• Tshepang Pooe

How to deal with loneliness

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

Hey sis,

Thank you for coming through today. I figured I would try something different with this post. I'm going to be getting a little vulnerable with you today.

It's a Thursday night, and I'm sitting alone in my apartment feeling lonely for days.

I don't want this post to be some pity parade, I just want to write about how I'm feeling. And share it; I know I can't be the only one who goes through this from time to time.

So in this post you're not going to be learning anything, per sé. We're just going to be having an honest conversation, woman to woman.

My journey with loneliness

Feeling alone used to be a crippling pain point for me. I have always been quite self-reliant; my mom was a single-mom and travelled a lot for work. So I had to go to boarding school at quite a young age, and basically had to learn how to cope on my own.

When I got to uni, I had been so used to being independent, that I just didn't know how to reach out to people when I needed company. I spent way too much time alone and sunk into a deep period of extreme loneliness. Every day when I got home, I would close my bedroom door, and I would literally have this overwhelming feeling that I was alone in the world. I felt like I was the only person on the planet, and I saw no way to help myself through that feeling. I lacked the social skills and courage to work through it.

Obviously I was in therapy at the time, so my psychologist explained why this feeling was so intense for me. It had a lot to do with being separated from my mom as young child. My present experiences were triggering the younger me who didn't know how to cope with being away from her mom. I had a lot of past trauma to deal with, but for quite a while I didn't know this. I just assumed something was wrong with me - why was I feeling so needy anyway? I was strong and independent, so surely I could keep getting through everything on my own! Uhh...not quite.

What I've learned about loneliness

1. loneliness is a sign that you need to dive deep into yourself

Sometimes we feel so alone, because we have past trauma around loneliness. And we need to deal with this trauma - we need to face it head on in order for us to heal from it. I still sometimes get loneliness pangs, but they're nowhere near as bad as they used to be. I've done a lot of healing work which has gotten me where I am today.

So what does this 'diving deep' look like? Diving deep within yourself looks like speaking to your inner child. Take yourself back to that little girl, and spend some time remembering the experiences that caused her to feel abandoned, or however she felt in those moments. Having a clear picture of the past will guide you with how to comfort this scared version of yourself. Once you have identified the events, you can ask yourself how those experiences made you feel. Get as specific as you can with those feelings. Because your wounds haven't healed, present experiences trigger the exact emotions that you felt as a little girl. Understanding those traumatic feelings will help you to identify when you are triggered, and when you need to practice some emotional first aid.

What I've just spoken about are some of the tools that I have learned for healing past emotional wounds. They work with all kinds of emotional trauma. In my experience, loneliness has been an experience deeply intertwined with my past experiences. But sometimes, we are just lonely because we are spending too much time alone. The next point will help if that is your experience. Some practical tools though for spending time with yourself include journaling, and other self-care activities that light you up, and calm your inner emotional whirlwind. For me this includes singing to some banging music, painting my nails, writing or drawing in my journal, a walk outside, or some exercise. Write yourself a self-love menu and put it somewhere you can see it.

image by Morgan Harper Nichols

2. surround yourself with support

Don't wait until you feel lonely to reach out to loved ones for connection. Humans are social animals, we are biologically hardwired to crave social interaction. Connection, thus, it is not a need and not an option.

If you're someone like me you need to take this point quite seriously. Being as extremely introverted as I am, I tend prefer to have deep and meaningful interaction on a regular basis with the same 2 to 3 people. But as we get older and we become more absorbed by our own priorities, it makes it difficult to get that consistent, repeated interaction with our close few. So we have to build a support network of a few people who we trust, say 4 to 5 people, and can have deep connections with. Then we must build our social lives to be able to hop between those few people in order to maintain a sense of connectedness.

This is something that my psychologist recommended to me last year. I only remember her advice when I find myself in the same lonely scenario - at home by myself deeply craving someone to have a meaningful connection with. So I'm learning and growing with time.

I started this post saying that you're not going to learn anything. Ironically enough I ended up sharing my lessons with you, which are a literal source of learning if you have not encountered these lessons before. Today's post was a little different, because I actually needed to write about this. Writing this for you was kind of me writing for myself - an act of healing for a difficult moment that I know so well. Familiarity doesn't make it any easier though.

So thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my feelings with you. I hope that you've found this to be as connecting an experience as I have. Don't forget to share your biggest takeaway with me on Insta to let me know you were here! (@tshepipooe)

All my love

#loneliness #community #healing #trauma

Disclaimer: I am writing this in my personal capacity. This is in no way professional advice for dealing with loneliness or any other mental health issues. If you are seriously struggling, please seek the help of a professional.

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