This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is loneliness. Our Projects Coordinator, Abbie, wanted to share her experience of loneliness growing up and how she helped herself during those times.
I was never alone growing up, I spent my time between both my parent’s houses, always with my young sister and had a small group of friends at school – yet I felt lonely. This was hard to understand and navigate at the age of 13 and 14 – I felt that I couldn’t and shouldn’t feel lonely because I was surrounded by all these people and what young person feels lonely?!
I felt like no one understood me or fully listened to me. This led to me self-excluding from social activities with friends and family, I used to sit listening to music at lunch instead of joining in my friends conversations. These feelings were all increased when I started to get picked on by classmates in my form, with most of the form siding with the bullies and just my 3 friends on my side- which made me feel even more lonely and like a burden to my friends.
This wasn’t helped at the time where I had many lessons where I didn’t know or get on well with any other classmates. Group work became a big nightmare as knowing I had nobody who wanted me in their group only made me feel more lonely. Some teachers just left me to work by myself as I was achieving above my predicted grades and they thought this was better than me being distracted – but really it meant I went even longer without speaking to my peers and increased my self-isolation.
Looking back on it all now, I don’t think I was the only one feeling this way and it seems to be more common in young people than most of us think but young people feel lonely too!
Below are a few of the things that helped me to feel less lonely, these might not work for everyone as we are all different – but I hope it can provide a starting point, as I had no idea how to navigate my feeling of loneliness to begin with.
- Talking and finding my voice – this was helped during my counselling at No5 and working out ways I could communicate to people, I found writing it out in a letter helped as I could explain myself easier and helped me to start conversations.
- Starting a new hobby – this helped me to channel some of my emotions and also find a community of like-minded people. This was a longer process before I became engaged in a group of people and that is perfectly okay as not everyone is ready to jump into a big group!
- Followed my passions and went to college – this was in a smaller class size where everyone had similar interests and gave me the opportunity to connect with more people. The tutors really encouraged group work and not working with the same people all the time which was a great help!
- Phone / Video Calls over texting – during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, I did start to feel lonely again, I noticed during this time that I much more valued phone or video calls with friends and families rather than texting, especially as I find texting can cause misunderstandings and confusion.
Nearly 10 years on from when I first felt lonely at age 13, I have now moved out of my family homes and have opted to live by myself. I still use these coping mechanisms and this means that whilst I may live alone and many people would find this a lonely experience, I am actually very happy and content in my day to day life. I know my 13-15 year old self would not have believed this if you told her this would be her future!
by Abbie Trussler – Projects Coordinator