I have said it several times here in this blog, and I will say it again today - loneliness is without a doubt my biggest trigger. But I'm talking loneliness in a much deeper sense than my forever single status. Yes, I have friends, a loving family, and am surrounded by 30,000 students everyday on campus; however, I still find myself with a void in my heart at the end of the day.
After speaking with a friend and doing a little reading on this topic, I think I am beginning to understand where this loneliness is coming from. In the article, Epidemic of Loneliness, loneliness is described as a lack of connection with those around us. Oftentimes we view loneliness as a personal weakness or inability to interact with others, but that is not the case at all.
In another article sent to me by a good friend, Understanding the Pain of Abandonment, toxic shame surfaces when physical or emotional abandonment occurs in our early childhood years. Physical abdandonment, for example, takes place when a child's parents are physically disconnected. If the parents are constantly working or if there is any type of abuse present, a child might constantly feel abandoned and carry those feelings of loneliness with them throughout their entire lives.
Emotional abandonment takes place when the child begins to feel like they need to hide a part of themselves in order to please their parents. For me, this one really hit home. At a very young age I developed a belief that I needed to be a star athlete because my dad was. I also have a different personality than most of my family members, so I never felt like I fit in (as irrational as that might be). Over the years, I internalized all of these personality differences as something "bad" or "wrong," which left me feeling disconnected and alone.
Other acts of abandonment occur when children do not feel like they can live up to their parents expectations, children are taught it's not okay to make mistakes or show emotion, and when successes are not acknowledged. When our needs are not met as young children, those feelings of rejection can stick with us through adulthood causing this chronic loneliness.
To make things worse, now that I am in recovery, I often find myself upset that nobody around me understands my illness. Heck, I don't even understand it most of the time, so how can I expect others to? When I get caught up in distorted thinking, I tend to feel completely alone with these massive issues that seem completely irrational to others. Recovery can be a lonely place.
The good news is, however, I am finally starting to believe this loneliness stuff might not be my fault. There are some deeply rooted issues from my childhood that I have recently begun addressing. I think it's also important for me to mention that I grew up in a wonderful, loving household. My parents did everything right. I was just born with certain anxiety related personality traits that, unfortunately, made me more susceptible to disordered thinking.
Recently I have been extremely hard on myself and have let my loneliness get the best of me. Yes, I often do feel alone in recovery, but that does not make me unlovable. My loneliness is deeply seeded, but I have found with a little work, it can be improved. This week my goal is to take some time each day, even if it's only fifteen minutes, to do something that fulfills me. Just like I schedule time to do school work, practicing a little self-love is also a necessity.
I might have quite a few more issues to sort out before this feeling of loneliness is lifted, but at least I have found a starting point. It's exciting to think my biggest trigger is not my fault. In fact, it might even be perfectly normal to feel the way I am feeling. No more shame; it's time to understand loneliness for what it is rather than viewing it as a character flaw.