting with no friends or family around them.
I would neither recommend it nor wish it for anyone.
#3 Pouring your heart out explaining yourself and then getting misunderstood
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, not being understood is the root of feeling lonely.
That’s why you can find lonely individuals in crowds.
Being misunderstood feels like not being seen. It feels like being invisible, screaming your lung out, but the person can neither hear nor see you.
So you just give up. You shut up.
You choose to reserve your energy.
But you will feel alone.
Unseen, unheard, and misunderstood.
I know it’s extra painful when you do your best to explain your inner world to someone but they just don’t get it.
Sometimes, it’s because of them — they don’t understand you.
Other times, it’s because of you — you need to explain more clearly and put in more effort.
But either way, loneliness is the final result.
I really empathize with people who don’t know how to articulate themselves, don’t have someone who understands them, or don’t open up because they are afraid of not being understood.
I hold them accountable that they have to exert effort into finding the right people.
Also, they need to work harder on articulating themselves, their feelings, thoughts, and desires.
Some have limited abilities and opportunities.
Some are afraid because of an old wound.
In the end, they are prone to be misunderstood.
And that’s very lonesome.
#4 Witnessing someone you know become someone you don’t
There are two scenarios.
It’s either someone who betrays you or someone whom you grow apart from after being so close.
In the first case, loneliness will be one of the many devastating feelings you will experience.
It’s a cruel, cold type of loneliness that feels like a life sentence.
Not only can you not speak because you hurt your tongue, but you’re also not sure if you can ever use it again.
You’re left with the idea that you will be silent (reads: lonely) for the rest of your life. And being silent (reads: alone) pains you.
In the other scenario, it’s different.
It feels like mourning the loss of someone (or the loss of the old version of you).
I once read a quote that said something like, “when you travel and leave a place, you don’t only say goodbye to your friends and family and even the places you love. You also say goodbye to your current self, which you will never be again.”
It feels similar when you grow apart from someone close to you. They no longer understand you, and neither do you.
And you cannot help but remember the old versions of you that used to be with them.
It almost feels like losing a part of who you are. It feels lonely and alienating.
(Note: I am a firm believer that it’s not always a bad thing to grow apart from someone. Sometimes, it’s necessary. Other times, it’s inevitable. We all have different journeys and we are required to burn parts of ourselves to be born again just like a phoenix.)
#5 Not receiving any text or message from anyone the entire day
I am not even talking about texts from specific people.
I am talking about texts from anyone. Anyone!
That’s loneliness plus rejection.
As humans, we need to talk to organize our thoughts. That’s why listening is therapeutic and powerful.
Just try it. Listen to someone. Really listen! And then be grateful for the things they share with you. See how that makes them feel.
That’s an experience where both of you won’t be the same after the conversation.
So, without talking to someone, our minds will become chaotic.
We need conversation to process and organize so many things we cannot organize and process just by thinking.
Thinking is hard.
In fact, real thinking is rare.
We think that we’re thinking.
But most of the time, we are not.
We are ruminating and mentally stuck. We are riddled with our own limitations.
Talking to someone is one of the ways we organize our thoughts.
And if we have no one to talk to, we are lonely with chaotic minds.
I know I said above it’s about receiving texts. But, the main idea is not having someone to talk to. Not receiving a text is but an indication.
(Note: Check up regularly on older people if you might. Loneliness hits harder at that age.)
#6 Deliberately celebrating your birthday alone (privately or in public)
This point is similar to the first one, but it’s deeper.
I saw two videos online about this. They broke my heart.
If I remember correctly, the first one was a man with a cake or something and his dog.
He was clapping, singing to himself, and trying to cheer the dog up. If I remember correctly, he sang, tried to get the dog involved, cut the cake or blew the candles, and just burst into tears.
It was so sad.
Someone was filming this from a distance, and I really hope they did something to cheer that guy up.
Some men and women who are not fortunate enough can feel deadly amounts of loneliness after a certain age. Writing this makes my chest heavy.
The other video was for an old lady who was at a restaurant.
She was all alone, and she caught the attention of the waiter or waitress.
I think she order a cake and then pulled out a few candles, put them on top of it, and started clapping and probably singing (there was no audio in the video, so I couldn’t tell).
Anyway, the waitress was watching her. So were the guys next to her.
And once she started celebrating, all alone, the waitress came and started clapping and singing and helping her celebrate.
The waiterss’ initiative made everyone in the restaurant come to the lady’s table and celebrate with her. They sang and clapped. And then all of them hugged the old lady and wished her a happy birthday.
Hats down to that waitress or waiter, I don’t remember. And hats down to everyone who helped the lady celebrate.
But it’s a terrible thing that a lady this old has to go to a restaurant and celebrate her birthday in the middle of total strangers.
Where’s her family? Friends?
Where are that guy’s friends and family?
Why is he celebrating his birthday on the street alone with his dog and bursting into tears?
Loneliness is not a trivial matter. It literally kills your soul before your body. We already know from research the health concequences of loneliness. Why don’t we have some conversation about what it’s doing to our souls and well-being?
We must take this more seriously before it’s too late.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash