Giving context to loneliness

I don’t know where to start. But I’m afraid this is going to be a messed up, emotional blog post. I wouldn’t be sharing these thoughts if I hadn’t come to the conclusion that I’m not alone even though I feel very very alone. I’m sharing in case this makes someone out there feel a little bit better. I’m sharing because sharing helps me work through my own thoughts, even though I worry that it makes me appear desperate and needy, which I sort of am anyways. But I’m going to stop giving a fuck about what other people might think of me for a little bit. I need to write.

It’s hard to sum up what an issue really is. It’s difficult to give problems, lots of them, that all come with personal and social contexts, a title that other people will understand.

But let’s call this one loneliness.

It’s a desperate loneliness. It’s the kind of loneliness that probably puts people off you. That’s how desperate it is.

It’s a loneliness that often expresses itself as: Oh, how I wish I had a friend I could call up and say, “Meet you at the movies at 6pm tonight?” But that’s not really it. That’s not the source of the loneliness. The story of the loneliness is so much more complex.

It’s a loneliness of identity. It’s a loneliness in thought. It’s a loneliness of fear. It’s a loneliness of physical separation. It’s the loneliness of immigration. It’s the loneliness of change. It’s the loneliness of going through experiences that you think are only yours. It’s the loneliness of wanting to connect but being afraid to. It’s the loneliness of not knowing who to connect with or in what way. It’s the loneliness of having needs but not knowing how to fulfill them. It’s the loneliness of sub-culture, of cultural minority, even within your own country. Writing all this makes me feel physically ill. That’s how bad this loneliness is.

I know I am not alone in this loneliness because I have spoken to a few others, Egyptians like myself, who have expressed similar lonelinesses. And I have seen social media posts by yet others who seem to be implying similar kinds of lonelinesses. But talking about these lonelinesses is so difficult. It’s not just difficult because it’s hard for a person to express oneself eloquently. Or because it’s difficult to show emotion. Or because we fear rejection of our emotions. Or that we don’t want to feel other people’s pity. It’s really not just that. It’s difficult because we are fearful. We no longer know who to trust. We no longer trust. People have said things in jest, or without thinking there might be consequences, and those people are no longer among us. Or they have had to flee for their lives. Or they feel that they aren’t safe.

It’s an anxious loneliness.

I often think to myself how much immigration sucks. It’s so lonely. I feel like I’m not understood. Not really accepted for who I am. When I’m in Egypt, that weird, sickly country, I feel so much more accepted than I do here in the UK. In Egypt I feel so much more confident than I’ve ever felt in the UK. The situation in Egypt is horrendous, in my opinion. I feel so much safer in the UK than I do in Egypt. But I have never felt more lonely and lacking of self-confidence.

Yet, when I speak with friends in Egypt, they also express feelings of loneliness. They also don’t feel accepted for who they are becoming. They also feel they can’t express their emotions and thoughts as freely as they would like to. They also do not know where to turn. They also have a fear of rejection.

I have a friend who says Egypt’s 2011 revolution wasn’t a political one; it was instead a revolution of the minds.

I agree with him. The revolution and its consequences have led so many of us to stop abruptly in our tracks and try to figure out where we are exactly and how/why we got here. So many of us feel completely and utterly disoriented — destabilized — whether we stayed in the country or managed to get out.

Who am I? What do I really think about things like country, patriotism, religion, or even God? What do I think? Where is the I inside of me? Is it there? Has there ever been one in there? Or is whatever is inside there just a formation that resulted from parental, religious, and societal conditioning? If I ever wanted to find the I inside of me, what would I do? How would I access it? What if the I inside of me was different from the I that formed in me? Who would I be then? Where would that leave me? Where would I stand with the people who used to be my people? Where are my actual people? Why do I so desperately need people? Who can I trust to be my people? What do I do about my already people people? I’m changing. Will they accept me? Will I have to lose them? All of them? Some of them? None of them? If I have to lose them, who am I? Where am I? Why am I?

I am so desperately lonely. I’ve been out socially in the UK, not often, but it’s happened, and the complete focus of the conversation on where we’ve last travelled and where you’ve last travelled and what we all did on our latest trip just turned me off completely. I love talking about that stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I love learning about other people’s experiences and about places that might be interesting to go to. But there must be more in life! There must be something deeper that we can talk about in addition to all that? Or maybe one can’t expect depth from mere acquaintances. Maybe that’s what people talk about when they’re sussing each other out. The result, anyway, is that I’m not connecting. And I’m feeling that people here aren’t connecting with me as well.

At the same time, I’m afraid of trying to connect with “my people” (the Egyptians/Arabs) here in the UK. One time when I did that, I found myself being judged very negatively for some of the questions I had running around in my head that were publicly expressed on social media. I was going down the proverbial slippery slope, I was told. Dude, we’re not hardly that close for you to think you can say something like that to me. I’m fine with my best friend telling me to get my head out of my arse, wake up and smell the coffee, and make sure I was thinking clearly. I’m ok with people who have been my friend for years but who think about things differently to tell me: Nadia, you’ve changed. I don’t agree with what you’re saying. But I still love you. But I’m not going to be friendly with the slippery slope to hell folk. Those folk are not my people. They can root themselves to the tops of their proverbial summits without me. I will not be standing beside them.

What am I trying to say? I’ve said I’m lonely already. I’m sure you got the message. But it’s more than that. It’s a crisis of identity that stems from a long, complicated, convoluted life process. My life process is not everyone’s life process. But there are large parts of what I’ve been through that are shared by many other people like me. Like me because they are Egyptian. Like me because they were born into a religion. Like me because they were taught what was right and what was wrong but now aren’t so sure about much of it. Like me because they’ve lived through a revolution. Like me because they have friends who are political prisoners. Like me because they come from or belong to (or both) broken families. Like me because they carry with them huge burdens of guilt and maybe even shame. Like me because they have immigrated and understand its isolation. Like me because they long for a country that might have never been. Like me because they have dreams. Like me because they have idealist tendencies. Like me because they aren’t very social but they want people around so that when they are feeling social they have that as an option.

I know that there are so many people out there who are like me. Why oh why do we find it so incredibly difficult to reach out to each other and connect? REALLY connect.

I’m done. And I probably haven’t managed to say what I thought I was trying to say. This did end up being an emotional post. When I talk to my best friend about these things I express myself so much more clearly.

Maybe all I really want to say is this:

You are not alone, whoever you are out there who has found a connection with my words.

I am not alone.

We are not alone despite this incredibly desperate feeling of loneliness.


  1. Hi Nadia

    I am not Egyptian nor have I lived through a revolution but so much of your post resonated with me.

    In each country I’ve lived in, I have met interesting people that I would not have met if I had not moved there. I am thankful for having had them in my life, even for a short time. But at the same time, I know I don’t belong with them, not in the long term anyway. I’ve also left my birth country for so long now that I don’t belong there either.

    People who have never emigrated do not understand how hard it is to be self confident in a country that is so different from everything you knew previously. I may speak the language but there is so much social intricacies that is difficult to navigate.

    At some point I will need to settle somewhere. The thought of that both terrifies and brings me solace at the same time. It’s a weird state of being.

    Ps when I was in the UK, the favorite subject at most social gatherings was last night’s tv show, travel or football. I could do it for a bit but I longed to discuss politics, economics, cultural observations etc but I could tell it made people uncomfortable so I stopped bringing it up.

    On Sun, Feb 10, 2019 at 7:39 AM Inner Workings of My Mind wrote:

    > nadiaelawady posted: “I don’t know where to start. But I’m afraid this is > going to be a messed up, emotional blog post. I wouldn’t be sharing these > thoughts if I hadn’t come to the conclusion that I’m not alone even though > I feel very very alone. I’m sharing in case this makes” >

  2. Great post !. I can totally relate to. I too moved to England a year ago and although I made a few friends here, I know our friendship isn’t that deep and probably will never be. we come from different backgrounds and had different experiences in our lives. it’s not easy to connect that deep just to anyone. Just like love, you can’t love and be loved by everyone. you can’t connect to anyone you meet. True friendship is very rare. Saying that, I didn’t have a lot of friends back in Egypt. I think maybe one or two. Maybe the way I was brought up, maybe my personality. At the end of the day, I think it’s something that we have to learn to live with. Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone in that. Cheers 🙂

  3. De-lurking here. This post was a really poignant stream of consciousness. I recently moved to the US, and I too, am feeling an increased sense of isolation that is so complicated the word lonely doesn’t seem to cover it. Anway, here’s to answers, and I’ll keep visiting your blog!

  4. This resonates with me so much…someone described what I was feeling lately as existential loneliness…and I feel this blog post kind of nails it for me

  5. Thank you for sincerity. So many people nowadays come to similar conclusions. No more do we have communities “prescribed” to us by our blood, religion, territory, stuff like that. Now we are responsible for finding (or building) our own “tribe” through sensitive responses in our souls, different for each one. And yes, we are likely to feel lonely wherever we are – again, for different reasons, but any location or community will just mirror this or that “lack” in our souls and lives. Yes, we are alone. And that’s fine, because this is the price of freedom and cognition.

  6. Hi Nadia, you sound like me about twenty years ago. I had just had my own mini revolution. It did not invoke war and people having to immigrate but even though my family were less that 15 miles away I couldn’t connect with anyone. I was struggling with my religious beliefs and at the same time I clung to the superficial people who I judged as being less spiritual than they believed themselves to be. I have to admit that some did seem to be genuine but most were fussing and concerned about things they had absolutely no control over.
    I did eventually come to a better place but it took a lot of figuring out. My solution was right there in front of me yet because it wasn’t happening at the pace I wanted I felt so so lost and alone. I read a quote somewhere on my travels it goes like this…It is always darkest before dawn. Soon you will see the first rays of a new day. When it comes it is piercing and spectacular and absolutely glorious. Hang in there. Go somewhere today where you can hug someone. May be just ask a police man for a hug if you are desperate. Make opportunities to get a hug and hug back strong and smile because it is better than anything.

    1. Ooooooh. I like the idea of hugging a police man! Actually, maybe I’ll go looking for a fire man! Not too sure how my husband will think of this. But the thought of it brings happiness to my heart. Thank you for your lovely comment, whoever you are. I know it’s a matter of time. I just need to be patient, a virtue I don’t have much of. I’m working on it.

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