From isolation, with love

“All my friends left me when I got sick.”

These words have been echoing in my head recently. For privacy purposes, let us call this person T.

T was a client who attended a mental health recovery camp where I was doing outdoor education. He is a tall greek guy with kind hazel eyes, a bulbous belly and lots of dark hair all over his body. His toenails were long and he promised me he would get his mum to trim them when he got home. I joked that he shouldn’t dare put her through that and we giggled about it. He was nearly 40. He slept in, but when I asked for his help, he’d be there. T got sick a few years ago. I don’t know the full story, but he had a nervous breakdown and hasn’t fully recovered or become a functioning (whatever that means) member of society again since. Unlike some who do function in society, he is kind, helpful, considerate, humble and selfless. Things are just a bit more difficult for him.

His dad lets him work in the family business. By the sound of things, his family is his only support network. He’s luckier than others in that respect. But, he is lonely. Sorely lonely. My heart aches for him. I remember him looking at me with childlike innocence, telling me how much he loved coming to the camp to feel connected but how he knew it was only temporary. It’s hard to enjoy the sweet moments when you’re already grieving over them.

Over the week he only participated in one or two of the activities, but I knew he wasn’t there for them. Some of these clients have come to this camp over ten times. They’ve done the activities over and over. They’re there for the people – the connection. For the teary eyed conversations they’ve been needing. The understanding that can only come from those who had been, or are in a similar situation. They come for the guidance of a nurse or counsellor outside white walls or the emergency room. It is a powerful chance for people suffering mental health issues to dictate to health professionals on how best to address them, rather than the other way around. While it is a beautiful, transformative, healing, happy high point… it follows by a crash landing in the pit of contrast that is real life. Human connection can be incredibly difficult, especially for someone who is mentally ill.


With an open, honest heart and gentle treading, some people will unravel themselves to you within a week. Sometimes within a day. Surrendering to ones own emotional vulnerability encourages others to do the same. Now is the time to put that vulnerability into practice; if not with your best interests at heart, then with someone else’s.


In isolation, I have this enormous surplus of time. Fuck I’m grateful for it. Time for personal rest and revel. I sign up for a free online course on the science of well-being (highly recommend). I take comfort in neuroplasticity and make more effort to create conscious actions toward enhancing my wellbeing, eventually entrenching them into habit. I get to check in with the people I love and spend time with family that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I feel their warmth in the form of overloaded affection, honest conversations and Mum shoving her love language of food down my throat. 

I’ve moved to a quiet coastal town with the man I love. We’re not working. We wake when we please, drink coffee in dressing gowns and spend the days however we choose. A taste of retired life. We explore the coastline with the pup in tow. It’s bliss. We have uncomfortable conversations, the ones that highlight all our differences. Strangely, they’re my favourite conversations to have. And hey, we’ve got the time. He teaches me things. I don’t always like the things I learn. Vice versa. Then I learn that that’s okay and that it doesn’t mean our relationship is doomed. He shows me the space in between black and white. He helps me on my path of growth, even if it’s just correcting me on weird mannerisms I didn’t know I had. He is patient and understanding of my bouts of anxiety. With his gentle coaxing of my dubious heart, I’m learning that it’s okay to sometimes take refuge in another. At a time like this, I’m more grateful than ever for him and all his dad jokes.

I savour the connection I have with my friends. I don’t have many, but those I do have, I cherish. Even a two hour online catch up with a friend sister, who I’ve known since I was 4 years old. She’s honest, kind and supportive. Not to mention hilarious. She’s the kind of person you’d drop everything for if they needed you and you know they’d do the same in return.

I love taking time to reflect and be grateful for my life.

My thoughts sober and I think about T and his lack of friends. At times I really resonate with his loneliness. I think of the friends that have abandoned me in times of need or that have been lost in the throws of life. The hurt part of me hates them for it and begs for reasons. But it’s just life. It’s painful. I don’t understand their actions, but I forgive them.

Sometimes closure never comes, so you have to surrender to the unknown.

Alongside all this love I’m experiencing in a bizarre time, there is this terrible agony. I worry about people who don’t have this kind of support or love in their lives. People who are elderly, homeless, live alone or are mentally struggling. The ones who don’t reach out. How can I/we help them? I sign up for volunteering positions. It’s not enough. It remains a thought to be revisited. For us all to revisit, I hope.


For people like T, who are already isolated and alone in everyday, pre-covid life, this really could be a taste of hell.

With him in mind, find a way to show kindness to the people around you. Go out of your way for a chat and probe people to see how they are coping. Remember that while you’re feeling lonely, there are people out there that are a whole lot more emotionally isolated than you are. Maybe you can lessen that loneliness together.

From isolation, with love.

On the joy of being alone

I watch the morning light set her matted, curly ginger locks ablaze. Her and her sister swing their legs on their seats as they wait for their Dad to retrieve his morning coffee. People, with their people, filter in and out of my vision.

I feel alone.

I cop a lick to my ear and have another wet nose nudge my leg. I remind myself to be grateful – an attitude of gratefulness quickly quells a yearning heart.


With anxious energy abounds and a daily step count goal of 10,000 to reach, I threw the dogs in the back of my car and sped to the beach.

The horizon had the outline of the last remaining rays of the day, where the light arcs as it dissipates. If you look up, you feel like a wide-eyed guppy in a fishbowl. At first, I thought I must have seen a single firework, as a streak of clustered white light streamed through the sky. It was as if a hand of the universe plucked it out from behind my right ear and twirled it up into my peripherals. It was a glittering meteor. It fluttered for a moment, burning up as it skimmed across our atmosphere, finally finishing by sprinkling its stardust out into the universe somewhere. A wispy grey trail faintly water brushed through the sky lay as evidence against my imaginings. 

Magic.

I found myself instantly wanting to share it with someone. Someone just as encapsulated by the enigmas of the universe as I am. I knew just the person. But why? Could it not be beautiful enough that I witnessed this alone? It was a beautiful moment, in and of itself. It didn’t need external validation. But did I? 

Naturally, we long for and seek out connection of many varieties. We are communal creatures. We especially seek it when we have become accustom to it. I always had ‘my person’. At times where you desperately need the mental, emotional and physical intimacy to support you through a shit time, they serve as an emotional buffer. Now without that, the void is vast. But instead of trying to fill it with distraction, I’m diving headfirst into it. Sometimes with liberation and renewed spirit, other times with aching emptiness. All times with the same desire – to grow.

I’m attempting to unravel my psyche and pry apart my insecurities in a bid to really know myself and understand just how much I value myself without the interference of others; be it in words, human interaction, comments or likes. Delving into the darkness where fears of abandonment, loneliness and rejection lay in hungry wait. To my surprise, I’m very much the opposite of alone when it comes to feeling lonely.

According to the Australian Loneliness Report, 1 in 4 Australians are lonely and 1 in 2 Australians feel lonely for at least one day a week. Nearly 55% of the population feel they lack companionship ‘at least sometimes’. With a sample size of nearly 2000, I acknowledge that this is no overarching statistic to be applied to all, but it certainly highlights a growing disconnect. 

Being alone is terribly uncomfortable for some people. For others it’s freeing, like being sprawled naked in bed at 7:30pm on a Saturday night writing this. (FOMO can get fucked). Interestingly, loneliness as a social pain shares the same neural pathways as physical pain. That sickness in your stomach and tightness in your chest isn’t a figment of your imagination. Our bodies physically respond to our emotions. Google it if you don’t believe me, or listen to this lil morsel. 

Anyway, it’s a handy biological function when you think about it, collective knowledge has increased our chances of survival. So is this desire to connect, to validate our feelings and experiences, all just an extension of our biological conditioning? It’s almost as if that connection adds an unlanguageable ‘something’ that wasn’t otherwise there.

As we build relationships with people, patterns of human behaviour are logged in our brains and endorphins continue to be released as intimacy increases. Technology can aid us with things like video calls, to people we can’t be in physical contact with. This medium allows our brains to recognize that same eye contact and body language we experience in person, instigating a small injection of serotonin and oxytocin; chemically induced happiness. However, as a whole, social media necessarily circumvents this neural and emotional connection. You simply can’t substitute being with someone. 

When we are out experiencing something new and unknown, it seems more special for that newness to be shared. Social media is arguably our most significant example of this desire to share our lives with the world, while ironically disconnecting from the moment of real life itself. Endorphins are released when we are in the flesh with someone; conversing, absorbing their body language and gaze as a part of our dialogue. Check out this podcast; Look Up and Connect for some more inspiration to do so (science n shit). 

Sometimes it is hard to resist experiencing something without sharing it. Especially in a state of loneliness. Instant gratification, instant connection

We appreciate when we recognise parts of ourselves in others, the good parts at least. We also appreciate when others go out of their way to share personal moments with us. Beautiful little bonds between souls. Maybe it’s just another form of pattern recognition that we know will be appreciated and reflected by a certain someone. Maybe it’s just those biological survival skills resounding. Although, the reasoning may stem from a deeper place of vulnerability. From an unnerving crevice of our ego that begs to be fed the indulging words of others. The same place where our own appreciation appears not enough. 

Happiness is only real when shared.

Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild)

How you gauge your own personal loneliness meter I suppose really depends on how often you are without human interaction, while feeling as if you’d prefer the opposite. I’d argue that we often need to be alone, despite this feeling. In fact, especially when we feel these uncomfortable feelings. Whether that time is spent going for a walk, meditating or taking a small solo break somewhere, it allows us the mental/emotional spacetime to purge our thoughts without the interference of others. It pays to turn your phone off or drop off social media for a while. Unplug from the virtual world; take a nip hardening swim in the cold ocean, hike through the mountains, get scratches on your skin and feel the sun warm you from the outside in. Whatever conduit for change and growth you choose – use it to seek clarity and acknowledge just how grateful you are for the basic comforts you have been afforded in life. There will always be persons greater and lesser than yourself. Be grateful for the people and relationships you have cultivated and acknowledge where they need tending. 

So then, where does the equilibrium between a healthy relationship of independence and co-dependence, or isolation and socialisation exist? I spent nearly the entirety of ages 13-23 in two different relationships… maybe I’m not qualified to answer that question. All I know is this: 

There is love to be found in everyone you meet and everything you do. Time spent in love, of any and all forms, is never time wasted. Yet, there is only one person that you can ever rely on to show up for you when shit just gets a bit fucked. 

You.