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Ian’s blog: loneliness and mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week begins, client and volunteer Ian Lamb writes about this year’s theme, loneliness.

My experiences with feeling lonely are definitely linked with my mental health. 

With each depressive episode I’ve had, I have become, and I am still becoming, more and more aware of how I do become less and less engaged and therefore, more and more withdrawn and isolated.  

I can be at work or even with friends in town or at a park and when my mood is on the slide, I do feel so disconnected to the people around me, my friends, my family.  

I’m already aware of this feeling I have on the top of my head which feels like a great big brick that gets heavier and heavier. It’s almost like a fog that descends and this invisible brick that weighs down on top of me becomes heavier.  

I’m very aware of that feeling but I’ll tell anyone who asks: “Yes, I’m fine.” I can even smile, sometimes have a joke where I can just about mask that dark cloud because I don’t want to be seen as the ‘misery one’ so I’ll keep up the pretence.  

Even now, as I have talked more about my mental health issues, I still find it difficult to say and sweep it under the carpet pretending it ain’t happening to me. But it is! 

From that feeling of disconnectedness with those around me, I’m now aware of dissociating and even experiencing vertigo. But who do I tell? How can I? When or where is the best time to say: “I’m struggling!” I find it difficult to understand so how can I expect others to?  

I could be surrounded by people who I know and love but yet, still feel lonely.

I’ve heard that expression said so many times by many various people and it’s true. You go along with people clinging on to hope that things will improve and you’ll feel better. Sometimes I do, then sometimes I don’t.  

It becomes exhausting keeping up that pretense, to try to remain strong-minded and determined to keep fighting it.  

My sleep patterns become disturbed, my appetite becomes challenging, my concentration becomes concerning and my energy is zapped. I can’t be bothered and I’ve found myself going from feeling lonely to being alone; off sick from work, not going out, not washing and changing my clothes to not getting out of bed.  

That fog becomes like a thick blanket. That brick upon my head is now so heavy, I can’t think clearly.

I’m in hell and then I feel nothing! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Other than that heavy feeling inside my head, it’s like everything else has vanished. I’ve disappeared in this black hole, like a void of nothing – even my thoughts, trying to push myself back up to function, it’s like my own thoughts have deserted me.

Any anxiety I feel could well be reality? Telling me I’m here again, in this horror; what should I do? What can I do? How do I get back up?  

I should talk, I need to talk but I don’t want to talk.

I avoid people, talking, answering the phone or even text messages. It’s all been sucked out of me. Now I am on my own! Because who’s going to understand all of that? 

Gratefully, there are places to go to. It does require a great deal of strength because this a battle, especially as you’re either ringing or visiting somewhere that you’ve never been to before.  

I don’t know how I managed to get myself to Mind in Bradford but I did. I’m so glad I did because there are people there who do understand it.  

It isn’t the quick fix we all wish it would be. They are ‘used to’ extra long pauses because you don’t know how to start talking or what to say. There’s been plenty of times when I have gone to Mind in Bradford and not said anything because that’s OK.  

Their aim is to create a safe environment and I feel safe. I know I’m somewhere that has people who have similar experiences which has helped me knowing that I’m not the only one.

Perhaps, I do need to learn to live with it?  Yes, I take medication for my mental health but I’m realising it’s also about helping myself more by learning and understanding depression so I can learn to manage it better by recognising any triggers and those early warning signs.  

And with the right help and support, you’ll get there too. 

Posted on: 9th May 2022

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