Tuesday, 22 April 2008


In Weekend Wandering this week David asks us "Have we ever felt lonely?"

I think that loneliness is a state of mind and the times that I have felt utterly alone, I have never really been alone at all, but have usually had people with me or around me. I have been in situations where I am completely alone and yet I am at peace with myself and can't say that I feel lonely in situations like that. In fact being alone sometimes can be uplifting if there is peace in your heart.

I remember, as an adult student, being in an art class surrounded by other people yet I felt really lonely. It was my wedding anniversary (I can't remember which one) but earlier that day, my mother had rung me to say that the results of a biopsy had proved she had breast cancer and she had to go in for emergency surgery. That was in the days before the good success rates that we have now. I had told one or two friends of my fears, but they had not reacted in the way that made me feel they understood, and it was just like I'd told them that I had a cold and that it wasn't really very important! But is was to me! 
That particular story had a happy ending as my Mum survived well into old age and died of something else.
But I did feel lonely........... before I knew.

I remember staring at the curtains of a waiting room screen. Red and orange and lime green scrolls of abstract pattern. Not a good combination of colours at all but forever stamped in my brain. "It's cancer," the consultant said, as if he was saying "It's an in growing toenail." That was six years ago and Harry had just been diagnosed. We were there together but I felt so alone that you couldn't imagine. I guess Harry felt the same, but he never talks about how he feels, so that makes me feel even more lonely.
One year later we were back again, to be told, "The operation has not been a success, this time we cannot cure it, only treat it." More feelings of intense loneliness in a crowded place.
This is like a repeated pattern in my life. When bad news comes my way it brings intense loneliness. Only when others have suffered the same thing do I feel it is shared to some degree.

Going back to a time when I was only twenty something and I'd just given birth to our second child, our daughter. We were glad to have a daughter it made our family complete. It was just what we wanted and now we had one of each. I'd felt elation after our son was born, but what was wrong with me? I felt nothing! Just excessively tired and uninterested, "Just let me sleep" I wailed, only I couldn't sleep. As the weeks went by the post natal depression washed over me and I felt more and more alone. "What is wrong with you?" every one asked me. "You should be happy." There was even the comment, "You should be ashamed. Well I was, wasn't I? I didn't need to be told. 
She was five months old before I could really enjoy her and nearly one year before I felt  any thing like I was normal. Depression brings about the worst feelings of loneliness that you can ever imagine if you haven't been there.
These have been my worst feelings of loneliness and it is always good to meet other people who have experienced the same thing as me because then I think "Yes," that person really knows the situation and has been there. 

There have been many other times I've been lonely, like when I was lying in hospital after being concussed through being knocked off my bike by an elderly car driver, who ran away when she saw what she'd done. I was left alone in one of the busiest streets of the city, with lorries and cars racing all around me. Well I didn't know anything at the time or that a stranger had helped me and stayed with me & wrapped a child's nappy round my head to stem the flow of blood. The loneliness kicked in when I was lying in hospital without visitors for 2 days and nights, as all the family were living a long way away and Harry was working somewhere far off and couldn't come and see me hardly at all. Looking at other people's visitors made me feel alone, though I wasn't alone, I was in a busy place. But this wasn't as bad as receiving bad news or facing the death of some one I loved. That too can be a very lonely experience.

So true loneliness seems to be when you feel that no one is there for you or there's no one who understands your situation and has nothing to do with being on your own at all. Unless, of course, you know otherwise. In which case let me know.


Frances said...

True - really true.
I love being alone and able to get on and do what I want, or nothing at all.

That is, as you say, nothing to do with loneliness.
Maybe loneliness could be when you are alone and don't want to be, whether physically, emotionally or just in your situation. Isolation?
I really enjoyed reading this thoughtful post.

david mcmahon said...

I read this in its entirety, then I read in again - in its entirety.

There is a major character in my forthcoming novel (Muskoka Maharani) who suffers from post-natal depression but is mis-diagnosed.

Your post is one that will speak to many people on many levels, for it spans so many subjects.

Thank you for taking part.

Stinking Billy said...

maggie, I certainly wouldn't argue with your interpretation. You've had some disappointing times and I can see why you felt lonely, but I get the impression you came out of them a stronger person.

Momma said...

Maggie -

You captured one of the oddest characteristics of loneliness. It can feel the most intense when we are in a crowded place. It is as though we are ghosts.

Sending you warm hugs to let you know that you're never really alone...Peace - D

Suburbia said...

Maggie, so many lonely moments.
I share the post natal one with you. It was very lonely and seemed to last forever although in reality I was lucky and recovered fairly quickly. Sometimes I long for a minute on my own now! loneliness is such a strange thing.

On a lighter note, I'm guessing that the lovely beach is just at the bottom of your garden?!!!

Mean Mom said...

That was a lovely post. I can remember, at the age of 11, our english teacher asked us to write an essay about loneliness. We all managed to produce something, so I guess that most of us felt that we had experienced it, even by that age.

I agree that you can feel very lonely when going through something, that you feel no-one else has experienced, or can understand. It is also a lonely experience to go through soemthing which you feel unable to mention or share with anyone.

Maggie May said...

Frances .... Yes loneliness IS when you are alone & don't want to be.

David ....... I will certainly read that book if you tell me where it will be on sale! Thanks for comments!

Stinking Billy ........ I think all bad situations add to your strength for the future & mine certainly did.

Momma ........ thanks for the lovely comments & support.

Surburbia ........ its just a little stream at the end of the garden! (Not), for those of you who will believe that!

Mean Mom ...... you were a writer even at the age of 11! I also can remember essays I wrote at an early age & I had plenty of ideas! One of my best subjects at school!

Liz said...

You've had a tough time and this is a really good post about loneliness.

The loneliest place is in a crowd I think. I'm not a very sociable animal and prefer to be alone.

When my husband was diagnosed with cacer i had to get away on my own. I walked out to sea in the rain and screamed.

Don't be lonely now. there are people out here who understand most of what you will have been through.

San said...

Beautiful, moving description of some very hard times. I know what you mean about images such as the ugly colors of the hospital screen being seared into your memory along with the awful sinking feeling of getting bad news.

And being left on the street by the woman who hit you--that makes me so angry, but I also wonder if she relives the memory herself as she hides her secret and feels very alone in her guilt.

aims said...

Ah Maggie - all I wanted to do after reading this was wrap my arms around you and give you a very hard hug.

You have said so many things about loneliness here and have touched many hearts. You've touched mine deeply.

Dusty Spider said...

You've hit the nail right on the head for me Maggie. Lonliness is a state of mind. My husband has suffered with depression all his life, as did his mother. Only recently has he sought help. I don't believe I've suffered real depression but I do know that it is possible to be lonely in a crowded place. Feeling "out of place" is a lonely feeling too. Hugs to you. Flick xx

OvaGirl said...

Great post MM. There is something about not being seen, an invisibility, that causes lonliness and as you say it has nothing to do with being in a busy place.

Maggie May said...

Liz .......... Thanks for your helpful comments. Sorry to hear that you have been through the same thing with your husband. That was a very powerful image you brought to my mind, screaming at the sea. Not sure what the out come was...... I've only recently got to know you. Hope its alright. Thanks for your support.

San ........ The lady who knocked me down had run to get her husband who lived nearby. I got to meet her later on & found myself telling her not to worry etc. I went round for a chat.I told Police that I didn't want to prosecute! She has never driven since.

Aims.......... You are really a sweet person for saying that & it is exactly how I feel when I'm reading all about your life & suffering in your blog. Its good to know we can build ourselves up through our problems, because that is what happens, I believe. We emerge stronger.

Flick....... Sorry to hear about your husband suffering depression. It does run in families. Glad he is doing something about it. Thanks for writing about it.

Ovagirl ........yes, that's the way it seemed to me anyway.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow, that was amazing. I was scared to write this one as to me loneliness is also loss and depression. I don't think I'm ready to face those feelings yet, but you expressed them brilliantly.

Mean Mom said...

I've just called in to apologise for deleting both of your comments on my post. Sorry, both of them were there, so I tried to delete the duplicate and deleted both!

You mentioned writing essays in your reply to my comment. Yes, writing essays in my english lesson, was never a chore to me, as it obviously wasn't to you, either. The difficulty was knowing when to stop, really!

Grit said...

a touching post, and true.

Anonymous said...

Shared experiences can chase away loneliness, but I think facing the loss of a loved one -- shared with someone not losing the same loved one -- is but a small help. Some grieving experiences can be shared. Some can only be suffered.

Maggie May said...

Jo ...... Many thanks for your kind comments. Not sure if there's ever a right time to bare your soul, but I guess you know in your heart when to do it.

Mean mom..... Deleted TWO of my messages, well I ask you! Will be most peed if my third one goes missing!

Grit .... thanks for that.

Quilly ....... Thanks for your comment & I do agree with that.

Flowerpot said...

No I agree Maggie. I had a bad time in my teens and early twenties when I felt achingly lonely and that is a very frightening experience. Thankfully I don't get that so much now.

CrazyCath said...

Maggie that is a wonderfully open post and the feelings are clearly very raw still, although manageable. I agree with you totally - loneliness is about not being understood, not being able to share where you are at. And yes I agree, the depths of depression are probably the loneliest times of anyone's life.

Thanks for sharing. You describe it perfectly. xx

Epijunky said...

This has been one of my favorite questions that David has posed to his readers. The answers have been so well written

I also went through postpartum depression... I had the hardest time putting my feelings into words. You did it perfectly.


Maggie May said...

Flowerpot .......... pleased you are OK now. Teenage years can be difficult. Many thanks for your kind remarks......

Crazy Cath .......... many thanks for your encouragement. It means a lot to me. Raw memories because I have NEVER written it down before & obviously I had to relive how I felt. New family crisis did seem to bring it back a bit though. Writing is SO therapeutic. Especially when I get such helpful comments as you & all my blogging friends give. Thank you.

epijunky ...... I take that as a great compliment. Thank you.

Bina said...

Ya know, I have felt the same way. I can be SO lonely with so many other people around, and when I'm alone, my stereo up loud, cleaning my house, I don't feel lonely at all. Very strange, I've always thought.

But, there are times I'm alone, and I feel like the only person on earth and every thing living has forgotten that I, too, am still here.

girl with the mask said...

Don't you think it strange that sometimes you can feel loneliest when you are surrounded by people?

G.I.M x

Daryl E said...

Wonderfully put ..

David sent me.


Maggie May said...

Bina .... Yes, its all to do with how we feel inside, isn't it?

Girl with the mask ...... Isn' there a saying of some sort? Lonely in a crowd.

Daryl ........ Many thanks for saying that!

Bitter Sweet Metaphor Irene said...

You really touched on a deep and sensitive subject here, Maggie. One I could write an epic novel on. I won't do anything of the kind ow, feeling as well as I do now, but I do know the feelings of loneliness and the deep silence and despair of it. I shudder at the thought of ever having to feel them again.

Thanks for always leaving such cheerful comments on my blog.


Milla said...

that was very moving, MM. I loved the way you moved from subject to subject so lightly but with the intensity that shows how much you felt.

Maggie May said...

Irene ...... Many thanks for your lovely remarks & it is good to see you back on my blog! X

Milla ..... Thanks Milla!

softinthehead said...

Maggie - I have just been catching up on all your posts. So sorry to hear the news about your son-in-law - it does sound like you have had a tough few years recently - it makes your positive attitude towards life all the more inspiring - thanks for sharing. :)

Maggie May said...

softinthehead........ many thanks for your kind comment.I'm not always positive, but I do try to be.

Carolyn said...

Oh what a great post. This is so useful to me. I've often wondered why I feel the way I do sometimes, and this post reaffirms my belief that I flirted with post-natal depression after Csilla was born. It's the most isolating feeling in the world. I've also felt like that more recently. It's so lonely being depressed, but luckily the blogging really helps us to connect with others who share similiar experiences.

Thanks for this post. It was wonderful. I hope I can offer you some sort of reassurance that your readers are here for you and that you are never alone!

Carolyn said...

ps - I finally did that meme you tagged me for... it turned out a little long. Sorry!!

Maggie May said...

Carolyn.......... Sorry to hear that you might have suffered Post natal depression too but glad it was not severe. Yes, I think that blogging connects you to many people who have had similar problems & that does help to realize that we aren't completely alone with it.
Will come across to you & search out the meme!

Josie said...

Gosh, I am amazed to find someone else thinks the same way I do. I enjoy my solitude and never feel lonely when I am alone. But I have often felt tremendously lonely when there is something going on in my life, and no one cares to share it with me, or help me with it.

I have a friend who is ill right now, and he is pushing me away. I am not a fair weather friend, but my friendship is being disregarded as if it means nothing, and that makes me feel dreadfully lonely.

Mima said...

Several years ago I had depression, and you really brought back memories for me, but in a good way. I too can remember feeling incredibly lonely, but I also remember my worst night. My sister was staying with me for a while as she was looking for somewhere to live, and I can remember going up to the sitting room, and crawling into the sofa bed with her, and she held me, she didn't understand, but she cared, and that was what counted, and I cried for the first time. I will never forget that night!

Maggie May said...

Josie ....... Sorry to hear that your friend seems to be pushing you away. If it is through depression then that seems quite typical to inadvertently hurt the people you love. Other illness can also cause reactions like that. Stick with him & be there no matter what. I'm sure he will appreciate that when he starts to feel himself again.

Mima ..... sorry to hear you suffered from depression a while back. Being more or less bed bound must be very hard to bear. But you sound as though you are a very positive lady & I do admire you for that.
You made me feel sad when you described the night you cried with you sister.I'd give you a hug if I could! X

Jules said...

That was a lovely post, and I agree with what everyone has said. Sometimes you just want to talk to someone... anyone who shares what you've done and who feels what you feel. And yet there is no one around to hear your cries.

You can be alone in a crowd, and yet not so alone when you are at peace and on your own. Life is so scary sometimes.


Maggie May said...

Thanks, Jules, That means a lot!

merry weather said...

Yes, this is a very thoughtful post, it's so good to hear other people's experiences of life. Very brave of you.

You have a lovely outlook on things Maggie and I'm glad to have found your blog :)

Maggie May said...

Merryweather .......... many thanks for that. I do appreciate it!