On being lonely

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.

Are you?

28 Responses

  1. I fully relate to feeling like this, but sometimes I wonder if there’s also some idealization going on. How many people out there actually have fulfilling friendships? From what I’ve observed people tend to have lots of acquaintances and rather superficial friends, they go out together sometimes, and yes, there’s a social need that is being met there, but I bet they are often not as close as they seem to be. I call them ‘hang-out social vehicles’. Sometimes they’re distracting but sometimes they make me feel more lonely than when I sit at home hiding from the world.

    Luckily, I have a couple very good online friends, who I consider as legitimate as any other friendship, except it is difficult that I can’t hang out with them. My romantic partner is also far. But these people are the ones that genuinely make me feel not as lonely.

    It’s unfortunate that your husband has a difficult work schedule. Does he have a social group himself or is he dealing with similar feelings from his side?

    • Oh definitely! When you only really see things online, you don’t see the fall outs, the sad times. You only see the good stuff.

      I think part of it is trying to fit into a mould, too. In all honesty, I have always been a loner. I have always preferred reading and writing to company.

  2. This is my story too. And because you can’t reach out, I’m reaching out to you. I am hard to shock; what you have done, I have done too. As such, judgement will not be an issue. I will not remind you of being ill because every day is a new start and I forget what’s gone before.

  3. I could have written this post aside from the part about having a husband. I am a very friendly person, but my social skills have gone down the toilet since i isolate. I have a boyfriend now who tolerates me and tries his hardest to get me to come out. He is an extreme extrovert who loooves people and social functions. I hate the questions “what are your plans?” “what do you do with your life?” I think this is totally your most open blog post i’ve seen because you are letting your vulnerability out and admitting so something that is “taboo” in society. You are so brave and i admire you so much. I look at other peoples lives and wonder what is wrong with me. Why i live in the cave when everyone else is partying it up and enjoying their lives. I’m the person who can feel lonely in a big group of people. All i do know is you can be comforted in the fact that not only are you brave beautiful and strong but you are a gorgeous person. hang in there… and thank you for being brave and candid… you give me hope.

  4. Yes. Yes I am lonely. I am getting married next month, have a three year old son and am on holiday with my family. I am still lonely. X

  5. Yes, I get this. It’s so hard to connect with people. And I’m too scared to say so as well because people feel like they are connecting with me, IRL friends, but I feel exhausted and like I am terrible company so I increasingly avoid spending time with people. Even when I keep trying, the fallout just increases with the time spent. I’m sorry you’re lonely. I can relate to this feeling. I try to connect with people on twitter. A lot of the time it feels like shouting into a void, scared no one is listening.

  6. Wow, I love your writing but this is extra self indulgent, although lonely feelings certainly suck. Try visiting some lonely old people and listen to their stories – they won’t care about the poor social skills.

    • It’s a blog so self indulgent by nature. I should though do some voluntary work like that, though. Although talking of lonely old people is a false equivalence- can guarantee many of those people started out with crap social skills and were lonely when they were younger too.

  7. Hey Seaneen, have you ever read CaptainAwkward.com? The followers of that blog are a fucking lovely community, super accepting of differences/disabilities/social-awkwardness, and they have regular meetups all over the place, including in London! I know a group meetup might sound crazy intimidating, but given that this is an online community that just occasionally has IRL events, you could maybe get comfortable with some of the people who go to meetups in an online context first, so it wouldn’t be so scary. Also, many of the meetups are very chill, like “hey we are going to be in this coffee shop doing crafts in each others’ presence, no pressure to interact any more than you are comfortable with” kind of things.

    Anyhow, it’s just a thought. If it isn’t your sort of thing, no worries… but definitely check out CA anyhow. She seriously curates one of the most pleasant comment sections on the internet, which is a beautiful thing to witness in and of itself, even if you don’t decide to stick around.

  8. If I didn’t have a wife and kids, I would have a similar story. They are the only people I really socialize with, and yet I even feel lonely around them (I feel it too, Nikita). I have people at work to talk to, but it is all superficial and fake (other than one actual friend). If I were without a family, I would be withdrawn and alone all the time. As it is, I just wish I had the ability to have casual friendships and not be so damn awkward and defective all the time. I suck at Fakebook and Twitter, and I never post a status because I think no one really cares. … I’m sorry you are feeling so alone. It sucks.

  9. Hey!
    So I can’t empathise with what you’re going through, I guess I’ve been lucky because I’m not socially awkward, so have never been properly lonely… Although I know all too well the individual symptoms that lead to that feeling, they were all part of my ex’s social life… (Was part of the reason we broke up) all she wanted to do all day was stay at home with her animals, (of which she had a lot!) she was pretty, funny, fun to be with and generally lovely, but she had fear too…
    (I won’t go into that here as it’s her story) but in many ways I just wished she’d be able to pull herself out of it… In the end only one of my closest friends met her, and only because I practically dragged her to meet her… So in a way I thought it wasn’t her fault, it was just the way she was… I dunno?

  10. […] Filed underneath: Mental health The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive […]

  11. No need to apologize for not responding. I would hope people reading your blog “get” the ups and downs and all arounds of depression. I sure do. I wouldn’t respect your writing nearly as much if you didn’t keep it real. I too am “Mentally Interesting.” I have struggled with feeling “alone.” I don’t know if it’s exactly the same as loneliness but still, it’s hard. The crazy thing is…I am rarely physically “alone.” I have a husband, kids, grandrat. I think I feel alone in my pain and I don’t want to wear my family and friends out. Just wanted you to know….I get it. Thank you for your honesty.
    -Mary Lynn

  12. Annnd now I’m regretting writing all of that tons of personal stuff. Sorry y’all. I needed an outlet for everything that has been going on… especially with all that I discovered last night.

  13. Weird… I typed 2 really long posts and neither one showed up. ??

  14. I’ve only just found your blog today and I can totally relate to it. Thanks

  15. Reblogged this on A dragon's best friend and commented:
    I stumbled across this post via Urban75 in a thread about ‘Relate’s report on the state of relationships. It’s on loneliness – something I’ve blogged about previously.

  16. […] posted on The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive:I’ve written about pissing into bottles when I’ve been depressed, and yet to me, this is a blog […]

  17. […] Filed beneath: Mental health The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive […]

  18. No hubby but I could have written this. For me having retractable bipolar for 22 years between age of 20 and 42, on purpose I created a shield. My fear or the ultimate humiliation was for people to come around and find me in a depression…..there I was all flat and unable to even to begin to describe…they gave up. I thought it was an act and if I ever got the magic meds. and not worry about people seeing me in that state, I could come back out again. Still trying to do that. Somehow it’s very comfortable in this safe fortress where people never come over. In fact is just been the last month where I have decided to try and “get a bit of a life” I do have a few real friends but still communicate on here. Had some early childhood trauma, might be a double whammy with the bipolor, for me at least. Good writing and I’m sure many people share these feelings but so very few ever write them. I don’t sense your thoughts as self pity or self indulgence rather from the hip and refreshingly not self censored.

  19. Wow, i totally appreciate ur blog on loneliness…i just started to realize i hate being alone…growing up i never felt alone-always had family and friends around. Just enjoy the constant stimulation of living life along with the valued input of others. Sharing experiences together made life fun and enjoyable. But now Im a mother of 3 girls under 6yrs and married to a dependable father/provider-however we never have any conversations unless i ask the questions. I fucked myself over by choosing stable security over emotional or just any type of relationship where people talk to each.. express their thoughts, opinions, motivations, happinesses or sadnesses..etc. Ive never felt so alone knowing he is my life mate to always be by my side. My only happiness is my daughters and i try to not let my sadness/loneliness show. ?Now im just tryn to find out how people find happiness in loneliness? How does one have fun alone? Im extorverted and not afraid of getting out there-should i leave the marriage and really be alone?

  20. The guilt and hopelessness of depression and the irrational fears of anxiety have led me to social isolation. I am lonely and even I think I sound like a sissy for saying it. I have not made a friend in at least 20 years, I’ve only made acquaintances and those are few and far between. I made them mostly at work and I made them because doing the job meant I had to.

    What a sad state of affairs.

  21. Reblogged this on The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive and commented:

    I wrote this in 2014, and am republishing it now after reading Eva Wiseman’s piece in the Guardian. Some has changed- I have a baby, I see my husband a lot more now he’s a stay at home dad, so I feel less lonely, more that I belong, somewhere (if not anywhere else).

  22. […] The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive […]

  23. This is the best article i have ever read on Internet and the way you described about presentations is awesome. I am from Philadelphia and looking for the Best psychologists in Philadelphia because of some relationship problems and was really thinking of suicide because of loneliness but I must say that this article is so much helpful in this critical situation of my life.

    Thank you,
    Alana Jhon

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