Loneliness can trigger depression and inhibit its recovery. Being alone does not define loneliness, for we can be lonely even when many people are around us. Loneliness is when we feel distant from everyone, when we feel life has passed us by. Some people deal with this better than others. For example, I enjoy alone time for large segments of the day. Yet I want to be around others who are close to me some of the time.
As one gets older, friends move away or die, we face some degree of loneliness with every new city or new job, and depression puts us in a place where we don’t want to associate with other people and we think they don’t want to be around us.
Here’s some suggestions for what you can do to help yourself be less lonely. Join a support group for depression if you are depressed, for grief if you are grieving, for support if you have a particular medical condition. Some of these are groups that meet regularly. Others are on line groups. For example, NAMI has a number of groups that deal with depression. I found support in several such sites and had the joy of meeting people on-line who suffered from the same condition I did. Support groups can help your symptoms, as you get to know others and let them know you.
But sometimes we can’t fix our loneliness or make it go away. What then? Fighting something often makes it worse and it’s best to just accept we are in a lonely situation, either temporarily or permanently. Henri Nouwen says, “It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurture your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for healing.”