Surrounded by people, and feeling so alone

Zoom quizzes, MS Teams meetings, socially distant walks, Watch Parties, online Bookclubs. You name it, I’ve done it.

The last 12 months have certainly changed the way that we socialise. Technology has blessed us with an ability to stay in touch with loved ones during the pandemic. So why is it that I can put my make-up on for five Zoom calls a week and still feel desperately lonely?

I am a teacher, at the high school in South London. I’ve been a teacher for the last eight years, and being a teacher has, is and always will be a very strong part of my identity. We all find identity in something. Whether that is out career, our family, our faith, or our hobbies.

Not being able to teach in the way I want at the moment, is making me feel like I have completely lost my identity, and this is leading to feelings of intense anxiety and loneliness.

I have the most wonderful friends, and they reach out to me all the time – “God Pippa, how’s online teaching going, it must be so stressful!?” Yes – it is. You hit the nail on the head. Who ever said working from home is “relaxing” was sorely mistaken.

And we’re all feeling it. The more I have read around this topic. The more I have come to realise that the topic of loneliness is so common amongst people yet so rarely spoken about.

Loneliness is cold, sad feeling. It’s like hunger, only in your mind. Just as your stomach rumbles when you need food, loneliness could be you mind telling you you need meaningful connection.

Of course, just because you are alone, doesn’t mean that you are lonely, and just because you are surrounded by people doesn’t mean that you can’t be lonely. In fact, feeling lonely, when you’re surrounded by people is the worst kind of lonely.

During the lockdown I have been fortunate to live with my mother, brother and brother’s finance. Despite being surrounded by three people who adore me, I’ve really never felt more alone.

I think we’d all like to be these strong independent people who don’t need anyone or anything to make them feel fabulous. I have always desperately tried to appear like I am a sassy independent lady who needs no one and is coping fine. We’d never like to admit that we feel alone.

However. The truth will set you free.

Lockdown is still lockdown. I’m still at home, and teaching online. However, I have verbalised to my family and friends how I am feeling.

  • Working from home and teaching online has made me feel like I’ve lost my identity, and this is stressful.
  • I’m moving out soon into my first home, and that makes me feel anxious.
  • I’m a recovering alcoholic, and that is overwhelming.
  • And of course, like everyone else, the global pandemic makes me feel sad.

Simply saying these things out loud has made me feel less alone! I am my biggest critic. I am proud, stubborn and never ever want to admit defeat or failure. I kept these feelings to myself for weeks/months, making me feel more isolated.

If you are struggling with feelings of loneliness or sadness, tell someone. I promise you that saying it out loud will stop you from feeling so alone. It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you a loser, and it doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you real. Being vulnerable is hard. It absolutely pains me to be vulnerable. But in the long run, it has helped me to feel less alone.

Words by: Pippa Head

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