I’ll tell you a story.
Last night I spent more than three hours on WhatsApp video call with a friend who has reached her wits end and was contemplating taking a long rest away from this world which she feels doesn’t care about her anymore.
Italian, early thirties and a successful Barrister who lives in a big house. On the outside, one would say she’s got it together.
She moved to London about seven years ago and that’s when I met her at a sidebar in London Bridge. Always wanted to settle and share her life with a good fella.
Three years ago, she met this guy and shortly afterwards they got married and to us, she looked happy and felt fulfilled.
I had known her as a happy, fun-loving girl, loved the outdoors and walks. Enjoyed solo travels. She would frequently hop on a plane to a location she’d never been to, always with her paperbacks. She thoroughly enjoyed the Al fresco lifestyle, dining and sipping her cocktails as people walked around. She could do all these because she was without child, and by choice.
Couple of years ago, her marriage ended and her fella moved out. Shaken and distraught by the break-up, she decided to take time off her practice. This impacted on friendships and her mental health. Suffering with depression, she refused for so long to interact with people she knew, as she felt she had failed as a wife. Words were never enough to console her and get her to accept that marriages do fail. Mine did. Twice!!!
In coping with the marriage breakdown, travel became her companion!!
Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit and with it, the lockdown!!
Single, solitary and unable to travel or live the life that gave her meaning, she had become a complete shell of herself. One far removed from a recluse existence, she found the adjustment particularly hard hitting!! I had not heard from her for the last two years, until last night.
She looked and sounded completely broken. Her mental health was on knife edge. She was almost losing her mind and sleep had completely deserted her, like many have had to also endure lately.
She had never returned to full-time practice, kept away from old friends due to shame and guilt. Last night I had to encourage her to take the great weekend weather and go out, take long walks, hang out in the park. Unfortunately she does not live in my neck of the woods but have encouraged her to reach out to a mutual friend. So far she has and they plan meeting up tomorrow for a walk in the park, observing social distancing.
Loneliness is an awful disease!! There are many who, due to life’s perceived failings and unrealistic societal expectations, have made certain decisions which have alienated them from friends and families. They exist and walk amongst us, smiling yet only being held together by a string.
Not everyone is so brave and strong in dealing with social isolation. Some people’s survival mechanism require those things the lockdown has deprived everyone of – outdoor living, social interactions, travel!!
Do keep contact with your mates particularly those who are single and living alone. A smile may disguise many pains and beautiful words inscribed on the pages of social media platforms do not always reveal what many have had to cope with during this period.