So we’ve just gone through that Christmas time again, when all is well in the World and Santa brings joy and pressies to one and all. At this time of year we would be forgiven for not realising that not everyone will share the glad tidings of joy and abundance of happiness that overflows from the cup of ‘Seasons Greetings’.
There are many reasons for not sharing in this joyous time; it could be religious: Islam is the fastest growing religion in the World while, according the Christian Orthodox calendar, we are way out! It could be that you have experienced the loss of a loved one at this time of year so Christmas becomes a time of reflection on a life that’s lost and for those left behind; or it could be that you are homeless, not knowing where your next hot meal is going to come from or if you’ll find a decent, dry pitch for the night. But, I think, the killer is loneliness.
Loneliness accounts for more deaths at this time of year than heart failure, alcoholism and substance abuse; all of which can be attributed to the consequence of loneliness. My mother, like so many other mothers, feels lonely since the death of my father and at this time of year her loneliness becomes much more acute; it’s lonely when everyone else is having fun and you miss, with every sinew of your being, your soul-mate and life-long partner. For the single person, living away from family and friends, ‘seasons greetings’ can feel hollow and something of a ‘sham’, Yet, to me, the worse kind of loneliness is the loneliness felt while you are in a loving relationship with family and friends around you.
Like everyone else I have felt lonely at various points in my life… some may say “it’s character building”! I’ve been on my own at this time of year, but, before and after the 25th, always managed to party well. Yet, as a result of 17 years of constant pain, I have had my greatest ‘moments’ of loneliness while being married with children. But wait! That statement should not reflect upon my family in a negative way, it’s not them… it’s me!
Constant pain causes depression, huge revelation that! No! Of course it’s not! Anyone with a few, free grey cells knows the consequences of chronic pain; that tooth abscess x365days! Constant, chronic pain becomes all-embracing, after a while it starts to rule your life. You can fight it for as long as you can, but, at some stage, it’s going to beat you! It’s going to beat you so bad that you withdraw into the shell that was once you.
In my case, the early stages of depression manifested as sporadic feelings of helplessness and loneliness. I recall on a particular occasion opening-up to my wife and telling her I felt lonely, she found it totally incomprehensible that I could have feelings of loneliness while being married with 4 children. My wife felt it was a reflection upon her and our family, which, of course, it wasn’t, but it was very difficult to explain, exactly, what I was going through. Over the years, I have found it easier to explain and my wife now recognises many of the ‘signs’, much more than I do in fact!
One of the issues people have regarding loneliness and depression is that ‘it may rub-off on others’, which of course is bollocks! in the same way that a scowl won’t turn the milk sour!
People are social animals; we need each other, whether its to talk to or to kick us up the butt every now and then! We need to feel the warmth of another and to know there is someone there when we are ‘ready’ or ‘able’ to look for that hand-up, that hand of friendship.
So, please, as we go into a new year, take a look about you. That person stood at the bar or sat on their own; whether it’s a he or a she; old or young. Hold out that hand of friendship, say hi! You don’t need to become life-long buddies, but, just by acknowledging the person you will change their day; no big talks, no life stories a simple Hi! will do.
Loneliness is not contagious but laughter is most certainly infectious, so pass it on!