Guest post by Michaela Ray de Witters
Feeling alone can be sad and overwhelming, whether you are literally alone or you perceive to be alone.
Six years ago, I moved from US to Belgium for a job. This was supposed to be an exciting international opportunity, we agreed to do together with my American boyfriend. However, he never came and after a few months of long distance struggle, he broke up with me.
So, there I was literally alone in Belgium, with no family, no friends, no partner, heartbroken, not understanding the local language or system, no car. Only stable thing was my job and I was supposed to stay there for at least 3 years.
Even seemingly simple things were a struggle. I bought a little coffee table and some dishes and then I realized I could not carry everything by myself to the bus stop. I had to ask complete strangers to give me a ride to the bus stop. It was embarrassing but I was on the edge of crying out of helplessness, so I didn’t care anymore about embarrassment.
Another time I got electrocuted trying to install a light, because apartments come totally unequipped. Sundays were the worst days, because all the shops were closed, so I had to sit in the empty apartment, feel alone, sorry for myself, mad at my ex and heading towards depression. I felt “entitled to feel bad,” because it was HIS fault, to let me struggle like this.Strange thing is that part of me enjoyed my entitlement of being mad. If I would give that up, it was in a way like I was approving what he had done to me.
However, after a few months I felt so bad, it was becoming unbearable and I realized I lost control over getting out of this feeling.This is when I decided I needed help.
First, I spent some time on Skype with my mom, to get a first boost. Then I forced myself to look up local social events and firmly planned to go there, even if I didn’t feel like it. I joined a few groups on www.meetup.com. There I made a few first friends.
I decided to find a place to go to yoga. Most classes were finished by the time I reached home at 8 pm, but I met and Indian man, who wanted to teach yoga as a volunteer and needed space. I offered him to use my living room once a week for this and I published this free yoga class in the girl’s meetup. Every week for a year I had my yoga exercise, plus I met a few new people and we had tea and chat after the class.
I also started to follow a motivational speaker on Youtube on Sundays and did the personal development exercises he proposed. Suddenly my mind switched to positive topics and I was too busy with a head full of ideas, to feel mad or lonely. Sundays became my favorite days.
The speaker mentioned briefly NLP and I decided to find out more about it. Next week during the yoga class came a woman, who was an NLP trainer. What a chance! She agreed to give a mini workshop. Later I decided to take my summer vacation and study NLP in California, just like she did. After my training, my view has broadened so much and I felt inspired to share this technique with others. I started organizing little NLP workshops at home.
This was quite a personal challenge and step out of comfort zone. The people who came were interesting and we quickly became friends.
I realized the difference in my mindset from when I first moved to Belgium. Then I felt isolated, lonely, waiting for locals to include me and frustrated that nobody really cared about including me into their program. Everybody was just too busy and didn’t really need me.
However, when I offered value to others first, suddenly I was included and people wanted to get to know me and spend time with me. This is a different kind of volunteering that most of us know. I was volunteering my time on things that I personally enjoyed, which attracted the kind of people who could easily relate to me. It is an efficient method for making meaningful connections with people, not just on the surface.
Now, six year later, I am married to a great Belgian man, I am an organizer of expat groups for several thousand people, I am involved in the community of entrepreneurs and I support people in getting ready for dating and relationships. The main thing is still the same though, first providing value, helping people in whatever they might need, making connections between people. Then they automatically want to include me and be in my circle.
I hope my personal story will help you get some ideas how to step out of the loneliness.