How to deal with near-constant solitude?
posted by anonymous to grab bag (25 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I spend a lot of time by myself, due to an academic job track and a weird living situation. For the most part, this is fine — I’m a pretty self-directed worker, and I like what I do. But sometimes whole days go by without having human contact, and it’s starting to get to me. To exacerbate the problem, my friend group has kind of fallen apart: my roommate has partnered up, and is subsequently gone a lot of the time. The close group of friends that I used to contact is now pretty scattered, and often busy (usually we have to “schedule” time with one another, because we’re all so busy).
I’ve tried to deal with this in various ways. I got myself ear phones, and now spend a lot of my time working at the cafe instead of the library (more people == better work). I listen to music a lot, and I do as little of my work as possible at home. At the same time, just about every day, I get up, make breakfast by myself, work alone for a few hours, and then spend the rest of my day walking around with my headphones on, working, or photocopying. Sometimes whole days go by, and I won’t actually have a meaningful conversation with someone I know.
Recently, this problem has gotten pathological, to the point where I don’t even want to be alone in my home. Last night, for instance, I tried to meditate (in response to just normal stress). I wound up staring at the wall for an hour, studying paint chips, and imagining what my room will look like when I’m no longer here. In my head, I’m already displaced. "My room is empty. My stuff is gone, and I can’t find it. I am not here anymore." I do this for an hour, until finally I force myself to just stop thinking about everything and go to sleep. I sleep: I have nightmares about being alone.
I hate this. It makes me feel stupid and codependent. Worse, it makes me feel like a stranger in my own home — to the point where I’m considering dropping out of my program and moving out of my house, just so I won’t be miserable all the time.
What I think I need, actually, is to shift into some communal living arrangement, where I can be around people without having to necessarily be intimate with them all the time. Normally I have no problem with solitude - I love to travel alone, and I often *need* time to decompress. But this is getting crazy. I miss day to day human contact, getting up in the morning, chatting about work, periodically sitting down and having real conversations without having to plan them months in advance.
Living with a big group of people will definitely help with this — and will make it easier, I think, to go back to getting real work done in a place that’s safe and comfortable to be. In the meantime — I have this space. I live here, at this point, almost entirely alone. I work alone. I miss my roommate (and friends) desperately, even though I understand why she (and they) are never around. I don't really do the phone, so this really exacerbates the problem. Meanwhile, I’m taking qualifying exams this year — so I really AM spending days alone studying, with little human contact to break up the mix.
How do I manage the time between now and then (the long lapse, I suspect, in finding alternative living) without going out of my mind?