“The only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.” ~Bessel A. van der Kolk
Learning to be alone as an adult has been a struggle for me. It’s taken quite a while for me to adjust to spending periods of time by myself. It may sound strange to those who know me because I am most definitely an introvert and need my quiet time. However, my time alone was never quite as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be.
Often my solitude dissolved into sadness, and I didn’t have a particular reason why. My alone time wasn’t productive, and it just made me feel out of sorts. It was frustrating because I knew I needed time to myself, but I couldn’t stand to be alone.
Once I began to get curious about the sadness and apathy I’d feel when I was alone, things started to shift.
One day, I noticed that a particular script would begin to play in my mind over and over again. No matter what time of day or the length of alone time, I could begin to hear it play. It said, “You are alone. You are always going to be alone. No one could truly love you. You are unworthy of love.” This tape has played for so long I am unsure if it will ever fully go away.
In the past too much alone time would leave me depressed or even suicidal, and it’s no wonder why. Hearing such awful things on a loop for an extended period of time would wear on anyone.
I spent long periods where I was afraid to spend time alone because I knew I’d end up in a rough spot. I did all I could to avoid it. I’d go to bed early, keep my schedule full, spend all my time with my roommate, and more.
Spend enough time trying, and you’ll soon learn that avoiding solitude is very difficult as a single adult. I knew that, at some point, I had to stop avoiding and figure out what was going on.
At first, all I did was notice these thoughts happening. I found that this script was common in my life. This same tape would play when I made silly mistakes at work or a friend didn’t get back to me right away. Maybe it wasn’t just about being alone after all. Maybe this was something deeper.
So I stayed curious about this dialogue in my head. I kept thinking through it when I could. I talked to my therapist and my mentor about it too. Eventually I had a realization that this script and my time alone were a reflection of all the down time I had as a child.
Growing up, I didn’t see my friends outside of school…