loneliness.

I’ve been listening to Radio 2 a lot this week whilst I’ve been commuting and travelling to meetings.

They are using this week to highlight loneliness, and to explore what it is exactly that is causing this silent epidemic that seems to be gripping so many British adults these days.

The theme has really struck a chord with me, as loneliness is a feeling that I’m all too familiar with, sadly – a feeling that I first experienced when I started University back in 2002.

I had gone from a small town in Lancashire, where I’d spent the past 7 years with pretty much the same people every day of my life to the comparatively huge city of Liverpool where I knew no one and felt like a complete fish out of water.

I felt so lost that my friends could have been a million miles away (they were actually just in Lancaster and Leeds – but still!). I felt like I’d been dumped on Mars and there was no one I could talk to. My flatmates were lovely – they really were. But they weren’t my friends and I wasn’t at home.

I spent my days wondering if I’d made the right decision and my nights wondering why I didn’t feel like going out like everyone else did. Everyone else was having a great time, they were making loads of new friends, they were brilliant. Was I an oddball? Why couldn’t I enjoy myself? Why couldn’t I make any friends? I decided that it just wasn’t for me. The loneliness I felt, even in a crowded room, used to swallow me up and I would often cry myself to sleep.

How I got through those first six months I don’t really know (my poor mother’s phone bill must have been huge!). But I did get through it, and after that first Christmas I snapped myself out of it and I started going out and having fun. Making a real effort. Making friends on my course and getting to know my flatmates – who I was certain thought I was a complete weirdo by that point, but who made me laugh and helped me overcome my loneliness.

One thing I often regret is not talking to anyone about how I felt back then. I kept lots of things to myself and I think that probably stopped me making friends more than anything else.

I often think that, because I didn’t really talk to people much, they must have thought I was such a moody sod. That I didn’t want to join in or that I was boring (reality hits: perhaps I was!). When really, all I wanted was someone to talk to me properly. To laugh with me and to be my friend.

It was good to hear on one of Jeremy Vine‘s show’s this week that I wasn’t alone in how I felt back then. So many students go through the same thing. We didn’t have Social Media back then (just MSN Messenger and some crazy new fangled website called MySpace!) so keeping in touch with friends was much more difficult than it is now – but I caught trains and traveled all over the country to catch up and re-connect whenever possible. And it was like we’d never been away from each other. Loneliness gone. 

I’m thankful now that I can say that I haven’t really experienced loneliness on that level since those early days of University.

There have been times, especially in those long winter months after having Ruby (being at home all day with a baby, no adult company and no family or friends close by to call on or help out), when it all became a little too much and loneliness began to creep in again…but that’s when I would get out, send a message to one of my new NCT group friends and head out for cake.

Glorious cake! Cake solves lots of problems.

I was still lonely (almost 1/4 of first-time mothers in the UK admit that they feel lonely after having a baby), and there were days when it was really difficult but the difference this time was that I talked to people about how I was feeling – I spoke to people who told me that they felt the same!

And a problem shared became a problem halved, literally.

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So…I guess what I am trying to say is that feeling lonely does not make you unusual. This week has definitely taught me that. Finally. After all these years.

No one should ever feel like they can’t admit that they feel lonely.

And what I want you to know is that if you ever feel lonely, let me know and we’ll sort that right out!

 

 

 

 

friendship.

I sent the message on a Saturday at 6.45am, apologising for sending it so early.

We’re nearly all mothers now, so really I have no idea why I apologised for sending a message so early. I knew full well that the majority of them would already be awake, but you know, I was probably trying to be polite! 

I was asking them for a photo of themselves.

A photo that captures who they are.

A photo of each one of the most special people that I am lucky enough to call my friends**

Friendship is a wonderful thing, isn’t it!?

I’m so lucky to have found so many great friends throughout my life…and to still have them now, after so many years.

I’ve had to call on my friends so much recently. Their input and their ears have been invaluable during what has been a really difficult few years, and I value their friendship more now than ever – so I wanted to celebrate them!

I love that I still have friends that were my friends at primary school and that, even though I now live so far away from them (and hardly ever see them), they are still my friends and I know that if I ever needed them they would be there.

St. Wilfrid’s CE High School brought me some of the best friends I will ever have. 7 years is a long time to get to know people – the highs and lows of teenage life brings fights and fall-outs, but these were some of the most fun and best years of my life. The common room that no longer exists was where I found myself, and where I cemented friendships that will last forever more…

University found more friends coming on board, very few of them are still in my life but thanks to the wonders of Facebook and Instagram I can see what they’re up to and it’s lovely to share in their moments of joy and pride…

And then there was Vauxhall. The best year of my life.
Friends…laughter…hangovers…work experience…debt…hangovers…
And the joy of that year still lightens my mood at even the darkest of times.

Because that’s what friendship is. And that’s what it does to you.

What is the saying, “There are some people in life that make you laugh a little louder, smile a little bigger, and live just a little better”?

And that couldn’t be more true…

Hiding me from teachers in the common room…Eating bacon sarnies on break time…Eating so many Chupa Chups you think you might be sick…Singing to Bryan Adams waaaaaay too loud…Carrying me home after one too many…Laughing so hard it feels like your sides will split…Shooting down water slides in Gran Canaria…Calming me down in my angry moments…Listening to my hurts and making them better…Holding my babies and loving them so much…

And now, my work friends that have become so, so much more than just colleagues, and my fabulous, wonderful, amazing Mummy friends that keep me sane, invite us round for play dates that involve cake and Prosecco, take me out to the cinema to watch Bridget Jones, join me for cocktails and talk and talk and laugh and laugh until closing time…

To all my friends, near and far, thankyou.

Life without you all in it, in all your various shapes and sizes would be that much more difficult.

Thankyou for the fun.
Thankyou for the laughter.
Thankyou for being you.

Always.

What are your best friendship memories? I would love to hear them in the comments!

Speak soon, x

**I haven’t actually used any of the photos that they sent to me in this blog post – I have instead used far more embarrassing ones. That’s just how I roll!