This week from June 17th – 21st is Loneliness Awareness Week. This was started by the Marmalade Trust three years ago and this year’s theme is to reduce the stigma around loneliness.
So I want to start with talking about how loneliness has affected me as a young adult.
In 2017, aged 20, I made the decision to move across the country for university along with my boyfriend. We moved to the city where his university was and I made the decision to commute to my uni from there. This was closer to my uni than at home and I had commuted to college every day so I didn’t think it would be too hard. I also had to move jobs when I moved cities, thankfully I managed to stay with the same company but I moved from a small store to a supermarket. These decisions are important as they contributed to what happened.
At university, I struggled to make friends. It was a big university with around 500-600 people in lectures, sometimes the lectures had to be run twice that day so everyone could attend. Each class I had for each subject had different people in it. It was hard to recognize people and most people stuck with their flatmates. I figured it would be okay as I wasn’t spending too much time at uni and I was more interested in making friends in the city that I lived in. I did hope to do this through work as I was quite close to the people I worked with at home. However, when I moved to a supermarket I was in a department where I was heavily on my own. I barely spoke to anyone for the whole shift and it just didn’t work out the way I hoped.
Working in retail also hindered my relationships at home. I was working weekends when most of my family and friends worked Monday – Friday. I felt like I only spoke to Nick and my Mum. As much as I love them it wasn’t easy.
My mental health began to fall. I went from being a really sociable person to not knowing how to talk to people and wondering why at 20 I couldn’t make friends.
I failed my first year at uni and began to dread going to work. This was when I decided something had to change.
I opted to change everything in my life. I transferred to a university within the city I was living in and I moved jobs. This was pretty drastic but it ended up for the better.
My new uni is much smaller classes, there are 40 people in my year on my course. I know my classmates on a name basis, my lecturers know my name and it’s full of constant group work so we get to know everyone.
Moving jobs also worked out for the better. I ended up in a department where I constantly spoke with other people and although I no longer work there I have made friends with girls that I still talk to and meet up with.
Although drastic this was necessary for my mental health. Loneliness can be debilitating and it can be embarrassing to admit that yes I am only in my early 20’s but I’m lonely.
Of course, I still had friends from back home that I now make more effort to spend time with. I now go and get my nails done every month with my bestie and we go for lunch afterward. It means that if we don’t see each other we still have that one specific date each month.
People often assume that it is only the elderly that get lonely when actually a study in 2018 found that 40% of those aged 16-24 felt lonely often or very often compared to 29% of those aged 65-74.
Loneliness is something that we can change. It doesn’t need to be as drastic as my experience of changing everything within your life, it could just be reaching out to someone you love and trust and saying ‘hey can we go for a coffee?’
If you are experiencing loneliness you can find all of the events that are running throughout the week here! There are events all across the country. If you are struggling Marmalade have a few tips on their website on how to process feeling lonely which I have linked here.
And if you aren’t feeling lonely and maybe just want to volunteer you can find out more here!
Have you ever experienced loneliness? Do you have any tips on how to combat it?