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Chronic Loneliness: The Depression Symptom We Aren't Talking About


It has taken me seven years to figure out what is wrong with me. Chronic loneliness. It sounds silly, yet something has been drawing me to research the topic more. I first heard about the negative effects of loneliness through Wentworth Miller‘s Facebook page. He had posted a TED Talks video during his “self-care” month, and because I was lying in bed and feeling a bit down myself, I watched it.

It didn’t hit me at the time, but it did this past week when I showed the video to my class of eighth graders and had them reflect on the video. Hearing the effects loneliness can have on a person five times in one day can start to sink in. So I did a bit more reading on it, and I realized maybe this is something I should take notice of.

So chronic loneliness. When I was finishing up college, my parents announced they were moving across the state for my dad’s work. I would no longer have the home I grew up in and the small town that was familiar. My dad thought I would be happy because I always said how much I hated my small town and wanted out. Well, yes, but I also always wanted to believe it was there for me to come back to as a place to call home. Some friends were still there, memories were there, my childhood was there. But literally, you could basically fold the state of Pennsylvania in half to match up where I grew up to where they were going. Not being able to find a job right after college, I soon moved as well to live with my parents for about a year before finding a permanent teaching position.

This is when loneliness first really reared its ugly head. After college, I had lost a huge support system I wasn’t even aware of at the time. There was always someone around — a friend, roommate, neighbor, stranger at the table next to me. I was making new friends and acquaintances weekly it seemed. And of course my roommates and close friends were something I took for granted at the time. I found that whenever I had a setback in life, I didn’t have the close connections I once had to help me through life’s disappointments. Anxiety and depression set in, and I tried to fill the void in my life with anything I could.

So what does one do when faced with a long, bleak road of loneliness? You can be surrounded by people all day and still not feel a real connection with anyone. Loneliness isn’t about being alone — it’s about feeling secure in your day-to-day relationships. I miss that feeling of not always looking over my shoulder or feeling like I need to keep my guard up. I want to let my guard down.

I wonder how many other people feel this way. I’m at an age now where I want to meet people, make close connections, but I find myself feeling lethargic when it comes to interacting with others. I would rather Netflix than follow through on that date I made a few days ago. It becomes more and more difficult to get out of that slump I have fallen into, and I just keep sliding down the terrain.

Anyway – here’s a great video (the one I mentioned before) to watch: “Taking Care of Our Emotional Health.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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Getty Images photo via Grandfailure