An aim of Loneliness Connects Us was to explore, collect and share experiences of youth loneliness through youth co-research. Some of the deepest and most powerful insights emerged through the core group of youth co-researchers. We share some of these below.

Youth co-researcher testimony

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I think most people feel lonely. When you’re younger you have your routine and you see the same people everyday, your friends. But, when you’re older, you realise that it’s not like that anymore. You see different people everyday... I don’t know if lonely is the right word but it’s different and it’s something that you just have to get used to, people keep coming in and leaving your life. It’s normal to feel lonely. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling lonely, as long as you can come out of it. I feel like all of your emotions are really important. Sadness is really important because if you never felt sad you wouldn’t know what happiness was. And with loneliness, if you never felt lonely you wouldn’t know that there is something missing in your life because there’s something missing in your life and you’re longing for it. To be seen as lonely is to be seen as though there’s something wrong with you. If you say I’m lonely it’s admitting you’re not having a good time and everyone is in this like competition to be having the most fun. Then if you admit you’re lonely it makes you feel even more isolated. But, yeah, I think that people should talk about it.

I can’t get a job because of my seizures and my anxiety. No one will give me a chance. I get stuck doing volunteer job after volunteer job but it doesn’t go anywhere. I just feel that I’m stuck there. Because of my physical way I get stuck in a lot of groups with people with a mental disabilities, and I haven’t got anything against that, against them, but there’s no one I can have any banter with. I live at home with my mom. I don’t live with my siblings. And, with my dad’s side I’m just like a ghost. He’s never been in my life and with my mom’s side, I just feel like I’m just there. I feel like I’m not a burden and granted there are lots of people who have it worse off than me but the end of the day I have to deal with me, with my life. I still live in the place where I grew up but I don’t have anything in common with my friends because they’re just into playing video games. Is there a word for hanging around with people you don’t like but do cos you don’t want to be by yourself?

The worst job I had was at uni, I worked collecting money for charities in the street. I was really bad at it. I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted to disappear into the floor. It’s my lifetime ambition to become more assertive. I’ve been doing a lot of volunteering but my family don’t get it. For my parents money and success is really important and when I started out they thought I was just building my CV but now it’s deeper than that, and they don’t get it. My mom has this standard, what a girl should be, and I don’t get it. I’ve just got brothers so I don’t have a sister or someone I can relate to. I can talk to my friends but I find them self- absorbed. My psychology degree really helped me understand who I was. I did this ten-week course on listening, to work in a crisis centre and that’s when I understood the beauty of it, of listening. But then I saw my friendships for what they were, friends were just unloading on me. And their goals, to get married and settle down are very different to mine.

Home is overcrowded. I feel like there’s an invisible between me and my family. I feel that I’m different too different, put it that way. We all get on but they don’t understand me. They don’t understand what I do to cope, my walks. I need to get out the house, get some air. I like sitting in the dark in the park. It’s peaceful. I feel safe in the park. I walk there. My mom’s afraid of it. Every time she goes past it she says, ‘I wouldn’t go in.’ I know it. I wouldn’t walk in a different park. I’ve had weird people come up to me and lots of people come up to me to see if I’m okay, why I’m in the park at that time at night. I just need to be myself, away from people. I’d like to live alone. Where I know people are around but far enough away that I have my space. I get on with my friends. They’re weird like me. Their ways of coping are weird like mine. Sometimes I go walking in the park with them.

I’ve done those jobs. Where you’re watching the clock all day, data entry, clock’s stopped at 4pm. Checking my phone, there’s pictures of people on beaches in Australia, in Thailand, and you just wonder why is my life not like that? Why am I here working this job? Swipe, like, it goes on. It’s good though, it gives you a push. It’s important. I get that now. I used to think that when I’m 30 I’ll have the Mondeo, the house and all that stuff. But... I’m getting older and I still don’t know if I’ll get that. I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I don’t have a career. I’m trying to find my path... I get anxiety about not spending my time wisely, not getting ahead. Why am I not building, being productive? Why I’m not getting on? ... But what if you’re productive and get a job but don’t like it? I’m from a family that counts every penny and I might be able to change that. But is that better than having friends, having a family, having a rich life?

Cartoons

WALKING IN THE DARK (INSPIRED BY SUMAIYA’S STORY)

A lot of bad things happened in my life when I was a child, when I was young. I can’t sleep at night and I am always tired so often I can’t get to places at the right time. I cope by walking about on my own late at night and I go to parks on my own. I am not usually lonely when I’m on my own. I feel lonely mostly when I am with other people. I often just prefer my own company. Why do we judge people for being alone? Is it better to be without friends and safe, or with friends and vulnerable? You may get to a boundary where the loneliness is beginning to affect your health and then a persistent negative train of thought is setting in. I have used a website where

I wrote and posted my own poems as a way of looking after myself. Creativity and poetry is a way to let out feelings; you can interact with the page even when you can’t interact with people.

 

BANTER. I call him a southern fairy. He calls me a northern monkey. We get on.

While talking about friendships and humour we inevitably discussed masculinities and banter. Banter was many negative things but could be more than this, at times joyous. But even then, the connections it made were often fragile and feelings hurt.

SHE LOVES ME! The stories of loneliness that young people shared were often entangled with feelings of shame and inferiority. These images relate the experiences of a young man who felt he didn’t belong and wouldn’t socialise because he didn’t have brand trainers like everyone else. His mother couldn’t afford to buy him expensive things but he loved her and he knew she loved him.

‘PARTY TONIGHT?’ We heard numerous accounts of how social media made lives more visible and in addition to pressures to perform being socially connected and successful that made lonely young people acutely aware and hypervigiliant of their social media channels.