I find it fascinating the range of comfort levels people have with being alone. It’s pretty much guaranteed that we will all need to spend at least some time in our own company, yet there are many, many ways in which people experience this. And while I know that for some people alone time is a very negative experience, on a deeper level, it feels really quite foreign me.
Personality is obviously a key factor in the experience of aloneness. Introversion lends itself better to alone time, but most people aren’t at the extreme ends of the introversion–extroversion spectrum. I was always sufficiently introverted that I was comfortable with my own company, but having some social contact used to be a good thing whereas now it’s the opposite, at least in terms of in-person contact. Depression + introverted me = über-introvert.
Another factor is the kind of thoughts swirling through our heads. If there’s no distraction from negative thoughts and a pesky inner critic, I can see how being in one’s own company could be a rather uncomfortable situation. My particular version of illness is much more likely to produce slow mind than busy mind, and I think slow mind is much more alone-time-friendly.
I think it also helps to lock the should monster outside or at least shove it into the back of a closet and not let it nag at you about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Should-free alone time is much more bearable than alone time with the should monster’s claws digging into your butt the whole time.
A sense of control also matters. Being alone by choice (internal locus of control) is far easier than having alone time forced upon you (external locus of control). For me, the pandemic hasn’t brought the same sense of loss of control that a lot of other people are experiencing, because it’s just not the rate-limiting factor that determines what and how much I can do.
I find that having some routine and structure helps to avoid feelings of aimlessness and find greater mental ease. Not much happens during the average day where I’m home by myself most or all of the day, but routine helps to keep things flowing. It also keeps the guinea pigs happy.
We all connect best with others in different ways, and with most things being virtual right now, it’s nice to try and get the most bang for your figurative buck. WordPress is a really good fit for how I feel most comfortable connecting with people, in part because it’s focused and doesn’t involve a lengthy back and forth. I use some social media for other connections, but I don’t get the same benefit, so when I feel the need for connection more I tend to cut out other things and just focus on good old WP, my online comfy couch.
Surroundings matter. This isn’t really applicable right now, but spending time alone in public places where people don’t normally go alone can take some working up to. Travelling alone built up that comfort level for me. In a lot of places I’ve visited, I was quite obviously a tourist, either because of appearance or lack of language ability, and no one seemed to blink an eye at a backpacker chick doing her own thing. That made it much easier when I started doing more things on my own back home in Canada.
The home environment also matters. Is home a safe haven? It’s hard to be comfortable at home alone if simply being home isn’t comfortable. My home is definitely my safe space. The whole decor theme is mellow and comfortable, with guinea pig debris scattered rather liberally throughout. When it comes to my home, at least at this point in my life, the should monster is locked out and not allowed in the front door.
For me, the guinea pigs are the best form of companionship there is. It’s a lot harder to feel alone when there are furry little ones giving you love. Having the piglets makes a massive difference in my life. I’d certainly much rather have them around at home than another human.
I am by far the most comfortable when I’m at home alone with my guinea pigs. I’ve been with myself my whole life, and being by myself is kind of like wearing a cozy flannel onesie—perhaps one with a butt flap. (And BTW, I spent a rather inordinate amount of time looking for a freely available photo to illustrate said butt flap, but unfortunately, you’ll just have to use your imaginations.)
How do you feel in your own company, and is there anything that makes it easier for you?
My new book, Managing the Depression Puzzle takes a holistic, everything up to and including the kitchen sink look at how to put together the pieces of your unique depression puzzle. It’s available on Amazon and other online retailers, as well as the MH@H Store.