Loneliness and isolation are familiar states to most of us. I often protected my insecurities of being sick by hiding out, believing that I’d survive if others didn’t know how sick I really was. But I discovered that my insecurities multiplied and only made things worse.
Loneliness is something inside us. It’s not caused by other people’s behavior, though what others do may let us know we are feeling lonely. We have all experienced being alone and really enjoying it- walking by the river or singing a song we like. Feeling lonely is when we feel like nobody cares about us or wants to be with us, so why is it something like cancer that causes such an empty void?
We can’t obliterate loneliness. But we can learn to accept and deal with it. There is no need to compulsively cover all traces and all reminders that we are alone. We can accept this universal truth. We are alone, but so is everybody. We can make true contact with each other out of our aloneness. True intimacy with another man or woman comes out of first seeing our separateness, and then bridging the gap.
The loneliest part of cancer for me was thinking that I was completely alone and not that no one knew what I was going through, but in truth that no one wanted to know what I was going through. It took me a while but I learned that the true remedy is people – talking to people, exposing our insecurities to them, risking, risking, risking.
Sharing our mutual vulnerabilities helps us see how fully alike we are. My most hated shortcoming is not unique I learned, and that brought so much relief. It’s so easy to feel utterly shamed in isolation. Hearing another person say, and truly mean, “I understand,” lifts the shame, the dread, and the burden of silence I learned secrets make us even more sick sick, and the longer we protect them, the greater are our struggles.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to feel lonely and know that we are okay no matter what we are feeling. Other times it may be wise to check with others if our feelings are true. We can ask our mother if she cares about us or ask a friend if he wants to play, and be open to the answer. When we feel lonely, we often ignore what others do or say that doesn’t agree with what we believe to be true. The important thing to remember is that we are okay no matter what choice we make.