Loneliness can strike at any time. Whether you’re far away from family and friends, or in a room surrounded by many people, at some point, we’ve all felt a sense of isolation.
So when Marissa Korda was told to work on a passion project at her office, she knew she wanted to focus on empathy and compassion. “Everybody can understand loneliness,” she tells Global News. “We’re not encouraged [as a society] to talk about it.”
The 25-year-old graphic designer from Toronto had a simple idea: create a platform where people could send in their moments of feeling lonely and feature three stories every week.
She started off on her social media pages, asking people to share their stories. She had no website or any real branding and wasn’t sure how many people would reply.
Marissa Korda started The Loneliness Project in October.
“I was just flooded. I thought I would get 30 from friends and family for the launch of the site, but I was up to more than 100,” she says. Last week, The Loneliness Project was born.
The site itself works as an archive and people have a chance to fill out a form of their story. Questions range from, “When was the last time you’ve felt lonely?” to examples of when you first felt alone.
“There’s a lot of stigma around loneliness,” she says. “We live in such an extroverted society and we value it, and being a successful extrovert means making connections with people and making friends. I think people are afraid if they say they are lonely, they have nothing to offer socially, even if loneliness is a normal part of being human.”
On the site, the stories are different, but relatable, Korda says.
“My husband deployed when my son was two days old. We lived in a town where family was available but no one came to see me or our son. I spent hours upon hours of the year he was gone alone. People would call but no one would visit. And when they would call everyone said the same thing: ‘this too shall pass.’ I didn’t want to hear it would pass I wanted to hear it’s OK to be sad,” one user wrote.
“My partner of nearly five years and I broke up. It was not a healthy relationship. My partner was abusive towards me and people knew she could be difficult to deal with. When we broke up, I was the one who had to leave and the queer ‘community’ that we shared abandoned me and isolated me because my ex wouldn’t acknowledge the breakup and continued to party and go out. I‘ve never felt more lonely in my life,” another user wrote.
Lesli Musicar, a registered psychotherapist based in Toronto, says people who are lonely have a tendency to blame themselves for it, which results in feeling shame and unworthiness.
“And it is those types of feelings that make people want to hide and protect themselves from feeling even worse. So they will be reticent around reaching out for support lest they get rejected,” she tells Global News.
It can even be damaging to your health when it leads to isolation, she adds. One study from January found loneliness was a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity, Forbes reports.
“Isolation can cause people to lose their grasp on reality,” Musicar says. “If the only reflection you have of yourself is the one in the mirror that reflects your loneliness, it can lead you to believe that it is an accurate reflection of who you are: a person unworthy of love. This is a distortion caused by feelings that we can get bogged down in leading to depression and even suicidal thoughts.”
But Musicar adds there are ways to manage your loneliness. The best way to deal with it, she says, is to reach out to people who care about you.
“Joining interest groups where you feel you can belong is another way to stave off loneliness. Community involvement can also help provide those positive reflections of ourselves that we all need to maintain a realistic picture of who we really are,” she says.
“Feeling lonely is a challenging time to make ourselves visible, but it is the most important time to do so as it can lift us out of that dark place and help us feel like we belong again.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.