I hate being lonely. I hate being alone. I am the type of girl who has friends spend the night when my husband is out of town and can’t stay in my house alone for more than a few hours. (Confession: the first time I stayed somewhere overnight by myself, I didn’t sleep because I was so scared. I watched TV all night.) I sit at school to do my homework in the afternoons so I don’t have to sit in an empty house. I make choices to be with people as much as I can because then I’m not alone. Maybe it’s my personality, maybe it’s that I’m an extrovert, or some combination of all of it – but regardless, I hate being alone.
However, what I have found is that my constant desire to be around people does not translate into avoiding loneliness. In fact, sometimes being in a crowd of people makes me feel more lonely than when I’m alone. What we see on the outside and in public is not always reflective of the inside. It is one thing to be in a group of people or near others all the time, but it is another to be truly with people. There is a saying that floats in and out of my Facebook newsfeed that says something about “being alone in a crowd of people” – and that hints a the type of loneliness we often feel but don’t always talk about.
I have learned that living with GAD and ADHD already puts me in a world that others don’t often understand. I get lost in my own head and can easily feel alone – alone because no one thinks like me, no one acts like me, and no one gets the way that my life works. When I feel misunderstood or criticized, I shrink back into myself and create a world that is only big enough for me. I can be in the middle of a crowded room and be a world away at the same time – and I’m told that a lot of people feel like this! I don’t know what happens in your own head, but I wonder if it’s similar to what happens in mine. We all work in completely different ways – and that makes us unique and wonderful, but also makes us feel alone and different.
I’ve had a few different times in the past week where I was with people but also completely alone. All were very different, but shared something in common: I was physically present but mentally alone. I was walking through a crowded store, I was sitting in our school atrium doing homework, I was with my family, I was at work sitting at the front desk, I was sitting in class…yet I felt alone. It’s a funny thing, really. I think that loneliness is one of the most heartbreaking emotions that humans are capable of…and yet, it’s also one of the most beautiful times that we can have.
Let me explain: when I have blank space in my head or am feeling lonely, I need to talk or sing or something – anything to get my brain moving again. When I am lonely, I don’t have someone to talk to or anything like that, and so my brain is left to find it’s own thing to fill the void that I feel. Sometimes, that’s not good – I get to worrying or daydreaming or planning and I end up overwhelming myself. But sometimes, it can be a beautiful moment, because I can switch into a time of prayer or worship. It can be a time to sit and be still, and to rest and recharge. Because when we are alone, we are not truly alone – we always have Someone there with us, waiting to talk and listen and hold out His arms for us.
I am not trying to sugarcoat loneliness – it is not fun, and probably is my least favorite feeling in the world. What I am trying to say is that in a moment of heartache and feeling alone, it’s important to remember that we aren’t actually alone. We might be physically alone, but we are never ever EVER spiritually alone. That is one of the most beautiful things about our faith and our relationship with Christ – within that relationship, there is something that grab holds and never lets go. It’s having a best friend that goes everywhere with you, someone that can be reached at anytime and in any place, regardless of cell phone service or internet connection or physical location. It’s still loneliness, yes, and it still stinks – but maybe it doesn’t have to. We were not created to be alone, and we aren’t ever truly alone.
I know that in the moments where we feel the most down and the most empty, God is there. That is why I look to Him and Him alone in the times of loneliness, because I know that I will experience God there. I know that my experiences with Him there will be in a different way and in a stronger way than I can find on the good days or even in the normal days. I still will hate being alone, and I doubt that my fear of it will ever go away – but what I do know is that in the times where I am scared and lonely, my God will show up. He has every day so far, and I don’t think He will stop anytime soon.