After watching the famous shower scene in Psycho, even the most stoic of us can feel a bit dubious the next time you step into yours. But when you’re lonely and hiding pain from the world, sometimes that shower is the only place where your secrets are allowed to emerge. And it can be where you cry the tears no one else is allowed to see.
Loneliness. Fear. Confusion. Feelings that some rarely allow anyone else to see. And if you happened to ask them, “Do you ever feel lonely?’
“What do you mean lonely? Gosh no. My life is so busy, I don’t have time for that.”
Maybe you’ve become accustomed to loneliness. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself you prefer it. Maybe you believe that self-care is selfish, that life feels far safer to focus on what others need or expect from you.
You give. The world receives. And you remain unknown, in denial about what your life could be, or what you’re missing. When you wake up in the morning, you’re already thinking about what you need to get done that day– and you may have convinced yourself that that’s okay or even noble.
But you don’t have real connection. You’re missing being known. You’re missing leaning on someone else.
No one is nurturing you. And eventually… that can feel very lonely, tiring, and endless.
It doesn’t have to be. You can turn this tendency around by opening up to others and admitting that your world isn’t as perfect as it may seem. How to you begin to do this?
It isn’t easy.
Yet neither is loneliness. And the latter can lead to an ever-increasing darkness.
Three realizations about the power of loneliness…
1) Consider yourself in the same light you consider others.
Would you tell someone else that their feelings aren’t important? Or that it is better to shoulder immense responsibility alone, without ever talking about the difficulty of it?
When you stop and ask yourself these questions, the answer is clear. You would tell someone else that they need support — that you don’t get water out of an empty jug.
So look in the mirror, and remind yourself that you deserve the same understanding, compassion, and love that you would want others to have. If you don’t know how to begin this conversation, it’s okay. You can start slowly, with a trusted friend or therapist, to be more vulnerable.
2) Be honest with yourself about how the pressure you feel is emerging in your life.
Perhaps you’re secretly drinking more or taking more Xanax. You may be restricting what you eat, over-exercising, or having panic attacks. Your anxiety is rising and you’re trying to escape.
Let’s say you get a promotion at work. You know you should be happy about it, but all you can do is obsess about the new things that you’ll be asked to do. You feel caught off-guard, afraid that you’ll be inadequate and seem out of control, one of your greatest fears. Your more rational self knows that others won’t expect perfection — that anyone will warrant a learning curve. But you don’t know how to be anything but perfect – and that continuing pressure can seek a way of secretly escaping.
It’s like being on a treadmill, but you’re not in control of its speed or incline. And you don’t know how to get off.
3) Realize the real danger of this pressure — your loneliness could lead you to suicidal thoughts.
It’s hard to deny suicidal thoughts when they’re in your head. You can try to push them away, but somehow you begin to rationalize that the struggle is too hard — that others would be fine without you. The need for this pressure to end can grow more and more potent. Hopefully, these thoughts would scare you, and lead you to finally reach out to someone – and ask for help.
And yet, that is one of the hardest things for you to do.
You can risk someone knowing who you really are, and how you really feel. But you have to admit, first, that you are lonely. and lost. Why? Because that loneliness and exhaustion can lead to suicidal thinking.
You may love your children intensely. You may work very hard at your job. Others know you as happy, successful, and there for them.
Please do for you — what you would do for them. You have the power to get off the treadmill after all.
And that power lies in asking for help, in letting someone see you and your struggle. And… in admitting it to yourself.
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
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Originally published on May 22, 2016 and updated on June 30, 2019 and then again on November 3, 2022.
Photo by Pixabay.