As a person there is nothing I love more than my own company, a little bit of peace and quiet, a long walk just contemplating things or encouraging what I call white space for the mind, so when loneliness and isolation hit me, it quite literally knocked me sideways.
Although it was 24 years ago I remember as though it were yesterday the day that family came to visit to ooh and ahh over our new baby and my feelings of great pride and inclusion at what we had achieved in producing this little bundle of joy. What I was not prepared for was the feeling of great loneliness and momentary resentment, yes resentment then hurt when everyone then decided to up and leave and do the necessary wetting of the babies head, leaving me behind quite literally holding the baby.
Parenthood is a very common form of loneliness, as in many cases you have gone from being surrounded by people, perhaps at work, or being able to suit yourself, who to see and when, to being just you and your baby. It is a very strange form of loneliness as you are in actual fact never alone but this does not mean you won’t find it very difficult to cope. If you are lucky you will have friends and family around to pop in for a chat, but not everybody does and for those that don’t, I cannot stress enough the advantage of getting up, dragging yourself out and joining up for your local Mother and Baby group if you have one available, or if that is not for you just go for a walk, even just getting eye contact with others has a very positive affect on your mental well being, and the chances are you will be interacting with someone else who is feeling just as lonely, you don’t need to stop and speak just say hello or smile.
One of the hardest forms of loneliness for people to understand is the feeling of being alone in a crowded room. This is very common in people who suffer from depression, anxiety or even shyness. You’ve been invited to a social function, you’re first reaction is well I shan’t be going to that, but in the end you do, only to get there and realise you are drained, you’ve used up all your reserves of energy just getting there, so, you stand alone on the fringes, trying not to draw attention to yourself and wondering how long it can be before you politely escape?
Another common form of loneliness is one we are probably more familiar with but perhaps in our busy lifestyles just don’t have time to think about. That is the loneliness of the elderly or the infirm. People who for whatever reason have no real contact or interaction with the outside world, apart from that which visits though their telly on a daily basis.
These are just a few examples of loneliness in our society which with just a little effort we can help. In the case of the young Mother, if you’ve been in the same situation and go to a Mother and Baby group, and are aware of someone local who may be struggling, why not pop by, introduce yourself and convince them to come along with you, reminding them that the first time is always the worst but if needed you will go with them for the first few weeks.
For the crowded room example, don’t assume the person is aloof or choosing to be on their own, imagine it were you, so if you are a person to whom chatting comes easily go over and say hello and try to encourage them to come over and join in with your group. A little gentle persuasion can go a long way to making people feel more included and less isolated.
The older or infirm person scenario, well that may be easier, imagine it’s your Grandparent or a family friend, go buy a bun and knock the door, after all who doesn’t enjoy coffee, cake and a chat and even if you don’t, the recipient likely shall.
These are just small ways in which we can make a difference.
The one thing that can be guaranteed in all of these examples is that the happiness and good feelings shall be a two way street, the recipient of your act of kindness shall be delighted and when you leave the situation, you too shall have a feeling of well being. The ability to bring cheer and help to people that find themselves marginalised in our society takes effort, it often takes for us that are able, to try and put ourselves in their position to give us the oompff needed, but we all know someone, someone whose day could be made much brighter if we were just to do something kind. Go on, you know you can.
One thing for sure is that loneliness takes many forms but in all its forms it can be crippling.
For people that find themselves in these situations there is professional help at hand here are a few links:
CAMHS Scotland Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
The Silver Line Helpline is a free helpline for older people
Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)
In Orkney on the 27th February the Scottish Government are running a Social Isolation and Loneliness Strategy Consultation, which they would encourage people living in Orkney’s communities to come along and have their say.