Stream of Consciousness on Loneliness

Jamie - almost three years-old

I think I have always been a lonely person.  No one would guess that from meeting me – I think I usually come across as friendly and outgoing, if a bit loud.  I’m one of those people that always needs to be in a room full of people, yet can still feel lonely among them – among friends, loved ones.  I’m someone who needs to “gather the troops” constantly – when something amazing, tragic, life-altering, special, memorable, or just silly happens – I need to call everyone.  Not someone. Everyone.  That goes for a frightening medical diagnosis for one of my kids or an amazing new lip gloss that I came across.  I will tell the same story to any number of people just to hear them laugh with me, cry with me, get excited, feel my pain, or just hear them breathe into the phone.  I know the source of all of this, but don’t want or need to get into that here.  It’s been covered – if not fully, then enough for now.  A very close friend told me recently that she needs people like me or she wouldn’t have any friends – she’s horrible about calling, writing back, texting, etc.  She said that if friends like me didn’t always call or text or write her, then she likely wouldn’t have any.  I have the same fear – I have a fear that if I’m not the caller, the texter, the writer, the voicemail-leaver, the Facebooker, the Instagrammer, the blogger – there would be silence.  I don’t think anyone would be there at the other end if I stopped taking responsibility for my friendships.  I don’t know if they think I’m worth the effort.  Even the connections I feel when writing here are something I need – to feel that there are people out there that know that I’m here.  Alone.  Hoping that they are out there.  That’s why I do all of those things – to feel connected.  Because I’m always afraid that those real-world connections are too fragile.  That if I stopped to take a breath, I would see that they are all much more transient than I can stand to think about. I’m a tough person to be friends with – I’m high-maintenance on my own as a person – I talk incessantly and at the speed of the Micro Machine Car commercial guy, I’m needy and emotional and always seem to have some sort of drama going on in my life — and that was before I had kids.  Kids who make me feel like even more of a social pariah than I did before.  I’m not blaming them – my poor children have enough problems of their own – I do not expect them to bear the burden or responsibility of my social and emotional welfare. I think people don’t know what to do with me – what do do with a friendship that asks and takes so much.  I know that before I had Owen, if I heard that someone had a Special Needs child, I would have felt badly for them and certainly acted nicely towards them but likely shied away from them – if only because I was scared – for them? Of them? I really can’t say.  But it was intimidating.  And now being Parker and Owen’s mother defines me.  I announce it to the world to the point that I should just go ahead and wear a t-shirt every day or get it tattooed on my forehead.  It’s what I lead with when I meet people.  Why?  I’m not really sure – maybe because I want to tell them upfront so that I don’t invest too much in case they are like the “me” I used to be and couldn’t hack it.  I’d understand.  I can barely hack it.  Scott and I have recently had some play dates with families of Special Needs kids and I cannot begin to say what a relief it is to not have to worry or apologize or hold your breath for what feels like the entire two hours or so that you’re with these people in fear of what your child might do or how he or she might act.  I went to a “meet and greet” for my daughter’s new school last week and told myself that I would just be myself – not “Owen’s mother”, not “Parker’s mother” – but me.  Jamie.  And I convinced myself that it would be good enough.  And I couldn’t do it.  It came up – where Owen goes to preschool – why is he in a Special Needs preschool?  They didn’t ask, but I told them anyway.  And then I got the looks of empathy and surprise and pity.  And I knew that I blew it and that these women would never get to know me for who I am on my own and then have the chance to make a decision based on that.  And I regretted it, but I don’t know what else to do.  I’m sure other parents of Special Needs kids have felt this way too – have felt the invisible but palpable wall come up between them and the parents of typical kids – we’re over here and they’re over there.  Over here feels like being in a bubble.  An igloo.  A cave.  Parker will be in that new school next year and I wonder what will happen to the friendships I made at her current school over the past few years…  Some of them I know won’t pass the test of distance – even if it’s only a few miles – those are the friendships of convenience.  The friendships that go on because you are literally in each other’s faces and spaces everyday. Some have already ended for their own reasons. Some I know in my heart will continue and some I can only hope.  But here I am again.  At the end and the beginning.  The first day of camp approaching.  The first day of school soon thereafter.  Where will I be in my quest to end this perpetual loneliness?  There are times when I can’t get in touch with anyone and I genuinely wonder if it was all in my imagination and my real life is as silent as it feels at that exact moment. And it’s petrifying.  If I never called or emailed or texted or blogged again, would there be anyone there?


  1. says

    Oh, I know this feeling. I’ve written about loneliness some before, and I think it’s been a companion of mine all my life as well. The loneliest loneliness, in my opinion, is that feeling when surrounded by people. Such lovely writing: thank you. xo

  2. says

    Oh wow, this is such an honest post that I thank you for writing! There are so many things I want to say — that I think you are underestimating how much your friends/family love you… that they WOULD be there even if you went radio silent… that I can’t put myself directly in your shoes as to what it would be like to have a special needs child, but that you’ve opened my eyes to the fact that even the most well-meaning of us — all of us — need to try to do that, as best we can. And not just to briefly say “oh, that must be hard” but to know and really GET that families come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. One of the preschools here that we would love to send our son to (it’s competitive with only a few spots, so there’s that 🙂 is an “inclusion” program, which I wish they all had. I asked the director about it and she said they specifically make a point of including children with special needs because the truth is, we all have special needs, in one way or another, and children seeing that early on is priceless. I’m sure I’m butchering it but you get the idea!

    • says

      Honestly, by being the kind of person that is choosing to send her child to a preschool that is an inclusion program tells me that you already DO get it – whether or not you give yourself credit for that. Sometimes, the acknowledgement, the “oh, that must be hard” does wonders. Sometimes NOT talking about it and just pretending that we are normal parents, mothers, women, people – is just as wonderful too. And I’m sure you do that for all of the women lucky enough to call you friend. At the very least, I know you’re hysterical, and making people laugh is literally the single best thing you can do for them. A little levity never hurt anyone. xo, J.

  3. Someone Else says

    Wow… just wow. I was afraid because I, too, feel this way– it’s so strange not being able to gauge exactly just how others perceive you but I guess, even that, is a shared human experience. You made me feel as though I’m not alone in… well, feeling alone. Haha!

    Lovely writing as usual, thank you for this post.

  4. lisarenee25 says

    It’s funny how you can feel lonely with 100 people in the room. I’m not a special needs Mom, but I know what you are feeling. However, I’m the opposite of you. If I have one really good friend, that’s all I need. I just need that one person that I know will be by my side through thick and thin. Just one.

    I get lost in a room full, you know?

    I’m also more like your friend. i am not the one to call back, text, email. However, I can be very loyal on a blog. Haha!

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I know it took a lot of courage.

    • says

      I DO know what you mean, lisarenee – you don’t have to be a special needs mom to feel that type of isolation, unfortunately. I’m hoping I’ve earned your blog loyalty – definitely looking forward to seeing you on here and as part of the “community”… J.

  5. says

    Yes. I have felt the exact same way about so very much of what you’ve shared here – most especially the relief at having playdates with other special needs mothers who I can relax around…mothers that understand that our normal is having a little boy who may ask for something using words that may or may not be understood. That the same little boy will lose all of his words if he sees that another child is interested in playing with something he was thinking of playing with. I’ve isolated myself from my friends with typical kids because I can’t hear again “he will catch up.” He won’t. I won’t, either. Thank you so much for writing this powerful, honest glimpse into your life. I’m actually relieved that I’m less alone in feeling so alone. By the way? You’re not alone…there are others of us out here.
    I’m so glad that you linked up today…more later…running to work…

    • says

      Kristi, I already feel like we’re cyber-friends! I love reading your posts and many of them have made me feel less alone, as well. Isn’t it ironic how reading a post about loneliness makes you feel just the opposite? The “he’ll catch up” comments kill me too – obviously I want that to be true more than anything, but it’s difficult to allow myself to get my hopes up, and even harder to constantly tell everyone how unlikely that is… Thanks for being a friend (even if it’s just online!)… J.

  6. Melissa Swedoski says

    Isn’t it amazing that no matter how far we’ve come in life or accomplished, we still feel a little bit lonely? i tried to explain to my husband once that, even he and our girls are always there, sometimes I get lonely. And I wonder if I’ll always be the one reaching out, making contact. Would my friends notice if I stopped? I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a special needs child, so I’ll just say thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your life. And thanks for joining our blog hop 🙂

    • says

      Thanks for allowing me to join the blog hop, Melissa! Such an honor and such a great concept! As I said before – loneliness is not reserved for the special needs community. It’s something that is universal and may be an ironic (yet effective) way to create a bond between moms who may not exactly relate to the daily lives of each other… Thanks so much for your thoughtful and honest response to the post! J.

  7. says

    Thank you for sharing such an honest post. It rang true for me on so many levels, friendship issues, having a child with medical needs, trying to create normalcy for them, for myself.. etc.

  8. Ellen Seidman says

    I so related, too. I have also felt lonely in my special needs parents journey. But I’ll also say that your good friends are always your good friends, and that even if you don’t talk for months, they will be there for you. Oh, and as for those moms whom you told Owen goes to a special needs preschool: If they put up a wall, well, then you didn’t want to be friends with those moms, anyway. I have also met moms like that, and while it’s been hurtful at times, ultimately I’d never want to be friends with people who are closed-minded that way. Jamie, it’s THEIR loss.

    • says

      I know you’re right, Ellen… I just wish my head was in charge more so than my heart at those moments. It’s times like that when logic loses to emotion. In the long run, I’m always better off because strength feeds off of strength the same way that negativity breeds negativity. I really appreciate your insight on this and will certainly keep it in mind… J.

  9. Jennifer says

    I don’t know if there is an answer to your question. But I’m so grateful that you asked it. Because it is a question that I find myself asking every now and then — for very different reasons but I still ask it.

    I’ve always defined myself as socially awkward. I have very few friends and even fewer “close friends.” I have seen so many people wander into and then right back out of my life. And I’ve grown a thicker skin to the fact that so many people leave. I tell myself that for the most part it is because my life is in so much flux right now. I haven’t settled into anything yet. I’m young and I move around a lot. But it is more than that. Friendships are about keeping in touch even when you leave a place. And they take work. And so far, I haven’t found the right mix of people who pursue me and people I am willing to pursue.

    So I frequently accept quiet nights in where I write hoping that someone one day will hear me and understand me. Someone will accept me. I’ll find the friendship I always dreamed about. But for now, I’m just wondering if anyone is out there. And I guess there is. There are a lot of people out there. They just don’t always seem to hear me.

    Thanks again for a beautiful post.

    • says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a beautiful and honest response, Jennifer. I’m not sure if people who surround themselves with many shallow friendships aren’t even lonelier than those who choose to have few friends with much deeper meaning. I’ve been in both positions at various times in my life and find that the latter may not feel as full in the day-to-day, but runs so much deeper and is therefore much more meaningful and weighted in the overall picture. At 35, I am still navigating these waters – watching friendships I didn’t expect bloom into something incredible, and seeing people I thought I was close to surprise me in disappointing and disillusioning ways. That’s what life is – but the more I learn from choices I’ve made in the people I surround myself with, the more I learn about myself. These lessons aren’t always easy, and they take time to learn; but the end result when you have found a genuine and true friend is most certainly worth that wait. Truly looking forward to hearing more from you here… J.


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