During the worst years with Tourette’s Syndrome I was very lonely. Part of it was largely out of my hands–my tics were so disruptive that being out in public would have been very difficult for me, and a huge annoyance for people around me. This is simply the truth. I know it would have been my right to be out and about, but I didn’t want. Well, I did, but not at the cost it would have meant. But these years were very good for me. They were when I learned how to cope with loneliness.
Although I don’t like the word coping. Coping just sounds like surviving to me, and that’s not what I want. It does not answer the question “How to overcome loneliness?” As long as whatever we’re experiencing doesn’t kill us, then we are surviving. It’s the bare minimum. Sometimes the bare minimum is all I was up for, but sometimes I could have done more.
I was much more interested in learning what loneliness was, versus learning how to handle it, although I learned that as well. My mom is one of the most generous people I have ever known. When I asked her how she had handled her own loneliness in the past, her answer shouldn’t have surprised me.
“Go help someone else and get out of your own head.”
She was right. It was much easier to be lonely when I could only sit there and think Why is this happening to me? or What if things never change? That sort of cheery stuff. This simple rephrasing of the question How to deal with loneliness made a big difference.
I began volunteering at a Special Needs school across the street. I had no special abilities beyond being myself, but I was useful. I felt needed. And most importantly, I was reminded for the zillionth time that there were people dealing with much worse situations that I was–and sometimes handling it better than I was.
And while I was working on someone else’s behalf, it was impossible to think about myself, for better or worse. Impossible to think about my own problems, perceived failures, and challenges. Impossible to whine. Impossible to beat myself up for things I couldn’t control or use my condition as a convenient excuse for when things got rough.
A humbling experience.
So, rather than wondering how coping with loneliness is possible, I wish I had had the sense to simply ask myself:
How can I turn the fact that I am lonely to someone else’s advantage?
The best part about this is that there is always, always going to be someone else we can each help. If you can believe any of this, it’s an exciting thought. It would mean that loneliness can always be overcome.