Title: Lonely: A Memoir
Author: Emily White
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
In this memoir, Emily White delves into a somewhat taboo subject that is rarely discussed – that of chronic loneliness. She recounts her own loneliness while also studying it in others. White also looks at scientific studies, trying to understand loneliness, why the phenomenon is increasing, and why it’s not openly discussed.
I found the subject of Emily White’s memoir, Lonely, to be very intriguing. The phenomenon of true loneliness, of being surrounded by people yet not being able to connect with any of them, of feeling utterly alone, is one that deserves serious study and careful consideration. White shouldn’t be considered brave for talking about it, yet she is because no one does really discuss it. She relates some of the reactions of people when she tells them she is working on a book about loneliness, and it’s really frustrating.
I found the comparison of loneliness and depression to be very interesting. Specifically, chronic loneliness isn’t really recognized as a medical condition (and to be honest, I’m not sure it should be, as I don’t think it can be treated through drugs), so it’s often confused with depression when being diagnosed. However, loneliness and depression are two very different things – while depressed people are often lonely, lonely people are, for the most part, decidedly not depressed. White really highlighted the difference between these two conditions, and how it’s hurt the recognition of loneliness because psychiatrists treat it as depression.
White also discusses how loneliness is often perceived to be the fault of the lonely person, much as depression was 20 years ago. People are uncomfortable talking about loneliness because the public at large thinks that, if someone is lonely, it’s their own fault. They should just try harder. In reality, no matter how hard lonely people try, sometimes they just cannot connect with others, and even when they do, they still feel lonely. As I mentioned before, while I don’t think drugs are the answer for this, a recognition of the problem and support groups where people can share their experiences of loneliness might help alleviate some of the issues.
However, in Lonely, White also discusses how each and every behavior, even if it’s normal, is becoming classified as a condition, and I think that’s what makes me hesitate about loneliness. It’s normal to feel lonely on occasion, though chronic loneliness is a different story. I just don’t think that every problem is a disease and every issue should be treated through medical means. I think that takes away some of the responsibility from ourselves, takes the control of our lives out of our hands. I’m not saying that chronically lonely people should take responsibility and therefore become less lonely, just that this book walks a fine line and it’s interesting to think about both sides of the issue.
I found Lonely to be an incredibly interesting memoir. I think it’s a must read for anyone who’s found themselves to be chronically lonely, who can’t shake that feeling of aloneness. It really helps to know that there are others out there going through the same thing you are. As a non-lonely person who’s been lonely in the past, I came into this book with a healthy dose of skepticism. While I’m not convinced medicine is the answer for lonely people, I think recognition and treatment of loneliness through support groups and therapy could be helpful. It’s an interesting problem and I’m glad I read this eye-opening book.