I suffer from a condition I call Low-Grade Loneliness (LGL). I call it this because it lies just below the surface. It is not a full-blown fever of despair and loneliness like many people experience, but is enough to make me feel not quite right. It is a confusing condition for me because my life is a garden in full bloom with friends and loved ones who love me very, very well. And yet in the colorful, vibrant garden, the loneliness persists.
LGL is the reason I was drawn to reading books as a child and into adulthood and why some of those books' characters feel like friends I like to revisit again and again. I escaped into stories when I didn't have a name for this affliction.
Then social media came along. Facebook connected me with the people who live far away—Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Australia, France, and Colombia. For a long time, this online connection helped to ease the ache. It felt so good to see photos of my friends' children, to read what they were doing in their every day lives, and to share my own details. It has become a less-effective aid lately. Often, checking in online makes the temperature of this LGL raise.
When I am particularly susceptible to the LGL, I feel clingy and needy, which only serve to make me feel worse. I don't like the feeling of putting people out or being a drain on their energy. In these moments I am also sensitive to feelings of rejection.
While labels can be a bad thing, box people in, and be limiting, they can also serve as lightbulbs shining light on dark places. Calling this feeling I have Low Grade Loneliness makes it concrete and puts me in a position to seek out approaches for solving or at least easing the ache.
These strategies combined—some new, some long-used—are making a difference. I am:
*accepting that LGL is a part of who I am.
*no longer trying to mask it or make it go away.
*sitting quietly in these moments when LGL spikes. I self-soothe by reminding myself that I am okay, everything will be okay, and the moments of excruciating loneliness will pass.
*remembering to keep breathing.
*learning more effectively the times when I need to reach out to other people and the times when it's best to cope on my own.
*learning the healthy balance between the benefits of activity and rest and choosing which moments call for which one.
*practicing acts of random kindness.
*keeping perspective. Loneliness is worse for people who are not well connected. I have an incredible network.
*Breaking my routines. One recent Sunday I opted to skip church. I am there every Sunday unless I'm sick or out of town. Taking a Sabbath from my Sabbath helped me to rest and relax and rejuvenated me to return the following week. I was excited to see my people again.
*Journaling (I consider this different from writing listed above. Journaling isn't seen by anyone but me, and my writing I plan to publish on my blog or elsewhere.)
*being intentional about having fun and finding things that will make me laugh.
*spending less time on Facebook.
*making appointments with my counselor.
Another side effect of LGL is feeling weak or broken. The strategies listed above work really well in helping me feel strong and healthy. While they don't make LGL completely disappear, I am much better able to cope with these tools in my tool box.