I had a family member who, in his old age, used to pull the emergency cord in his apartment – a cord designed for seniors should they fall or become very ill – almost every week.
Over and over, he would pull the cord and be taken by ambulance to the hospital, where the doctors would assure him and our family that there was nothing wrong.
I was a child back then, and I remember asking my parents why he kept pulling the cord if nothing was the matter.
“He’s lonely,” they told me.
When I was that young, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t just tell people that he felt lonely.
But as an adult in the grips of mental illness, ten years later, I understand why he kept pulling the cord.
I understand that sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to admit that you need help or support.
And I’m certain that if there were a way to instantly combat the loneliness I’ve felt – no need to utter a single word or plea for help – I would have pulled that cord hundreds of times these last few weeks alone.
I wish we lived in a world where seeking out emotional support could be taught in healthy ways, encouraged and affirmed as a necessary part of emotional resiliency, and not looked at as a sign of weakness.
That’s not the world we live in.
We live in a world where the thought of being a burden is scarier to us than the immensity of our own pain.
A world in which we choose to silence ourselves and suffer alone because we think it’s noble to do so.
My family member pulled the cord more times than I could count for a year until he passed. The nurses knew, the doctors knew, our family knew – and everyone played along.
That’s the world we live in. Everyone plays along.
We write vague and anguished Facebook statuses. We run away hoping others will follow. We type “I want to die” into Google search bars because we’re too afraid to tell our friends. We push people away because we don’t know what else to do. We fake smiles hoping that someone will see through them.
We’re all pulling cords in our own way because it’s harder to just be honest and say, “Please, I can’t be alone right now.”
We’re all pulling cords because we don’t know how to say that we’re hurting.
And I guess what I’m saying is that, if you’re reading this – maybe, just maybe – we can all start to push back against this fear. This fear that tells us to keep quiet, the one that tells us our pain is too much or too heavy.
Maybe it’s not.
Maybe we can start saying what we really mean.
And I will, too.
Tonight, I am lonely.