It’s that time of the year again. Mental health awareness week – 2022 edition.

It’s always great to see the subject getting more and more traction on social media. As is the case with all difficult subjects, it’s better to talk about it than to not. This blog and everything I do surrounding mental health awareness is simply me contributing to the conversation.

The end of the month marks eight years since my biggest mental breakdown on the streets of Colchester, Essex. It was meant to be a night of celebration. Because, at midnight I would start a new era in my life – my twenties.

Me between 18-20.

I’ll always have regrets about how it happened, and how long it took for me to accept my situation with mental illness, but to me at the time, it was normal. That said, I’ll be forever glad it happened.

I look at that night as a butterfly effect for everything that followed. There would have been no travels. I wouldn’t have run the London Marathon through which I met my partner. The list goes on, and on, and on.

I wouldn’t have made it to Machu Picchu for my 23rd birthday without suffering a mental breakdown three years prior.

It really could have gone one of two ways after that night. And I’m forever grateful it went the way it did.

For those of you who aren’t aware of my journey so far, the short version is this. I was diagnosed with depression a few days into my twenties. Afterwards, I went to therapy for nine months to understand why I was feeling the way I was. Why I was so stripped of serotonin.

I’ve been back for a handful of rounds of therapy in the years since, I think four or five. And, to be honest, I would be very surprised if I went the rest of my life without going back for more. Life changes, that’s just the way it goes. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. Both can be equally unpredictable. How many of you had even heard of Wuhan before 2020?

26th birthday in lockdown
Lockdown birthday for one

Stories of loneliness

The theme for this year’s mental health awareness week is loneliness. And yes, #IveBeenThere.

I have 1001 stories of times in my life where I’ve felt lonely. None of which occurred when you might assume.

The pandemic while I lived alone? Nope. Travelling the world as a solo backpacker? Not once.

In a stadium surrounded by 60,000 supporters of the same team? Yes. In a room full of my closest friends? You bet.

West Ham vs Leicester

The thing with loneliness, certainly in my case, was that it wasn’t circumstantial. Similar to the comparison that sadness and depression are the same thing, it’s far from the truth.

Sadness is circumstantial. I was sad when I didn’t get a job I really wanted recently and I cried watching the final series of After Life. Ie, I was sad because of something that happened/something I was watching.

While depression on the other hand, is completely different. Depression is when you lose the appetite for life. Sure, external factors contribute, but it’s not the root cause. There’s a serotonin imbalance in the head.

Similarly, my experience of loneliness wasn’t circumstantial, it was a symptom of my depression. Do other people feel the same way as me? Is this normal?

The single life

Back in December, I became official with my partner. For nine years beforehand, I was a single man.

During that time a lot of people wondered why. And very rarely, if at all, was it the complimentary ‘Jordan is such a tall, handsome and fun person’ kind of way. The popular theories were that my standards were too high and my thoughts on the world of online dating (Click here to read a blog post about it), some even thought I was a closeted homosexual.

Funnily enough, very few people considered the truth. I was single for nine years because for most of it I chose to be. Sure, there were times where I dated women and it didn’t work out for this, that or the other. But even then, I was never unhappy as a single man and I certainly never felt lonely.

london marathon for mind

It was as if the idea of being single was just wrong. One recalls a party where I told someone I had been single for six years and they reacted as if I told them I was terminally ill.

It was very hard to express any feelings of loneliness when I was single and depressed. The assumption from most people was I was lonely because I wasn’t in a relationship, and by simply shifting my relationship status the loneliness would disappear. Which is a big problem for modern society.

Society is getting lonelier because there’s an overwhelming belief that the only cure for loneliness is a romantic one. When we start to believe it’s purely about romance, we overlook and sometimes completely dismiss other meaningful connections – which makes us lonelier. And sometimes, we rush into what ultimately turns out to be an empty relationship, which, yes, makes us even lonelier.

Loneliness isn’t just about romance. It’s about meaningful connection. With the most meaningful connection of them all being the one with ourselves.

My meaningful relationship with myself

One of the things I’m most proud of in my life is my independence. Not that I was ever expecting a global pandemic to close the world’s doors for 18 months, but when Prime Minister Boris Johnson first put in the restrictions I knew I needn’t worry about being alone. Perhaps the fact I had the whole thing relatively easy by comparison to a lot of people was a contributing factor.

Things don't look much different in March 2021
London at rush hour just three days before lockdown

The development of my independence properly began in August 2012. My first, and until recently, only serious relationship came to an end and around the same time my parents filed for divorce. After what was effectively the capitulation of the two key relationships in my life, I didn’t want to connect with anyone. To me, there was no point and to be honest, I didn’t know how.

I’ll never know how long I had depression for leading up to my diagnosis in 2014, but what I do know is, with the benefit of hindsight, that the signs were there in late 2012.

The friends I’m still blessed to call my closest were already there in 2012, I went to secondary school with a lot of them, plus primary school with most of them. So those relationships were already there and were already healthy. But back in 2012 when we were 18, life began to change, and change more regularly. Some went to university, others travelled the world. That wasn’t the problem. These things happen. The problem was my relationship with myself wasn’t a healthy one, mainly because of my depression. This, in turn, made me feel lonely.

When I was 18 all I wanted was to earn loads of money, drive the nicest cars and have lots of sex. Now, almost ten years later, there is so much in that which makes me realise no wonder loneliness was a symptom of my depression. I could write a blog post about each of those things and why they were bad for my mental health and perhaps one day I will. But for now I just want to understand and appreciate why it contributed to my depression, and it’s simple – they weren’t what I wanted.

The development of my indepedence

I didn’t realise those three things weren’t what I wanted all by myself. Not at all. It took a mental breakdown plus nine months of therapy to make me realise.

One of the biggest blessings from my mental breakdown was that it happened in front of a few of my dear friends. Without them it would have been very easy to try and brush it under the carpet, pretend it didn’t happen and do God only knows what. For it was they who got me into a taxi home and convinced me to see a therapist. Well won’t you look at that. Some of the already healthy and developed relationships in my life helped me when I was at my lowest, the issue was, when I was depressed I didn’t want to ask for it.

In May 2014 they were there for me… in March 2015 we were in Australia together

From there the therapy process began, and with that I truly began to build a healthy relationship with myself for the first time. The years since have been about developing it.

The best way I can phrase it is through a travel related metaphor. When you’re on a flight and they’re doing the safety talk about what to do in case of an emergency, you have to grab your oxygen mask first, or you’re no good for anyone else.

That’s effectively what therapy was for me then and what it still is for me whenever I feel the need to return. It’s me working on me for me. The rest falls into place naturally.

The future

I’m very lucky to be able to say I haven’t felt lonely in years. The reason for this is because I put a lot of time and effort into maintaining a healthy relationship with myself. So, for example, the reason I didn’t struggle throughout lockdown by myself is because of my healthy relationship with myself.

I think this is the key to the success behind a lot of things I do if I’m honest. The London Marathon, my travels, plus, the early stages of my Ironman preperation is painting a nice picture too.

It’s also the reason I’ve developed a lot of new healthy relationships. Courtesy of my solo travels I have friends dotted all over the world, from California to Germany, Connecticut to New Zealand. The same goes for the London Marathon, I’ve built relationships with a number of people who run for one simple reason – for better mental health. One of whom, is now my partner.

As for the future, somewhat predictably, I just want to carry on with that. Obviously the world can change at a moments notice, the last two and a bit years have taught us that, but with the help of the relationships I have with others, as well as myself, I’ll be in a good place. I know I will.

Stories of loneliness | Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Jordan Camp

I’ve been sharing my writing with the world since 2015. Back then it was about travel, then I transitioned into wellbeing and mental health awareness. Soon after I was being paid for it as I wrote about sports, politics and, of course, the pandemic. My words have been published in the i, Mancunian Matters and a number of the South West London associated publications. In 2021 I ran my first marathon, for the UK mental health charity, Mind. I currently live in Essex where I am training to become an Ironman.

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