Being lonely in the wrong place

By Sherlock Shi, First Year Psychology Student

Maybe we have all felt loneliness a day or two during our lifelong journey, some might have felt more. It never goes easy on us, some may call it torture, some may call it amusement, some may call it hell. But there is one thing for certain, and that is “it comes unwantedly”.

One classmate of mine, before deciding to come to Durham, scanned through Durfess in trying to figure out if Durham is a lonely place. After seeing many Durfess posts about loneliness, he asked me: “is Durham a place that attracts lonely people, or does the place itself makes people feel lonely?”

Durham – it’s such a small town, with tiny allies, small shops, old housing, all in extremely close proximity. As a tourist, you probably only need two hours to visit Durham, roughly fifteen minutes if we are talking about the city centre. The problem, however, is not “small”. It is a university city, which means that people come and go. It can feel crowded one minute, and a minute later, no one is left. This feeling of getting around with people suddenly crashes towards you when it is crowded, but is immediately taken away from you a minute after. Almost like riding a rollercoaster, except this time, the pain is for real, and it lasts.

Dr Keming Yang, a sociology professor at Durham University, has researched the impact of loneliness. In a report in 2014, he wrote “loneliness can do much more harm than simply produce an unpleasant feeling. It has an enormous impact on physical health too”. This discovery was found to be painfully true. Research found that at least 800,000 British people suffer from chronic loneliness; these people are 50% more likely to be vulnerable than others.

For some students, it is easy to get stuck in the circle of college, away from friends at other colleges. When that sense of loneliness hits you, it can take a long time to go to friends for help, and for a small college on the Bailey, you may not find anyone you consider to be a close friend. So, the desperation begins; you chatted with your friends from other colleges, they don’t respond, you wait and wait and wait. It keeps getting worse. Eventually, you get a message from your friend, saying loneliness is a process you have to go through to be mature. It is at that moment you begin to realise, you just cannot fit into this tiny circle. Friends can give you the comfort you want, things can get better. But human is an irrational creature, we certainly always expect others to believe what we try to convey, but the message sometimes does not go through. We can become mad at others simply because they do not understand what we are trying to say. Instead of realising it is not their duty to always correctly interpret our messages, we blame them for something they have not done. So, the cycle can continues, and the symptoms can get worse.

This may not, however, be the experience for everyone; living with others in college may help some to make more friends and develop intimacy, especially when you are living so close together and with the support of a welfare team. So, for some people, college helps to avoid loneliness.

I saw many Durfess posts about loneliness around the winter holiday; many have given others support by asking, being there and spending time with them. However, there are also many students who do not receive this support. Since we now know there is such an issue, I think we should care more. Do you know anyone around you who always seems alone, looking for a chance to join the party? Ask them to join the squad, show them kindness. I wish loneliness was simply a consequence of being alone, but sadly it’s more complicated than that. Being around people does not make the feeling of loneliness go away, the feeling of being “in a circle” does, and this is something that we can all offer. For those who are lonely, my suggestion is to find something that you truly enjoy doing – it may be drawing, listening to music, watching a TV series, or eating. Give these activities time in your day, make your day more fruitful, go out and breathe the fresh air, or explore places in Durham you have never visited before. All in all, give support to those who need it, regardless of what we personally feel and experience.

“Life is about being happy with every tiny piece you have picked up.”

John’s Welfare can be found on Facebook:

Photos by Michael Crilly

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