There was once a time when I looked forward to those precious hours alone, when I could fill the house with song or scrub the bathroom clean. Growing up, I had little true privacy. Though I love my family, I’m an introvert by nature. I look back fondly on long hours spent inventing elaborate games with my sister in our room—some of my favorite memories. Some of my most peaceful childhood moments, though, were playing office in my closet or reading under the covers at night with a Barbie-sized flashlight. (It came with the Winnie the Pooh Stacie doll.) I didn’t have my own room until my teens. Even that was short lived.
I spent my teen and early adult years living with my grandparents, parents, and sister. At one point, my uncle lived with us, too. There was even a period when Mike moved in with us. So when Mike and I moved into our own place a couple years after getting married, it felt almost weird to have so much space to ourselves.
Initially, the spare bedroom was meant to be a shared room, an office/studio. Mike, an artist, quickly decided he preferred the living room (more room for him to spread out his canvases and paints). So we began referring to it as the office, and it became the room I spent most of my time in. A room of my own.
Add to that the long hours that Mike worked at his day job, and for the first time in years, I had long periods of alone time. At first, I reveled in it. I worked from home, so I set strict hours: nine to five, no weekends, no excuses. I missed him, of course, but it felt good to settle into my introvertedness. (That’s a real word, I don’t care what spellcheck says.) As the weeks turned into months, though, the novelty began wearing off. When we lived with my parents, there was always someone around. Even though neither of us are big talkers, I always had the comforting presence of my dad. In the new apartment, the only interaction I had during the days was with my cat.
Mike would go off to work for the day, and I would long for the moment he walked back in. A combination of ill-prescribed antidepressants and past trauma spiraled me into a bad bout of depression. Struggling sales and writers’ block forced me to face the fact that this writing gig was not what I thought it’d be. The three united into a crippling triumvirate. I began to loathe even a few minutes alone with myself.
I knew that kind of discomfort could easily flip into self-hatred. Already I was thinking unkind things about myself. I needed to learn how to be my own best friend again, but how?
Somewhere along the way, I decided not to give up on my writing career. I also began seeing a new therapist who helped me wade through the misdiagnoses and after effects of coming off the medication; she recognized almost immediately that, at the core of it all, I was actually dealing with trauma (and possibly PTSD). With so much work to do, my days began to fill up again. I didn’t have time to feel lonely. Slowly, I began doing things I enjoyed just for the hell of it.
Today, I caught myself laughing out loud at a joke I’d made in my head. I realized that, for the first time in a while, I was actually enjoying hanging out with myself.