I liken the feeling of loneliness to feeling like an elderly Eskimo. You may be wondering what I mean by that. Well you see, folklore has it that the Eskimos when one of their elders seemed to be near death’s door, they would put them on an ice floe and give it a good ol’ shove and let them slowly bob away into the sunset.
Now I’m not saying I feel like I’m near death’s door, but I do relate to the feeling of being on an ice floe completely alone in the middle of the arctic ocean, just bobbing about. Sometimes I feel like I couldn’t reach out my hand for help even if I tried because all that would greet me back, is deadly ice water. So, I sit and I bob on my ice floe and overthink, like you probably would do when you are completely and utterly alone. But the thing is I am not completely and utterly alone. In fact, I am sitting in a room with other people right now, but I still feel that way. Loneliness isn’t about being around other people, otherwise why would you feel lonely in a crowd of people? Loneliness is the feeling of no one understanding you, and you feeling unable to explain it to them.
If you’re living with a mental health problem, it can feel very isolating. You, too, may feel like an elderly Eskimo. Because it can, at times, be completely invisible to the naked eye. This invisibility cloak that hides our challenges, may lead others to think that we are ‘completely okay’, when in reality we are far from that. It can be hard to reach out for help when no one really realises that you may need it. But, while we may be feeling like we are bobbing around on our ice floes all alone, there are actually a lot of people feeling the same way too, and they may just be bobbing around right next to us.
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health problems this year. To put this statistic into perspective, I want you to imagine you’re on a bus… An average bus holds 72 people maximum, but I don’t want anyone to feel anxious so let’s pretend it’s early afternoon on a Thursday and there’s only 52 people who are all sat down and no one is in the seat next to you. Feeling calmer yet? (I know, I am).
On the bus, you see a variety of ages, genders and ethnicities; people from all different walks of life. You’re sat on the bus with your headphones in and your head down. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed and tired from your day, mustering all your strength to ignore the negative thoughts that seem to have spent all day running through your mind. You pull your hood up and try to be as quiet and invisible as you can; fading into the background. You’re probably hoping no one will sit next to you or make small talk, because all you want to do is get home and jump in bed. (I know I do). But what I want you to do now, is pull your hood back down and take a look around – there’s 52 people on this bus. You may feel alone and that you’re the only person on this bus feeling this way, but in this crowd of people there are 13 other people, from all walks of life, sat on this bus feeling a similar way to how you are now.
While you may feel all alone, like an elderly Eskimo, please know that there are many people going through similar challenges to you right now. The stigma behind mental health problems can cause us to not want to talk about it out of fear of what people will say back to us if we do tell them. The more we are able to talk about the challenges we have with our mental health, the less stigmatising it will be and we will all start to feel less alone, because we will know that others are going through similar things too. So the next time you feel alone, like you’re bobbing around on an ice floe even though you are surrounded by people, take a look around you and remember that, for every four people you see, one is likely to be feeling the same way as you are right now. You are not alone, I promise.