Tuesday 4 June 2024

What is wrong with me?

Hannah shares their experience of loneliness during university and since graduating. They discuss the stigma associated with loneliness and share their journey of self-acceptance. 

- Hannah

How do I share that I’m lonely? 
How can I be lonely as a young person? 
What is wrong with me?

These are all questions I asked myself persistently both during and after university. The notion of loneliness can feel incredibly embarrassing and stigmatising because it appears that everyone else around you is happy and content in their friendships and you’re the only one struggling. Loneliness is often associated with older generations, with a lot of information and support tailored to ‘befriending’ people who are elderly. It seems inconceivable that someone of a younger age could be lonely. There are so many chances to meet people whether this is through education, work or hobbies however, it is much easier said than done and I’ve spent too much time berating myself for struggling so much with it.   

University was going to be a fresh start for me: new city, new course, new everything. I was going to be confident and make lots of friends… spoiler alert this didn’t happen. The culture of drinking and partying seemed so new and exciting but in reality, this led to cycles of overthinking and self-loathing for me personally. I put so much pressure on myself to be like other people and to modify myself in accordance with the interests and behaviours of those around me. This, however, wasn’t an authentic version of myself. Consequently, I couldn’t maintain this persona and ended up becoming quite isolated throughout my time at university.   

Since graduating I have learnt a lot about myself through therapy, but also through a lot of self-reflection. I have become more accepting of myself as an individual, and of my difficulties making friends due to my own struggles with mental health and neurodiversity, rather than blaming myself for not being like other people. Self-acceptance has been a huge breakthrough for me in terms of loneliness, and it has allowed me to assess what I need to prioritise in my life in order to stay well. I have realised that I actually really value quality time on my own, and in fact, require this time in order to function.  

I have a small number of friends, they are important to me and I know I could call on them if I needed to. Sometimes I still reflect on our friendships and compare them to what is on social media, and wonder why I don’t have a huge group of friends that are constantly out socialising. I try to remind myself that that isn’t what I want and need all of the time.  

Despite this, I still recognise that connection with others is vital for my mental health, through volunteering for a charity on a weekly basis and attending virtual journaling sessions I have been able to make connections with like-minded people in a way that is comfortable to me.   

The key for me has been the journey of self-acceptance. It’s been focusing on what I enjoy and what makes me happy, rather than basing my interests on what other people like. Having the ability now to adjust to the unrealistic expectations of myself and generally just being a lot kinder to myself, has also helped on this journey. This has been a long process; this didn’t happen overnight. Therapy has been really beneficial in allowing me to explore these difficulties further and realise that I’m not alone and it’s really common to feel lonely, regardless of age. 

For anyone who has felt this way or is still feeling this way, know that you are not alone and that things do get better. 

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I'm Hannah (they/them), I struggle with my mental health and I'm neurodivergent. I wanted to share my experience of loneliness at a time when I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to be like other people. I'd love it if this blog could help someone going through something similar, to not feel so alone and ashamed. 

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