Lonely in a Crowd

Yesterday, I had a busy day. I went to a celebration of women at my children’s school. At our previous school, the culture and the people didn’t feel right to me and I always felt that I didn’t fit in. Even though, it was my school and I should have felt at home there. I thought I’d fit in better with the mothers at the new school but I still feel so different and I realized yesterday that I’ll never fit in, anywhere.


In the afternoon, I did some painting with a lovely group of ladies. I got the chance to be creative and I got to escape a few more hours of childcare. I love my children and I love being with them, but I do need a break sometimes from the relentless demands of being a mother.

On the way home, I felt this overwhelming sense of loneliness. I felt that feeling of being lonely in a crowd. I had been out all day with people and yet I felt so lonely. I couldn’t wait to get home to see my children and to be around people who love me, who need me and who understand me. I felt the opposite of needing a break from them. I really needed them.

When I got home, I went into the TV room where my girls were playing and I told them I felt lonely. They hugged me and invited me into their game and to sit with them. It was a great feeling and I am so very grateful to have these beautiful people in my life. I don’t always do the right thing and I often mess up but they love me anyway. They think I’m legendary despite all my faults and it feels so amazing to be loved and accepted this way.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the grief of a lifelong illness. There is so much loss and I’m still figuring out how to process it. I lost the ability to run ultra marathons which was a significant part of my life. It’s sad to know that I’ll never feel that excitement and the great energy of the crowd at the start of a race. I’ll never feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing the line after a grueling few  hours of struggle. I’ll never be able to share stories and time with my running friends as we work towards common goals and achievements.

I’ve also lost the ability to simply eat and drink whatever I want. I had to give up gluten on my doctor’s advice since it has a harmful effect on my thyroid. I have to plan when going to functions, I stock my handbag with snacks or I eat before I go. I often have to put the host in a difficult situation in that I can’t eat so many things. I feel awful being the person who rearranges the menu around their needs. I feel like I’m the fussy and difficult one. I used to be the person who was willing to try anything – the fearless adventurous one. Now, I come from this place of fear, worried that I’ll make myself sicker by eating the wrong thing.

I miss being able to drink alcohol. It affects my adrenal glands in a negative way and it affects my sleep which is critical for someone who suffered with chronic fatigue for years. I can’t just enjoy a beautiful glass of red wine at a party or a dinner out. I’m always the designated driver, the wet fish, the sober one. I wish I could have a glass of port while watching the fire in our lounge in winter. I wish I could join in with everyone and feel part of every function. I wish I could just be like everyone else. But I’m not.

I know it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I am. Often, I just get on with it and find my way around it. But it is a loss. My life will never be the same and I mourn the old, carefree me. I used to taste all the food to tell my husband if it contains vegetables. Now, I can’t even have crisps for fear of the seasoning containing gluten. No one can understand my journey and how much life changed for me in the past few years. No one has felt my exact struggle. No one understands fully.

I have moments where I acknowledge that my life is better after my burnout than before. I know that I had to get very sick to get this message fully. I know that I’m now able to live the kind of life others envy. I’m nor aligned to my calling, I love my work and I am happy. But I also miss all the things that I’ve lost. I mourn my old life in many ways, even though it wasn’t healthy or sustainable.


I had a spiritual awakening as part of my life collapsing. My beliefs shifted fundamentally and in a way that feels very positive for me. I am very happy with my new beliefs and gifts that burnout offered me but it hasn’t been easy. It’s difficult to live this life and to make choices that make you feel so different from others. Fitting in is no longer an option. I feel far too different in my thoughts, views, beliefs and behaviors to fit in anywhere. I find that hard.

But there’s no going back now, and I won’t ever be able to unsee what I’ve seen and unlearn what I’ve learnt. The burnout I experienced was the catalyst to changing my life and to becoming a guide to others towards their best life possible. That is my path and I accept and celebrate it. I have to live in my truth and to be my authentic self. There is no alternative, but it’s still lonely.

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I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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