By Kelsey Johnson

Loneliness and depression are realities that we face in our world. But why? Why do loneliness and depression exist?

It was good…

Humanity began with God’s creation of Adam. God called his creation “good,” but creation was not complete until he formed Eve from Adam’s side, saying, “It is not good for man to be alone.” This gives us our first clue about loneliness. From the very beginning, the importance of relationships is evident. The peace and harmony that Adam and Eve enjoyed tells us something about human beings: We need relationships with other people. We are made to be in relationships with one another—it is not good for us to be alone. When there was two, it was “good”.

God specifically chooses to bring new life into the world within families. No matter what your family looks like now, we were each born from a mother and a father. This gives us another clue about our nature as human beings and affirms the fact that we are made with the desire and need for relationships with other human beings. God could have put each of us on our own islands and said, “Okay, good luck!” But he didn’t. He gives us a family. This is why strain in family relationships is so painful. It goes against our nature to be disconnected from our family. It’s written on our souls that we are made for relationships.

…And then it wasn’t

We all know what happens next. Eve falls to the temptation of Satan, and consequently all human beings inherit this original sin. Sin changed everything. Before the fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and with each other. They could communicate without confusion and be understood by one another. They could give and receive love without hesitation. Sin made everything more difficult. Sin gives us the desire to do wrong and an inclination towards evil. This is called concupiscence. At times, we stray from the will of God. This particularly makes relationships more difficult. Sin distorts the way that we think and the way that we act. It turns selflessness to selfishness. It turns our interests inward and shifts our focus to self-protection instead of self-gift. Sin causes us to doubt others and leads us to question, “Is this person going to hurt me?” and casts fear in place of love. Though we have the desire for relationship written on our souls, sin puts a barrier in the way of the connection that we so long for. When this desire for connection isn’t met, we experience loneliness. This loneliness can escalate into isolation from others which can turn into depression.

Longing for Connection

Social media plays an interesting role within loneliness and the need for connection. Social media does have the benefit of allowing us to maintain connection with those we don’t get to see daily, but it doesn’t fulfill our deep longing for human connection because it lacks complete transparency and vulnerability. With any form of social media, the user chooses exactly what to present. We get to carefully craft sentences, edit and filter photos, and post only what we want others to see. Even if we choose to share something vulnerable, we still choose every word and punctuation before it meets another person’s eyes. It lacks the element of imperfect humanity; when we share vulnerably with another person, we will not have the perfect words. We will stumble, say ‘um’ and maybe even spit a little. Social media has its benefits, but it can never completely fill our need for human connection.

This desire for human connection is more than just a simple need for conversation:it is a longing for love. We all long to be loved and accepted for who we are. Loneliness tells us that we are alone and unloved. The Cross tells us the truth: we are worth dying for.

Depression

We all feel sad or lonely from time to time, but for some people this loneliness turns into chronic depression. Mental illness is defined by impairment of functioning in some area of your life, like work, school, or home life. If you are experiencing the following symptoms to the point that it is affecting your daily functioning, you may be experiencing depression and could benefit from seeking counseling.

Symptoms:

  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Isolation
  • Change in mood (feeling sad or irritable)
  • Fluctuation in appetite
  • Change in energy level or sleep habits
  • Unexpected poor academic performance
  • Anxiety

Self-Care

For anyone experiencing depression or simply feeling down and lonely, here are some self-care tips that anyone can benefit from:

  • Engage in relationships with others
  • Talk about your struggles
  • Go to counseling
  • Do things you enjoy
  • Get outside and connect with nature
  • Exercise
  • Pray
  • Meditate

Helping Loved Ones

Even if you don’t personally struggle with depression, chances are you know someone who does. Here are some tips to help those around you who are struggling:

  • Be present and listen. There is power in being heard. Sometimes all a friend needs is a listening ear as they voice their pain.
  • Stay in touch. Depression makes it very easy to isolate from others. Help your friends out by making the first step to stay in contact when they are tempted to disconnect.
  • Praywith them and for them.
  • Get help. Depression is a battle and requires an army. For friends struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, help connect them with professionals who can get them the help they need.

Whether you have every symptom on the list or you just feel lonely sometimes, walking through these difficult times may feel like walking to Calvary with Jesus. It may feel like a never ending Good Friday, but walking through it is what brings us to Resurrection Sunday. It is these trials that make us even stronger and richer than we were before. In Heaven, we will never feel lonely. We will never be empty. We will be completely complete. Until then, we have each other and we have Jesus to keep us company, to walk with us, and to point us to Heaven.

“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Recommended Resources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Catholic Guide to Depression: How the Saints, the Sacraments, and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again by Aaron Kheriarty, M.D.

Depression: A Teen’s Guide to Survive and Thrive by Jacqueline B. Toner and Claire A. B. Freeland