My encounter with loneliness was like an accident on the road. It really hit me hard. The suffering after the leaving’ was sudden, unexpected and shocking. Was something broken? Was I alive? I didn’t care. The hurt was unbearable. Here is how I survived and thrived these five phases of loneliness and eventually turned into a compulsive optimist.
“Dearest Diksha, these mixed emotions are only to be expected. It is natural that you would still feel love for and miss people who were maybe not good to you or for you. It must feel like losing a pair of limbs, even if they were limbs that had been the source of much pain.”
This was a letter of condolence I received from a dear friend after I lost my father in the year 2016. It is hard to explain the exact moment when I actually lost him in my life, before he died. It takes so much courage from every nerve of my body to share the experience of this loss. Today, the happiness that I have in my eyes just by experiencing a few drops of rain outside this quaint cafe is giving me the courage to write this. Did I ever feel thankful for something as simple as rain till five years back? If you have ever embraced loss in your life closely, you will know what I am talking about. Any breath of fresh air after a major loss is a gift. Similarly, my life and existence became a gift after a series of losses – it was a significant part of what I called family, some built-up finances, a romantic relationship and eventually it was an accidental loss of a professional creative project that was distracting me from all the problems I wanted to ignore. There is a reason why I am mentioning how losing all important possessions and cushions at the same time was going to lead to a learning experience full of pain, agony and eventually revival.
My father’s loss made me realize how I was dealing with loss in all aspects of life and what I was doing wrong. It was my inflexion point in life which reflected the entire 28 years of my life in front of me. I never got to have the last conversation with him and the closure of our disagreements never happened. A person I thought I was never close to, left me with so much loneliness. Strange! Probably, the feeling that I was not closing other losses that had occurred in my life: betrayal from past love, an unfulfilled professional dream, a fight with my childhood friend? It was all in front of me on a big canvas.
With time and travelling the world, I now realise how unequipped Indian adults are to deal with loss and loneliness. This is probably the first generation living away from families from a very young age, choosing their life-partners without the interference of family, having the courage to follow their own dream careers and we have a lot of young women who are changing stereotypes. The repercussions of these choices often lead to isolation from the traditional idea of a community or society which could be one of the most evident root causes for depression. The WHO estimates that 20% of Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime. Another survey, the National Mental Health Survey in India (2015- 16) has estimated that only about 10-12% of people suffering from depression in India get treated. I was fortunate to not be in the 20% estimate of WHO, but I do believe that my fight with loneliness saved me at the right time.
My encounter with loneliness was like an accident on the road. It really hit me hard.
The suffering after the leaving’ was sudden, unexpected and shocking.
Was something broken? Was I alive? I didn’t care. The hurt was unbearable.
The sorrow of separation often leads one to a desperation to be healed. Mistakenly, the focus we then have is to find a healer. The little innocent fools that we are, we often look for the healer in the person who has hurt us, given us the agony. The same person who hit us on the road. He/she would have stopped if he/she had to. The truth is that the car hit us and moved on its own journey. Do we still keep lying on that road bleeding and waiting for another person to come and rescue us? Of course not. We would bleed to death. One must realise that is only a part of us that is bleeding. There is still the will to stand up and walk. Hold the wound and move on.
Let’s keep the road accident example aside for some time and talk about realism.
The first encounter with ensuing loneliness is never easy. Licking your own wound and finding a way to heal it yourself is even tougher. But the great teacher loneliness shows the way, the hard way of course. Loneliness is abstract but the pain is painfully concrete. The first few days when you start to be with yourself than others, it only reminds you of the past, the beautiful memories. The times when you were surrounded by loved ones.
“How beautiful was when I had them in my life.”
“How lovely my days were when ……….”
The mind rambles in the burden of the past and enjoys the toxic memories. Desperation points its ugly finger towards oblivion.
The second phase of loneliness teaches you to look for a purpose to replace the vacuum. What is it? Think hard. I am sure you will find something. Deepak Chopra in his book The Spontaneous Fulfilment of Desire says that there is one thing in our life which we can do better than others, probably anybody else in this world. We all are here on this planet to discover this talent, this purpose. For some it could be helping others, for others, it could writing, painting, or even as simple as cleaning your surroundings. I truly believe that only loneliness can introduce you to that one talent. I am not sure If I have already discovered it, but I feel I am getting closer each day.
The third phase of loneliness teaches you to release the fictional healer. You stop expecting any help from him/her. Your friends, family with their clichés and consolations and pearls of wisdom fade away. You face the harsh reality that you are the only player in your own game. The bowler, the batsman, the wicketkeeper- it’s all you. But the good news is that you are the boss of your game. The work has to happen inside you before you could invite any healer. The healer is just a bonus in the game, perhaps a reward. The reward which you will receive only once you do all the work that is needed on you.
The fourth phase starts when the memories of the past start fading away and it brings you into the present. Closer to your purpose. Most self-help books including You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay tell us that we need to forgive people from the past to be in the present. But it is easier said than done. The more you try to forgive them, the more you remember how badly they had hurt you. But trust me, keep trying to forgive is the only option. It will be something like a wiper working on the front glass of your car on a rainy day. It rains, you wipe it. It rains, you wipe again. You keep repeating until it stops raining. It will stop someday. Because it cannot rain forever, in any part of the world. There is no city in the world where it never stops raining.
The fifth and the most beautiful phase of loneliness is when the initial hard-hitting pain is over, you are even closer to a purpose, the memories of the past have faded and you have finally accepted the present. There is no wait for a healer. He/she will only be a pleasant surprise when you receive it. In this phase, you gradually started endearing loneliness.
It’s a strange feeling when you feel that your bones have just gotten stronger after a surgery you had to go through due to a road accident.