I get so lonely, I could... Become really confused as to why
June 19, 2014 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I've always been good at being on my own. I read a lot, love going to movies and museums alone. I've traveled alone extensively. But lately, being alone has become almost unbearable, and I can't figure out what the problem is. I have lots of good friends (though my very best friend moved thousands of miles away a few years ago, I have at least five "one of my best friends" in the area). My husband and I enjoy each other's company immensely and never run out of things to talk about. I have a large social circle, and there are big parties at least a few times a month, and lots of smaller get-togethers. My "events' page runneth over. A few things have changed in the last year, though.

One, I got a new job that has me working almost every day, usually surrounded by lots of people. Two, my husband started working evenings so if I'm home in the evening, I'm usually home alone (luckily my schedule fluctuates enough that I still see him often, during the day). Three, I've realized that I'm never going to be a successful artist. I can still do my art because I love it, but it's a hobby--I'll never be a star. I'm sad, and haven't been doing much art at all lately, but I'm not in tears over it. It's just disappointing. None of this seems to explain the bone-crushing loneliness that hits me when I find myself at home alone in the evenings. If I have nothing planned, I sometimes drive to the drugstore and randomly shop, because just being around people, even if I don't interact with them, makes me feel better. How do I figure this out?

I don't know what to do about this. I mean, aside from arranging to be as busy as possible all the time. As long as I'm with friends or doing something, I feel completely happy. But I don't think avoiding the situation is a good way to handle it--for one thing, it doesn't always work--plans get canceled, etc. For another, if there's something really wrong, I should probably figure out what it is so I can fix it.
I've spoken a little about it to my husband, but it mostly makes him feel guilty for working evenings, which I absolutely don't want. And I don't want to burden my friends... There's not really anything they can do, it will just make them feel worried and like they SHOULD do SOMETHING to help me, and I can't think what that could be. It's not their job.
And, also, I guess I'm embarrassed about it. It seems so silly to be a married person with tons of friends and a fun job interacting with lots of people, and to be so incredibly lonely when I'm alone. I've always been fiercely independent. I just don't get it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like mild depression to me. Just because you're not weeping on the bed doesn't mean you're not depressed.

On the other hand, it may be that one or the other of you needs to rearrange schedules. Maybe this is genuinely not working out for you.

On the OTHER other hand (yes, I have three), sometimes the lines between loneliness, depression, fatigue, etc. can be very blurry and not at all clear to the person experiencing them. Are you eating OK when you're home alone? Are you sleeping OK? Have you had a physical lately?

If you have a trusted doctor, I would go talk to her and see if she thinks you should get evaluated for depression, get your blood tested, etc. If nothing else, you should be able to rule some things out.
posted by wintersweet at 3:57 PM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't know what the problem is either, but you should re-examine your belief that there's something noble about being a loner and something weak about being lonely. I get that it's uncomfortable and you'd rather it would go back to being comfortable. But maybe you've built up this mythology about your old badass independent self, and now you're enjoying a lot of time around people, and then all that stimulation goes away and you miss it. You can admit that you like spending time with people. Maybe if you're more honest with yourself you will be an easier person for you to be around.
posted by bleep at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hormonal changes will do that to a person. Have you started/stopped some form of hbc or have you noticed any other changes that could indicate that your hormone levels fluctuate?
posted by travelwithcats at 4:05 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might find it helpful to reframe this as being bored/unfulfilled, rather than lonely. It sounds like you would be happier if you had some fun new activity to throw yourself into, probably done in the presence of other people, but maybe also something you'd enjoy doing alone.

If you love art, that's a good place to start. Sounds like that might be your thing. Is there a way to rid yourself of the need to "be a star," or some up with an alternate definition of success through art?

Does "success" to you mean earning a living through your art, being famous for it, or making things you personally find beautiful, and/or can make or share with others? If the fame and fortune feel out of reach, that last thing might still be awesome and uplifting.
posted by jessicapierce at 4:10 PM on June 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't think there's anything wrong with you. You've just ended up with more time on your hands at awkward hours. Having some sort of evening project will help.

And you've said you haven't been flexing your art muscles as much lately - are you prone to restless twitchiness when you have a project or idea starting to take form but not quite ready to come out? Could that be contributing?
posted by Lyn Never at 4:15 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I get really sad when I'm not making things. It may be that cutting back on art for a little while is affecting your mood?
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:39 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

None of this seems to explain the bone-crushing loneliness that hits me when I find myself at home alone in the evenings.

Is it possible that this is something as simple as: you miss your husband?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:21 PM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Have you tried exercising in the evening--maybe going to the gym? I work around people all day and coming home to an empty house can be a shock. So instead I stop at the gym on the way home, where I am around people but not so much interacting with them. It makes a nice transition. Plus exercise is great for both physical and mental health, including light depression.
posted by whitewall at 7:09 PM on June 19, 2014

My guess is that when you were alone, you defined yourself as an artist.

Now that you've decided you're not an artist, when you're alone you feel like you're nobody, that you don't really even exist-- and therefore, you don't want to be alone, ever.
posted by jamjam at 10:40 PM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think that rather than trying to distract yourself from the loneliness with more projects, shopping trips or friends, it might be worth trying to just sit with it for a bit. Take advantage of the alone time and meditate. It can really help you feel what you feel and it's amazing how sometimes that's all you need to do. Don't underestimate the strength of the reaction to losing your art, or redefining your relationship to it. When I came to a similar realisation about writing, it was actually pretty tough. Not huge weeping and moaning but it left a real absence, because, like you, being honest with myself about it made me not want to do it much anymore.

You may also find some of the suggestions in my recent AskMe helpful, since there seems to be a certain amount of commonality of feeling.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:35 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm with JamJam. You've become disconnected with your loner identity (the artist). You're loner activities were part of your artist identity; without that identity it is just loneliness.

I suggest trying to relax your body and mind and in a sense embrace your isolated periods in an effort to curb the negative anxiety. With that achieved you might find yourself discovering or with the motivation to discover a new identity to fulfill yourself.
posted by herox at 4:25 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

My guess is that it has to do with the fact that you aren't making art anymore. Your alone-activitiy is no longer productive and so you just feel loneliness. Also, maybe you're mourning the loss of your identity as an artist? My suggestion would be to take up another artistic medium other than what you're used to working in and play around with it. Bonus if it could involve other people to take the edge off the loneliness.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 6:22 AM on June 20, 2014

It sounds like you're processing a lot of stuff and it's bound to throw you off your balance a bit. Also, I know you said you're good at being on your own but it's a big change to have your routine changed up like that and find yourself alone when you would normally be with your husband, especially when you're restructuring so much mental space.

I've done lots of travelling alone and I love being by myself so I jumped at an opportunity to do a bit more for about 7 weeks earlier this year. I was really surprised at how much lonelier I felt and how much I missed my partner. It was still good to have that time alone and I benefited from the introversion but I didn't always like it.

So perhaps this is the time for you to benefit from time alone even if you don't always like it? I don't mean to be obtuse but I'm not sure how to best describe it, this insight you get when you notice some sort of mental discomfort and allow yourself to exist in that space. It sucks feeling lonely but perhaps you need to process more things within that lonely space? You say you're disappointed at the fact you're not going to be a succesful artist. That's a grave thing to say, and I'm really sorry. I'm taking your word for it that art can be a hobby for you but you can't be a star but the way you've presented it suggests you're being so very hard on yourself. I think you're grieving.
posted by mkdirusername at 6:51 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm with jamjam too regarding identity. I have BPD, which means I don't have a clear identity; I have an identity as reflected back to me by others, or defined by what I do.

It seems eminently possible that now you have decided you won't be a superstar artist (and how do you know that for sure? Lots of artists don't become recognized until later in life) you have lost part of your identity. It seems like having something to do is very important to you and your self identity, and you've decided to stop doing one of the things you love to do, leaving you unfulfilled and lonely. So my first advice: take up your art again. Who cares--I don't mean this facetiously--if you're never a superstar? Clearly it's something that fulfills you, so why does anyone else need to be part of the equasion? Or, at least, spend some time sitting with those questions and finding answers.

If it's feasible for you, have your GP refer you to a few sessions with a therapist, someone trained in helping people figure out why they're feeling what they're feeling.

But really... get back to your art. Keep on with it. As long as you're finding it aesthetically and emotionally appealing, it matters not what others think, as far as I'm concerned. (Saying this as someone who has just taken up painting, poorly, but finds the results soothing and aesthetically fulfilling.)

Best of luck. You can get through this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:45 AM on June 20, 2014

There are lots of great answers here to explore: maybe you miss your husband, maybe you're bored, maybe your hormones are doing something, maybe your identity is shifting... I second all of these.

What I came in to say, however, is that sometimes loneliness can mean that despite all the social activities and friends, you're not making deep connections. The sort of rapport with another person that requires opening to vulnerability and sharing of yourself. I don't know if that's what's going on for you, but thought I'd throw that out there.
posted by purple_bird at 8:49 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Get a sweet old cat to cuddle in the evenings.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:10 PM on June 20, 2014

I've been going through something very similar and I was diagnosed with depression. There were a lot of other elements going on for me that are different from you, but the time that I realize I've been depressed has been coinciding with me being unable to be alone and feeling extremely lonely when I am alone. I also have a very busy social life, yet I have always been quite independent and able to enjoy my own company and do stuff on my own (movies, travel, going to eat, etc). However with the depression came the utter inability to do this without a lot of stress and loneliness.

My depression is lifting a bit right now (I'm not currently taking medications or anything for it, just talk therapy and CBT) and I find it's much easier to be alone and relax.

If you're willing, talking to a therapist might help bring out the issues that are causing you distress. And it might be depression.
posted by christiehawk at 4:00 PM on June 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

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