• Phil McAuliffe

Why loneliness? Why me?

Updated: Jul 13

Why start a blog on gay men and loneliness?

And who am I to write on it anyway?


I want to start by saying how proud I am of you that you're here reading these words. This may be the first time that you've engaged directly on the topic of loneliness and how that nagging feeling inside of you - the one that tells you that things could be better in your life and that there's no one to talk to about it - could be loneliness.


This is a big step. Well done.


While you may feel lonely, you're definitely not alone.


You see, despite our hyper-connected digital world, we appear to be in the grip of a global loneliness epidemic. Reports keep telling us that loneliness does us physical, mental and emotional damage. Loneliness is known to be a contributing factor to developing a range of chronic health issues: including cancer, dementia, heart disease and diabetes.


In short: loneliness kills us.


But what is loneliness, exactly?


As I write here about my experience, loneliness is a slippery kind of feeling to pin down. Some cases of loneliness are clear and expected - like after the death of a loved one or moving away from friends and family. Other reasons can be harder to isolate - like disconnection from our authentic selves and lacking meaningful connection with others as a result. Whatever the cause of our feelings of loneliness, the realisation that the thoughts and feelings we have could be loneliness hits hard.


It's one thing to realise and another to admit. And there's such a stigma to admitting that we're lonely: We can feel like we're a failed human. This stigma can stop us from getting help and exploring the causes of our loneliness. We want the quick fix: to take the pill, read the book or say the words that will magically - and privately - make the thoughts and feelings disappear.


Pills, books and words are helpful and all play an important role in our wellness and developing our awareness. But I'm here to tell you that admitting that we're lonely and then getting curious about why we feel lonely is a gift.


Let me explain.


I am prone to feeling lonely at times. I so desperately did not want to feel, or be thought of, as lonely. Loneliness is so depressing and admitting that we're lonely is a great way to end a conversation. As a society, we just don't know what to say or do about it. For me, I spent years rationalising the nagging thoughts and feelings that I had within me about how I needed to be a certain way to be accepted in the world and be seen as successful.


I felt like I had no reason to be lonely. Life was great: I had a loving family, was working in my dream job, paying a mortgage, having holidays in great places around the world. But I felt like my life was happening to me; that I was an actor in my own life. I spent so much time and energy projecting an image of myself to the world that I forgot how to be me. Indeed, I forgot who I was. I felt like I was living behind my masks and the world was interacting with the version of me that I had spent years cultivating and curating.


These thoughts and feelings were leading me into a dark place. I was scared about what could happen. I decided to do something about it. I did what you've likely just done: I googled 'loneliness' and read the advice that came up. Put yourself out there. Do what you love doing. Call a friend. The advice seemed so simple, but I had a busy job and busy life. Where was the time going to come from?


The cure to loneliness was at once so simple and so hard.


Besides, who could I call? I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a real talk with my friends. Our rare conversations happened over phrases on social media, or quick catch-ups over coffee, a drink or a meal when I was in the same place as them. Indeed, almost all of my conversations never scratched the surface. They were always about work, family, politics, mutual friends, the weather, sport. I was in awe of the people around me: They appeared to have their shit sorted, and I didn't want to trouble them with my problems.


Any of this familiar to you?


I knew that I needed to do more than just google. I knew that I needed to get brave and ask for help. I engaged the services of a coach. I began the process of finding out who I was, what was important to me and why. I began to reconnect with myself, those around me and to the world around me. I began to engage with the world as me.


This wasn't always easy. I'd spent years trying hard to please and impress others. I'd spent years denying myself and the world of the authentic me. I identified what made me who I was. I sat with myself and worked through the parts that I was proud to share with the world and the parts that I spent so much time and effort hiding from the world. I acted to put all of me into the world.


This has included, over time and after a lot of work within myself:


  • creating The Lonely Diplomat and writing a book

  • accepting my sexuality and being gay

  • working through what my sexuality and being me means for those around me

  • creating and maintaining boundaries in my life based on my values

  • realising that when I combine my lived experience, skills and talents, I can create something that can help other gay men.


While it's not always been easy or popular, being more me and putting the authentic me into the world around me has always been worth it.


I see that I'm far from alone in my loneliness. In fact, I see the affects of loneliness everywhere. There's a real need for a wider discussion. I see that there are many reasons for loneliness: bereavement; divorce; ceaseless busyness; losing touch with, or not being accepted by, friends and family; and/or losing touch with, or not accepting, ourselves. The thoughts and feelings that loneliness creates within us are complex and can be powerful behavioural drivers. Loneliness can prompt us to hide further from the world and resent that others aren't coming after us. At the other end of the spectrum, the need to connect can have us share everything about ourselves with the world. We can seek the connection that we need as humans in ways that don't serve us: through numbing, addiction, wearing masks.


However you experience loneliness or how it's driving you to engage with the world, one thing is clear to me: I see that there's a real need to give you the support that you need. I feel that I can create that space and share my story of my lived experience as a way to support you through your loneliness and desire for real, authentic connection with yourself and those around you.


So that's what I'm doing here at The Loneliness Guy - beginning with content and support for gay men.


I'm committed to de-stigmatising loneliness and being part of the global conversation about promoting real, authentic connection to self, to others and to our communities.


You're not alone in your loneliness.


Where to now?


Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Stay connected with me and my work by subscribing to my site. Together, we'll build a community of gay men who want to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection within themselves, with others and their communities.


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Important notice: All views expressed above are my own 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 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.


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