All this week we are supporting #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.The official theme for this week is
loneliness and several of our #mentalhealthfirstaiders have written #blog posts describing their experiences of #loneliness. A huge thank you to our MHFAs for putting pen to paper and allowing us to share in your experiences.
Blog Post No. 2 from Francesca Laugier-Davies MSc CIWFM
I’ve never been one to seek out the company of others particularly, preferring my own company or that of a good book to a room full of people. I have also always tended to deal with things privately so after a very personal and traumatic event, rather than seek any form of external support, I reverted to type and was determined to resolve my feelings in my own way. However, I soon discovered that taking on such a significant event alone led to a very strong sense of detachment and as time passed I began to feel that nobody else would be able to full appreciate what I was going through and so this detachment morphed into a feeling of acute loneliness.
I do have a very strong support system in place, I’m close to my family, have a small circle of good friends and a partner coming on for 8 years. However, despite being surrounded by people, I felt alone, isolated, cut off. As much as I wanted to reach out and connect, there was a very real sense that the “trauma” was mine and not something that I could readily articulate. I also felt that I should be able to cope with, that I was making too much of it and was being weak. Being surrounded by, yet separate from, those closest to me did lead me to believe that the isolation I felt wasn’t totally legitimate but self-imposed.
What broke through this for me was a chance, informal chat with a colleague and fellow Mental Health First Aider (MHFA). They let me know that they had gone through something similar and helped validate my feelings around the situation. Being part of a shared experience allowed me to feel a sense of connection that helped combat that sense of detachment I’d felt both from the situation and others. I allowed myself to open up and talk about some of what had been troubling me which took some of the power out of it and helped put things into perspective. After this I found it far easier to speak to those closest to me and began to bridge the gap that had been widening over the last 6 or so months.
I’d urge anyone who has felt similarly to reach out to a MHFA, colleague, or anyone who you feel comfortable with that’s not from your “inner circle”. I’ve found that speaking to someone slightly removed from the situation can feel easier and less daunting particularly as my own fears around potentially damaging a significant relationship are removed. An outsider can also offer a different perspective which may well surprise you.
I do absolutely continue to enjoy my own company but know that there is a very real difference between a desire for solitude and that feeling of isolation that stems from loneliness.