I had some bad health news today. I need to talk to someone about it. Someone who really knows me, who loves me, who understands, who has all the history at their fingertips. Such a person doesn’t exist in my world. They just don’t. Family? I have none, not really. My Mum died 4 years ago and my Dad and I speak sporadically. and see each other even less. Besides he knows nowt about my real life, I’ve been playing pretend perfect daughter my whole life. My brothers, estranged and hundreds of miles away. Again, they know a version of me in their memories, the little sister needing protection and annoying them. Not who I am now and how I got to be here. Childhood friends? Nope. I keep in very loose touch with one or two, but it has been a long time since we actually met and I have not very much in common with them anymore. I’m not a middle class, respectable, home owner who cares about gardens and having a nice glass of wine. Work colleagues? Well yes, thankfully, I am still employed and I do get to have meaningless chit chat conversations about their families and pets, but none of it is real, deep or meaningful. They are just wallpaper. I am to them too, if they pay me any mind other than “Emma the weirdo” I’d be surprised. Let’s put it this way, one of them got married last year and didn’t tell me. Friends? Well I do have a couple of those, one of them is celebrating her birthday this weekend, one works shifts and the other is a sort of buck yourself up type. Not really what I need right now, if I’m honest. Two of them have moved away. I’ve seen each of them once or twice this year.
I am not very good at maintaining these relationships, I simply don’t know how. When you aren’t built with the innate social skills required to get on in life it is really hard. When it feels like flim flam and all you really want to talk about is whatever is on your mind and that’s it, when you forget how to play pretend and put your mask on and you cannot be your really weird self, it is quite hard to make friends. When your communication style does not match the socially acceptable one it is even harder to keep them. A partner? Well, yes, I do have one, but he lives thousands of miles away and there is a five hour time difference between us. So where do I turn? Who do I talk to? All that well meaning mental health advice about “talk to someone” doesn’t mean very much when you are alone.
I can go for weeks without spending time in the company of another adult, other than work. Imagine that, just imagine night after night of coming home to an empty house or one shared only with a 12 year old. Where you get an adult hug, or any kind of physical contact with another adult, every few weeks. That can be pretty lonely even on your best days, but ones where things aren’t so great. What then?
Loneliness isn’t just about old people. It is about all those of us who are different, odd, strange, who don’t fit in. Those with disabilities, low incomes, chronic illnesses. It is hard for us to get out and make friends too. And Lord it isn’t like I haven’t tried. I did the baby groups, I talked to Mum’s at school gates, I joined a political party ffs, I went to a book group, I joined meetup, I chat to strangers all the bloody time, I’m on social media, I have used online support groups. I am kind and good and care enormously about other people. The trouble is, I am not like other people. They don’t want to be friends with me. Even if they do, at first, when they get to know me, or whenever my mask slips, and they see my true self, they disappear. It has happened so often, that much like bullying in the workplace, I just expect it now. I begin every relationship expecting it to turn out badly, to be let down, because that is all the life experience I have. Five years is about how long people usually last. In jobs it is about a year, eighteen months if I’m lucky. I’ve had more jobs than you’ve had hot dinners. My personal best is being fired twice in six months!
I miss companionship. I miss having someone to make me a cup of tea. I miss someone to sit with on the sofa and watch TV with in silence sometimes. I miss hugs. You can’t provide those from the other side of the Atlantic, which is where my boyfriend lives. I miss having a history with someone. I miss laughter and in jokes. I miss being part of a family. I miss knowing someone will always have my back. I miss hearing and saying the words I love you to anyone other than my son. We all need to know we are loved. And we all need to give love, too.
Today I had some bad health news and I need to talk to someone about it. I need a hug. I need to cry and get angry with the world about it for a bit. Then I need a cup of tea and to research the hell out of my options and to make a plan. I can’t do all of that alone.
I don’t even know why I am writing this, sometimes words help me to process. I used to be a talker, but when there is no-one to listen to you speak, you have to type instead and hope that ears are found somewhere I guess. Thank you for listening if you did.