Sienna (Pt 3) – I’m A Miracle
Looking back now, I know that during those hard times, through the times when I felt most alone, the only way the feelings eased back below the surface and out of sight for a time, was because of God. He was, after all, the only person I had. I don’t know if you believe in God but, for me, he was the only person who knew my pain. He was the only person who I could cry to at night. And He was the only one that gave me the strength to try to find belonging and connection, because I had nothing left to give: in fact, I wanted out.
I was so alone, so in pain and felt like there was nothing I could do to change it. Remember, I was so shy, I barely spoke to people outside of my family. How was I ever going to find friends, find real connection and belonging, if I couldn’t even bring myself to speak to people? I felt hopeless. But in the words of Kirk Franklin, ‘He’ll pick you up, He’ll hold your hand, He’ll ease the pain, so you can smile again’. I had that track on repeat as I sat in bed and cried every night, begging God for things to change.
Kirk wasn’t wrong – it was baby steps at first. I joined a team at my church at around 13ish years old, which gave me some purpose every week. More importantly for me at the time, it was a distraction from the pain I felt every week watching everyone else have a great time with their friends after services for what seemed like hours on end before my family was ready to go home. It also gave me a small group of people to try to get to know, to try and speak to.
I started working part-time around the age of 15/16, which meant I had to start talking to strangers (cue the fear!), and I think that gave me a push to start saying more than “Hi, I’m fine thanks” to people who tried to speak to me. I started to see a little progress around this time, even at church. I don’t know if it was God pushing them, but one person persisted with trying to befriend me around this time. I’m pretty sure I was still an anxious, awkward, hot mess but they didn’t give up on me, and for that I’m forever grateful.
And the big one – I joined a church drama group in my late teens! There were lots of reasons that prompted this step, but, fundamentally, I saw a group of people that always seemed to have fun, that seemed so close, that belonged. I wanted this so badly in life. I was hunting to find that connection, a sense of belonging and ultimately, in my simple mind, friends. That’s all I longed for.
So I did it. I somehow joined the group. I don’t even remember how, if I’m honest. Probably clinging on to someone else! Don’t get me wrong, my heart was racing every performance, but weirdly, being on stage in character was tons easier than speaking to people as myself. But it got easier doing that too. I felt like there was a group of people who liked me, who maybe I could connect to. I spoke more and I felt a bit more comfortable in social settings. I actually had fun!
It wasn’t perfect (remember that ‘outlier of the group’ mode from before?). For some reason I couldn’t shake that feeling. I saw others in the group being super close with each other, outside of the group, while I just felt like the ‘nice one’ who everyone liked, but who wasn’t close to enough to have a deeper connection. As I said before, I never felt like a first choice. But it was something! I had more people in my life that I talked to. I had a job. I had hobbies. I had groups of people that I now talked to. I kept on pushing myself, trying to build friendships and push myself out of my comfort zone. It may sound silly to some, but even something so simple as arranging one-on-one dinners with that persistent friend on a regular basis was hard for me. Remember, I tended to get anxious with social interaction, so a one-on-one interaction was my mountain. Nowhere to hide and a high risk of awkward silences if I couldn’t think of something to say! But I did it and that friend is one of my closest to this day.
I still struggle with loneliness in my thirties. Not because I’m still that same person who felt like they didn’t have anyone, but because loneliness is about a sense of belonging, deep connection and fulfilment of social needs. To me, you only really find that in a few people as an adult and by being open and vulnerable with those people. That’s something I will forever struggle with. I have been told many times that I’m guarded, or that I don’t talk about myself etc. but here’s the thing: God has a plan!
He gave me the idea to write my story, to share and open up a little. In fact, He gave it to me again and again for about a year while I resisted! But eventually I relented and here I am sharing some of the things I hold closest, things that I thought I would take with me to the grave.
Maybe my friends will be able to tell who I am from reading these blogs and maybe my sense of belonging will grow as a result. Maybe they won’t. Either way it’s worth telling my story. If you knew me, you’d probably have no idea that I struggle with this. But because I do, I sometimes see the signs in others that maybe, just possibly, they might be going through something similar. And I would never wish that on anyone.
So, for that person who sometimes feels alone, feels like no one will ever truly understand you, feels like nothing will ever change. For that person who feels like there’s no way out or feels like there’s no hope, trust me when I say I am living proof that your current situation doesn’t have to be your future.
One day, when the end of my journey has been written, I will say: I overcame loneliness; I told you, I’m a miracle.
(Part 4 coming soon…)