Dear Auntie Jane, will I ever stop feeling lonely?

Hi there! Thanks for writing in. Let’s talk about loneliness and some follow up questions you might have

Why do I feel like this?

Loneliness is a starving for connection. Some people can be alone and not feel lonely while others can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Everyone experiences it at one time or another. The only real antidote to loneliness is to reach out and connect with others. Which is a lot easier said than done.

You know how when you’re hungry, it’s super easy to just stand in the fridge door, staring at the food? You know you need to eat something but nothing looks good. Turns out loneliness is a lot like that. We feel lonely just like we feel hungry or exhausted. And on some level, we know what we need to do.

Loneliness feels awful but it’s an important sign. It lets us know when we need to reconnect with people. It won’t last forever, especially when you do things that make you feel better. 

What can I do about it?

Here’s something you can do right now: start building trust in yourself. Positive affirmations help a lot, even if they don’t feel true at first. Try saying things like, “I trust myself. I make good decisions. I can trust others.” The main goal is to stop talking negative to yourself. It’s hard to make friends when you put yourself down.

Next, look for chances to just be with other people, whether it’s in person or virtual. Try “mirroring” someone you know – you just have to match whatever some one else is doing. Simply doing the same thing as someone else starts to help with that feeling of loneliness. There are many ways that you can connect with others, even if it’s on your phone or your computer. Do your homework with a classmate. Working a beading project with an auntie. Go for a walk with someone you trust. Drum circles and ceremony are powerful because you are literally in sync with the people around you. Look for ways to actively join something that takes you out of your thoughts into the wider world around you.

How long will it take?

Your hard work will pay off if you make the effort! You will have friends again. It may take time to create new relationships or to repair old ones but it’s totally doable. Your loneliness might not go away immediately. You have to keep choosing to be with others, which gets easier with practice. You might notice feeling different within the first couple of weeks or months. Either way, you can and you will bounce back. You have to put in the work by trusting yourself and trusting others enough to let them in.

One day you’ll look up and you’ll be surrounded by friends and people who care for you and you’ll be doing something you love. It can happen faster than you think. You just need a push at the beginning and you’ll start to gain momentum as you go. It’s totally worth it! You’re worth it.

Here are some articles written by other Native teens who know exactly what you’re going through:

And also, if you are feeling alone and having thoughts of suicide—whether or not you are in crisis—or know someone who is, don’t remain silent. Talk to someone you can trust: call or text 988 or chat the Lifeline

But what if I don’t want to talk to anybody at all?

If you’re interested, here’s some more information about how loneliness happens, even when you’re surrounded by all sorts of people.

Lonely people often miss opportunities to connect to potential new friends. Spending long periods of time alone or in isolation means that lonely people often miss opportunities to meet potential new friends. Sometimes they get really good at getting lost in their imaginations or they get carried away daydreaming, which can make real life even more disappointing.

It’s all too easy to get caught in a bad loop. Meeting new people causes a lot of anxiety so you withdraw because that feels easier. But then it’s even harder to go out and meet with people, even the ones you already know, like your friends.

Choosing the safety of staying alone over the risk of reaching out means you end up prolonging feeling of disconnect from everyone around you.

Your brain’s prefrontal cortex gets smaller. That’s the part of the brain that is mostly responsible for making decisions, solving problems, and processing rewards. It gets a lot harder to make decisions, trust your gut, and to trust other people.

In any case, lonely people feel disconnected and then they withdraw deeper into their isolation. It’s really hard to reach out when your brain is telling you not to trust people, or that it’s easier to stay home alone than to call a friend.

Have heart and take care,

Auntie Jane

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