Eleven Times Two, Mental Health, My Life

Coming out of Isolation

Like most of us, during my 20’s I was the ultimate party girl. I was out every weekend without fail, never said no to an invite and had a phone full of numbers that I could call at the drop of a hat and have a drink in my hand within the hour. I was loving life. I had no responsibilities, no worries (aside from crippling depression and a secret eating disorder – but that’s off topic today) and the only bills I had to pay were a ridiculously small amount to my parents and my phone bill.

Then I grew up.

I decided I wanted to settle down, to have my own place and fulfil the burning need in me to embrace my fierce independence. I wanted to be my own woman and have control over my own life, so as I neared the dreaded big 3-0, I got my sh*t together and I set out to achieve my goal. I threw myself into work (taking on 3 jobs at once), and at the same time, I threw my social life out the window – where it has invariably stayed.

Fast forward and I am rapidly approaching my 34th birthday. I have my own home, my own business and a very clear idea about who I am and what I want from my life, but something is missing – fun with my friends.

I pretty much never go out. I work hard but I am by no means rich and there are things that I want that take priority over £9.00 cocktails on a Saturday night. I am great at saving money, it’s how I run my home and how I have managed to set up my own business, but that leaves very little left at the end of the month for socialising, and so I am finding myself cancelling plans time and time again because I ‘can’t afford it’. This is nonsense, if going out and getting smashed was still something I wanted to do, believe me, I could juggle my budget around and go out, but that’s my excuse – and it is one that is holding me back in all areas of my life.

The other excuse I like to use is that “I’m an Introvert”. This is also nonsense (and anyone that knows me knows it!) I am not an Introvert, I just need my own space now and again to recharge. I am very comfortable with my own company and I’m used to being on my own. Every major life change I have made so far, I have done on my own, I’ve bought a flat, gone on holidays, you name it – I’ve done it alone, but here’s the thing, I’ve done all those things alone because I’ve had to, because I cut myself off from the world.

When I am struggling, I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t want people to know that I am feeling like a failure and so I do what I always do, and I retreat completely and utterly within myself, but when I come out the other side and I’m ready to step back into the spotlight – who is there? My parents are brilliant and are the only two people I never hide from, but my very best mates live either miles away or on the other side of the world, and the ones close by either have families, have to be booked months in advance or have forgotten that I exist.

I have become a hermit, and as such, I have completely fallen off the radar with people. Today, I can count on one hand the number of people I could call up and go for a drink with and even then, I feel like a burden asking them if I can tag along.

This is all on me. I cannot blame these people for not thinking of me when planning a night out or not inviting me to places as I have been missing in action for so long (or am known to cancel at the last minute because I spent my Uber fare in Tesco because you know, a girls gotta eat!) I stopped making the effort to go out, people can’t MAKE me.

So why this blog post? Why now?

Well, recently my circumstances at work changed, and I now work from home almost every day. GREAT for getting stuff done and my to-do list ticked off distraction-free, but it has wreaked absolute havoc on my well-being. When I go to work, I have interactions with people that have become friends, people that I apologise to in the kitchen when I want to get a spoon and I’m in their way, and people that I recognise to say hello to. I go to the gym next door where I have my own little group of like-minded people to do classes with. I see people on the train, walking through town, in the shops… and now? Nothing.

Last week I went 4 whole days without seeing another living soul unless I went to buy a loaf of bread at the shop and it hit home and it hit hard that something needs to change. This is my confirmation that I’m far from an Introvert, it’s my confirmation that this way of being is not good for me and it’s my confirmation that I definitely need to get out more!

Ironically, I don’t think I’m alone in this (pun intended), so many people these days joke about ‘becoming boring’ and ‘never going out’, and for the longest time, I have felt like it’s normal. You get past the partying stage of your life and that’s that. You hang up your dancing shoes and spend Saturday nights in front of the TV, right? Well, actually, no. This has been a true eye-opener for me and here’s why:

MY INDEPENDENCE HAS MADE ME LONELY.

My compulsion to make sure I save money, keep my roof over my head and stay responsible has gotten out of hand because I do those things easily, I’ve proven that. My fear of losing my independence has become so strong that I won’t do anything to risk it, and as a result, I DON’T DO ANYTHING AT ALL – and this cannot continue. I am such a people and relationships driven person and the support from my family and friends coming through my darkest times was essential. No-one can do anything alone and no-one should ever have to – and being so isolated the past few weeks has really opened my eyes to how important real-life social interaction with others really is. It cannot be replicated over the phone or through social media and it is so essential to our well-being that it should be given out as a prescription! Psychology Today wrote an article about The Perils of Social Isolation that I found really helpful, and if you feel like might be in danger of retreating like I did, it’s definitely worth a read.

So, what am I going to do about it? Well, over the past couple of days I have bitten the bullet and reached out to people and made plans (that I am going to stick to!) I am making sure I go out every day (even if it’s only to the shop) and I am starting to step out, blinking into social existence once more.  I know that I will never be that party girl again, but I also know I’ll never allow myself to disappear and shut myself away again. I’m ready to find a healthy balance, and if that means choosing cocktails over a lunchtime Pret every now and again, then so be it.

I’ll see you around.

 

(Birds Image Credit: https://www.burtalper.com/)