Our lives are made of stories. But some of our stories are more foundational to who we are, to who we have become. I describe “soul stories” as personal stories that touch our souls and the essence of who we are in some way. These are the stories that form us and impact how we interact with God, others, and ourselves.
When I mention soul stories, what comes to mind? When I mention soul stories of loneliness, what comes to mind?
When I think about my soul stories of loneliness, one story that comes to my mind is the story of my mental illness. In 2007, I had my first major manic episode and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The beginning of that story found me out of my mind. I was confused and unable to distinguish fact from fiction, reality from fantasy. There was a sort of loneliness in those weeks of severe mania that is sometimes hard for me to believe I experienced. Not only was I separated from other people because of my insanity, but I was also separated from myself in ways I didn’t think were possible. Everything was in question. I couldn’t control my thoughts. I couldn’t trust my thoughts. I was alone in a foreign land for the first time. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know the way of life. And even though I longed to return to myself, to my home, I couldn’t. I was stuck and I had no way out.
This is just one story of loneliness from that season of my life. There are several middles for this particular story depending on which direction I travel. One middle is the middle of depression. Following the several weeks of mania, I slipped into a several-months season of severe depression. This was a new foreign land I got to visit for the first time. This place had its own language, its own landscape, its own sort of loneliness. Everything in this place was gray.
One ending for this story of loneliness is the healing that came as the winter of 2008 melted away and the spring emerged, when the colors returned, when the loneliness dissipated and I was able to reconnect with God, myself, and others in familiar ways.
While this soul story of loneliness was difficult for me to experience, it has helped form who I am today. This story has impacted how I relate to my husband, my children, my friends, my neighbors, and others I come in contact with in the course of my life. I am more comfortable in the broken spaces. I am more willing to sit with others in their suffering. I am more of who God made me to be.
While I work on the next episode of the Hope for the Lonely podcast, I’d love for you to share some of your soul stories of loneliness using this anonymous survey. Your soul story of loneliness doesn’t have to be very dramatic or detailed. It doesn’t have to even have an ending yet. I’d love your input as I explore this aspect of loneliness.