9th to 15th of May is Mental Health awareness week in the UK. This year the theme is loneliness.
What is loneliness though? If you feel inclined, look it up. Like every other part of life, a psychologist has listed and defined it.... there are apparently seven types. Or three. Or five. It really depends on who you talk to.
I think of loneliness as a single thing. Loneliness is a bastard. Total complete and utter.
Wee disclaimer here. I live alone. Outside of work, I spend the vast majority of my time alone. Being alone does not equate to loneliness.
So back to the bastard. Loneliness can kill. Medical research has shown it impacts on every part of our health. Weight gain. cognitive function. physical fitness. Even the function of our heart. Sad and poetic.
We are meant to live with others. Not only in intimate relationships, but friendships, families. Our story is not only what we tell ourselves, but the feedback we receive.
There's the big lie circulating at the moment. Find your own self worth and you will need no one. I call bollox. Knowing your self worth is magnificent. But living a life unshared is a sure path to diminshment.
See, that is the cruely of loneliness.
Loneliness stops being a feeling and starts to become a reality. No one visits. No one talks. No one hugs or writes. So .... all those thoughts I have? All that self esteem shite? Is that true? Am I really that unlovable, that unworthy?
And what happens when you reach out if no one is willing to answer? You stop reaching.
Loneliness shrinks people. Literally. People left alone start to occupy less space. They aren't in the theatres or cinemas. They aren't in the cafe's and bars. Sometimes they are the wee soul in the shop, apologetically moving out of your way. Their existence a burden to the world.
Sometimes, the world is punished for their pain. Robbed of interaction and compassion, let's lash out. If the world wants to shrink me I will fight back. But when you're a bit of a tit, guess what. No one wants to be around you .
And the cycle continues.
You shrink and shrink.
Your World becomes the familar and painful
And it is so easy to solve. Really... no magic or therapeutic marvels needed.
Be honest. How often have you seen someone you know is having a tough time and you do everything to make sure the conversation is kept light?
How often have you shut someone down because you are unsure what to do? Unsure how to hear someones pain?
How often has a friend reached out and you feel 'ah fuck... I really can't be arsed.'
Maybe that's just me.... thankfully, I have never claimed to be a saint.
Truly, Loneliness is so easy to solve. Listen to people. Hear their stories. Give 5 minutes of your time. Just ask if they are ok? Most folk won't answer beyond 'fine' but at least they will feel seen.
If you can, go a wee bit further. One of my old neighbours drove long distance around Scotland. For years he took a couple of the older, retired men out with him. He enjoyed the company and the auld fellas got out for the day.
Listen to folks news. It takes a minute.
SEE PEOPLE!!!!!..... Yes, that is a bit shouty. Loneliness shrinks folks worlds to nothing. All it takes is a moment out of our days to make them feel seen and part of the world.