A few weeks ago I wrote about some of my pet peeves. A short while later, I wrote about a few more. On both occasions I missed something that has infuriated me for years, something that I’d written about with some rare anger in the past.
Yes, I understand that people who are full-time employed with no health problems, who are part of a social network, have regular communication with society, have someone to go home to every night and whose family live in close proximity can feel lonely. I’m not completely devoid of empathy or the ability to understand basic human psychology.
However, I am left wondering if these people have an understanding of what it feels like to be really, truly, utterly alone.
In July 2007 I was assaulted and raped. Sitting in a dingy motel room the following afternoon all I wanted to do was talk to someone. I needed someone to tell me everything was going to be okay. I needed someone to tell me it wasn’t my fault. I needed someone, anyone, to show that they cared. But after an emotionally abusive relationship had torn my life to shreds and a mental breakdown had left my mind in tatters, I has no one to turn to as I couldn’t risk my abuser discovering what had happened as she would have used it against me.
In October 2007, after eight months of accumulating pain and devastation I hiked into the middle of a forest and attempted to hang myself. After being taken to the hospital by the police I was discharged twenty minutes later and told I was ‘fine’. Sitting in my dingy flat that weekend, too frightened and out-of-it to leave the couch, all I wanted was a friend, but I had no-one; not a soul.
When you have spent years living in a park dealing with daily verbal abuse, sporadic physical abuse, the occasional non-consensual golden shower from a drunken idiot and months of blacked-out confusion, you begin to understand what real, true loneliness is.
Four years after my suicide attempt in 2007, almost to the day, I staggered into a phone booth in a nondescript Australian country town. With shaking fingers I dialled 13 11 14 and waiting patiently for an operator. I’d phoned Lifeline many times before, always when I had no other choice, always when I could no longer fight the isolation and pain I was feeling, always knowing that within seconds they would trigger me into feeling ten times worse.
After telling them I was suicidal, that I wanted to die, that I wanted to erase my pathetic existence from the world, they said it:
“Perhaps you should call a friend and get them to come over? Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to distract you from these thoughts,”
“I agree,” I snapped. “If I had a friend I would call them. But I don’t. I’m homeless. I’m insane. I’ve been on my own for longer than I can remember. That’s why I want to kill myself. Because I’m f**king tired of being on my f**king own so don’t f**king tell me to call a f**king friend because that’s half the f**king problem!”
After several deep breaths I began talking (with less naughty words) about the pain that had driven me, once again, to think such bleak thoughts. There are times when I can cope with this all-consuming isolation. Having been in this position for so many years I’ve become used to spending every minute of my life by myself, I’ve convinced myself I deserve it. But from time-to-time the intense, numbing pain of being truly alone overwhelms me, drives me to plan my death and leads me toward public phone booths where I engage in humiliating conversations about my failures in life, friendship and everything in between.
Fifteen minutes into that phone call I was reduced to a trembling, sobbing, wreck. Not by the Lifeline counselor, but by the pedestrians casually enjoying their day. Like good little sadists they were relishing in the human disintegration before them. Oh, just bugger off and do it, one twentysomething male called out. Three female college students laughed at this, turned to see me, then laughed harder. Pathetic, one of them whispered at a deliberate volume.
There is nothing to hammer home the extent of your loneliness than random verbal abuse from strangers. In spite of the best efforts of the counselor, who referred me to the MH crisis team (“they’ll contact you in the next 24-48 hours”), I attempted suicide later that day.
Fortunately the attempt failed, but whenever I think of the comments those people hurled in my direction, I am reminded of my loneliness. Of my mistakes; of my failures; of the abuse I received; of all that has happened that led to this isolation.
But I am also reminded of my determination to not only pass through this place of loneliness on my journey toward recovery, but to do whatever I can to help others who have found themselves trapped in a similar, unfamiliar state. No-one deserves to live their lives alone, devoid of hugs, human contact and all the aspects of life most people take for granted.
Take it from someone who knows, a simple act of compassion can be more healing than any medication or therapy on the planet.
So why not try it today?
You can read other interpreations of today’s theme by visiting the WordPress’ Daily Post blog.
- SOC: And not for the first time, it scares me
- SOC: ‘There’s no amount of social media connection that can fix this…’
- Stop the abuse: why I left Twitter and why I’m returning!
- Courage doesn’t always roar
- Combatting Loneliness (psychologytoday.com)