*Only the Lonely

In honor of the anniversary of the death of Roy Orbison, today’s blog goes out to all the lonely people out there (which is another song we’ll talk about later in this post). Roy’s Only the Lonely was his first hit song. He’d spent several years trying to write songs while sitting alone in his car. When he finally hooked up with an acquaintance and together they wrote Only the Lonely, which oddly enough had to be subtitled (Know the Way I Feel), because Frank Sinatra had just put out a song titled, Only the Lonely.

But they aren’t the only “Lonely” songs, not by far. Bobby Vinton sings Lonely, “…Mr Lonely” in 1964. In 1966, The Beatles sang “All the Lonely People” with Eleanor Rigby, their first foray into serious songs that didn’t fit the pop/rock sound they were known for. Luke Combs has a country song titled Lonely One. Dave Mason sang The Lonely One in 1974, “crying for God’s eternal son”. Singing about God was popular in the 70’s. Also in 1974, America’s Dan Peek wrote and released the song Lonely People.

Dan Peek’s song is one worth taking a closer look at. The song starts with these lyrics:

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

On the Song Facts web site for Lonely People** we learn that Dan Peek left the group in 1977 to pursue his faith. After he left, he sang Lonely People with the words changed to, “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup and give your heart to Jesus Christ”.  It may seem obvious what Dan was thinking when he wrote the song. In case you can’t figure it out, he told Circus that he was “thinking about what it would be like to wake up and not know anybody.”

Highway Highlight (from the box set booklet)
“Lonely People” was Peek’s standout contribution to Holiday, a simple tune that carried a universal message. The song came out of true experience, Dan says: “I wrote it probably within a month of getting married to my long-lost love, Catherine. I had always felt like the melancholy, lonely person. And now I felt like I’d won. It had become this quest, to get this woman and make things right. There was a joy, but also a sadness for everybody that didn’t have somebody, ’cause I knew what that was like. The line that inspired it was from ‘Eleanor Rigby’: ‘all the lonely people, where do they all come from … where do they all belong?’ That line haunted me and cut me to the core. After a couple of years of it being out, we’d do shows where, when we played that song, there would be a standing ovation in the middle of it. This was for all the lonely people, and I was one of them.” So at the time it was written it was about the chalice used during the wedding ceremony.

But there are many, many reasons for people to be lonely. The really sad thing these days is that someone can be surrounded by thousands of people and still feel lonelier than ever. With social media keeping our noses stuck to our Smart Phones and computer screens, real person-to-person interaction barely exists anymore. Young people get together on-line to chat, play games, and go shopping … all things that teens used to do together live and in-person. People who admit to being lonely actually have more friends on social media than those who don’t consider themselves lonely.

Loneliness doesn’t come from physical contact or talking to someone, even if it’s only on-line. It comes from the lack of emotional contact with people. A recluse with a very close pen pal can be less lonely than a teen with 700+ friends on Facebook, or even a kid in school who is shunned by the other kids.

Everyone feels lonely sometimes, but chronic loneliness can lead to depression, and loneliness during special events and celebrations can mimic the symptoms of depression … times like graduations, moving to new places, or holidays. Yup, you figured I’d connect the two, didn’t you?

We’ve talked about Holiday Depression, so you should have some ideas how to deal with that, but what about loneliness? It’s not the same as depression. You can be lonely without being depressed, or depressed without being lonely, so what’s the difference?

Lonely people are in emotional pain, just like depressed people, but lonely people also can’t seem to make the meaningful connections with others that they need. They take the few connections they do have, and minimize or discount them. They have unrealistic expectations for any interactions they have with other people and are super sensitive of any sign of rejection or disinterest, sometimes to an extreme. They shame themselves with negative talk, trying to explain away why they don’t have many friends.

Loneliness can hurt just as much as depression, but depression is definitely more pressing, because it can be a huge threat to life … the life of the depressed person, and the life of others around the depressed person. We’ve heard so much more about murder/suicide these days. It seems like they’ve increased a hundred-fold. Maybe they have, but it’s more likely that with the internet, we hear of many more things going on around the world, and we hear of them instantly. Depression often leads to suicide attempts or successes. Over 90 percent of people who successfully kill themselves have a mental disorder, either depression, bipolar disorder or some other diagnosis, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Every year, over 1 million people die by suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2015, the country with the highest suicide rate per 100,000 people (according to WHO) is, surprisingly, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka! Whodathunk? America isn’t even in the top 25, neither is the UK, or China, or Japan. How do you digest those facts? Some of the countries on the list, I’ve never heard of before. Where is #7, Equatorial Guinea? In 2002, Lithuania was top of the list.

See? Depression and suicide are not respecters of men and women. They don’t care where you’re from, how much you make or who your daddy is. Females tend to attempt more often, but males succeed more often, due to the method used. Men tend to use more violent means, which leads to quick death. Women use things like drugs or carbon monoxide poisoning, so they don’t leave a mess to clean up.

Suicide is serious and one should never, ever joke about it. If you ever hear someone talking about suicide, ask them if they are serious. Ask them if they have a plan. Ask them how long they’ve felt this way. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, or to ask questions. A suicidal person will most likely be honest in their answers. If they say they have a plan, call 911 immediately, or call the suicide hotline below“. If they say they are suicidal, but don’t have a plan, have them call their doctor, or the Suicide Hotline below as soon as they can. While it is still a serious answer, it is most likely not an emergent one. Act quickly, though.

If you or a loved one has attempted suicide before, or if talk of suicide has commenced in any way, shape or form, consider creating and signing a Suicide Contract, also known as a No Suicide Contract, among other things. You can find information on them, and a free contract you may use at THIS SITE.

See how easy it was to go from loneliness to depression to suicide? Get help sooner, rather than later.

Mental Illness is not a shameful disease. There is no more reason to be shamed from it than there is of the flu, or cancer. You have no control over the illness itself, but you do have control over how you act toward it, how you treat it. It’s manageable, and there are people who can help you. They aren’t out to get you, or trying to harm you. The goal is to break the stigma and get people healthy again.


“If you feel like you are a danger to yourself or someone else, or if someone you know is in danger of self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

**Song Facts  If you are in the mood to listen to songs about loneliness, go to this website and click the link for “More songs about loneliness and isolation” next to the blue box right before the comments. Sometimes listening to sad songs will ease your heartache. Beware, though, that sometimes it will only worsen it.