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Lonely: A Memoir

av Emily White

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1554170,242 (3.52)1
In this insightful, soul-baring, and illuminating memoir, White reveals her battle to understand and overcome severe loneliness, and contends that this crippling condition deserves the same attention as other mental difficulties such as depression.

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As a single young person who moved to a new city, I'm often asked if I'm lonely. After all, my immediate family lives elsewhere, my closest friends live elsewhere, my classmates and professional colleagues live elsewhere. The truth is that I'm not terribly lonely, partially because this is the third time I've moved to a new place where I didn't know anyone and partially because I quickly made friends in my new home.

However, there have been times in my life when I've been lonely, and I've known people who have been lonely. Through the years, I may have known more lonely people than I've realized at the time; after all, it's not something most people freely share, which is a testament to the social stigma that is associated with loneliness. After all, conventional wisdom suggests that if someone is lonely, they should make some friends and all will be well.

Emily White, in her memoir, "Lonely," deliberately and firmly demonstrates that such conventional wisdom is wrong. Looking through her own life, which has included significant periods of loneliness, and drawing upon recent scientific studies and the personal experiences others shared with her, White attempts to demystify loneliness. In particular, she carefully draws upon recent research to show the distinctions between loneliness and depression.

On the whole, the book offers many insights into the forms of loneliness and possible avenues out of the deepest types of loneliness. With sometimes painful honesty, White describes how her loneliness, which dates back to her adolescence, undermined her professional career and her friendships as an adult. Sometimes these reminiscences are accompanied by subtle humor, as when she describes advertised "singles" activities in which she took part, with rather frustrating results.

The other components of the book are a bit of a mixed bag. The scientific research, which is mostly presented in the words of the researchers that White has contacted in interviews or correspondence, is enlightening, but sometimes feels a little drawn out and boring. The experiences of others, taken from comments they posted on White's blog where she began seeking out others who also were afflicted with loneliness, sometimes enrich the book's description of the various manifestations of loneliness, but also distract from the more complete exploration of loneliness in White's life.

Still, this is a noble effort to provide understanding of loneliness in modern life, both for those who suffer from loneliness and for those seeking to appreciate the challenges of loneliness better. Despite occasional dry patches of scientific description, the book is an engaging read, held together by White's compelling candor about her own journey.

This review is also published at http://alongthispilgrimsjourney.blogspot.com/2013/05/book-review-lonely-memoir.h... ( )
  ALincolnNut | May 9, 2013 |
I had hopes for this book, but alas they were not realized. I think the author has an affecting poignant memoir in her, but this is not it. She seems so bent on loneliness being recognized as a psychiatric disorder that she spends nearly half the book in dry recitations of studies and quotes from mental health researchers. In fairness, she doesn't present the book to be strictly a memoir, but I think it would have been a more powerful and persuasive book had it been written as such. ( )
  markfinl | Oct 16, 2011 |
Enjoyed this - a solid read, well-written, interesting, and revealing. Learned a lot. Part memoir, part social science. I find memoirs written by people in their 30s kind of interesting, because you're not that far through life, assuming you'll hit the average lifespan. I wonder what the author's take will be in another 30 years. Worth a look. ( )
  fsmichaels | May 16, 2011 |
Conditions like depression used to be talked about in whispers if at all. There was something shameful about being depressed. Surely it was just something the sufferer could cure him or herself if they put their minds to it. Now we know that this sort of thinking is wrong-headed for depression but we seem to have shifted the stigma to loneliness. And not only have we shifted the stigma but we are reluctant to name loneliness as a chronic condition needing recognition and treatment in some people. After all, we all get lonely, right? So it can't possibly be anything worth researching, spending time and money on understanding. This in-depth memoir by Emily White certainly proves otherwise.

White suffered chronic loneliness for years. She knew all of the platitudes about going out and meeting new people to combat the problem but she just couldn't. Being of an analytical mind, she threw herself into researching the problem of loneliness as a means to understand and perhaps finally combat the hell with which she was living. She found a paucity of information compared to other afflictions and discovered that loneliness was often conflated with depression. But she knew there was more to it and so kept digging. Her very thorough research weaves around, through, and beside her own story of isolation and lack of social connection. She candidly describes her own symptoms as she sank further and further into a state of chronic loneliness, how she compensated in her life, and how ashamed she was of naming her feelings, despite the fact of having watched her mother battle loneliness and therefore knowing she had a genetic predisposition for the condition. White examines the recent rise in loneliness, social factors that exacerbate the problem, and the long-term physical and emotional effects of being socially unconnected. In addition to published articles, she also interviewed volunteers who identified as lonely, using their reports to add weight to the scientific findings and echoing her own struggles.

The concept of chronic loneliness being so debilitating is new to me, more familiar as I am with situational loneliness (loneliness with a root cause in a certain situation like a move or divorce). I found White's struggle with loneliness and the fact that she chose to research it in depth as a partial coping mechanism to be incredibly interesting. The research she presents in the book is comprehensive but it often overwhelms the more personal aspect of the memoir. There was a lot to absorb in the book and that made the reading dense although White is good with words and presents scientific findings in an accessible manner. Although billed as a memoir, it is probably more properly belongs in the psychology or social science section than with the biographies and memoirs as it is heavier on the objective research than it is on memoir. But that's more a classification issue than anything else. Folks looking to read a straight memoir won't find that here but will instead find a book that goes a long way to try and bring this under-examined condition to light and to erase the stigma so prevalent around admitting to lonelinesss. It's not just a personal social problem, it's a debilitating ache that should be given more credence in the mental health profession and indeed society at large. ( )
2 rösta whitreidtan | Jan 28, 2011 |
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In this insightful, soul-baring, and illuminating memoir, White reveals her battle to understand and overcome severe loneliness, and contends that this crippling condition deserves the same attention as other mental difficulties such as depression.

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