One of my favourite poets, Rupi Kaur wrote:
“Loneliness is a desperate sign that you are in need of yourself”
I discovered this poem, and her book, Milk and Honey at a very poignant time in my life. I’d just pushed away the person I was in love with, witnessed myself do it without any self-control, watched him move his things out because I was too stubborn to stop him, and was left in the huge house we’d shared with nothing but photographs, memories, and feelings. I still loved him and I never wanted him to leave but I didn’t stop him and so, I was alone.
Sure, I had my family and my friends (who were fantastic by the way!) BUT I’d just witnessed myself create a path of destruction so huge that I felt I didn’t know:
- my mind or
- what I wanted,
…and I didn’t love it or like it.
And if I didn’t love myself how could I expect anyone else to?
I felt alone – and, for me, that’s what Rupi was referring to – I needed to find myself again.
The stories we tell ourself
Some of the many thoughts that often ran through my mind, and still do, when I feel such bouts of loneliness are:
“You shouldn’t be feeling this way”
“There are so many people worse off than you”
“It’s your own fault”
“You’re a burden”
“What have you got to be upset about?”
“You’re doing this to yourself”
“Pull yourself together”
Perhaps for you, these aren’t thoughts as such? Perhaps they’re words you’re hearing when others speak, in the advice that they give – they’re not necessarily saying this – but you’re interpreting what they’re saying in an alternate way to how they’re saying it. Or maybe it’s hidden in a comment someone left on a status or photo you posted.
It’s a bit like being asked the answer to 2 + 2 and getting the answer 2,000 000!
And that’s because they’re weren’t true. They’re stories I now know I tell myself.
The amount of times I let those phrases evolve into whole chapters of anxieties of things I had no control over, wound myself up to the point of hysteria with so many questions I had no means of getting the answers to – it physically hurts to think about them!
The fact is, when our imagination gets the best of us and uncertainty grabs the steering wheel in our minds, we have a way of making ourselves anxious.
Each miraculous day that I wake up to, no matter how good or bad I feel, I know that I’ll make any number of my own extraordinary stories up. To put this into perspective, here are some examples…
I can go to work and arrive at 8am to see a calendar invite, with no agenda, from my boss for a “catch-up” at 4pm and instantly think of all the potential fuck-ups I’ve made in the past week – truth may be, she just wanted to bring me up to speed on a project!
I can send a WhatsApp message to my friend at 9pm on a Friday night, see that she’s read it and not replied by 10pm and almost immediately wonder what I did the last time I saw her that may have upset her – the reality is, she’s out on a night out and will no doubt reply tomorrow!
At my some of my lonelier points, I have even been known to, anticipate the worst, 20 minutes after no likes or comments on a photograph I’ve posted on any relevant social media platform. I can sit and analyse the photograph for any blemishes or things in the background which may be a reason for lack of engagement – once again the reality may be the timing of my post, the platforms news feed algorithm, or just no-one is really that bothered about my new shoes!
If I don’t have a firm grip of what is happening, this can constitute little to no control and as a result I’m telling myself these stories in an attempt to fill in the blanks that my limited knowledge represents.
I’m slowly learning that these stories aren’t just inaccurate but can be destructive and they don’t always stem from loneliness. What I realised is that some of these stories had in fact isolated me to the point of this internal loneliness and had begun to, or already had damaged my relationships with others.
So now I write them out. I type them, or, even better, I handwrite them. This allows me to reflect on them at that point or take a moment, a day or a week and revisit that thought.
For some this may not work, sometimes for me it doesn’t and that’s where I switch to something which is likely to take my mind off the idea of developing the plot.