Lonely Boy didn’t really start out as a book. That wasn’t the intention. It began as a journalling exercise. There were parts of my life that I wasn’t happy with – parts of myself I wasn’t happy with. And I wanted to figure the problem out. I wanted to find my blind spots, find the flaws and faults I was ignoring and address them head on.
And so I began. I wrote every day for weeks. And quite soon I had 20,000 words written. I began to see that this journal could become something else. It could become an open and honest reflection. A series of essays that looked inward to investigate the role I was playing in my own unhappiness.
This book began as a means to figure out why I became so lonely after my friend died by suicide. Why I couldn’t let it go, and why it seemed as though I refused to move on. I thought his death was the root of this loneliness, but this hasn’t turned out to be the case. A disposition for aloneness has been present for my entire life, like some sort of genetically coded substructure. His death exasperated the issue, possibly confirming to my subconscious mind that being alone is better than becoming attached, because there’s no danger of being hurt by loss when you’re alone.
I feared spending time alone. This fear is primed in part by our world. How we’re encouraged to constantly stay connected, In our world, spending time alone is strange, unusual, undesirable. We avoid it all costs, and I think this resistance results in a fear of being alone. Not all time spent alone need by lonesome, but for a long time for me, it was.
This fear of being alone juxtaposed with my inability to form successful relationships. I was afraid to open up, to be vulnerable, because I didn’t want to get hurt. And so my answer to this problem in my early twenties was to never open up, to never be vulnerable. While this closed me off to hurt from the outside, it invariably led to being hurt from the inside. I was a man who did not want to be alone, who would not allow himself to be with someone in any real way.
From a young age I become aware of death and the fear of it held me fast. I became sensitive, thoughtful, reflective. Whereas life made total sense for others, it made little sense to me. I always felt outside of life in subtle little ways. The loneliness of this was ever-present. It was there at sunset in the summer, the familiar dread of something good coming to an end.
For me, the antidote to stigma around mental health is talking about our struggles openly and earnestly. Not in a placated way, I mean the raw aspects of our mental lives. Talking about times when we let ourselves down, when we made poor decisions, when we hurt people, is as important as talking about when we were hurt by other people. Humans are imperfect. We all fail. We all have flaws. And I believe that looking inward, addressing these flaws and accepting them, is essential for knowing who we truly are. When we know we truly are – the good and the bad parts – then this will lead is to consistent wellbeing, because we are no longer ignoring issues that need to be addressed.
When we talk about our mental health it does two things. It allows us to vent our emotions, to get them out from inside, and this helps us to process them and move on. But, even more pertinent than that in today’s world, talking about your mental health alerts other people. It’s a Call to Adventure. When you talk about your mental health, then people know that they too can talk about theirs, and that you are someone who will listen to them without judgement. And so each time someone talks about their mental life, it may inspire another to do the same, and through this snowball effect we can normalise the chat around mental health.
And this is the motivation behind turning my journal into a book called Lonely Boy. It’s a frank conversation with the reader about mental health in the hope that the honesty here will provoke someone else to talk about their mental health, too.
Lonely Boy is an attempt to make sense of it all; of my embedded disposition for aloneness, of losing my best friend, of struggling to make relationships work. The journey inward is the most difficult one, and it’s also the easiest one to ignore embarking upon. But it essential. This has been essential, and my hope is that in reading the revelations I’ve uncovered, you’ll embark upon your own quest for meaning too.
(c) Daragh Fleming
About Lonely Boy:
“The future of mental health advocacy is safe in the hands of Daragh Fleming. This generation can finally destroy the stigma that did its very best to try to destroy my generation. Daragh has been a god send to A Lust For Life, injecting huge energy into our mission.” – Niall Breslin, Co-founder of youth mental health charity A Lust For Life
“Daragh Fleming is doing Trojan work in transcribing the emotional pain that has been lying dormant and stubbornly silent in men for generations. This book has the capacity to save lives. It is an extraordinary testament to a dear friend.” – Louise Nealon, bestselling author of Snowflake
“A book of great depth and honesty. Nothing is held back for which I was truly thankful. There is much learning here for all of us.” – Anne Griffin, author of When All Is Said
“Lonely Boy is a beautifully-written triumph: prescribed reading in our endless quest for meaning. For me, the pages of a great non-fiction book are a mirror; your own anxieties reflected back at you, your outlook an echo to the words. I think it’s safe to say that Lonely Boy will truly resonate and – wonderfully – succeed in making countless readers infinitely less alone.” – Amanda Geard, author of The Midnight House
“Lonely Boy is a stunning achievement and such an important book for the times we live in. In his exploration of mental health, relationships, loneliness and loss, Daragh Fleming has done us all a great service. The book is brave, insightful, reflective and moving. His deft blend of the personal and universal makes the essays very readable, but the writing is also skilful and vivid. By confronting his demons and his injurious behaviour in his late teens and twenties, he has produced a book that many will associate with and that many should read – a rare feat.” – Tadhg Coakley, author of The Game
Order your copy online here.