“I am lonely.”
My homework assignment was to repeat this sentence to myself, every night, right before I went to bed. These two words were a ritual meant to be reiterated until they sank in, made sense and served some sort of a purpose.
The assignment came off the heels of a visit to my therapist’s office. I spent the session divulging my fears, doubts and worries that I could very well end up single forever, just like my mom (love you, Ma) -- only I’d have a million cats, unlike her, because she’s allergic to my fellow feline friends.
I suffer from anxiety and stress, as many Millennials do. But I suffer from so much of it that it keeps me up all night, every night.
So when my therapist told me the reason I don’t sleep is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a problem bigger than insomnia, I was told to look deep within myself.
He instructed me to ask myself the following questions: Why am I so anxious? What kinds of thoughts inundate me when I get home, after a tedious day of work, when my mind should be unwinding instead of racing? What the hell is literally scaring me out of sleep?
I’m lonely. As the words unwillingly spilled out of me, not only did I realize it was the first time I'd actually ever said them out loud, but I also began to cry.
I'm lonely? So that's what this is all about? That's why I toss and turn and torment myself -- over something that's hardly in my control?
Loneliness is the elephant in every room. No one likes to talk about it, yet everyone feels it to some extent. Society cites things like “depression” and “anxiety” as causes of its melancholy, while failing to realize that many of these mental obstacles stem from the elephant itself.
Think about it: How many times have you been pitied for feeling lonely? How many times have you been criticized and shamed for it or discouraged from feeling it?
We believe the right thing to do is stop loneliness in its tracks before it consumes us. But maybe that isn't the right thing to do at all. Maybe the right thing to do is live with our loneliness, cradle it as if it’s our baby.
So I find myself writing this to appease not only myself, but also anyone who's ever felt lonely, even at his or her best: You are not alone in feeling lonely.
My therapist promised me that with time, I'll sleep better under one condition: that I acknowledge my loneliness. And you should acknowledge it, too.
Loneliness creates intimacy.
We’re so afraid to admit we’re lonely that we do everything in our power to ignore it, even when it’s audibly screaming, “Get me out of here!”
And when we ignore our loneliness, we distance ourselves from the possibility of raw, emotional intimacy. How can we expect to find a romantic partner to share a life when we can't share our most vulnerable selves with ourselves?
Loneliness breeds creativity.
I have had the pleasure of making some of the deepest bonds and most heartfelt connections with an audience -- and I credit that to my willingness to be vulnerable.
Relishing in my loneliness drives my work. If I had never had my heart broken, then I’d never be lonely. And if I were never lonely, then I’d have nothing to write about.
Our best art comes from pain. Our best thoughts stew from time with ourselves. Our best selves emerge from loneliness.
Loneliness shouldn’t be something you distract yourself from.
A wise friend once gave me a sound piece of advice: You can’t die from feelings, but you can die from the things you do to avert feeling those feelings.
And most of us turn our lives into a string of one distraction after another.
We fill our Saturdays with seeing friends and our Sundays with doing laundry. We spend our weeks throwing ourselves into our work and our evenings going to the gym.
And we reach for the weed or the booze in place of talking about our loneliness, which allows the loneliness grow into a monster.
Why do we feel the need to keep busy all the time? Why do we feel the need to distract ourselves from ourselves? What’s so wrong with sitting totally and completely alone, alongside nothing but our own thoughts?
There’s nothing wrong with it, but nonetheless, we shame the action. And it’s this shame that’s made us believe we’re only doing something worthwhile if we run errands and cultivate new hobbies and push down our feelings.
What we forget, however, is that it’s worthwhile to be by ourselves, too.
Loneliness is part of the human experience.
If I could count the number of times someone has told me to “be a strong, independent woman!” I’d be in the millions.
Here’s the plot twist: Strong, independent women aren’t immune to loneliness. They’re just good at hiding it.
I consider myself a strong, independent woman -- but I’m also a lonely, insecure woman. The two are not mutually exclusive; a healthy combination of the two only makes us human.
We’ve been led to believe that a strong, independent woman is the only type of person worthy of looking up to. We've been led to believe that acknowledging loneliness means acknowledging an inherent weakness: We’re losers, co-dependent or seemingly incomplete on our own.
Those accusations are grounded in misconceptions. Loneliness isn't meant to be neglected; it's meant to be nurtured, like flowers in a garden. The more attention you pay to it, the more it'll bloom into something you become less afraid of.
So the next time you're feeling lonely, don't be so quick to hit up your squad. Sit with your loneliness. Make it your best friend. Be completely honest with it, and tell it your secrets. Let it help cultivate a sort of confidence in you.
Being lonely is good for the soul. Trust me, I know.