Hitting rock bottom is messy.
Rock bottom is a source of authentic connection.
Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma and shame we feel is real, and it takes a lot of courage to even engage with the subject.
I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.
This article was written and published on Ngunnawal country. I wish to acknowledge and respect the Ngunnawal people’s continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of Canberra and the surrounding region. I would also like to acknowledge and welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may read this post.
* * * * *
Before we jump into this blog, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the work of Matthew Todd. His book ‘Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of Gay Shame’ inspired me to write what you’re here to read. If you’ve not read it, please do. I’m thrilled to be chatting with Matthew on the next episode of my podcast for gay men, ‘Connection over Coffee with the Loneliness Guy’.
One thing that I notice about how many of you find me is that you feel very close to hitting – or have hit – rock bottom with the thoughts and feelings of loneliness you’re experiencing as a gay man.
What is ‘rock bottom’? According to the Collins Dictionary: If someone has reached rock bottom, they are in such a bad state or are so completely depressed that their situation could not get any worse.
I see this all the time.
The courage to admit we’re at rock bottom
Generally, we don’t hit rock bottom gracefully, elegantly or with dignity. We slam into it after what may have been a long descent. We can reach our point of rock bottom after years of attempting to numb or avoid thoughts and feelings through drugs, sex, work or any number of other ways we can numb or try to cope (I’ve got some great content here for you on numbing and coping: blog and podcast).
Rock bottom is messy. It can be a place of desperate bargaining. There are tears. There is shame. There’s a sense of despair and hopelessness. There can be a crushing disappointment that whatever we expected to happen hasn’t eventuated. It’s not a place we want to be for long.
It’s a lonely place to be, and it takes courage to admit we’re there.
My friend, if this is you right now, I love you and your courage for being where you are and for being here.
For those of you who have experienced your rock bottom moment, you know the type of courage that’s needed to pick yourself up. I see you and I love you and your courage, too.
Loneliness as our rock bottom
I often say that the thoughts and feelings of loneliness are horrid and abhorrent. Loneliness makes us question our worth as a human. Loneliness can make us feel unseen, unheard and that we don’t belong anywhere.
As gay men, we can feel that we’ve failed at being a human twice: we feel that we neither fit into the hetero-normative world, nor do we fit into the gay world.
We can feel marginalised, excluded and alone.
This is a horrible experience and because society doesn’t do well at talking about loneliness, we can feel that we’re the only person who’s thinking these thoughts and feeling these feelings. This feeds the continued downward spiralling and the hopelessness.
The hopelessness we feel within our loneliness can make us contemplate drastic, desperate and horrible things to make the thoughts and feelings stop. Far too often, this can lead gay men to contemplate, then attempt, suicide. Far too often – and I write this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat – too many gay men do end their own lives.
Before I go on, if you are contemplating ending your life through suicide, please know that you’re worthy of love and belonging, even in this moment. Please know that one of the places and spaces that you can feel loved and belonging is here with us at The Loneliness Guy. But if you need crisis support and help to get you through a time when suicide feels like a good choice, please reach out to a crisis service. I have links to some on my website here – many of whom provide specialty service to LGBTIQA+ people.
Please know that the world is far better with you in it. I invite you to be courageous for just a little longer and ask for - and then receive – the help you need and deserve. [continued below...]
What I see: wanting the quick fix
When I reach out to new followers on Instagram, I often receive responses wanting to know about how he can ‘fix’ his loneliness quickly.
This is the kind of message I receive from a gay man who’s FINALLY realised that the thoughts and feelings he’s having are loneliness, but they’re awful and he wants them to go away right now. He wants to be cured, right now.
Oh my, do I resonate with that attitude! I desperately didn’t want to be lonely, and when I realised that I was, I still couldn’t accept it. I wanted it fixed too. I wanted someone to give me the answer so I could go back to normal (read my loneliness story here) Even now when I experience loneliness, I find myself wanting the thoughts and feelings to be almost anything BUT loneliness. I understand how shit the thoughts and feelings are.
Alas, an uncomfortable truth for us all is that there is NO quick fix to curing loneliness. At least, there are no quick fixes that don’t require us to be courageous and open ourselves to connection. That openness to connection requires us to put ourselves out into the world and to be vulnerable.
Authentic connection requires us to hit rock bottom
Connection is the antidote to loneliness, so it stands to reason that the way up from our loneliness rock bottom is through connection.
But it can’t be any old connection like scrolling social media or exchanging small talk or surface-level discussions with those in our lives. Nope. The type of connection we need to do is the type that nourishes our souls: authentic connection.
Authentic connection cannot be hacked. There are no shortcuts.
We need to authentically – honestly and genuinely – connect to our selves. We need to authentically connect to those most important to us. We need to authentically connect with our communities. Anything less than connecting authentically – honestly and genuinely as who we are – is not going to fully satisfy our need for connection.
Make no mistake: this is scary as fuck. We fear judgement. We fear putting ourselves out there and still not being heard or seen. We fear that after putting ourselves out there that we will still not feel that we belong.
There are no guarantees that you will connect in an authentic way with anyone, but I guarantee you that you’ll not get the connection you need with anyone if you don’t courageously give it a go.
It can take us hitting our loneliness rock bottom for us to realise that there has always only ever been one way to do connection: authentically. But if you’re not ready to connect in this way and are still looking for alternatives or easier ways, I’m going to say that you’ve yet to hit your loneliness rock bottom.
Until you’ve hit your loneliness rock bottom and realise that there’s no other way to do connection, you’re always going to be searching for the easier alternatives.
Sooner or later, the pain of staying where you are outweighs the fear of authentic connection.
We don’t do it alone
While you need to authentically connect with your self, those most important to you and to your community, you don’t do this alone.
Nope. I’m here for you. There are people in your life who are there for you (if not, you’ve not met them yet).
Let’s do this authentic connection thing together.
* * * * *
This is a confronting topic. You may need some help. That could be your partner, a friend or someone in your orbit who you know is trying to put themselves into the world just like you are. That could be me through my mentoring services. That could be a therapist or a counsellor – including a crisis counsellor. That could be a coach. It could be a combination of all.
Be sure to check out my resources page if you need help – including crisis help.
Want to chat more about hitting rock bottom? Join me and Matthew Todd – author of ‘Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of Gay Shame’ for a coffee and a chat in the upcoming episode of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ from Thursday 26 May 2022.
Thank you for reading this post. I hope that you’ve found it helpful.
I’m now asking for YOUR help.
Sharing my work really helps it reach more gay men and helps us all to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men globally.
You may not feel lonely and have just the right amount of authentic connection in your life but sharing this article could really help a friend or relative who may be quietly struggling with the thoughts and feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
Indeed, I'm looking to build an evidence base to test the hypothesis that people who share content that de-stigmatises loneliness and promotes authentic connection for gay men globally make better lovers.
Please share this post by email, a message in a chat app or by sharing my post on social media (hit a social media icon below to share) and let me know if the hypothesis is true.
~ Thank you ~
Important notice: All views expressed above are my own/the authors and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.