I have always been something of a loner. As a child I was the eldest but with a six year gap between me and my nearest sibling. Add to that the fact that I lived in a remote part of Scotland and that my nearest neighbours were several miles away, so the only time I saw my friends was during school time, and I very quickly learned how to amuse myself (this was the 1970s/80s so there was no internet to keep me in touch and the fixed landline telephone in the corner of the living-room did not lend itself to private conversation, assuming I had permission to use it.
As an adult, and even in my relationships, I have always built in time for me. It has always been a hugely important part of my self-care routine (even when I wasn’t actually aware that I had one).
I go for walks; long walks, often 5-10km. At some point, nearly every day, I will pull on my boots and head out into the surrounding lanes and countryside, come sun, rain, hail or snow. In some ways it is very much a form of meditation. Sometimes I listen to music, at other times I simply let the sounds of my surroundings wash over and around me. It’s a time where I’m not at work, not at home; I’m not being a colleague, or employee, or friend, or partner or parent, I am simply being me. I get to order my thoughts, or think about nothing; the choice is mine. The important thing is that this time is mine.
There are, as anyone who struggles with mental health concerns knows, times when a more extreme form of “alone time” can seem appropriate. When my mood is particularly low, I tend to shut myself off even more, withdraw even further from the world and hide myself away. It’s not healthy, but sometimes it is the only thing I am able to do; contact with my fellow humans is more than I can bear. Sometimes loneliness is the only form of company I can bear.
What is important is that I recognise that this is all part of me and how I function. I need a certain amount of solitude in order for me to be able to function. I need to be able to retreat to somewhere that feels safe. I need to turn to the one person who truly understands what I am going through; me.
Sometimes, I just need to be alone.