I had not spent much time alone, like completely and with intention, until I was almost forty. Even at that point in my life, I can’t say it was with intention, at least at first. Now I seek it out with all of the intention in my very soul. It is a special sort of solace I didn’t truly think existed. I think it is a lost art form in some ways. I had read so many books on Buddhism, zen, feng shui, meditation, mindfulness, being present, and blah blah blah. I spent a good portion of my life seeking outside of myself what was always right there within me.
Okay, that may sound very corny and all, but it’s also very true. I grew up with two siblings that I shared a room with. Even in the few years that I was an only child, my mother would often instruct me to go outside to play. Sure, as a child, I loved solo imagination time. I created epic dramas with my Barbies and stuffed animals. I imagined myself a Cinderella type of character and would build castles in the air about the day I would be saved. I concocted secret witches brews in my backyard with mud and leaves and bottle brush blossoms. All before the age of six. Ha-ha! Once I had a baby brother, though, everything changed. I was obsessed with him and he was (is) the sweetest lil’ bro a gal like me could have. (We have a younger sister, but we’ve never been as close.)
I spent so much of my childhood seeking joy and company outside of my house upon the instruction of my mother. When I was home I was care taking and tending to my two siblings (my mother being physically present but mentally incapable of managing). As I got older I spent even more time out of the house and with friends. I never questioned or thought about it or an alternative, it was just life. Later it was boyfriends and housemates until it was just my husband and me.
When I left my marriage I stayed very close to my husband, in proximity as well as emotionally. We were still best friends. And he lived in the same apartment building as my actual bffs. My new roommate and I got to know each other over time and eventually became close. I was new to dating and had a new career path and everything seemed so new and exciting. Yet I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted in life, let alone where I felt I fit in this world.
At the time I had a very close bff with whom I would text every day and hang out at least once a week. They insisted time and again that I needed to be okay with my own company, that I should somehow force myself to be good with just me. That made no sense to me then, and really forcing anything is rarely a good choice. I struggled from time to time when plans canceled or a rough patch would pop up and I needed support. I would muddle through and not really give much thought outside of the issue at hand.
When I moved back to my home town and all of it’s awful triggers, and far from pretty much everyone I know and love, I was also out of work and still recovering from a spine injury. Isolation hit me like a ton of bricks. If I left the house I would get triggered and have a panic attack. If I stayed home I would feel stir crazy and start to climb the walls or consider self harm. It was maddening in a very real fucking way! PTSD is a terrible thing to live with, and I had gone so long without any symptoms that being faced with so much all at once lead to a complete mental breakdown.
I was applying to jobs everyday, interviewing constantly, and losing my fucking mind at the same time. I ended up being out of work for one year and one month to the day. Once I had a steady schedule, a job I excelled at, and a team that supported me, I felt more myself than ever before! I had been out of work for long stretches before, but never on my own. I had a boyfriend at the time who seemed supportive but it was only words, I would later find out. And while I have always had a great support system in my friends and chosen family, when everyone else is struggling as well, it just doesn’t seem right to ask of them too.
I realized during this vast stretch of time on my own that it was the first time in my life that I’d truly and deeply had been alone. I was forced to process and deal with things that I’d never confronted before. I had no roommate, except for my puggo, and no one within 20 miles for comfort or whining or whatever else I felt I needed at the time. It was also the beginning of the end of a 4-year and completely sexless relationship (yeah, that…it never happened, not even once). Unwilling to let go of that very last tether, I simply held on until I could right myself and find my footing in the world again.
Then I finally couldn’t continue to settle for a smaller and less satisfying life than I had set out for myself when I left my husband. I broke up with said boyfriend. It took me a month of processing and mourning the relationship before I did what I knew I needed to. And then they talked me into giving them a second chance, something I hadn’t done before. Let’s just say I won’t be doing it again, either. Ha! So then that was it. I was truly and completely alone…only stoked about it!
For the first time in my adult life I had no paramours or beau, no crushes and no prospects. For the first time I wasn’t chasing or being chased and it felt surprisingly great! I’d been dating (or married) non-stop since I was 12 years old (technically 11, but only by a week). I decided to just fucking chill, ya know? And I relished in it! I read more, I hung out with coworkers more, I just felt more relaxed within myself and more my true self than ever.
When I was wrongly fired from that job (long story), I thought I’d be fine. It didn’t seem as scary as before and yet things felt way worse sooner than I could have imagined. Luckily my friends, former coworkers, and fat community held me up and encouraged me a lot. I was only out of work for three months this time and yet it felt even more desperate than the year previous. I had no safety net, no (selfish) boyfriend, no savings, and for the first time at that point no credit card to fall back on. It was the realest form of alone ever. I freaked out a lot.
To make some room in my non-existent budget I gave up the one thing that had been helping my anxiety so much, cannabis. There were days and nights that bled together and had me literally climbing the walls of my tiny studio/in-law unit. My puggo is a great comfort, but he can’t do it all, ya know? So this was just the toughest of times, and then the holidays hit.
I had never felt more alone in my entire fucking life until that x-mas, early evening. My nearest and dearest were out of town, my family estranged. I dove head first into a terrible bottle of red wine (brand was Bitch with a fab label, but do not drink that shit, trust!). I drank the entire thing in under an hour. Have you ever tried to fucking chug red wine?! DO NOT! I was not kind to myself that night. It was an old self destructive habit that crept up and snatched me, I swear! I guess I was just desperate to numb the pain, but there’s many more layers to it than that.
After sleeping it off, I decidedly pulled myself together and cooked myself a damned x-mas dinner, at 9 pm. Ha-ha! It was actually hella good. It was a Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving Casserole, I highly recommend it if you catch it. I ate that thing for a week, but I digress. I sat with my thoughts while the casserole was in the oven. I didn’t have any screens or even music on. I just sat on my bed and took a deep and hard look at my situation and myself and the life I wanted. It was then that I realized that being single was just alright with me. I had tried to date off and on after the breakup, but just lost interest.
That week between x-mas and new year’s was more of that same soul searching kind of thing. I decided to double down and really go all in on my job hunting. I know what I am capable of. I know what I can and have accomplished. I reminded myself of this and so did my bffs. My PTSD symptoms didn’t pop up this go ’round and I hadn’t had a panic attack in over a year. When January hit I was in full force and how! WHEW! I interviewed every single weekday for a 5 weeks solid and I mean in person and phone interviews, usually back to back. It was intense and exhausting and terrible but I did it and I found a job that fit!
Having a job, especially one that I feel challenged and stimulated, needed and wanted, makes all the difference in the world. For my mental health especially! Without the usual workday schedule and social cues that go with it, I quite literally fall apart. Now that I’ve been at this job for 7 months, I feel pretty great! Still not dating, still no crushes. I have people who are interested in me like that, but one has become a friendship (thank goodness because they’re awesome just not a romantic match for me) and another who I just don’t even know what to do about (they text me “good morning beautiful” every single day, but we’ve only had 2 dates in 3 months). It’s fine. I am good on my own.
Something shifted in me a couple of weeks after starting my current job. I don’t know what and I don’t know how, it’s pretty tough to explain honestly. I tell my friends and joke about being dead inside but my lovely dance partner explained that it doesn’t seem that way to interact with me. Which is a relief but also just makes describing how I feel harder. Like, I don’t get as excited or upset about anything anymore. I feel things, but not most things. Prior to this happening I was considering seeking anti-depressants for the first time in my life, in the hopes of regaining my energy to do life things like housework and errands. Then when this change occurred it just felt like a relief in a way. Now I’m pretty darn comfortable with it. It’s better than feeling all the things or depressed or anxious all of the time.
I’m still me. I’m still fucking awesome. I’m just calmer, I guess. I rarely even cry anymore, which kind of sucks. A good cry can be very refreshing, even cleansing, or so the Victorians believed. There have been moments when this dead inside thing did make things hard as fuck. I had a conflict with a friend and there were tears and when they hugged me and were just sobbing into my shoulder, I felt nothing at all and it was hella awkward. Yes I said all the right things, but I’m certain it was weird for them, too.
A few people in my life have mentioned to me that I am much quieter than they have ever seen me before. What’s to say? *Shrugs* Seriously, though, maybe this is some sort of new coping mechanism since the world is almost literally and completely a dumpster fire at this point in time. Things were bad before I started this job and have only worsened, and yet I don’t feel nauseated every time I log into my social media accounts like I did then. Meh.
I still feel really good about being alone, though. I seek it out now! It’s odd and not at all what I would have expected had you told me this even last year! I enjoy my own company, I seek out new things on my own, and I ride my own melt. Life is good. It’s not great, but I’m grateful for every breath I get in this world. I have lost people I cared deeply for, some I didn’t know well, others I knew for decades. Cancer is an indiscriminate bastard! I was lucky enough to not lose my best friend to cancer, it was in their body, but it was removed entirely. I thank the stars above every day for that!
I do feel as though I’m gaining some traction, as hard as things have been and seem at times. Stability is a wonderful thing if you can find it. I think I have minimized, ignored, pretended, and hid my mental breakdowns far more than I realized these last few years. I’m learning to be more open about it and face what happened in a very real way. Like, I know what my issues are, I know how to talk about them and do often, but being able to actually say, “Yeah, I have really struggled with my mental health for the last 3 years and have had a few breakdowns in that time.” is very new as in the last two weeks. It’s not that I wasn’t aware, but somehow saying the words felt like burdening others. Over that! Ha-ha!
Thank you for reading. I have such a deep longing to write on the regular again. I just don’t know how to get it back. I will keep trying and you have my undying gratitude for paying any attention to this silly ol’ blog o’ mine. **Hugs**
Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
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