We continue our series of blog posts looking at issues around mental health. This week we hear more from We Are Chester writer Sean Graham, who shares his experiences of loneliness after a relationship break up. His first piece for our new blog series can be found here. Trigger warning: This blog post contains potentially distressing content.
Words: Sean Graham. Photos: Sean Graham and Angela Ferguson
Have you ever felt lonely while being around friends or family? Have you ever scrolled endlessly through social media posts ruminating on the nature of your existence with feelings of sadness and despondency? If this sounds familiar then please allow me to share my story.
During the two years after my separation, I found myself consumed by this overwhelming sense of loneliness. This irksome driving force of depression followed me everywhere like some sinister shadow. There was no escape.
During this time I ventured into house share schemes thinking that these feelings would dissipate, and on the surface it was the ideal solution. In a thriving part of Liverpool I was filled with the belief that this was the ultimate miracle cure for loneliness.
My huge expectations of this idealistic night life, companionship at home and a busy day job was the perfect medicine and would cut me loose from the shackles of loneliness. What could possibly go wrong?
Well the short answer: everything. My rapid downward spiral began as I learned that loneliness wasn’t just driven by lack of social interaction, but the shattering realisation that everyone else was getting on with their lives as I remained frozen in disarray.
Working at the college was my means of escape because there wasn’t time to contemplate, but this suffocating force of loneliness kicked in as I closed the curtains on those dark November nights.
Desperate to seek refuge from this all-consuming sense of abandonment, I spent evenings vacantly scrolling through people’s Facebook posts.
The instant gratification of receiving a ‘like’ from my occasional post did nothing to fill this huge inescapable void which eventually dragged me into a world of heavy drinking and sleep. It was the only solution. I didn’t want to wake up. The meltdown began.
Lonelier in a crowd
The irony is I felt lonelier when I was surrounded by groups of people. As Christmas came and went, I was suddenly plunged into a deeper and darker place. I withdrew from friends. My desperation grew large and sent me free-falling.
The loneliness erupted, fuelling feelings of worthlessness; a pyroclastic flow of self-punishing negativity buried me so deep I was trapped.
With no desire to escape, I started to contemplate the very worst thing imaginable as suicidal thoughts crept in. I felt my future was bleak as I became isolated and stranded. I planned my own way out.
Meanwhile people around me in work grew aware of my plight and rallied round me. They supported me. They gave me guidance and helped me through. It became apparent to me that loneliness was something I had created.
I don’t think there’s a miracle cure for loneliness, but identifying when you feel lonely is a good starting point. There’s no shame in feeling lonely. It doesn’t make you inferior, it’s just a feeling that consumes you.
In my next article I will be discussing the things you can do to cope with the feeling of loneliness. It will be the start of your train journey.
If you are affected by any of the issues discussed here then a number of organisations can offer support, including the NHS, which has a list of useful contacts and helplines here.