I have this thing that has haunted me since I was a little girl. It has kept me up at night, made me cry, and silenced me. It’s been there when I’ve been alone, and strangely enough showed up in crowded rooms. I think we’ve all experienced it at some point, but for me it’s different. It’s bigger. It’s more oppressive. It’s loneliness.
This loneliness I’m talking about isn’t the kind that comes after a break-up, the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of a friendship or lack there-of. Loneliness from those makes sense.
This is the type that hits when I’m surrounded with a lot of people and have no reason to feel alone. However, the fear of not being liked, received or understood is so controlling that I might as well be totally and completely by myself. This type of loneliness can be so unbelievably frustrating because it’s hard to pinpoint the origin of my aching heart.
Why am I feeling this way? Shake it off Caitlin, you’re fine. Be social, you have friends.
I used to think that it was just the introvert in me. I like to tell people I’m half extrovert, half introvert. But as I tried to pin it on that, something still felt off. Something wasn’t right.
Instead of doing some good ol’ quality soul searching, I searched for a few bandaids to fix me. Just have another drink. Lie. Smile and nod, don’t speak up. Fake your laughter. Lie some more.
It didn’t work.
I tried to validate myself by getting others to like me. It worked for a little while in high school, and even a a couple of years in college. But it eventually faded. The more I sacrificed to be liked by others, the deeper I buried myself behind lies and facades, the lonelier I became.
I tried surrounding myself with loving, caring people, thinking that was the problem. But still there was this gaping feeling, this hurting hole inside of me that said, “No, this ain’t it. This does not fix my loneliness.” I struggled to connect. My thoughts were infested with insecurity, and every word that came out of my mouth was then put right back on the over-analytical conveyor belt of my mind. Exhausting.
The more I sacrificed to be liked by others, the deeper I buried myself behind lies and facades, the lonelier I became.
I sank lower and lower and lower. But it’s there where I found the answer.
In moments of utter desolation, we begin searching for quick fixes. And unfortunately, we typically find them in things that are fleeting. Empty. Deceiving. Whatever those things are — whatever devices or relationships we hope will erase our loneliness — they lie to us.
In fact, the hole almost feels bigger, and not to mention we completely forget who we used to be. So, at the end of our lonely search for unloneliness, we have walked so far away from who we truly are that we still ache.
Can I tell you why this is so ironic? That lonely feeling pulled me away from God. But in the end, it’s that feeling that drove me back to Him. Once I had exhausted all of my quick fixes, I finally sat down in my room, closed my eyes, and began talking to Him. Unfiltered and broken.
What’s wrong with me? Can you get me out of this funk? Why do I feel alone? I don’t like who I am.
I opened the Bible and began to read.
God created me in His image.
He will satisfy my needs in a sun-scorched land.
The world and its desires will waste away, though He will remain.
The anxious beating of my heart slowed down. My breaths became deeper. My insecurities melted away. It had been so long since I had actually taken the time to be honest with God and to read His truths. My thoughts began to change.
I cannot find my worth in other people. I am not here to get approval from them. I have been given life to serve God.
My loneliness, I realized, was a product of my lack of time with God. That understanding changed my entire life. All the other things I had tried to “fix” it with weren’t the answer. I had made all of these friends, I did all of the cool things that cool kids do, and yet “…when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
I began understanding my role in relationships. I didn’t over-analyze every word in conversation. I started telling the truth. I embraced the things that made me weird, and I didn’t try to hide who I was in front of people that might disagree. When I finally stopped obsessing over what people thought about me (which is an inherently selfish practice), I was able to love them. I was able to love me.
Now, let me add one thing here. I understand some have battled loneliness their whole lives, and they need the kind of help that medicine and clinicians can provide. That is something that should never be stigmatized or belittled. Even when I’m consistent in prayer, I still fight against lies in my head. It is a day-by-day journey. A journey that will make you and I stronger. A journey that is meant to be shared with others to make them stronger, too. And a journey that sometimes requires a medical companion.
He hears my deepest thoughts, my weird ideas, my hurts, my joys, my sin. And He loves me just the same.
As I continue on, God is always finding ways to remind me that He knows me better than anyone in my life ever will. He hears my deepest thoughts, my weird ideas, my hurts, my joys, my laughter, my sin. And He loves me just the same.
This struggle of mine is still a work-in-progress. But there is one truth I hold onto to help me climb out out of the valleys: I will never be truly alone.