It’s probably fitting that I write this alone at a bar.
But then again my partner—who is perhaps the focus of my weeknight loneliness—is working on the other side. So I guess I’m not really alone. Breakfast For Two by Country Joe McDonald is playing. If you know Jackson, you’ll know this isn’t a bit. And it’s dinner time.
‘Lonely’ isn’t one of the ways I’d define myself. Me? An extrovert with plenty of intimate friendships and a seemingly bottomless social battery? How dare I. I am loved and I am connected. I’ve been taught to feel lucky above all else. (I’ll unpack this in therapy.)
But a sense of isolation can bubble beneath—work in contrast to, be perpetuated by—this ‘on’ existence of mine.
There are two sources of loneliness in me.
Grief is the first. And even though I have sat in it for many years, feeling lonely in it, I’m not sure I’ll ever allow anyone in.
Pain is the second. I’ve often equated my emotional pain to anger, but it wasn't until I sat down to write this that I realised how lonely I am in it. How much of it I reserve for myself.
There are clear moments where I am sucked from the present into pain, no matter how many people are around me. (I am rarely alone. Just the way I like it.)
For the last four or so years, my adult lifetime of chronic pain has been validated by an endometriosis diagnosis. Answers should make it less lonely.
I’ve found some other validation, like if a severe flare hits me in a social setting and my friends can visibly see the pain I’m in. When a gut-wrenching bomb drains the colour from my face. It doesn’t happen often, but somehow feeling seen helps. Makes it real. Which is kind of fucked up.
In sharing my experience online and in person, I found the inherent loneliness in illness.
With camaraderie comes responsibility to the community—and to be honest, I’m not always in the mood to talk about it.
In finding ‘my people’ I found comparison, the thief of joy. Wondering if I belong there. Feeling like a fake. Because I will never know if it’s as bad as I think, as it feels. No conversation can ever really give you that—no matter how detailed it is. I guess I just didn’t have a word for the feeling.
And people have it so much worse. Both pain and loneliness. And I remember I’m lucky. I should stop wallowing and get on with it.
I often find myself longing to feel the pain of others, so I could assess it against my own. More validation. Mostly so I had the confidence to talk about it more. So I could feel like it was worth the airtime, even though it affects so many. And so I could stick a firm middle finger to every doctor who told me it was normal, before I fought to be heard.
But no one will ever know my pain. And I will never know theirs.
As I finish writing, David Byrne and Brian Eno plays:
Strange overtones in the music you are playing
We’re not alone
It is strong and you are tough
But a heart is not enough
To my pain. And the loneliness that accompanies it.