Great Britain is supposed to be the loneliness capital of the world, loneliness is a killer, a silent killer. Surprisingly it can affect young people as much as old, its just not synonymous with the aging population any longer. Young people find it hard to get out and meet other young people as they used to do years ago. They move away for work and college and find it difficult to connect with people in a new city. So loneliness is now ageless!

Loneliness is the Leprosy of the Modern World (Mother Teresa)

the biggest disease

LONELINESS is such a real problem in this modern world of ours. Families split up, live abroad or move miles away for work, leaving older people who don’t have the mobility they once had stranded and alone in their own homes.  Quite often they have lost a partner whom they have spent years with to illness and old friends become distant, suffering from the same problem of not being able to get about.

It is the world that we now live in and the people we have become that is causing this problem.Winston Churchill used to call depression his ‘Black Dog’, I  would like to refer to this loneliness as the ‘Blue Dog’ and there are no medications to help with this one. It is inexplicably linked to our modern and fast way of living which does not take into account some members of the population. They get left behind in the rush of others trying to live, sometimes selfishly, other times just from having too much to do, in the pursuit of wanting too much or too many possessions. Other people just get left behind in this rush of living. Life does not come to you these days you have to go out there and join in. There is of course the internet and social media but for a huge part of our population this is still lost on them, they don’t have the skills. Times like holidays such as  Christmas highlights this problem even more as a quote from the Mail online shows –

Beleaguered A&E departments face being overwhelmed at Christmas by lonely, elderly people, Britain’s most senior casualty doctor said last night.

The warning from Professor Keith Willett came as Care Minister, ‘ Norman Lamb’ urged Britons to care for isolated neighbours to prevent the UK becoming a ‘neglectful society’. (Taken from The Mail Online)

lonelinessWas Normal Lamb right? Yes, I think he is absolutely right, I know only a few people that I would call real Christians. But let’s face it, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a decent and caring individual and there is a shortage of these types of people in our society today. Even some of these die hard church goers could be termed less than caring in my experience. Just because you go to church doesn’t guarantee you a place in heaven, as my Grandmother used to say regularly. And its got nothing to do with our aging society, it is all down to people becoming too self absorbed in my opinion, but that’s just me. But lets look at another segment of our population that really suffer from friendlessness and the Blue Dog and that is people with a Chronic Illness.

In time of prosperity friends will be plenty; In time of adversity not one in twenty ~
English proverb
Where are all my Friends Now?
051677755e2d7a578874d0ac41c4ac636b3efc-wmChronic illness throws a spanner into the works where our  relationships are concerned. We may seem as foreign to the people who love us as if we had begun speaking a different language. Our family and friends still want us as the friend who worked, laughed and went to the pub with them. The Mum  or Dad who had a mountain of energy and could always be relied on to help at the drop of a hat. In turn we want them to treat us just as they used to but for some reason they seem to disappear as quickly as snow on a warm day. I have spent a lot of time educating my immediate family about my illness, it is still difficult for them to accept at times. My friends have been harder to educate and I think sometimes it is preferable to just ignore me altogether than to accept this new disabled version of their old friend. But that’s not good for me it leaves me and my blue dog. As Susan Milstrey Wells states in her book –

“Ultimately, as we strike a delicate balance between our own needs and the demands of our most important relationships, we grow in self-awareness, creativity, and acceptance. We can’t be sick successfully without learning to love ourselves, and when we accept our own limitations, we’re much more likely to let those around us be less than perfect too.”

But, it upsets me when I think of all the friends I used to have who now never come to see me anymore, what other reasons could there be for this. Yes, they are maybe very busy with their own lives, maybe they have replaced you in their friends network with a more active friend. However, not everyone is so brutal, the following are some reasons that your friends might have neglected to call on you –

Fear of Death – Pardon my French but hearing that a friend has been diagnosed with a serious illness can scare the crap out of people.  It forces them to confront their own mortality and acknowledge that we’re not in total control of our destiny.
Fear For Us – The irony is that some people love us so much that they are scared for us…too scared to stay.  They can’t stand seeing a loved one in pain or watching that person die if he/she doesn’t make it.
Fake Friends – Some “friends” were never true friends—many of those relationships were one-sided.   You’ve often heard the saying that, “you soon find out who your friends are in a crisis!” That being said, it’s also important not to make hasty judgments.  Judge a friendship over time—not one moment in time.
Dunbar’s Number –  According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, our brains can only handle 148 meaningful relationships at one time.  (Having 1,500 Facebook friends ≠ 1,500 meaningful relationships.)  Have you ever had a moment when you ran into an old friend and reconnected instantly?  It made you wonder how you ever lost touch; it’s possible that your friend had his/her own dragons to slay while you were fighting illness.   This is a complication that accompanies life, changing events like becoming sick, getting married, or having a child interfere with your connections.

The following quote from an MS sufferer it is so sad –

I wish I could say that I am one of the disabled people that you see that is so outgoing and go out and enjoy life with friends. It is only a dream for me. I have ms, I am not to the point that I can not walk, but it is getting worse all the time. I do not have the strength to go out for very long periods of time so I stay home the majority of the time. I live alone, I do have my cat to keep me company, and I love him so much but I just wish I had someone to talk to.

Loneliness was acted out very well in Bridget Jones Diary –

Divided couple

People are single for longer, they don’t trust anyone as they used to do and the partner for life model has totally gone. Even internet dating has its limitations and divorce is just part of our lives now and someone always gets left behind.

A disability charity has found that a quarter of disabled people feel lonely on a typical day

“This past year has been the loneliest of my life,” says Ian Treherne from Southend in Essex. The 36-year-old has had a hearing impairment his whole life but has been losing his eyesight recently due to retinitis pigmentosa. He says he now finds it difficult to sustain friendships.

“I lost my driving licence and I’m single, so I don’t have a girlfriend who can support me,” he says. His sight loss has left him with less confidence moving around Southend by himself and he feels “reclusive” and “cut off” as a result.

Sense have released a report called We All Need Friends” (click to read this). See the following video –

It calls for a national debate around the issue of loneliness for disabled people and wants local authorities to employ more services that ensure disabled people are given accessible opportunities to make friends.

Alternatively for our elderly population, Silverline is a charity set up to help the lonely and the following video explains what they are trying to achieve –

As soon as my health is improved I will be giving a few hours to help. It will be a way of giving something back for the help I have received, cant wait to help.

The Charity Campaign to End Loneliness (click to see), state that over 1 million people are living in acute loneliness and that is very easy to believe when you have spoken to elderly people who attend the rehabilitation classes that I often attend and also the Hospice. I have a few phone numbers that I picked up from people but its very difficult trying to help when you are ill yourself.