(by George Zachariadis, Clinical Psychologist, Leiden University)
Loneliness is an ongoing process characterized by the lack of emotional proximity with one’s family and social circles. In other words, it's the feeling of disconnection from others but also from our Self. And although loneliness has been mainly identified as a painful reality for the older people, lately we see how much of a challenge it has been for other age groups as well.
“The lonely expat.” Is there such a term? Do we, expats, resonate with this title at some point in our expat life? Who is this lonely person? Is this person a loner, who has given up socializing and trying to integrate? Or is this person joining every possible expat event and meetup from wine-tasting and book-reading to partying and speed-dating, and still suffering from loneliness?
Let's start with clarifying the difference between alone and lonely.
"Alone" is when you find yourself in your own company and that it feels ok. It's when you feel content being and doing things alone, independently.
"Lonely", on the other hand, is a feeling of estrangement and emotional distance from the people around you which causes you distress. You can be in the middle of a group of friends and still feel disconnected from them, that something is missing. It's when an overwhelming combination of feelings like shame, guilt, sadness, regret and unworthiness, creep in silently when you least expect it. But when they come, they come in huge waves dragging you down to the bottom of your emotional ocean.
Yes, it is true. Sometimes in the summer there is an unexpected wave of loneliness that can punch us in the face. It makes us feel awkward. And a little bit embarrassed. And maybe a little bit scared. Of what will come next.
One could blame SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a type of depression that follows the seasons. It is more common as a "winter depression", but there is also a summer depression (although more rare), and both are related to the changes in the amount of daylight we get.
Once upon a time there was a man called Odysseus, the king of Ithaka who fought for a decade at the war of Troy together with his men. After the war, he started his trip back home but unfortunately he and his 12 ships were driven off course by storms. They travelled all around the Mediterranean sea, chased by angry gods, seduced by vindictive women, life-threatened and shipwrecked by humanlike landscapes. During 10 years of struggling, Odysseus lost all his men but eventually escaped and survived from all these tortures and challenges, because he was the only one believing in his return back home. And he reached there alone.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.