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Dear Pandemic. I am Lonely

Article originally published in Aug 2020 by Indi online Publication Elephant Journal

If you have been feeling lonely lately in the middle of this worldwide Pandemic, you are not alone

As we head into the fifth month of lockdown here in Melbourne, Australia, we are tired.

The entire world is tired and losing stamina by the day.

As the pandemic drags on, many people are feeling flat and alone.

We are living under a global collective consciousness of fear and anxiety. And this is leading to exhaustion. To protect ourselves and others and, in particular, the most vulnerable of us, against this insidious virus, we have been told to stay home. To isolate ourselves from others.This has led to feelings of loneliness for many. It’s been tough—so tough. And I am a lucky one. I have a partner and two teenage kids, and as an essential health service worker, I have been able to continue to do the work I love—helping others.

But I have still felt lonely and isolated. I miss long drives, markets, coffee dates, brunch with friends, Sunday afternoon beers, and my running group. I also miss catch-ups with my extended family.

But these losses I am experiencing are all first world problems really, comparatively speaking. As I said, I am fortunate to be surrounded by three people who love and care about me. We eat together, we watch TV together, we walk together. We are not alone—by the true definition of the word.

I can’t even begin to imagine what these feelings of isolation and loneliness feel like for those living alone. To not share a coffee or a beer with another person, to not hug or even touch another human being. And the worst part of all of this is we don’t know when it will end.I have clients who have requested more regular appointments simply so they can have human contact and interaction. I am their lifeline. Their beacon in the storm. Their remedy to their loneliness

We can all relate to loneliness; everyone has felt lonely before at some point in their lives.

But there can be a stigma and shame in feeling—and admitting to—feeling lonely. But what is loneliness? Is loneliness an emotion, a feeling, or perhaps a condition? And why has it, in the midst of this pandemic, become a significant impact of a worldwide physical illness? Dr Vivek Murphy, in his book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, makes a case for loneliness as a public health concern: a root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety. Loneliness, according to Murphy, is defined in science by a discrepancy and a gap between the connections that you need and the connection that you have. Loneliness is quite simply a lack of human connection. Loneliness, he argues, is affecting not only our health but also how our children experience school, how we perform in the workplace, and the sense of division and polarization in our society. He also states that researchers have identified three dimensions of loneliness to reflect the particular types of relationships that are missing and can lead to feelings of loneliness:

1. Intimate or emotional loneliness: family and intimate partner

2. Relational or social loneliness: friendships

3. Collective loneliness: community

During this pandemic, the latter two are the ones that many of us may be feeling the most—loss of connections with friendships and community. But for those who live alone, all three are relevant; all three would be felt acutely.

And the impact is being compounded due to social distancing restrictions and with so many activities being closed down. We now have very few opportunities to satisfy these dimensions.These three dimensions are also really interesting as they can help us understand why, for example, someone with a loving famil