You are not alone in feeling alone. Kind of a contradictory sentiment but absolutely 100% true.
In putting together the Lonely Girls' Club, I've talked to lots of people about loneliness. And it is clear that no one is immune – not even that girl on Instagram with the perfect girl group surrounding her. It's a cruel feeling that seeps into everyone's life at some point, regardless of their circumstances. But because it's not cool to talk about it, no one knows that it's not just affecting them.
Scrolling through social media, it can be hard to rationalise this. How on earth could any of these smiling, happy people surrounded by equally happy friends ever feel the crushing emptiness you experience when you feel like you have no one to talk to? How could any of these people with their lives so 'together' understand the physical ache that flickers across your body from not being touched by another human being?
To try and help break down the taboo of loneliness, I asked women from across the Refinery29 world to share their loneliest moments. The results made for a tough read but ultimately reinforced the fact that, at any given moment, anyone might be feeling lonely – they just might be finding it tough to share.
Click through to have a read.
Two months after arriving in London. Things were going downhill with my boyfriend (clever me should have possibly seen that coming BEFORE moving across the world with him), I didn't have a job or many friends. I didn't feel like I was really 'living' in London, more that I was just aimlessly walking around while other people got on with their day. London can be tough when things aren't going your way. One particular day I remember, I'd just had a meeting with a recruiter who had told me to 'stick to admin jobs' because no one would want to hire someone on an international visa. I sat in a cafe and had a 30-second cry into a cup of tea, then mentally gave myself a slap before my eyes got puffy, as I had another meeting to go to. It was a rough few months but, at the risk of sounding wanky, it made me realise I was stronger than I thought. Ditching the bad relationship helped as well.
The time I've felt most alone in my life was when my husband and I separated. It was a combination of his physical presence and how daunting it was looking ahead at a future without him that made me feel most lonely. You plan a whole future together and then all of a sudden everything you'd hoped and dreamed for disappears into thin air. While I had friends and family around me for support, I was still in our bed every night alone, sitting at the dining table we'd made together, alone. And it's not the same kind of alone as when your husband goes away for the weekend or for a work trip (I enjoyed that 'me time'). It's the kind of alone where you can't concentrate and you just feel empty. I remember one particular evening when I was lying on the couch sobbing and aching, feeling very vulnerable but trying to be strong and prove to myself I could get through one night without anyone by my side. I ended up calling a friend to come over because I just couldn't be left alone with my thoughts. That was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I had an anxiety breakdown a few years back and it wasn't very pretty, I can tell you. No amount of self-care and cute Instagram quotes was getting me out of that hole. I needed psychiatric care and meds and I needed lots of both.
That first night I was too scared of the world to even physically sit still, let alone sleep, and I (stupidly) didn't want to wake up my boyfriend and so I tossed and turned in our spare bedroom, watching every Paul Rudd comedy movie I could find (they seemed like the least scary?) without focussing on any of them. Those seven long hours where I struggled to breathe and couldn't stop crying were the worst of my life and the quiet of the night outside made the world feel very big and empty – like I was the only one left. I have never felt so alone and I was sure I wouldn't last until morning. It felt as though it was the end of the world and I was the only one left alive. Jess
My first year living in London as a student. My flatmates were quiet and I missed out on a lot of the freshers fun. I made friends on my course, but I felt isolated for a while, and a long way from home. It was too easy to spend time in my room alone, putting far too much effort into first year studies. It took a good six months to feel less alone.
During my bouts of anxiety-induced insomnia. I remember feeling completely alone, even when I was sharing a bed with someone. I was physically close to people who loved me, but I felt like they were all in this happy world I couldn't get into, no matter how hard I tried. The despair of that loneliness wasn't just about being alone, it's how powerless I was to change it.
Four of my closest friends moved countries at around the same time and I stayed in London. I didn't want to move away (I have a job I absolutely adore, was in a loving relationship at the time, and still feel super excited by the city), so it wasn't that I was concerned about what stage I was at in my life – I just simply missed my pals.
It's hammered into us through TV and films that a friendship group is #goals, so when the solid unit I did have dispersed across the globe (America, Austria and New Zealand), I felt quite alone. While it was pretty upsetting at times – time zones meant we didn't have the regular communication I was used to, and I often felt quite tragic missing them when they were having a fabulous time experiencing new things – I now think of the whole period as a good thing. I became good friends with colleagues, who I now consider some of my closest pals, I invested lots of time in the things I love, and now really enjoy my own company, which I know a lot of people don't. I think it helped me grow up a bit and I'm generally thankful for the introspection and independence it gave me – although, of course, I'm glad my pals are home again now. Jen
I’d gone out with my best mate and her friends for New Year’s Eve. I didn’t know anyone, was struggling to fake my party persona and no number of tequila shots could nudge me onto everyone else’s wavelength. Midnight struck and I didn’t say a word to anyone. No one noticed when I didn’t join the dance floor. No one spotted me wiping tears from my face at the bar. No one had a clue that I was the most lost, confused, helpless that I’d ever felt. But there was little more I could do than watch them have the fun I felt obliged to be having around – and without – me.
When the doctor diagnosed me with depression. It took me two weeks to tell anyone.
The long Easter weekend a few years ago. My parents were on holiday, I’d just got divorced from my husband (who I’d been with my entire adult life). I had plenty of social friends I could go out drinking with but they were all busy. My relationship with my brother was strained so I hadn’t been asked to visit them (20 mins away). I remember looking at Facebook on Easter Sunday and seeing happy families everywhere. I couldn’t even do shopping to be around people as all the shops were shut. I hadn’t spoken to a real life human for three days. I just broke down and cried.
*Some names have been changed
If you're struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety, don't stay quiet. Reach out to your GP or alternatively contact mental health charity Mind on 0300 123 3393.