Loneliness hits hard this time of year. Not that it doesn’t hit during the remaining ten months, but the holidays are a special kind of hard. The kind of hard where you look around at all the Hallmark moments happening on social media of people happily gathering with their families. Commercials and movies about finding love or having grand reunions with estranged loved ones.
Sitting around the coffee shop on the island I live on, there’s a sea of people glued to their computer screens wrapping up their to-dos before the holiday break. I am just a girl choosing to sit at the largest table possible, alone. Smack in the middle of the room to create a sense of community. A little tadpole who accidentally was placed into the ocean where she doesn’t belong.
With loneliness comes a giant hole. We constantly fill the void by shoveling vices in their place. Work. Alcohol. Cigarettes. Weed. Netflix. Miscellaneous hookups from dating apps. Anything to distract us from feeling anything close to the word.
I’m a culprit of these offenses. I know I’m not the only one. If you’re still reading this, you probably are too. You want to do something to change your life so you’re no longer lonely, but you haven’t.
So what do we do? How do we stop filling the void? How do we allow ourselves to feel the ache we’ve spent years of our lives working so diligently to avoid?
Feelings are scary. Especially the ones we’ve defined as unacceptable. Heaven forbid we’re sad. Heaven forbid we’re lonely. Heaven forbid we’re lost. Heaven forbid we don’t feel worthy or enough.
“There’s a solution to your problem,” they say.
“You’re only making it harder for yourself,” they scold.
“Let me bless you with my wisdom to fix whatever it is you’re going through,” they advise.
If it were easy to take the words we already know to properly mend the hole in our lives, we would’ve already done it.
Unfortunately, we’re in a world of instant gratification. Everything within reach is only two clicks away in under three seconds.
But aside from the time it takes to do the work and learn from the pain, we’re also brought up in a society that says, “Bad feelings aren’t suitable for the average human experience. They do not belong here so therefore neither do you.”
It was decided long before us which emotions were the good ones and which were bad. We never really had a say in this. And by the time we wanted to make the conscious decision to be okay with not being okay, it was too late. The neural pathways were tightly wound into our nervous system.
This makes facing loneliness even more difficult. Aside from the fact we don’t feel like we have someone to call we wholeheartedly trust, we’re also supposed to acknowledge that we are the troll who lives under the bridge. The one who has all the bad feelings we aren’t “supposed” to feel.
We admit defeat. Let’s now add eight heavy bricks of failure into our backpack to boot.
So we’re back at the question.
How do we get out of the loneliness?
We get out of the loneliness by permitting ourselves to feel exactly what it is we’re feeling.
How do we become brave enough to face our true innermost feelings?
Well, I’m still figuring that out. I still have moments where I choose vices over confrontation. But the moments I’m brave are the moments I write it all down.
We ask for help from a professional to help us face our feelings.
We call someone we can wholeheartedly trust to listen and get all the feelings out of our system.
We write everything down until our fingers hurt and there are no words left to be written.
We get in touch with our bodies to figure out where the pain physically is.
Today, I’m feeling lonely. Today, I’m being brave by getting myself out of bed and out of the apartment without a single vice to numb me from my feelings. I sit in a sea of strangers at a coffee shop to find a sense of community. I’m writing down every tiny thought until there are no thoughts left to be purged onto paper.
Today, I’m a tadpole in an ocean slowly finding my way back.
If you’re a tadpole, you can join my school. It’s small right now, but hopefully, with you in it, we can make it grow together.
A school of unlonely tadpoles.
Lauren Dow is the author of In Body I Trust, host of the podcast, Lauren Dow Talks. She is a mental health advocate dedicated to normalizing the conversation about mental illness and reminding others life is worth living. Learn more about Lauren’s work at laurendow.com.