Feeling heard makes things much better - Gabi's story
In this story, Gaby tells us how turning 30 was a bit of a milestone for her. But alongside the celebration and her happy feelings of being loved by so many, her life wasn't matching up to her expectations. While she had a great job, other things like not having a relationship or children started to make her feel lonely and this was affecting her mental health.
My name’s Gabi and I’m in my early thirties. A milestone birthday made me feel lonely even though I was surrounded by loved ones. My experience of loneliness spiralled into depression but looking back on this period, I can see how talking to people helped my recovery.
In 2019 I turned 30. I had the most amazing celebrations - I celebrated with lots of family and friends over about five days and at the end of it I remember crying because I felt so loved.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but there was something about reaching that milestone and reflecting on what I perhaps imagined my life would have looked like that contributed to me becoming very unwell.
I had a good job and a career, but lots of the other things I’d expected just hadn’t materialised. I didn’t own my own home, I wasn’t married or in a relationship and I didn’t have children.
It was the tip of the iceberg. I started to become unwell and things began to spiral. Loneliness was an experience where I could be surrounded by all the people that I love, or be in a really exciting meeting at work, but still feel completely disconnected. Things had built up over the years, but by the end of that year, I was extremely unwell and had been referred to the mental health service.
Loneliness isn’t just sitting in an empty room
For me, loneliness isn’t just sitting in an empty room or house with no one to talk to, it was about what was going on inside and how I was feeling and that I didn’t understand what was going on.
I had lots of the physical symptoms of depression, I just didn’t recognise them. My skin was dry, my hair was falling out and I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t understand the constant noise in my head, and just getting up in the morning and functioning took every ounce of my energy.
I didn’t understand what was happening and I didn’t tell anyone except my best friend. It felt more lonely because I couldn’t speak about it because things didn’t make sense.
It’s ok not to be ok
Building up the courage to tell people how I was feeling was hard. It’s that feeling of not wanting to admit that you’re not ok, in a world where we’re told to ‘suck it up, everything will be ok.’ The reality for me was that it wasn’t.
Once I’d started my therapy and could feel I was making progress, one of the first things I wanted to do was to tell my colleagues at work. I needed to tell them what had happened. I kept things very top line, but explaining out loud really helped and immediately made me feel less lonely because people knew.
And from that moment I began to feel better about myself and found I told another person every week or so. Everyone has been very supportive and no one has treated me any differently.
Work it out
Feeling heard makes things so much better. Of course, it’s much easier to talk once you’re getting better and getting the support you need, but I wish I could have spoken to people earlier when I really needed people the most.
I’m not ashamed of what happened and I live with it now. On days when it feels like loneliness is creeping in and I realise I haven’t spoken to people for a while or it feels like things have caught up with me, I can recognise I need help.
We spend so much time at work and with our colleagues and I think there’s a huge amount we can do to create workplaces and relationships where conversations can happen.
I’m the chair of a mental well-being group at work and want to equip people to be able to have those conversations. In the same way, my peers and colleagues looked out for me, I want to look out for my team in return.
I feel so much more in control of my well-being as a result of my therapy and want to share what I’ve learned. If I wake up and feel like it’s going to be a difficult day, then I rewrite my to-do list and set new targets that are realistic. I know what I’ll be able to achieve and what I won’t, and I know that the next day will be better. I want my team to know they can do that too.
More about loneliness
- Read other people’s experiences of loneliness
- Get help and advice for coping with loneliness and improving your mental health
- Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2022