A more serious subject for this week. Loneliness is a strange and potentially dangerous animal.
How do you picture it?
Most people would imagine a black & white scene of a dark and empty room, bare floorboards, one person sitting on a chair on their own. Unfortunately that’s not necessarily the case. You can be surrounded by people most of the time and loneliness can still creep in.
You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely.
This dark, sinking feeling can effect anyone, anytime. But I’m looking at it from a parent’s point of view, specifically a stay at home parent, and even more specifically (specificallier isn’t a word, according to spellcheck), a stay at home dad.
As mentioned previously, the SAHD doesn’t quite fit into the current social circles, he is different from the working dads (and mums!), and different from the school run mums.
Being a parent – either working or staying at home – doesn’t allow for much going out time, and so social circles are fairly limited too. There can be days where the SAHD doesn’t have any proper, meaningful interaction with another adult.
Parenting is almost always difficult, and having no outlet to vent or to share horror stories can leave a parent feeling like they are the only ones struggling at that moment.
Obviously logic says that the human species has been around for a while, and so the chances are that many other parents have gone through whatever nightmare is currently playing out in your own life.
However, logic doesn’t always play a big part in the issues of the heart and the mind.
Another issue is the inescapability of parenting problems. With most other troubles like work, etc., there is usually a ‘switch off’ time where the problem isn’t immediately there, occupying the mind. The SAHD spends all his day (and night!) dealing with kids. So if the problem is with the kids, the problem is right there in front of his face, pretty much 24-7.
Then again, if the problem isn’t with the kids, the 24-7 nature of the little monsters leaves very little time to figure things out!
Before high horses are jumped onto; 1. Yes, I am blessed with the kids I have; 2. Yes, I am lucky that I can stay at home and raise them; 3. And yes, I am fully aware that the above can apply to SAHM’s, working parents, older people, pretty much anyone.
I am writing only from my own perspective – extrapolate and adapt as necessary for yours.
There is a lot of talk these days about mental health, with a focus (rightly so) on depression. I would never compare feeling lonely to being depressed, but one of these demons can lead to the other and cause a downward spiral.
Loneliness can be well hidden too – there are often no obvious signs or symptoms.
So this new year, let’s not get too caught up in fake resolutions about diet, nutrition and exercise. Instead, let’s resolve to keep an eye on each other. If someone doesn’t quite seem themselves; if they’re a little quiet and more withdrawn than usual, do something.
It doesn’t have to be a grand, heroic gesture, just have a word, ask “How are you?” and get a proper answer. Have a chat, send a text. You probably have your phone in your hand or within reach right now.
Reach out. Check on someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
You probably won’t get an earth-shattering reaction, but you might just lift someone a little, just lighten the load enough so they can take a breath and step towards the light.