I'm Not Alone -- There's a Lot of Loneliness
Loneliness is deadly. Quite literally. And I am alone a lot. And lonely even more.
I was a physically and socially awkward kid from the beginning. But not as awkward, in retrospect, as my self image told me to be. As I got old and fat, I wished that I hadn’t been as shy and unconfident as I had been.
And I was picky when it came to female company. They say losers can’t be choosers, but I was. I couldn’t lie to a girl I wasn’t attracted to, because it just was going to lead to heartache and guilt. So I had very few girlfriends.
And no sense of how time would fly by. So like that I was a middle aged bachelor. Just as well. 90 percent of marriages with one person having bipolar disorder end in divorce.
I got into a good college. Somehow. And I became arrogant, probably to mask my lack of confidence. I got good at my job, even better as I dropped my youthful arrogance. I developed some charisma and genuine confidence — all important to my chosen career. Arrogance was replaced by assuredness. To someone who hadn’t been a particularly popular student, it was heady to achieve such a level of success.
Then the crash.
After I got sick with bipolar disorder and all that came with it, I completely isolated myself. I would read, watch television, and be lonely. I couldn’t trust others. I couldn’t trust myself. I didn’t want any new friends. I’d lost my old ones and didn’t want to go through that again. The more new friends I made, the more I had to lose or be embarrassed in front of if I got goofy again.
I just wanted a couple of people to monitor me. And not many people to know if the monitoring failed. In a crowd I was lonely. Loneliness is not about lacking people around you. It’s about lacking connection. The absence of sharing. In a restaurant or at a sporting event I would just sit and hear noise. And I didn’t like noise. I’d rather be alone. Either way, I’d be lonely.
And loneliness kills.
A wave of loneliness is washing over us. As depression and addiction expert Johann Hari has put it, “Loneliness hangs over our culture like a thick smog.” And it’s getting worse. Half of our country reports being lonely. Solitary. Remote.
And of course, covid put many people into social isolation who weren’t isolated yet and worsened it for people who were.
Loneliness makes us less effective in our jobs. And less likely to advance in our jobs. The relationships we have are certainly less fulfilling. We are more apt to have cardiovascular problems. And, of course, mental health issues.
It’s not just me. I’m not alone.