I’m going to start this rant courageously by saying that…
I am lonely.
Yes I know that I have a family who love me, know a lot of wonderful people, and have some amazing close friends. I know that I am a Christian, and have an incredible relationship with Jesus. I know that I am loved, and thought of affectionately by people. And I am very grateful for all of these blessings. But…
I am lonely.
And it is painful. It is a near constant physical ache in my chest, my stomach.
Sometimes, the pain is unbearable and my thoughts frantically scrap around my mind to find an escape – binge? purge? run away to start again? suicide? In the last year I have either done, or made plans to do, all of these things to try to break away from the intensity of the pain of loneliness.
Last night I cried myself to sleep. This morning I wept as I made my coffee. This is not unusual. I am now so used to this pain that I no longer reach out for comfort I just carry on with whatever I am doing. That doesn’t mean it hurts any less, it simply means that I’ve got beyond the point of crying with others about it and have found a way I can continue to function with it.
I’ve prayed. I’ve asked God to help me with it, to take it away, to make me not care anymore. But He hasn’t. Instead it has got worse. This is clearly a burden that I am meant to bear right now. So I can only think that He wants me to explore it, to understand it, to rant about it. Perhaps because I am not the only one. Perhaps because it will help someone else to know they are not alone in their pain of loneliness.
This is a good time to explain that, for me at least, loneliness and being alone are two different things. I enjoy being independent. I like my own company. I relish in solitude. But when I am in it because of circumstance rather than choice, then being alone can exacerbate the pain of loneliness.
I seem to feel it the most when I get home from being around people at work, or church, or anywhere else where I have been in a group then see others going home with, or to, their family, or partner, or friends. And those times where I am going home after something exciting has happened, or I’ve learned something new, a good day or a bad day, and there is no one there to share that with. No one asking how my day was. No one wishing me luck in the morning, or asking about my day in the evening. More painful than that, there is no one coming home who I can ask the same questions of, who I can be there for, listen to, laugh and cry with, pray with, support and love. No housemates, no children, no partner.
There’s no one to share the chores with, to make decisions with, to argue with, to watch telly with, to cook with, to eat with, to nag at, to be nagged by, to ask where I am going, to worry about, to tidy up after, to go on holiday with, to hug, to touch, to have adventures with, to make packed lunches for with little notes of encouragement in the tin (I’m a bit of a romantic at heart).
And sometimes that is bliss! Just me and my two beautiful cats, no one to worry about or think of. It can be wonderful. I imagine that many people crave for a day, a week, or more like that.
But for me, day after day, night after night, month after month and year after year, those times of enjoyment in being by myself are becoming less and less. The pain increases every day, and digs in deeper, to depths and thoughts that I did not even know were there. And I’m tired of it.
God knows I am.
It’s not only living in a home without another human that causes me such pain.
One of the other things is my health. My heart condition can be extremely isolating. I get exhausted sometimes and can’t do all the things I want to do, particularly in the evenings. I make plans but have had to rearrange or cancel with people so much that I hardly get invites any more. Which I understand, of course I do, but it still adds to the pain of loneliness.
I have to live with the knowledge that I’ve outlived my life expectancy and am considered a high risk for stroke, kidney failure and heart failure. I still don’t know what to do with that – be grateful? apologise? I often feel it as a pressure that I should be doing more, enjoying more, experiencing more. Like I am living on borrowed time. I feel guilty for still being alive, when there are thousands of people dying every day who have people in their lives who rely on them, who really need and want them. People who have people to live for.
I’ve even had thoughts that it would be better if I did die in the heart surgery. I know that I’d be with Jesus, all pain and suffering gone. I ask Him if that’s the plan, if that’s His plan.
But in my heart I don’t want to die yet. I don’t want to die until I’m old. I want to live life to the full!
I want to get stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually so I can experience new things, continue to serve God, to love people. Jesus came to set me free so I CAN live life to the full. I know it is possible. And this has to be despite of my circumstances – that’s the whole point.
I just never thought I’d be so lonely. Not me. I love people, really love them. I grew up in a bustling, busy, sometimes chaotic household. And have lived in a few of them with friends since. In fact I’ve only lived on my own for the last 5 years. The 5 years before that (the first 5 years of being a committed Christian) I had housemates, before that I had 2 long-term relationships in which we lived together, with a gap in between during which time I lived in house shares.
I made the decision to live on my own because I had started the application process to be a foster-carer, and I obviously needed to have a spare room for this. However, I became very ill at this time and was unable to continue with the application. Now, as a cardiology patient, I am not allowed to apply. I’ve slowly come to terms with that, and there is a glimmer of hope that this may change in the future. I leave it in God’s hands.
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The real message I want to share in this blog is this…
Loneliness is not a sin.
The pain of loneliness can be very difficult to share with others. In my experience often other Christians can be the hardest to share with. I’ve read articles that suggest loneliness is a sin and been told, very lovingly, that there is no need for me to feel lonely because I am in relationship with God. God will never leave me or forsake me. I’ve also read and been told that loneliness is a sin because it means that I am not truly engaged with God, don’t have enough faith, am listening to lies. Now there may be truth in some of this advice, but for a long time this has added to my guilt and shame of my loneliness.
I’d ask myself why I was struggling so much when I had a relationship with such a loving God? Am I somehow inferior in my faith? Perhaps as I mature in my faith I will stop feeling lonely?
But the months and years have passed and my pain of loneliness has increased.
The issue isn’t that I don’t know or believe that God is with me, and loves me, or that I
don’t believe He will never leave me.
It never was that.
Far from it.
As my loneliness has increased so has my awareness that Jesus, my Lord God, is in the loneliness with me. He is there in the pain. He is the only one who knows exactly how I am feeling, who hears me begging for respite, who sees my tears as I drift off to sleep. He is the only one who knows how hard I find it to come home to an empty house, so difficult that I sometimes avoid going out in the first place because I feel too fragile to cope with it.
You may be reading this and thinking if Jesus is real, and if He really is a loving God, why is He allowing me to feel like this? Why doesn’t He take my pain away when I cry out to Him? Why doesn’t He miraculously cure me? And why aren’t I angry that He hasn’t?
And I have asked those very same questions. And I have been angry. But I always come back to the same place. I know He loves me. I know it in the core of my being. So despite the pain of loneliness, the isolation, the sadness, the difficulties, I trust Him. I trust that He has a plan in all this, that this is happening for a reason.
Does that knowledge make it any easier? No. Do I hope that the pain will go away? Yes. Do I hope that I won’t have to live alone forever? Yes. Do I hope that I meet someone special to love and share my life with? Yes.
But right now, while I feel the raw pain of loneliness I need to explore these feelings. Accept them. Stop trying to block them out with food. Stop punishing myself for feeling them. Give myself the space and nurture I need to be able to break free from this ‘fat suit’ I have grown to protect myself with. Learn to accept and share aspects of myself that I have forcibly tried to bury and forget, but are important, wonderful parts of me.
Not punish myself for being lonely.
I’ll leave the last words to the wonderful blessed Mother Theresa –
“loneliness & the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible of poverty”