I’ve written about pissing into bottles when I’ve been depressed, and yet to me, this is a blog whose responses I fear the most. Because admitting that you’re lonely seems to be the most shaming thing you can do. We’re meant to be glitzy! Instagramming! Vineing our awesome lives! And this will sound like one long self pitying tract, which it is, really. All I want from it is to get some thoughts out of my system. It is not a plea for contact because as I will explain I must do those things on my own terms and not be forced into them or feel obligated because I find that scary and overwhelming. Like someone who hasn’t eaten for a bit- I’ll be sick and not want to eat again if I have a big meal. I need to have little nourishing small things that I am comfortable with.
The consultant psychiatrist phoned. About three minutes I said, “For fuck’s sake”, and thought I could hear the dancing of fingers over the keyboard as my diagnosis magically changed.
“What support have you got around you at the moment?” she asked, after chastising me for swearing (like my very first consultant did, at the age of 15. And it rings in my ears now 13 years later, “You’re an intelligent girl, Seaneen, you don’t need to swear”. And I’ve said “fuck you” since). “Friends?”
“Not really”, I said.
Russling of papers. “How long have you lived in London?”, she asked.
“11 years”, I replied. 11 years and, “not really”. How after 11 years can I, “not really” have any support, no clique, no friendship group, no life? No stories to tell on a Monday (any Monday).
She sounded doubtful. What do I sound like? Bright, probably. Rude and cheeky but definitely not unfriendly. Russle russle. Stable romantic relationships- married 2 years, been with this one 5, the previous one, 3 1/2. Good people, good relationships. Difficult upbringing but made peace with us, adores her family. 680 Facebook friends (A Facebook full of my moaning. No wonder I am alone). 3000 Twitter followers! A faithful readership of a formerly semi-famous blog. Married, for god’s sake. In full time employment. In every way, Normal. “Recovering”. Probably quite well liked, really. Extroverted.
Occasionally it’ll squeak out to my 680 Facebook friends. Another interminable weekend. Long long days. Making things up in work for what I’m doing. So many plans! Facebook. Netflix. Sleeping. Tea. Talking to myself to make up for the silence.
“Oh, that sounds like a great evening. I’m in my pyjamas, it’s been a long week…” … No, you don’t understand. This is every weekend. My husband works nights (7 on, 7 off) and on those 7 off, I am alone, alone, alone, all the time. For three years. Longer even, as I was alienating people well before that. This isn’t a respite from pubs and clubs (when was the last time? I can’t remember the last time), holidays, festivals, people coming round, conversations, laughter. There hasn’t been a new picture of me on Facebook for 2 years (not one that isn’t a self conscious selfie- look, I exist, I swear, I’m here…) THIS IS MY LIFE. Talking here. That’s it. THAT’S ALL. I have no memories to share here.
Someone comments. “I’d come round, just ask :)” Hastily delete the status. You never saw it, it was never there. I’m fine (Like a teenager, I lay on the bed last week and cried from loneliness. Absolute desperation for another human being to be there with me, to talk to, a cup of tea. More than that, for those things can be done by anyone. Anyone can listen, but not care. The nurse who came to visit me today could drink a cup of tea and listen to me but it doesn’t make her my friend. What I cried for was a friend, a best friend, a group of friends, a place to belong, a place to go and be, someone to text and know they’ll reply, someone, to know that someone, with certainty, wouldn’t mind a few hours in my company. Crying from a mix of loneliness and complete shame that you’re 28 years old and listening to a party next door and feeling as though you live at the earth’s core instead, burning and alone forever and ever.
And I have really forgotten how to talk to people. My social skills are horrendous. I don’t use them, I don’t go out, I don’t socialise, and when I try to, I feel so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable and unliked that if I do (rarely) get the chance, I turn it down. And it’s a vicious cycle and it’s not one that’s unheard of. In fact my story is so modern and boring. Replacing all human interaction with interaction online (and I’m not even worth it or charming here, either).
I have no life and no real person (apart from Robert, who often isn’t here, and who bears the brunt of my loss of social skills- babbling out and rambling everything on my mind I saved up for a week) to confide in that I don’t really know how I’m supposed to speak. I have one drink and either clam up or ramble incessantly, disclose too much personal information for the sheer joy of someone to share with, ask too many questions, and then feel so exposed and embarrassed I don’t speak again or send many myriad apologies.
I have had friends, twice (as in 2 groups of friends in my life time). The first set (and they were a set) pretty much turned against me (young, mental, flexi with the truth), and eventually that turned in to being assaulted in the street. So I left the country, and somewhat wounded and weird made more friends, but young, mental again. I am not a good friend. I’m not sure I’m a good person. This isn’t self deprecation- I am very moany, I am very self obsessed (this much is obvious). In the past I have been indiscrete. But they were lovely but I interminably needed “looking after”. People like me less the more they know me. If I could stop at first- maybe second, because first of all I can seem rude because I’m nervous- impressions, that would be great. I have changed so much in the past 3 years that it feels like two lonely lives. I feel like I am a better person now but was better off being a worse one. Because my betterness came through being a worse one.
And so I make it, which is why I have 680 Facebook friends. We’ll never get further than that. I am not doing it on purpose. It isn’t something I can snap out of, I have tried, and at intervals have succeeded, put myself out there, was betrayed so utterly by one that I have closed myself off to anyone even remotely like her. I usually trusted in people and believed they were good and nice, and now I don’t, and I don’t trust anyone and I am not willing to even try a friendship with anyone who shares qualities she has (and she had so many good ones, too, which makes it worse). And it hurt all the more because she knew all of this about me. So back into my shell I went. And given that what I am particularly desperate for is female friendship (I am a feminist, I have ideas, I hear of sisterhood, but I am not part of it. I am not part of anything), it makes me hate her all the more, and hate myself all the more too.
You won’t like me anyway, so what’s the point. I say no often people stopped asking years ago. (Everyone lets you down. You let everyone down. Everyone hurts you. You hurt everyone).
(People out drinking! Cocktails. Being in a house that’s not theirs. Go to gigs and festivals and have inside jokes. Do people really live like this? Make phone calls to each other and talk and confide? Is this what people do?)
After a while, you get so used to being lonely that it’s so hard to break out of it. You become so insular and analytical and that becomes who you are in the end. I don’t like going far from home. I am used to time being mine- to waste (I think of all I could have done with my days and nights alone- hundreds and hundreds now. Learned an instrument, a language, to drive, wrote a novel. Instead I just sat and watched other people live their lives and retreated into my own little dreamworld). I seem like the most boring person in the world because I don’t do anything because I’m too scared. To go to the pub. To go for a walk. To pick up a phone. To go to a protest. Followed everywhere by that sense of inadequacy, it’s much easier, much more controllable and manageable, to just live with it at home. As much as my loneliness makes me cry, I am so protective now of that lonely time. When people are here I feel as though I’m putting on a grand performance even making a cup of tea (they have not been here).
And people are so kind. On Facebook and Twitter, people are lovely. It’s not as though I don’t share my life- I do, too much. No-one is cruel so why am I afraid? I don’t know. If I could snap out of it easily, just go, “Fuck this”, I would. At times Robert has broken with frustration at me and shouted, which only makes me feel worse because I don’t want to be this way, I never have. I know some people would be reading this and feel offended. “But I thought we were friends? I thought you valued me?” I do. If you think I value you, please believe me that I do. I value so many so much. I think of people often, and of reaching out, but can never quite make that step. When I do it’s en masse- huge anxiety about wedding invites for people I didn’t see again afterwards, birthdays, housewarmings, which all feel farcical. Attempts to reconnect but realising you haven’t seen or spoken to the invitees in ages, or sometimes not met them at all. But it’s trying.
And you go through the cycles. Depressed, manic, weird, not weird, sociable, retreat, happy, sad, withdraw. Even when you’re well you expect these things to happen, and when you are well, other people remind you of when you were ill. They’re almost like symptoms in themselves- the secret keepers, the holders of the memories of things you want to forget.
And there’s the other massive thing- having no fucking energy to socialise anyway due to medication. Wanting to crash after work, wanting to sleep all weekend. Feeling too dead, and feeling I have nothing to talk about anyway. What do people do when they get together? Talk about their lives? What have I got to say?
I know I am anxious person who has self preservation as their utmost goal because I have needed to. I know all this and yet it doesn’t help.
I have people I care about and love, and who may care about and love me, too (I think?) I am luckier than most. What is wrong with me? (This question reverberates around my head)
If this has sounded accusatory in parts, it’s not at all meant to be. This is nobody’s doing but my own. I am aware that a lot of it is self perception I don’t know how to change. I could probably un-lonely myself if I just pushed myself more. But I am too scared. And now I’m used to my own company which luckily I mostly enjoy. It’s not up to anyone else and I don’t need or want to be “saved” from my loneliness. With other lonely friends, talk of tea, meeting up, and it never happens, because none of us can save each other. But I am lonely.