Mental illness is never an isolated problem. It can affect all areas of your life.
When I suffered from anorexia. It fed into so many areas of life. It was all consuming. One of those areas was loneliness. It was something that I felt for such a long time.
I think it began when I was at Uni.
All of my friends were going out together, socialising, meeting people. As the anorexia took over, I began isolating myself more and more.
It wasn't that I didn't want to go out, I did. I wanted the normal Uni life more than anything, I wanted to be accepted, but I just couldn’t manage it. The eating disorder had taken over my mind and convinced me I couldn't do normal things. I was terrified of putting on weight and trying my hardest to continue to lose it.
Going out with friends always involved meals out or drinks and I was too scared.
I started using work as an excuse, saying I didn't have time as I had deadlines. I was studying a law degree so this was an acceptable excuse but the more I isolated myself the more lonely I felt and the harder it was to be around people.
My confidence dropped so quickly.
I would go out with my few closest friends to the shops but I very quickly felt awkward around everyone else. I felt like I was being judged as 'boring' as I never made the effort to go out. So I stayed away even more.
Uni is meant to be the best years of your life but for me it was some of the worst.
I made some friends that I love and will always have in my life but aside from them Uni felt very lonely.
Even 4 years on from Uni, I ended up in hospital. The lead up to this was the darkest time in my life, not to mention the loneliest. I was scared of any situation that involved people, I felt socially awkward around people. Like an outsider.
Although I hated every second of it, it allowed me to begin building relationships again with like-minded people, who understood.
When I was discharged I was nervous to leave this safe place and go back home to the life where I didn't feel that I had anyone. I felt guilty that I pushed everyone away. But I had already worked so hard and come so far that I wanted to keep going. I knew that I wanted to get my life back.
My confidence had started to grow.
I told myself that I would start to re-build old friendships and make new friends. I had introduced exercise back into my life in a healthy way and thought this might be a good opportunity to join a group.
I'm not sure what initially gave me the push or where the strength came from, but I saw a women's running group near where I live and decided to join. I admit I was terrified of just walking up to the group as I felt that everyone would already know each other but I decided to step outside my comfort zone and just do it. I loved it!!
Everybody on the group seemed so friendly.
They weren’t 'serious' or competitive runners, but looked like a group of girls just going out there and having fun.
This is one of the best things I have done and I have met some amazing people and made some great friends. If I had stayed hiding in my house I would never have some of the friends I do and my confidence wouldn't have grown. I'm now proud to say I became a running leader for the group and get to meet so many people, forming friendships and growing my confidence.
Loneliness is a terrible feeling and at the time it feels like there is no way out. But I promise that there is.
Be strong and remember that there are people surrounding you whether you have distanced yourself or not. They will be waiting and ready to come back into your life when you are ready which is what I found. I lost a lot of friends from being unwell but I've made so many more.
I think the advice I would give would be to realise loneliness is a feeling, and as with all feelings these can change.
Start small by talking to a few people on a daily basis, when you’re comfortable with this arrange a meet up, maybe a coffee and a chat, pop to the shops or watch a film. As you start to interact with people you will see how good it feels.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to be accepted or try and be who you think everyone wants you to be.
This can feel just as lonely.
I try and make sure that I talk to several friends each day and also arrange a coffee and catch up, the more you do it the stronger your relationships will be and the more able you will be to talk about things.
Loneliness is a sad place to be but there are ways out.
I did it, so can you x