January 24, 2020
Michael Chakraverty’s first recollection of feeling lonely was just before he came out as gay, seven years ago, while studying at university. “I felt unable to talk to people, even though I was surrounded by them,” he tells HuffPost UK. “Feeling lonely in a group of people is really isolating.”
Michael Chakraverty: ‘Its Isolating If You Cant Voice Who You Are
He knew his friends would support him and his sexuality, but he didn’t want to burden them with the “confusing, difficult feelings” in his head – and he didn’t even know how to express those feelings. The result? Crippling loneliness.
“It can be isolating if you can’t voice who you are or how you’re feeling,” he says. “That’s one of the main times I remember feeling a barrier between me and other people.” In reality, of course, those people were more than happy to help share his burden and talk, but he didn’t feel, or know, that at the time. 
Is this a common experience among the LGBTQ community, loneliness before coming out? Chakraverty thinks so. “The community feels that a lot, because it’s not seen as normal yet – boys don’t go around kissing boys on the playground, and girls don’t go around kissing girls – therefore exploring those parts of your personality can’t happen outwardly, so generally happen inwardly.”Related How Kindness Could Prevent Loneliness – But Not In The Way You’d Expect Chakraverty used to think loneliness simply meant being alone, but he now realises it’s more about a lack of human connection. “You can be a positive, fun, bubbly person and feel lonely as well,” he says.
Despite describing himself as quite a happy person, Chakraverty identifies periods of loneliness as times when he doesn’t feel a connection to people, where he’s unable to ground himself, “and if I’m unable to ground myself I can quite easily let my thoughts spiral out of control.”
When the 26-year-old starred in Bake Off last year, he came across as an animated character, full of vibrance and charm. A few episodes in, he broke down in tears during a technical challenge – and later revealed he’d been in the throes of a panic attack. His open display of emotion was widely praised by viewers, and since the series ended, Chakraverty has spoken about life with anxiety and depression.
Filming Bake Off was a particularly isolating time, he says, because he couldn’t share what he was doing with other people. When he wasn’t working, every hour would be spent practising his skills – and his mental health began to suffer. There was a bakers Whatsapp group, but he didn’t want to burden fellow contestants with how he was feeling. Thankfully, he was able to tell a few friends from his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon his Bake Off secret – and he credits them with helping him through that time. “Their friendship really, really helped,” he says. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.”
Small acts of kindness helped him stay grounded during that time. One friend would turn up at his home with food to make sure he’d eat. Another would come over and encourage him to get out and go for a walk. “One of my friends was literally coming for 15 minutes every so often just to clean some dishes, and we’d have a chat while she was cleaning them,” he says.
“They reminded me there were people who loved me and supported me – and it reconnected me to the world that I started to feel isolated from.”Related... How To Help Tackle Loneliness – From Volunteering To Going For Coffee Feeling lonely or isolated is one of the main reasons people get in touch with Samaritans, especially during winter. A new survey from the charity found two thirds of Brits have felt lonely in the past year, with 25-to 34-year-olds experiencing the highest levels.
Chakraverty, who supported the charity’s Brew Monday campaign encouraging people to have a cuppa with someone who might be lonely, believes speaking to others is so important. Despite living in a connected world, he believes “we’re less connected than we’ve ever been.”
Since appearing on Bake Off, his life has changed massively – he juggles work with media appearances and writing articles. Days are long and busy, which can sometimes be a challenge. “When you’re busy, generally you’re doing things on your own being busy. You don’t tend to be busy with other people, talking properly about how you feel.”
But now, more than ever, he knows how to avoid those past feelings of intense isolation. “It’s so important to schedule in time to connect with yourself and other people,” he adds.
If you struggling with loneliness, or need someone talk to, you can call Samaritans helpline 116, 123, or email your thoughts and receive a response within 24 hours. Related... Sue Perkins Left 'Shocked' After Spending 30 Hours In Total Isolation I Love My Boyfriend, But I Miss Dating Apps No, ‘Blue Monday’ Is Not The Most Depressing Day Of The Year How To Cope When You Find Out Your Ex Has A New Partner How To Delete Your Dating Apps And End Up Anything But Lonely Useful websites and helplines:Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.ukRethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.
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