Content warning: this article contains a reference to suicide.
I've had big periods of loneliness over the past few years. Surprisingly, it wasn't due to COVID. One of the worst periods was after my best friend passed away in June 2021. She died by suicide at 23 years old. The month following, leading up to her funeral, was incredibly isolating. It's not common to lose your best friend at 21. People didn't know how to talk to me, how to console me. I heard phrases like "it’s selfish of her" or "look at all the people she left behind" and I would shut down. It felt like people were blaming her and I spent so much of the little energy I had defending her. People would say they were sorry for my loss, but I know they weren't saying it for my benefit. I felt so angry at the world, not because of my best friends actions, but the response from others.
I already suffered from mental health issues (something she and I shared) so I decided that after a 10-month break, I would return to therapy. I needed professional help to process this event, rather than internalising it and risking having a breakdown in the future. It made a big difference to have somebody listening to how I felt without judgement. I still feel lonely sometimes, on big dates like my graduation or my birthday, but I don't have pent-up resentment or anger anymore.
I have also felt lonelier since I moved counties. Being a long drive from friends has been difficult. I knew my loneliness this time was a social thing - I wanted to go out and enjoy activities and make friends, rather than just have a person to talk to. I decided to head to Facebook in search. I joined the local community group, made a post about my situation and my interests and, amazingly, I had 40+ comments of women around my age feeling the same. People who had recently moved to the area and didn't know anybody. We now have a group chat of about 20 women, and we regularly get coffee and go for drinks. We are even going pottery painting this month. It's helped to have some people locally who I can meet up with.
If you have feelings of loneliness or isolation, please don't think you have to get through it alone. Whether it's getting in touch with your friends and family, meeting with a professional (such as a counsellor or doctor) or researching self-help tips on the internet- the best thing you can do for yourself is reach out. If I didn't get proactive to change my loneliness when I did, I know my mental health would have spiralled and become unmanageable.
As a University of London student, you can access resources on the Wellbeing page on the Student Portal.
Editor’s note: If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please seek advice from a healthcare professional and know that you can join TalkCampus where you can receive mental health support and access to a crisis support line if you need urgent assistance.