As I am sure many of us have, I have been thinking and reflecting on the circumstances I’ve been forced into this year quite a lot. I was going to say ‘quite a lot recently’, but in reality I’ve been reflecting on them constantly since March.
Life is definitely about balance. Time alone can be cherished the most when there is also time with friends and family to compare it against.
After the local restrictions came into force in the North West at the end of July, there were quite a few moments where I wasn’t actually sure how I would mentally survive. I went through a relationship break up at the start of the year, then I bought a flat and moved in during lock down, and after redecorating and furnishing the whole thing by myself, I then had to learn to live alone for the first time in my life amidst a global pandemic.
It has been really, really effing hard.
I feel like I don’t exist anymore!
This is what I cried down the phone to my mum on one particularly bad evening a few weeks ago. I got all the hurt out, then I calmed down and then it started to pass.
Something slowly started to fall into place. Like a jigsaw piece that’s been put in its place slightly off kilter and has been sticking out for ages, then you notice and slowly ease it into its right spot.
Whilst I still believe that balance is key, having this much time alone has allowed me to fully push through the barrier of pain that I was caught in a few weeks ago, feeling totally ‘invalid’.
Once I was through that barrier, I was left with this big empty space that felt weird at first but I’m now learning is actually just self-awareness. I have started to become very acutely aware of how my body feels and what thoughts pop up in my mind depending on this.
I’ve noticed that when I have self-sabotaging or unhelpful thoughts, it is usually because one or more of my needs have gone unmet. This could be a basic need like I haven’t drank enough water or eaten anything in a while, but it could also be something like I haven’t congratulated myself enough for a small win or something that went well.
I’ve started to really act like my own best friend. I mean, I will actually say to myself when I hit the mid-afternoon slump:
Right, come on love, you need a brew and a snack, and then a stretch.
I even literally patted myself on the back the other day for going ahead with something that made me feel really nervous, but I did it anyway and it paid off.
I’m learning to carry myself and it’s actually not exhausting. I’m learning to really trust and act on my intuition and I’m seeing tangible benefits from doing this. I’m learning how to keep myself company, and whilst at first this felt sad, lonely and scary, it now feels freeing and powerful.
I’ve realised that in the pre-pandemic world my life was going at too fast a pace for me.
I’m extremely introverted and highly sensitive to my surroundings; it’s important for me to choose my company very carefully and to prioritise time alone, because whatever energy is around me I soak it all up like a sponge.
I kind of knew that this about myself back then, but somehow I wouldn’t meet these needs until I had no fuel left in the tank whatsoever and was running on empty.
In today’s world, it’s different. Albeit not being to have friends over to my flat is still very difficult and I am having to dig deep for resilience and inner strength.
But, I know exactly where my boundaries will lie when normality does start to come back. I’ve even start writing ‘just me’ weekends into my diary as well as planned social outings.
This new level of self-awareness and this ‘unlocking’ almost of learning (brutally!) how to be comfortable alone and keep myself company, now means that I no longer experience that empty tank feeling. My mental and physical well-being of course doesn’t feel perfect, but it actually feels sustainable now; it’s like I’m running on renewable energy.