Having recently moved to a new area, I've spent a lot of time introducing myself and my daughter these past few weeks. Relocating from a big city to a village of less than 100 inhabitants has caused a certain curiosity and almost everyone I meet assumes I must have friends or work nearby. When I cheerfully explain that I'm solo I seem to be able to detect a head tilt almost immediately after.
The first few times I assumed it was a stand alone event but I've noticed the head tilt increasing in regularity. In fact, I'm seeing that head tilt with an alarming regularity. For example, the tilt is almost always there when I'm asked if there are any siblings for Little One or where her father works. My cheerful demeanour remains unbroken as I explain our family circumstances but there it is, the head tilt.
The risks associated with loneliness and isolation have been much discussed in the press after studies revealed that loneliness is related to much poorer health. People are more likely to develop unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking and depression is strongly linked to a lack of support network. I've been highly aware for a long time that I work best when surrounded by the love and positive energy of others and actively encouraged certain relationships knowing they bring me much better mental health.
Still, I spend much of my week alone and I can honestly say that I am much happier for it. I have regular contact with supportive friends thanks to constant messages pinging back and forth each day. When I do meet up with people I soak up that time, drawing strength till I get my next dose of real life company. I need very little to feel satisfied as long as that quality friendship is in place. The difference between being alone a lot of the time and being lonely is very clear to me. Leading a very quiet life doesn't necessarily mean that someone is lonely.
When we joined forces online this week for #makegoodfeelgood, my intention was very simple: no person experiencing mental health should feel alone. We have a vast and vibrant community of people who understand the need to soothe away black spots with making and stitching. What I couldn't possibly have predicted was the number of individuals who went out of their way to read through the many stories shared with the hashtag. I saw endless messages of encouragement, recognition and acknowledgement. I was stunned at the compassion I saw and the sense of a happening as we held one another's hands.
I've since received several messages from people who have since made adjustments to their lives such as seeking some professional help or changing habits that had become destructive. I myself took some time this week to just gather my thoughts on this thing called loneliness and the result is a sense of calm. What I saw when I really looked around me were the many strands that tether me when I do fall or feel fragile.
I am honoured to have shared so much with so many people this week and I hope that for many of you, the growing feeling that you do not journey alone continues to gather momentum beyond the #makegoodfeelgood Cyber Hug. There are wonderful charities like Mind offering support, advice and signposting to local communities that can help. Your GP or Dr is also a good first step to making positive changes when you're feeling lost and alone. Whatever stage of your journey you are at, know that there are a lot of us out there journeying too.
Keep taking those steps xx