Despite my horrible memory, I can easily recall the loneliest moment of my life. It was the afternoon of September 28, 2003 in Studio City, California. It was my 40th birthday. I had no friends to help me celebrate. The people who I called my friends were nothing more than drinking buddies. Since I was newly sober, they had no more use for me than I did them. It also had been shortly after I was released from a 10 day stint at the local psych ward.
I knew I was in a bad spot so I had to ensure I did anything but drink. That morning I mapped out where A.A. meetings were throughout the city, and went from one to the next. I didn’t have a car and had limited coins for bus fare so I did a lot of walking that day. I had previously lived in Studio City for several years but I had no idea why I was there that day. My best guess is someone in A.A. was letting me sleep on their couch.
I was in the process of walking from one meeting to another. I was full of anger, sadness and self-pity. It was a birthday with a zero at the end. Aren’t those the ones that are supposed to be milestones? I thought it should be celebrated, but I had no one to celebrate with.
My Loneliest Moment
Here’s the exact moment – I was walking down the street past a tennis club where people were laughing and having a good time. I pulled out my prepaid cell phone and looked at it with disgust. Not a single friend or family member called to wish me a happy birthday. My eyes teared, my hands shook and I tossed the phone into some bushes. The irony of it all is that there was no credit on the phone and I knew that. It’s hard to be logical when you’re filled with hurt and anger. I did climb into the bushes to retrieve my useless phone, but still thought someone should call me. I sat on the curb for a while to regain my composure and then went off to the next meeting.
Loneliness is Dangerous
Loneliness doesn’t just hurt; it can be dangerous. In a September 2014 article for the All in One Life website, Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes,
…researchers have discovered, loneliness is hardly just a social issue; its physical impacts are among the most profound in modern medicine. Air pollution, obesity, and excessive alcohol use have been found to increase a person’s mortality risk by 6, 23, and 37 percent, respectively. Loneliness may increase your risk by a shocking 45 percent. And it’s not just the body that suffers: A study published in 2012 found that older lonely people are 64 percent more likely to develop dementia than their more connected counterparts are.
Those numbers are staggering. No wonder loneliness is so painful. People with bipolar have a shorter lifespan than the general public. Do we really have to throw loneliness in there too?
It saddens me when I read posts from people who have bipolar and are lonely too, but why wouldn’t they be? It’s much easier to stay in bed than go outside when you’re depressed and people may be uncomfortable being around you when you’re extremely manic. Before I got on meds, I was having seizures regularly. The seizures prevented me from driving and both my psychiatrist and my therapist told me to stop taking the bus because I had several incidences where I got lost and had panic attacks. I became agoraphobic and you can imagine how lonely that could be. My only connection with the outside world was via the internet, which can lead to loneliness on its own. Dr. Gupta adds,
…while social media has given us more ways to communicate, many experts believe it may also leave us more alienated. It’s the deteriorating quality of our relationships that concerns researchers like Harry Reis, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “We need to interact with other people on a fairly deep level, and that’s what many of us are missing,” says Reis. Are texting, tweeting, posting, and liking solely to blame? Of course not, but for those who tend to hide behind screens instead of going out and socializing, online networks provide an illusion of interaction that is a poor substitute for real connection.
I want to put my two cents in regarding social media. I’m a writer so I’m alone all day. Loneliness can creep in. The best way I deal with it is by logging into Facebook and Twitter for a few minutes. Sure, it’s not the same as having lunch with someone, but it is better than just sitting alone listening to the sound of my keyboard when I feel the need to connect with someone, no matter how brief.
Because I deal with loneliness pretty frequently, I’m looking for ideas. Is there anything you do that helps you combat loneliness?