There is an implied shame in loneliness—on its own or accompanied by grief and loss. There is a shame felt in not having enough of a support system. What have I done? We ask ourselves. What is wrong with me that I have not formed stronger relationships in my life to have people here with me when I need them?
As I left the doctor’s office today, for the first time since the incident in the bathtub, the tears filled my eyes. I could have died. I thought I might—as I struggled to get air in and found that instead of the reassuring swoosh that sustains life, I heard only the gargled gagging of a throat closed for the foreseeable, and perhaps soon to be nonexistent future. I sat, slumped over in a lukewarm bathtub filled with more of my vomit than bubbles. My cell phone in the other room—not that I could even speak were I able to get to it. My dog Olive pacing back and forth to the bathtub, confused; the little dog hiding in my bed. After the 8th or 9th failed attempt at air reaching my lungs, the thought came, “Oh my god. Is this it? Is this how I die?” Followed by the slamming depression of thinking that my body would be found, naked, in a tub of my vomit, days or weeks later. On what day would my dogs eat me in desperation for sustenance? I wondered.
And suddenly the airway opened back up and air trampled down my throat. I would live. For now.
There have been so many losses around me lately—while I have remained relatively unscathed. Sure, a family member here or there to death or rejection, but it seems of late there have been so many more devastating losses I’ve seen in others lives around me. And I, too, sit moved, but untouched, unresponsive, unsure of how to react to their loneliness, their grief, their losses. Assuming they have others closer to them than me to help mend the empty spaces of lonely days and heartbroken nights…but never asking, never going to check, to be sure.
As I drove from my doctor’s appointment to the pharmacy today I thought of the brief interaction over instagram I’d had while waiting for my doctor to come in. I didn’t know her in real life—we’d connected over a dating app and chatted a few times and that was it really. But she posted something about being in bed all the time and I responded because I thought of something witty that I couldn’t let pass. And we got to talking about how she was depressed lately and couldn’t get out of bed, and after spending the last 2 and half days in bed myself with the migraine from hell, it felt nice to connect and offer her the last thing that had made me smile when I didn’t feel like I could (some Netflix comedy specials). And she told me what helped her (a Podcast). And it was small, but significant. Just two virtual strangers, sharing seconds, in different states.
I remembered the question I had pondered earlier, “What is wrong with me that I have not formed stronger relationships in my life to have people here with me when I need them?” And I asked myself instead, “When was the last time I was there when someone needed me?”
It’s hard to be human. We too often forget we are all in this together and we are told over and over again that attractiveness, success, wealth, health, achievements, etc. are the only things worth sharing…when in reality, we need each other for it all.
I’ll try harder. Please try harder, too.