Over the last few months, I’ve been challenging myself to write more, I couldn’t think of a better time to do this than mental health awareness week. This year’s theme is loneliness.
Over the last few months, I’ve been challenging myself to write more, I couldn’t think of a better time to do this than mental health awareness week. This year’s theme is loneliness. I wanted to highlight the journey that ProjectChange took in that and how I struggled with a huge amount of loneliness throughout it, and what I did to help make myself feel better or in some cases just distracted.
Loneliness is such an underestimated part of our mental health; we can more easily look at isolation and understand how loneliness can be a direct result of that. Especially after the last two years we’ve all had, the experiences we’ve had to endure, the events we’ve had to miss, the highs and lows of isolation that have led to more feelings of loneliness in all of us.
I’ve struggled over the last two years with huge bouts of feeling lonely. Lockdowns and a huge amount of anxiety of social settings compounded that. But I also made a rather big decision during the first lockdown to quit my job, full of friends and colleagues, regular interactions, and conversations, to try and create this new idea within ProjectChange. While I was supported by my amazing board and all the people we’ve worked with, I could go days without having a real conversation with anyone that was focused about work and that made me feel awful. I could feel my loneliness setting in.
My life had gone from being in an office 5 days a week with lots of colleagues, to spending about 18 months without any colleagues, no one to regularly bounce ideas off or just to have some informal chat. How’s the friends, how’s the family, how’s the pub (when it finally reopens). I’m an almost hyper-social being. I loved meeting people, I love learning things, I love trying new things and new challenges. Setting up a charity did all those things, but it also required a lot of emotional and mental strength and determination.
Our minds can be prisms of ideas and prisons of thoughts.
I’ve always been a very private person; I very much see my ability to champion and campaign about the things that matter to me aren’t dependant on having to share elements of my life I’m not comfortable with. But in the spirit of wanting to show other people that it is okay to have these feelings, and it’s okay to not feel okay sometimes, I wanted to.
I have the very melancholic honour of having struggled with depression since I was about 13, it has thankfully gotten better over the years and doesn’t control my life to the degree it did. But it is still a worry at the back of my head that this green-eyed monster does still stalk me; that’s why conversations about loneliness are so important to our health. If we are more aware of ourselves, more conscious of how we’re feeling and can feel like talking about it. It might not stop things getting worse, but it may just take off some of the immediate pressure.
I am surround by a great bunch of people in my life, people who inspire me, people who annoy me, people who I respect, people who I love, but most importantly people I feel I can share things with, talk about serious and important issues if it bothered me, and people who I usually lose pub quizzes with. I wouldn’t underestimate my safety net if the last 2 years has taught me anything.
So, what helped me? Is probably the big glaring hole. Well, I’d love to say I know but it’s probably a combination of things. What helped with my loneliness in ProjectChange? I think there was huge amount of stubbornness about wanting to make a change to something I really felt was very important. It probably wasn’t a sensible idea to put so much stress on myself as it very nearly broke on several occasions, but when it worked, when what we do works, it was the most euphoric feelings I’ve ever had.
There needs to be a recognition of the loneliness in our society, and I sense by the fact that you’ve got to the end of this blog that I may be preaching to the converted, but I don’t think we can talk about it enough. I really struggle with how I think other people perceive me. I think they look and me and think of he must have had it easy because he’s gone on to do some really big things and if he had really struggled, he wouldn’t be able to have done those things. What a load of rubbish, we’ve all struggled, we’ve all had hard days and weeks. I think it’s for everyone to highlight these emotions.
Especially when you’re believed by others to have made it, it’s important to show that behind the wallpapers, there’s always cracks. We just need to make sure they never become big enough that the building will come tumbling down and by talking about loneliness, by raising awareness of loneliness by being there for other people who may have struggled like I have, I hope we can deal with loneliness.