I had a lonely childhood.
Not necessarily physically or even when it came down to friendships. I was reasonably social, making friends at school and church. I was involved in extracurricular programs and my youth ministry. But emotionally, I felt distant and alone in many ways.
I think the source of most of this loneliness was some serious perfectionism that made me feel isolated and detached. I always thought I had to prove something to my parents, my teachers, and even my friends. I felt pressure to perform, to excel, to make a name for myself.
This perfectionism made me feel like I could not show any flaws, I could not seek any help. It made me feel trapped and emotionally stunted. I had to always be happy, to always have a smile on my face. People could not know any doubts or fears or insecurities I had. That would make me look weak and broken. And I was neither of those things.
I’m a recovering perfectionist.
It was not until my twenties and my bipolar diagnosis that I started to come to terms with my perfectionism, isolation, and anxiety. My sweet therapist, Chelsey, and I broke down some walls that I spent my whole life building. We discussed how I refuse to feel, refused to admit that it was okay to not be okay (a new, profound realization).
During our sessions we discussed my lonely childhood and how it impacted me, how it instilled some damaging thoughts and habits in my present-day self. We worked on addressing my feelings and allowing myself to “sit” in them–to fully feel in the moment, no matter the emotion.
“Loneliness is cured by connection.”
That is what I heard in Brene Brown’s podcast the other day. It really hit home for me, because I know it to be true.
I felt awfully lonely when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had just moved back to Dallas after studying in Waco, and I felt like I didn’t know a soul. And on top of that, I was still wrestling with some perfectionist tendencies.
But these days, I feel awfully loved. I have a community of supporters, a village of kind folks who love and encourage and push me. They are here when I am sad, here when I am happy, and here for every feeling in-between.
These days, I reach out to someone when I feel like I’m isolating.
It is a new habit that’s taken plenty of practice and time to accustom myself to. And it can be very humbling asking for help, prayer, or guidance. But it is so good for my soul to connect with others to prevent feelings of loneliness.
Here is my call to action:
If you are ever feeling lonely, I encourage you to ask yourself why and where it comes from. Acknowledge your feeling and tell yourself it is okay, it is human to feel this way.
Then reach out to a friend, family member, or loved one and ask for exactly what you need: their presence, their prayer, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help, don’t be afraid to look weak–loneliness is not a symptom of weakness, but a by product of humanity.