I am rarely alone. At work, I engage in conversations with colleagues and clients all day. At home, my husband is generally present, because we carpool to work, so he’s at home when I am. You get it; I am in the presence of at least one other person all day long.
The kind of loneliness I experience is directly related to being a 30-something professional with a disability who has to figure out solutions individual to me on my own. I could ask colleagues and family for help, but then I would be asking them to understand my needs more than I do. More often than not, collaborating with others on solutions pertaining to my disability usually ends in me feeling annoyed I wasted my time and the other person’s by asking for advice in the first place. The few times I do not end up feeling annoyed are the times I end up infuriated by answers that feel absurd or belittling.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to finding someone who can effectively provide mentorship and support is the limited number of individuals in professional positions who can relate. Within my workplace of about 50 employees, for example, I am the only individual with a significant, life long, very noticeable disability. It is just not an issue for colleagues, so it does not make sense for them to have answers for me. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity of meeting several professionals with significant disabilities. Some are more approachable than others. I try to keep communication open with those who I admire so I can tap into their knowledge when I need support. Nevertheless, a majority of supports I find are outside of the workplace.
Physically, I am seldom alone. Emotionally, I feel very alone most of the time. Keeping up with the rest of the world is a completely realistic expectation for me, but it does require a lot of unique self-efficacy skills. Motivations come from within and endurance is vital.