Feeling Good Alone

January: a dark month to be alone.

You’re stuck in the house – haven’t left it for days. The last conversation you had was with that weird guy who tried to sell you a dodgy-looking Blu-Ray last week and you’ve started talking to the house plant. And that’s been dead for years.

Whether through illness, career choice, retirement, a baby, personal circumstances or something else, you may find yourself entirely on your own for days on end – even months. But we are gregarious animals, we need to be part of the herd. So how does a solitary human cope on their own?

Many writers spend the working day on their own, a lot of people with chronic illness barely leave their home and an increasing number of single people have little reason to leave an empty house. There are many of us living alone with no real interaction with the outside world – and that number looks likely to increase.

I’m luckier than many stay-at-homers, I have my Hubby to keep me sane. Or is it conversations with the cats? Anyhow, my disability makes it hard to leave the house and go somewhere, while my writing work keeps me chained to my computer. But I’ve found a few little tricks to stop me going stir-crazy.

Don’t be Alone All Day

For a long time, I used to make a point of getting out of the house and having a conversation with someone – even if it was only the person making me a coffee. But between worsening health and the closure of my nearest café, that isn’t realistic any more. But there are still options. There are friends I can call – or they may call me. I have some good friends I can connect with online – real friends, not just social media contacts. One way or another, I can interact with another human being.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Yes, there are organisations who will listen if someone is desperate, but they aren’t much help if you’re just feeling a little lonely. The internet is a great resource, with chat rooms and social media, free phone calls to be made and a worldwide community where someone is always online. Many of my social media contacts are also friends, but you can’t beat the face-to-face conversation for making you feel human.

There’s a lot to be said for shopping from home. Whether it’s the postman ringing your doorbell with a parcel from an online retailer or a uniformed man bringing a week’s shopping from a supermarket – it’s human contact and that’s a bonus that comes with the free delivery service offered by many retailers.

If you can get out of the house, take a walk when the dog-walking brigade are out, visit a café, a church or your local library. Many clubs are free – it doesn’t have to cost anything to socialise.

Love Yourself

Not leaving the house isn’t an excuse not to make yourself respectable. Many stay-at-homers report living in their pyjamas, not bothering with personal hygiene and generally letting things slip because no-one’s going to see them. I don’t agree – you will see yourself. Aren’t you worth getting dressed for? Is your life so busy you don’t have time to wash and dress?

Yes, I have days when I’m officially “ill”, worse than just the usual disability problems. And I’ll spend a day or three in bed when I need to – not dressing, even not brushing out my hair. But as soon as I feel that bit better, I behave as if I’m going back to “work” – as myself. Someone who has a bath, gets dressed and wouldn’t have to apologise if the doorbell rings and there’s a hunky young man come to deliver a parcel.

I go further. And these are some of the things that make me feel human when I’m on my own all day. I wear perfume every day, just for myself. It’s a luxury, but it doesn’t cost much for the number of days’ wear in each bottle. Sometimes I wear a necklace or a pair of earrings, just because I can. I’m not one for makeup even when I go out, but if I was…

Or for the blokes – why not shave each morning? Or keep the facial hair trimmed, as you prefer? Assume you’re going to open your door and see someone so fanciable you’d regret not having made an effort.

Create Something

I know my books aren’t great literature, my knitting isn’t going to win any fashion awards and I’ll never be a Celebrity Chef. But people appreciate my writing, my jumpers and the food I make – people including myself! The feeling I get from baking a loaf of bread is completely disproportionate to the small effort that goes into it. Even doing a craft I’m useless at is fun (I can’t draw for toffee, but my notebooks are littered with sketches of machines / clothes / maps I’d be embarrassed to show anyone!) One of the benefits of giving up work is having time to make stuff and I only wish I had more time to create in my life!

Look After Yourself

Cooking for one is such a hassle. It takes so long to prepare food. It’s easier and cheaper to eat ready meals that will poison me. Or nothing at all. I mean, I don’t have time to peel veg!

Wanna bet?

There are myths in the media about how difficult it is to eat properly. How expensive fresh veg is – and that there are no greengrocers anywhere. Programmes on telly give the impression only celebrity chefs can prepare food that’s fit to eat – so buy their latest book and drool over glossy photos of five-star cuisine while you stuff your face with greasy takeaway food full of salt and sugar.

Or buy some good old-fashioned veg from a supermarket and cook it for yourself. It doesn’t have to be exciting or exotic – it doesn’t take much effort to wash a carrot. And if your experiments don’t always work, is it really a disaster? It’s probably edible – and you’ll do better next time.

Endorphins are Your Friends

Big word – tiny chemicals. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones generated by your body. They are the way your body is programmed to reward you when you do something right. From the happy feeling when you eat a good meal to the warm afterglow in the bedroom, we should all take time to get a little of this legal and safe “high”.

Yes, even stay-at-homers have sex drives.

Research shows your body will produce endorphins when you eat a good meal, meet someone you fancy or go shopping. But also when you meditate, exercise, talk to someone or make something. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!

The Little Things

One of the greatest perils of the stay-at-home life is the blandness of daily existence. Don’t let yourself be shut in like a cockroach in a tiny cupboard. Open the curtains and look out at the world. If you’re down – have a good cry. Get it out of your system and step back into the world. Treat your life like a job – something you have to make an effort for.

Because YOU’re worth it.

If you really can’t cope with being alone, there are many organisations to help. On a really bad day, there are always The Samaritans on 085457 90 90 90 (UK) for anonymous, non-judgemental listening.

5 Responses

  1. You have no idea how lonely it can be living on your own. – Now out of work, out of money, and never married with family and friends living miles away, making that effort each day just to get out of bed is unbelievable let alone to get dressed! The worst thing is that nobody likes taking to someone who feels so down, so when you ring them, on goes that painted smile and fake voice telling them that everything is fine………. All the time you are thinking why don’t you call me or come and visit me?
    Why is it, unless I make the effort nobody else will?
    I forced myself to go out last night and enjoyed dancing, but most of the evening it was me asking the men to dance and those with partners clearly weren’t happy, if only they knew how lucky they are. I should now be doing things around the house, but it is very difficult to motivate myself when I feel whats the point, who will know? Who will care, and if only I had someone here to talk to.
    I don’t want pity, nor do I feel that I am wallowing in self-pity, but it’s a fact, it is difficult being on your own.

    • Stevie,
      No-one truly understands how bad someone else’s life can be. But we are all capable of empathy.
      I hope today is a good day for you – and you can come back and read that comment every day.
      Remember, libraries are free.

  2. Meg, this is one of the best blog posts I have read in ages! As you know, I am never likely to be in that position, with my huge family, but I remember the horrible feeling when I was stuck in one room in the house, in a wheelchair (steps and stairs everywhere), after the car accident. Even my bed was in there. But even then I was able to make new friendship online, and things grew from there. Writing and arts and crafts bring people together, and so do lots of different kinds of hobbies.
    Anyway, just wanted to say well done on a great post! Xx

  3. When we first met last April I had just finished 2 years freelance working from home. A lot of what you have said rung true to me.

    My line of work, or rather my attitude to having it, was I always had to get as much work in as possible because the thought of not having enough at the end of the month was unacceptable. I’ve seen people live on the financial edge; ‘borrow’ a little rent money from the parents when they are short and not be able to get ahead enough to pay it back. So I often worked when I should’ve been going out.

    With everything you have mentioned being true also, wanting to make the effort to go out, time got very cramped for trivial pursuits beyond what I consider my core interests. However not knowing what the day might bring I also always made myself presentable even if I didn’t go out for a full ‘fix’ I would get something to tide me over by going to the shops for groceries.

    Furthermore the endorphins hunt is also ingrained now, I’m always wanting a satisfying meal or something new, if its not new its not interesting and not interesting leads to malcontent. The hunt for a rejuvenating meal also comes with the price of cautiousness throughout the day on what else is eaten, being isolated and bulging out is not going to keep my self esteem up!

    I’ve been in my current job 11 months now and some recent joiners annoy and frustrate me which results in me watching what I say, because of this extra effort I’m speaking less and less. In an office of ~30 people, in a department of 5, who all sit a few feet away, I’m feeling alone. I’m coping because even the little that I do chat with the other 25 is more than I did when I was working from home.

    I now have come to realise that I have a new skill and I’m using it whilst little the day-to-day pep keeps me motivated to make the changes I want for the long run. And the extra freetime has been most productive.

    See you at the end of March?

    • Ah – the old work-life imbalance!
      Yes, it’s a good point that it’s possible to be alone even when surrounded by other people.
      And yes – see you in March.

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