The difference between being alone and being lonely

I have felt alone at many points in my life. As a child, I preferred to spend time in my own company. You’d find me in a quiet corner with pens and paper writing stories, or watching ‘70s TV shows introduced to me by my Nan or old black and white films with my parents. When I was a teenager, I was either in the gym or on the dancefloor. Both are places that lots of people go to, but they are also places where having conversations are difficult, and I preferred it that way. Adulthood for me was solo-travelling, making a world for myself in the houses I rented.

But there is a difference between feeling alone and feeling lonely. One of my favourite films to watch with my parents as a child was ‘The Invisible Man’. I suppose I wanted to be him in a way. As a child, I'd only see the beauty of not being seen.

Loneliness is different. A number of years ago, I had moved to a new city with a partner I thought I was going to marry. I'd moved away from everyone I knew, friends so close I considered them family. I'd moved in support of my other half and I didn’t know anyone apart from him. So when our relationship went from love and affection to violence, I felt utterly lonely for the first time. That loneliness led me to the darkest place I’ve been in my life.

Loneliness is all around us, but we’re not always aware of it in others. Looking at me back then, you might not have thought at first glance that I felt as lonely as I did. Perhaps that is because it’s hard to talk about or admit to feeling lonely. While we can’t all walk around with signs that say, ‘I’m lonely, talk to me, connect with me’, we can all take a moment in our day to connect with others. We have time to pass on a smile, or exchange a few words with someone and make them part of our day.

So say "Hello" to the cashier, ask the taxi driver "How's your day going?", smile at the person sitting at the bus stop or opposite you on the train and give that neighbour just a few moments and let the conversation start from there.

I’ve moved to a different city now and struck up new friendships (including with an older neighbour at Liverpool Cares) and so I know that sometimes the smallest gestures can create the biggest change.

If you are experiencing loneliness or domestic abuse, there are organisations across the country that can help, including the Samaritans, CALM and Galop.

Younger neighbour Tennessee has been part of Liverpool Cares for almost two years and has joined his older and younger neighbours at many face-to-face and virtual Social Clubs over that time. Tennessee has also been matched to older neighbour Marie for almost a year on our Love Your Neighbour programme. To date, they’ve shared 19 hours of conversation and companionship together.


Posted by Tennessee on Thursday 26th August 2021

Tennessee is a younger neighbour in our network. 

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