Hello and welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our spot on the site where we try and talk about things that may be affecting you, or people you know. Not every article has something for everyone, but hopefully, if you dig through our archive, you’ll find something that’s of help
This week, we’re handing back over to the brilliant Jo Challacombe, who wants to talk about ‘deliberate loneliness’…
Loneliness is not always by accident. It’s not always a circumstance we endure against our will. For many it is an unconscious choice, but for me, it is on purpose; put in place to keep me safe from harm.
Perhaps you are living in loneliness after a bad breakup, or consciously retreating as protection from an abusive situation. Maybe you turned to isolation after years of disappointment from others or failed attempts at socialising. Or perhaps, you have been lonely for so long, you can’t even remember why.
Personally, as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) I often impose social isolation upon myself for my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
BPD can be a socially destructive disorder, and choosing isolation is an effective short-term solution for me. It protects me from the trouble others with my disorder can find themselves in – negative public judgement or in more extreme cases, the law.
Shutting myself away from the world shields me from the stress of dealing with people’s reactions when I am in full-blown BPD mode, and from the very real consequences of my disorder.
When I am alone, at least I am safe.
The maths works out in black and white terms; a volatile and potentially destructive disorder is controlled by self-imposed isolation. Staying away from the world means staying away from pain. Simple!
But it isn’t simple, is it?
Because it’s lonely.
The problem with staying away from everything to protect yourself from the bad, is that you also protect yourself from the good.
Not connecting with people may mean I am never in a situation to cause them grief, but it also means I am never in the situation to experience the joy and positivity of having meaningful relationships and social interaction.
Perhaps, not forming relationships may mean you are never hurt again, but it also means you may never meet that wonderful, understanding person who is ideal for you.
Not having friends may save you from a lot of drama or social discomfort, but it also saves you from a lot of fun and laughter.
It often seems easier to be alone, but as humans we simply cannot sustain the negative impact of loneliness forever. Eventually it catches up with us, leading to apathy and depression. It may be a short-term solution for immediate safety, but it’s not a way of life.
I am lucky that I am stubborn, and I refuse to allow myself to suffer loneliness for the rest of my life. I am also a realist, and I understand and appreciate that simply parading myself out into society without preparation could lead to unwanted stress and anxiety.
The solution? Start small.
If you are not used to socialising, or like me, you have mental health symptoms which make socialising difficult, it is wise to take small steps to build up your confidence, trust and coping skills one step at a time. Ending loneliness is a process.
A good place to start is with organisations that have been put in place specifically to support people who are feeling isolated or who are having difficulties socialising due to their mental health or past experiences.
Reaching out to health professionals and organisations first, means you can practice building connections in a safe space without judgement.
It also means it can be one-sided. You can use the service when you need it, and retreat when you want a break. Relationships, whether family, friendship or intimate require give and take, which can be exhausting to someone unfamiliar with the exchange. Individuals also come with their own beautiful and complex world views for you to navigate alongside your own. Attempting to live up to these expectations too soon and without practice can be challenging.
Counselling sessions, group therapy or supportive courses and workshops removes this pressure while you develop new social skills.
You can start even smaller if you wish. Engaging in a programme of therapy, set up by my local mental health team (accessed via my GP) for example, is my long-term commitment to leading a healthier and more fulfilling life, but simply making a quick call to The Samaritans has helped me numerous times when my isolation has got on top of me.
Every day I take small steps I discover that loneliness Isn’t the only way to stay safe and I can learn how to manage my health and enjoy connecting with others.
If you feel you are ‘lonely on purpose’ too, some helpful organisations and advice include;
- Make an appointment with your GP, who can refer you to your local mental health team and other refer-only services
- Call the Samaritans (116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI); a 24-hour phone helpline to support anyone in distress
- Visit www.mind.org.uk for helplines, guides to support and services and helpful information about mental health difficulties.
- Local support groups often advertise on noticeboards in doctor’s surgeries, community centres, alternative therapy clinics and in local free papers.
- Volunteer centres can be a great place to find courses or supported volunteering opportunities to help get you out of the house and connecting with others.
Thanks, as always, for reading. Stay awesome.