Thursday, 25 October 2012

What brave masks we wear

I don't like living on my own, I miss someone to talk to since my husband died. Some people like their own company but I don't. People never think of others as socially handicapped – not because of physical disability, but because of opportunity. I was left in a big house completely alone, everything echoed. I got hypothermia: not because I didn't have the heating on but because I didn't care. I was socially handicapped, really lonely.

This little moment of conversation at one of our workshops touched me very much when I heard it. The observations were made by one of the older women to Lois this week. It captures the brutal fact of loneliness very eloquently - and the craving for company, so strong that it outstrips hunger. These comments were made by a person who on the face of it is confident, out-going and very insightful. What brave masks we wear.

Because I've been keeping 'field notes' of our sessions in Oldham recently, I had the opportunity to catch these words. The participant had full knowledge; I hope that her words speak for others in this predicament and might foster some understanding.

Eating on my own is horrible, I need someone to talk to when I eat. I cook a meal, but there's no one to share it with, taste goes even when you're hungry. A Saturday drags on and on – sometimes on a Saturday I might not talk to a soul.

Anything like this helps (ie. being in a reminiscence session) just to be with people. It gives me something to talk about, to listen to apart from my own voice. You verbalise when you're on your own. Some activities are more interesting than others, but if you crave company to be honest you'll go to anything. I go to bingo here, but really we want conversation. I never played bingo before this, I had no interest. And when we do play it, you can't talk properly you're too busy.

A perfect activity is something like this: where we're doing something and discussing it and you have to think. I can think to myself I've spoken to someone, done something today. The good effect of it lasts longer.

When my husband was dying, I sat with him reading in the ward. After he died, my confidence went and I find it hard to go out on my own. When I was young I went to Paris on my own, now I find it hard to walk down the corridor. And even if I do get over my agoraphobia, what's the point? I'm over eighty years old, I've got nowhere to go to. I need to talk.

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