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?
16 comments on Loneliness
Join clubs in the neighbourhood, a church group. Go to a mall to window shop, ride the bus. Do not be alone. You may meet new friends.
Good idea, Pam. I use to be more active at church. Maybe I should take a closer look at that.
Since I retired and moved to FL I’ve had a difficult time forming truly connected friendships. However, there are a number of people I’ve become friendly with through church and church groups. I also volunteer one day a week and have met some truly nice people there. Meeting new people and crowds cause me to experience some anxiety so I really have to push myself to do these things. I am an introvert so I don’t have an exuberant outgoing personality and I find small talk to be difficult. When faced with small talk I try to get people to talk about themselves until we hopefully hit upon a topic that we are both enthused about.
I’m very much an introvert. Fortunately a job I held once required me to attend a lot of wining and dining parties and working the room, I hated every second of it, but I did get good at faking it.
What a great topic to write about, Bradley!
I also use social media (Twitter and Facebook) to feel less lonely while I’m home. Like you, I’m home alone a lot writing. I used to participate in online forums for moms, but I got tired of that…I joined a writer’s group last year that was a disaster. It was a small group led by a professional bestselling author, and $$$ to boot. Well, it turned out that an ex-friend of mine (who was *never* a writer) was a member. There was no way in hell I was staying in that group so I bailed. The author gave me a credit for most of my $, but I realized her group and style were not for me. (Sorry to vent)
There’s a rather hardcore-looking outdoor exercise group for local women. They meet across the street from my home; we live across from a beautiful park. I had no idea their group was going on until I joined a private Facebook group for my neighbors. I might push myself to try that at some point, although I’m scared.
Do you belong to any of your neighborhood Facebook groups? (We have five or six groups up here because I live in a valley filled with small towns.)
As far as coming up with other ideas for you, well, I want ideas too! :)))))) I’ll check back here and see if anyone comes up with some ideas for us. 🙂
I’m not familiar with any Facebook groups. Interesting. I was very active at church, but for many reasons I’ve taken a couple of steps back. I do belong to a writer’s group and fortunately didn’t have the same experience as you. There is every type of genre, personality and skill levels and we all get along great. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them. I was in a group previously that was good, but because it met in a restaurant we had to keep everything on a PG level (or a mild R) and that just would not work with my novel.
I’ve gotta say that you write the best responses, Bradley! Other bloggers take note!
You’re making me blush
Definitely check out Facebook groups in your area – there’s a local option and also a friends’ groups option that might lead you to something cool! 🙂
I’ll look into it
Loneliness cures. Take a walk just around the yard and notice all the creatures and plants. (Yes, even ants and weeds.) It makes me feel connected. Also, music, loud, upbeat–the kind that MAKES you wiggle and dance! Lately for me it’s been Pitbull of all people. LOL! I also like to cook for my own entertainment. I’ll put together a big pot of spaghetti sauce, pot of soup, pan of lasagne, big bowl of salad, stir-fry veggies, etc. Things that take a few hours to do while listening to music. These will fill an afternoon with fun – for me.
I love to dance and sing out loud when I’m alone. I usually turn on Reggae. I n
eed to do it more. Thank you for the reminder
Do you have any pets? I can’t for the life of me remember if you do, I’m embarrassed to say. I take quite a bit of comfort in doing things with my dog, and I also spend quite a bit of time chatting with online friends. Other things I do to combat loneliness include participating in a few mental health groups at the local mental health center, spending time with LarBear, visiting local family, or just getting out for a drive.
My boredom, like my loneliness mostly comes from writing from home and not having co-workers.
I’m alone and lonely most of the time. I got a dog. I take him to the dog park and talk to strangers. Dog people are a surprisingly eccentric bunch. My loneliness vanishes for a short time.
I hear that a lot from dog owners. I’m glad you have a friend to keep you company. Dog parks are excellent places to meet people.