Unearthing Perseverance

A TESTIMONIAL

How a Youth Friendship Bench Client found himself again after becoming lost in grief, loneliness, pain and hopelessness.

l started to see that we tend to live in our yesterday rather than the today of our lives. So even when we have joy and fulfilment, we will not be able to identify it because we are still stuck in the agony of our past.

Youth Bench Client

The problem with grief is that it often doesn’t completely go away. The loss of someone you have loved deeply seems to live on in your heart, your mind, you every-day actions. I carry this indescribable, inconsolable little hole that catches me off guard as I think ‘something is missing, there’s an emptiness inside of me’. I think the hole is loneliness or at least the feeling of being alone, I can’t wrap my head around it but I get lost in it.

I became an orphan early, I lost my mother when I was 5 years old and l never knew my father, he passed away before l was born. I was forced to grow up fast after being placed in the guardianship of my aunt. Yes, family took me in so I had support and love but it’s not the same as that from biological parents, I could see that when I looked at others. My aunt and uncle gave me an education and l became aware of my the importance of knowledge and learning. I started to lay out my dreams, having goals to sustain myself and living life under my own terms. But, my education and dreams were affected by my weak immune system, l would always fall sick, not go to school, and as l thought l have faced it all, l had a stroke at a very young age.

This resulted in me losing a lot of valuable time, time l should have been sitting in school, gaining knowledge and skills, making strong friendships and working on my goals. What affected me the most was watching my friends move on, getting on with their education, starting to chase their dreams by going overseas; and I was nowhere, I felt stuck, stuck with nothing and nowhere, it made me hate myself. My girlfriend started to act up, she was someone I had always confided in and so this hurt a lot. In all these times l started to wish if only my parents were here. My mind started to tell me things l never wanted to hear, l was alone and failing at life, I had no one to talk to, I should forget about my dreams. I felt lost, I had no self-esteem, I lost my tenacity and energy for chasing goals. It was easy to think why not end I all.

Then a friend who knew about the Friendship Bench approached me, she said she could see I wasn’t managing and suggested I book an online talk therapy session. I had nothing to lose, I signed up and met Youth Bench Buddy Dellone, a young gentleman like me, it was comforting to have a peer, someone who I could relate to rather than an adult, and he welcomed me.

I told him my story as it is and how l was feeling. By simply knowing that there is someone l am talking to who is there listening to me work through and do away with some of the tensions of this loneliness. The feeling of being alone had always overcast my conscience and would stop me thinking straight.

Having the Friendship Bench Youth Buddy there helped me look at my goals again, he showed me how to take steps to keep going and rediscover my dreams, he encouraged me to not give up but to see I was more than loneliness.

I started to realise that l let my past have power over my future, l had jammed my life in other people’s projections of theirs and l entrusted my happiness in other people’s hands; my parents, my family, my girlfriend and my peers. In other words, l was stuck in other people’s lives, crying foul over my past and stopped living my own life. I had to get back on it. The way he asked me about certain things l would have stated in my story made me question myself on why l even felt that way.

Together, we unearthed my perseverance. He shared something with me that l continuously tell myself every day, he said that, you will never know how strong you are until something almost breaks you and knocks you to your knees. When you reach that breaking point that is when you become stronger so rather embrace the problems that seem to be breaking you and see them as a pedestal of hope for the greater good. This is how l started to view my world.

Through the working solutions l had picked up in overcoming my loneliness and stunted growth, l started to see that we tend to live in our yesterday rather than the today of our lives. So even when we have joy and fulfilment, we will not be able to identify it because we are still stuck in the agony of our past. For this l thank my friend for she referred me to the Friendship Bench and I thank the Youth Friendship Bench for the support and encouragement that has helped me regain my resilience.

Loneliness, A Bodily Function

A PERSPECTIVE

Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual, if you feel lonely you are lonely. Whether you are a shy person, an extrovert, single, or in a relationship we can all feel lonely. Money, fame, power, beauty, social skills, a great personality, nothing can protect us against loneliness because it’s in our biology.

Loneliness is a bodily function like hunger; just how hunger makes us pay attention to our physical needs, loneliness makes us pay attention to our social needs. Millions of years ago our survival depended on being part of a group, forming relationships and collaborating with others to achieve goals such as hunting for food and gathering fire wood to keep warm, this is when it became part of our biology.

Our body cares about our social needs because it wants to avoid social pain, this is the pain that comes from feelings of isolation, rejection or abandonment. Pain of this kind is an early warning system to get us to focus on our social needs.

As the world has developed, populations have grown, small towns have become large cities we more and more have lost touch with human connections and close relationships. Large numbers of people have had to migrate for work and school, migration has broken families apart, we sit behind phone screens showing people what we feel will impress them so we get enough likes to build our self-esteem to enable us to feel socially accepted, we escape reality by getting lost in cyber worlds playing games with people we have never met. As the world’s population grows there has become more competition for jobs and school places, this means longer working hours as people try to stay ahead of the game so to speak, but in the process become isolated from the world outside of the formal institution where we are playing roles, conforming to titles and carrying out duties prescribed to us.

For some people, the more time we spend on our own the harder it becomes to go out and connect with others, we find ourselves feeling anxious and would rather avoid those feelings, so begins a vicious self-sustaining cycle. The effects of social pain (loneliness) can develop into actual physical symptoms, such as headaches and sore stomachs which re-enforce our need to stay home or away from people. This can lead us to become more self-centred as we try protect ourselves from the physical pains. People may begin to interpret this as being unfriendly, cold or arrogant and so they start staying away from us which furthers our sense of  loneliness and gives us evidence that we aren’t liked and don’t belong, so our self-esteem drops and we develop more defence mechanisms and coping strategies (such as drug and alcohol use).

Long-term loneliness can put us at risk of physical conditions such as heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure but importantly it can also be the trigger or result in mental health problems.

How loneliness can show its presence

Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but long periods of loneliness or social isolation can have a negative impact on our physical, mental and social health. Some signs include:

  • Physical symptoms – aches and pains, headaches, illness or worsening of already existing medical conditions
  • Negative feelings – feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or thoughts about suicide
  • Mental health risk – increased risk of depression, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Low energy – tiredness or lack of motivation
  • Sleep problems – difficulty getting to sleep, waking frequently or sleeping too much
  • Eating problems – loss of appetite, increased appetite, sudden weight gain or loss
  • Substance use – Increased consumption of alcohol, smoking, medication or drug use

Is loneliness a mental health problem?

Feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely, and long term feelings of loneliness can increases your risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

WHAT TO DO

Some people experience deep and constant feelings of loneliness that come from within and do not disappear, regardless of their social situation or how many friends they have. We are living in the most connected time in human history and yet great numbers of us feel isolated. Here are a few things to go through if you are struggling with loneliness;

1. Recognise that you feel lonely but know you are not alone in the experience. Know that loneliness is a feeling, don’t confuse it with thinking you are an outcast or unwanted or a loser.   

2. Get curious. Ask yourself questions. Is it situational loneliness or chronic loneliness? Have you intentionally or accidentally isolated yourself? Write down your self-deflating thoughts when it comes to loneliness. What are your loneliness habits? Do you really want to change or is loneliness serving a purpose in your life at the moment?

3. Stop comparing yourself with others or looking at others and wanting them to fix your feelings.

4. Look at the connections you already have, what is right in-front of you? Ideally, look up from your phone or computer screen.

5. Look for a volunteer programme and spend time giving back to the community.

6. Be persistent in your efforts, whether it is joining a group or seeing a friend once a week, it may seem uncomfortable and exhausting at first but don’t give in. Challenge the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, show up, be curious, have no expectations and keep asking yourself questions about the experiences you have.   

7. See loneliness as a message from your body, it’s not intentionally trying to hurt you, it’s trying to motivate you to take a step towards connecting with others and building of friendships.

8. Talk about it. Find a mental health care service, like the Friendship Bench, or someone you feel you can trust and won’t judge you or minimise your feelings. Loneliness can sometimes come with feelings of shame and embarrassment, the more we start to talk about these feelings and why we feel them the less they control us.

Loneliness, A Bodily Function

A perspective.

Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual, if you feel lonely you are lonely. Whether you are a shy person, an extrovert, single, or in a relationship we can all feel lonely. Money, fame, power, beauty, social skills, a great personality, nothing can protect us against loneliness because it’s in our biology.

Loneliness is a bodily function like hunger; just how hunger makes us pay attention to our physical needs, loneliness makes us pay attention to our social needs. Millions of years ago our survival depended on being part of a group, forming relationships and collaborating with others to achieve goals such as hunting for food and gathering fire wood to keep warm, this is when it became part of our biology.

Our body cares about our social needs because it wants to avoid social pain, this is the pain that comes from feelings of isolation, rejection or abandonment. Pain of this kind is an early warning system to get us to focus on our social needs.

As the world has developed, populations have grown, small towns have become large cities we more and more have lost touch with human connections and close relationships. Large numbers of people have had to migrate for work and school, migration has broken families apart, we sit behind phone screens showing people what we feel will impress them so we get enough likes to build our self-esteem to enable us to feel socially accepted, we escape reality by getting lost in cyber worlds playing games with people we have never met. As the world’s population grows there has become more competition for jobs and school places, this means longer working hours as people try to stay ahead of the game so to speak, but in the process become isolated from the world outside of the formal institution where we are playing roles, conforming to titles and carrying out duties prescribed to us.

For some people, the more time we spend on our own the harder it becomes to go out and connect with others, we find ourselves feeling anxious and would rather avoid those feelings, so begins a vicious self-sustaining cycle. The effects of social pain (loneliness) can develop into actual physical symptoms, such as headaches and sore stomachs which re-enforce our need to stay home or away from people. This can lead us to become more self-centred as we try protect ourselves from the physical pains. People may begin to interpret this as being unfriendly, cold or arrogant and so they start staying away from us which furthers our sense of  loneliness and gives us evidence that we aren’t liked and don’t belong, so our self-esteem drops and we develop more defence mechanisms and coping strategies (such as drug and alcohol use).

Long-term loneliness can put us at risk of physical conditions such as heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure but importantly it can also be the trigger or result in mental health problems.

How loneliness can show its presence

Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but long periods of loneliness or social isolation can have a negative impact on our physical, mental and social health. Some signs include:

  • Physical symptoms – aches and pains, headaches, illness or worsening of already existing medical conditions
  • Negative feelings – feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or thoughts about suicide
  • Mental health risk – increased risk of depression, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Low energy – tiredness or lack of motivation
  • Sleep problems – difficulty getting to sleep, waking frequently or sleeping too much
  • Eating problems – loss of appetite, increased appetite, sudden weight gain or loss
  • Substance use – Increased consumption of alcohol, smoking, medication or drug use

Is loneliness a mental health problem?

Feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely, and long term feelings of loneliness can increases your risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

What to do

Some people experience deep and constant feelings of loneliness that come from within and do not disappear, regardless of their social situation or how many friends they have. We are living in the most connected time in human history and yet great numbers of us feel isolated. Here are a few things to go through if you are struggling with loneliness;

1. Recognise that you feel lonely but know you are not alone in the experience. Know that loneliness is a feeling, don’t confuse it with thinking you are an outcast or unwanted or a loser.   

2. Get curious. Ask yourself questions. Is it situational loneliness or chronic loneliness? Have you intentionally or accidentally isolated yourself? Write down your self-deflating thoughts when it comes to loneliness. What are your loneliness habits? Do you really want to change or is loneliness serving a purpose in your life at the moment?

3. Stop comparing yourself with others or looking at others and wanting them to fix your feelings.

4. Look at the connections you already have, what is right in-front of you? Ideally, look up from your phone or computer screen.

5. Look for a volunteer programme and spend time giving back to the community.

6. Be persistent in your efforts, whether it is joining a group or seeing a friend once a week, it may seem uncomfortable and exhausting at first but don’t give in. Challenge the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, show up, be curious, have no expectations and keep asking yourself questions about the experiences you have.   

7. See loneliness as a message from your body, it’s not intentionally trying to hurt you, it’s trying to motivate you to take a step towards connecting with others and building of friendships.

8. Talk about it. Find a mental health care service, like the Friendship Bench, or someone you feel you can trust and won’t judge you or minimise your feelings. Loneliness can sometimes come with feelings of shame and embarrassment, the more we start to talk about these feelings and why we feel them the less they control us.

Belonging

When we feel we belong, we can relax, because we know we are not alone in fighting for our survival, we are connected. And as we are part of others, others are part of us.

When we feel we belong, we can relax, because we know we are not alone in fighting for our survival, we are connected. And as we are part of others, others are part of us.

#WeNeedOthers #OthersNeedUs #Community

Community Volunteerting

For so long as we do nothing for others we are contributing to the undoing of ourselves.

When we already feel like there are not enough hours in the day and we just manage to survive on our pay cheques when the word ‘volunteer’ comes up we think “why on earth should I go and spend my only free time volunteering for nothing?”

Why… because the benefits of volunteering can be immeasurable. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community (maybe your own community), but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer.

Giving to others can help protect our mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

LET’S BREAK IT DOWN

An ‘A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H’ list of why we should volunteer.

A LEARNING ROAD: If you choose to work in a community outside of your own you will learn different things about people, behaviours, cultures and more. Allowing yourself to be taught by people who come from a different background and who have different ideas to those you live by will lead to your personal and professional growth. These are lessons that can’t come out of text books, they must be lived at their root.

BUILD CONFIDENCE: Volunteering may allow you to try something new or perhaps discover some hidden talents. This can be a great self-esteem and confidence booster. Your role and contributions as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity, perhaps you will discover you have found a sense of belonging. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.

CONNECT: Volunteering in community activities is a great way to connect with those around you and meet new people. While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have started to developed your self-confidence it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts!

DEVELOP PURPOSE: When we do good for others it provides a natural sense of accomplishment which feeds into our sense of purpose, especially in times of depression or stress when we are wondering why we were put on this earth. It can boost your mood even on the toughest days. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add a new dimension to your life.

EXAMPLE ASSOCIATION: By giving back to the community, you are showing people, especially the younger generations, how volunteering makes a difference and how good it is physically, mentally and emotionally to give back. You can inspire your friends, children, students, or even a stranger by helping others and sharing the experience with them of why you do it.

FUN & FULFILMENT: No explanation necessary!

GAIN EXPERIENCE: If you’re considering a new career or are wondering what to study, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. If you are just launching into your work career and job hunting, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

HEALTHY MIND & BODY: Volunteering can help you both physically and mentally. Perhaps you spend the afternoon doing yard work for an elderly couple or you guide a student with their reading in the library, every good deed is beneficial. Volunteer activities can get you moving and thinking!

“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in the world all of your own.”

~Albert Schweitzer

THE EVIDENCE

There is lots of evidence that volunteering has a positive impact on health. We like this paper because it has examined the cumulative effects on multiple health outcomes in the general adult public (mental and physical health, life satisfaction, social well-being and depression).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504679/

Isn’t it a true happiness to help others? If you are struggling to answer this question then you need to discover this feeling for yourself.

If you are finding yourself in a rut and looking around waiting for change, take the initiative and be the change that you need, for so long as we do nothing for others we are contributing to the undoing of ourselves.