For quite some time now, I have been telling people that I feel lonely. “Go and meet up with friends” is the typical response, or, “go and do your writing in a coffee shop, so you’re not sat at home on your own”. “But I’ll still feel alone” I will say, and they will draw a blank. I will try to explain how it is to be sat in a room full of people – that you know, or share a common bond with – yet still feel completely alone. Double blank.
The definition of lonely is “sad because one has no friends or company”. That is not what I have been trying and failing to describe. I can understand that. If I am sat at home on my own, it goes to follow that I will feel alone. So that doesn’t make sense if I am in the company of friends. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that I am wrong and it is my fault that people are drawing a blank.
My battle with depression and the resultant journey of self exploration, has taught me that I have no great understanding of my own emotions. Despite being able to spot them in others, I cannot find them within myself. I was given an emotion wheel recently. It’s a diagram that lays out the various different emotions that a person might feel. As my eye made it’s way around the wheel, I was faced with the realisation that at best, I have a limited range of emotions. Most of what I was reading, seemed to me to be the same thing.
Currently I find myself in Malta, a place that has become almost a second home. Frankie (my wife) is half Maltese, so I have found myself on this wonderful piece of rock on at least 12 occasions (probably more in all likelihood). I have always felt at home here, in touch with the Mediterranean way of life that permeates this small island. We were married here and we would love to move here, so, it seemed the logical destination for a bit of relaxation and an attempt at hitting the reset button.
As Frankie is taking a much needed break with a friend in Italy, I thought it would be wise for me to go somewhere that I know, that I love, where I know the people and the places. Thus, Malta. Despite only being here for one and a half days, I have already seen friends and family. But I still can’t shake this feeling.
It finally hit me this evening. The right word. As I sat on a bench staring out to sea, ice cream in hand, I realised that people were walking by. I hadn’t noticed them. Couples, families, groups of friends, Maltese, tourists. They all passed by without an acknowledgement of their existence from myself. I felt that I was in a glass box, looking outwards at the world. And then that word wormed it’s way into the front of my brain. Disconnected.
Disconnected, “(of a person) lacking contact with reality”. Not only was I disconnected from them, I was fully detached from the connections they clearly had with each other. It seemed so alien, watching them pass by, part of a bigger world, whilst self contained in their own little bubbles of connection. I couldn’t empathise with that at all.
My only connection nowadays comes via my laptop. My words on a computer generated page. Could it be that I find a connection with you, the reader, via the thoughts that I tap out on my keyboard? Or more likely, is it the words themselves to which I feel connected? I fear that it must be the latter. Because, as I sit here on the balcony writing, I allow myself the occasional glance downwards, to those people passing below, and… nothing.
I look at the world around me and see nothing but intolerance and ignorance. Where has the respect gone? For human life, for the people that make us better when we are sick, or protect us from those that would do us harm? I see a culture of self-gratification and buck passing. It is always somebody else’s fault. Patience replaced by instant messaging and real time twitter coverage. People are more likely to whip out a mobile phone and film, than stop and help. Athletes and celebrities are worshipped as heroes, not the copper who catches the criminal who burgled your house, nor the single mother working multiple jobs to provide for her children. So is it any wonder I feel disconnected, when you lump all of that on top of my fragile mental state?
I am the lone wolf. Set adrift from his pack, pacing the frozen wastelands, skirting the unfamiliar packs that he comes across, wary that instead of taking him in, they will only chase him away. So I guess I must do as the wolf and keep howling to the moon – in this case a computer screen – in the hope that someone will hear me and that one day, I just might make it back.