'The coronavirus crashed head-on with our crisis of toxic loneliness. We need a systemic solution,' writes Zama Ndlovu.
About five weeks into lockdown, I found myself feeling socially dislocated and emotionally distressed. I did not understand the source of my discomfort. After all, I have lived alone for most of my post-graduate years, so physical distancing was not a significant change. I have mostly lived in solitude; I have sometimes lived in loneliness. Sometimes, the dark clouds gather, leaving me feeling as though life is contracting around me. In those times, I am empty and wholly disempowered as though I have lost my life, though I have not died.
Knowing the devastating costs of isolation intimately, I set about implementing a supportive structure of weekly video call check-ins with friends and family to make sure that I could feel connected during the lockdown period. Having taken so much care, I could not understand the incessant feeling of dislocation.
Every human being needs strong social bonds to thrive. We need to know that we belong somewhere and that we have supportive relationships to lean on when we face challenges. These social bonds help us to be more resilient and adaptable during times of hardship.