Historically, I have hated being lonely and feared being alone. It started in high school and continued into my early thirties. Sometimes I felt lonely even when I was with people, and I hated that too. Some of it was related to being sick and feeling like no one had any idea what I was experiencing. I also had to opt out of a lot of social things because I didn’t have the energy. Before I was open with people about my illness, there were nights I would be home alone crying my eyes out, wishing someone would just come sit on my bed with me. I felt like there was no one I could call, and like it would be a burden to ask anyone to accommodate my special needs. I got over that but then swung in the other direction when I started feeling better.
I’ve experienced huge strides in my healing in the last year. At some point, I woke up and had energy that I had not had in years. Suddenly I could go out again, go to concerts occasionally, and make appearances at birthday parties. I remember going to a concert in February 2016 and celebrating with my best friend afterward because I had stood the whole time and my feet didn’t hurt. It felt like a miracle. That energy was not consistent though. I had good days and bad days, and I went through a three-month period of experiencing flu-like symptoms for two days almost every week. But after feeling so isolated for so long, I seized what energy I did have and jumped on every opportunity I could to hang out with people, even if it meant spending a lot of time in bed later. Eventually, I recognized that I needed to reign in the social commitments, and I bumped up against the challenge of preserving my newfound energy. I found a new kind of anguish in having to say “no” to people a lot, sometimes at the very last minute. Sure, sometimes I felt a little guilty, but mostly I just wanted to be with people. I’m grateful for the trips I did go on and the parties I got to attend, but as a super extrovert, it was painful to miss the wedding of two old friends, the camping trip that I had planned, and countless other events.
I decided that I needed a break from saying “no.” Even though I knew each time I said “no” that it was what was best for me and my health in the moment, it still sucked, and it was zapping a lot of my emotional energy. I realized just how much energy it was taking out of me when I left my home in Boston for two months and lived alone in Western Massachusetts. Within a couple days of being there, I felt an incredible sense of spaciousness. I had a ton of new ideas about my business and my writing. I found a new sense of ease in all my self-care practices and my health responded in positive ways.
Before the move, I’d been worried about being alone. My mom and my friends were worried too. Everyone seemed confused by my decision to step away from my rich support network. While I am extremely grateful for that network, I wanted to prove to myself that I was not wholly dependent on it. I wanted to see solitude as a gift and not a curse. I also wanted to see what it was like to isolate myself intentionally instead of feeling like I was forced into isolation. It turns out choosing isolation really works for me. I so enjoyed having my own space and the ability to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I loved being able to put my supplements all over the house so I remembered to take them, and I loved the chance to go on lots of little solo adventures. I had a couple visitors to feed my extroverted side, and that was fun, but I loved being alone again when they left. I only felt lonely on one day in the entire two month period and that was inauguration day. I was scared that day and just really wanted a hug. Luckily participating in a local Women’s March the next day cured the lonely feeling. Overall the experience was nothing but empowering.
Now that I’m back in Boston, in my house with six roommates, interacting with friends and colleagues, I’m feeling great about protecting my Noelle Time. I’m also finding a new ease in saying “no” to things because I know that I will be rewarded later for spending more time with me, myself and I. I have seen that when I take more time to be alone, I am much more present in my interactions with others and that contributes to my health, my career, and my relationships.
After being home for six weeks, I had another breakthrough around loneliness and solitude just last week. I woke up on a Sunday feeling sad, angry, empty, and totally disconnected from my body and what drives me. There was no apparent reason or cause. I didn’t know how to be with it but it felt familiar. I found myself really wanting someone to come distract me from the icky feeling. I worried that maybe I was getting depressed again. Then I realized, this is how I used to feel ALL the time. I saw that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, I had just become disconnected and the reason why wasn’t terribly important. I also saw that what I really needed was some solo time to right my ship. And, after practicing yoga, meditating, crying, giving myself a lot of space, and getting some support from an energy healer friend, I felt like myself again, in less than 24 hours. Even though my instinct was to get someone over to fill the emptiness, solitude was the remedy.
Edited by: Kazmira Pytlak Nedeau