Q. I feel increasingly isolated and alone. I am married with a son and we live in an affluent area, but I’ve never really felt a proper connection with the people who like to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, and are pushy parents.
My husband works away a lot. I have a few friends, but no one with whom I feel a deep bond. I always seem to be the one making the effort to contact people, which is not easy for me as I am a person who fears rejection. What can I do? Name supplied
A. Congratulations for having the courage to admit these feelings – research suggests that one in five British people feels lonely, but saying so is much more difficult. Ironically, most people identify with the statement, ‘I feel like a bit of an outsider.’ An element of being vulnerable is what we need for deep connection. In the words of the song Lean On Me: ‘No one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.’
Please check with your GP to rule out other symptoms. I’m not sure how old your son is, but post-natal depression can kick in later than you think, and other issues, such as thyroid problems, can make everyday tasks feel like a big effort. Other than that, finding an exercise class, or a group centred around whatever you want to learn about or do next, will help. This information from Mind is useful.
My own mantra, when I lived in Paris at the age of 23 – also a glamorous but lonely environment – was: ‘You meet people that you like when you’re doing things you like.’ What sort of thing have you enjoyed in the past? Could you share a skill as a volunteer – reading at a story-telling group in your local library, perhaps, or befriending an elderly person with The Silver Line? The amazing benefit of helping others is that it’s one of the best ways of helping ourselves. I would normally describe myself as an atheist, but this one fact almost makes me believe in a divine plan.
I have faith that you are one proper conversation away from feeling better.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.