A dark abyss
Visions Journal, 2019, 14 (3), pp. 14-15
The loneliness eats at my soul. The dark abyss surrounds my every waking moment. I am all alone, no family and no friends. Just me and the deafening sound of silence.
I didn't always feel like this, but now I feel this kind of crushing loneliness almost all of the time.
I was adopted as a baby. My adopted parents both died before I was 15. At the time, I wasn't close to my two siblings, who were much older than me, so when my parents died, I started living on my own.
For the next several years, I didn't live a very stable life. I moved around, supporting myself through various jobs, like waitressing, office work—whatever I could find. I lived a life of wild abandonment, drinking heavily and sleeping around. I went through many jobs and numerous relationships, trying to bury the pain of my loneliness.
When I was in my early 30s, in misery and alone, I was hospitalized for an attempted suicide by overdose. I was admitted to Eric Martin Pavilion, the psychiatric unit of the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, and that’s when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2 and borderline personality disorder.
I was in the hospital for a few months and began a long treatment process, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and medication. After struggling for years, I finally became somewhat more emotionally stable. I was able to go back to school and then get steady work again. But I still felt alone; loneliness was always a shadow in the background.
In my early 40s, I thought I had finally found a strong and loving relationship. My partner worked full-time and was a great person. But after we'd been living together for just over a year, he asked me to move out because he said he couldn't handle my moods. He said he never knew what sort of mood I would be in when he came home. He decided he didn't want to live with this uncertainty. This failed relationship really hurt; I truly loved him and I had finally felt "normal." Losing him made me feel lonelier than ever.
Some time later, I moved in with my sister, who is older than me by almost 20 years. I lived with her for about five years until she, too, told me she couldn't live with me anymore because she couldn't handle my moods. Unlike my partner, whom I had never told about my illness, my sister knew about my mental health challenges. Yet she still felt the same way, and I had to move out. Again, my illness had pushed someone away.
For a long time after this, although I drank alcohol daily and still had mood fluctuations, I held a full-time job and was able to create a somewhat stable life for myself. Then, within a few months, another romantic relationship ended, I received notice that I had to move out of my apartment and I lost my job. I became emotionally unstable pretty quickly after that. I went through numerous short-term jobs and numerous short-term relationships over the next couple of years.
I had learned over time not to show others the real me: experience had taught me that people tended to leave when they saw the real me. But the more time I spent alone, the lonelier I became. Soon, loneliness was the primary feeling I had, all the time.
Not only did I continue to lose jobs, but the constant stress of having to look for work all the time took a toll on me. Add to that the fact that I couldn't find a decent apartment to rent, I didn't have friends, I didn't have a supportive and loving romantic partner, and my relationship with both my older siblings had become distant and strained: it all amounted to a recipe for disaster.
My ongoing despair and loneliness led to my second suicide attempt. I spent one night in the hospital and was then released, but a few weeks later, I took myself back to the hospital and was admitted. I was there for two weeks and, after some changes to my medication regime, my mood stabilized again.
But while today I am emotionally stable and physically safe, the new combination of medications leaves me feeling blah. I have no emotions; I feel like I am in neutral all the time. I have all but lost contact with all of my acquaintances. I am on Canada Pension Plan disability and unable to work. I had to give up my apartment since I couldn't afford it anymore, and now I rent a room in a private home but I have almost no interaction with the family I live with. I have no family of my own to reach out to. My relationship with my sister has deteriorated. My brother and I have almost no contact.
I don't have a regular doctor. I renew my prescriptions at walk-in clinics. I don't have the energy to seek out friends or relationships. The past pain of people leaving me because of my illness is always there. I have not told many people about my illness because of the stigma attached to it. The few people I have told did not react well. I have experienced first-hand how mental illness can cause isolation and loneliness.
My days are filled with nothing. I sleep 12 hours a day and then watch TV for the other 12 hours. I can go days without talking to anyone, days without leaving the house. I wage a constant battle with depression, along with my loneliness. This is not how I envisioned spending my "retirement" years.
The dark abyss of loneliness is now my life.
Soon after I finished writing this article, I was referred to a mental health resource centre that provides options for people who are facing mental health challenges. I am feeling a bit more hopeful in anticipation of that meeting. Maybe there is hope.
About the author
Jane is 56 years old and lives in Victoria