I realized while driving to a doctor’s appointment alone the other day that I don’t have the crushing loneliness that plagued me in my relationship with my ex. Loneliness had a black, shadowy form and fierce persistence that would squeeze me every time I felt happy or a little better physically.
I paused, looked around and breathed deeply as I felt the thrum of the car underneath me. I didn’t feel it sitting on my chest crushing me….
Loneliness has haunted me my whole life in both smaller and larger ways. As a child I grew up feeling alone and lonely in my family, with my friends, and in my church. I had rare moments where I forgot about it – where I lost myself and life was easy and free for just a second. But those moments were like a cool, humidity free day in southern Texas – almost unheard of.
Instead I would stand in a room full of people I knew and feel disconnected. Even when I had someone who reached out and touched me it felt weird and scary. It was always awkward and often felt forced. At times I felt like I floated somewhere outside my own flesh. And, there were times when my voice sounded tinny, resonating with an echo like I was yelling down a cave searching for someone.
How connected I felt to those around me changed how grounded and inside my skin I felt. When I felt loved and bound to those around me, which did not happen until I was 15 years old, I felt closer to others and less lonely. But it always waxed and waned. In fact, it was so common that I stopped trying to get rid of the disconnection and loneliness. I knew it would grow or shrink on its own based on my life.
The Shadowy Force
At first, it hid in the shadows with my ex. It was still present but flitted behind the couch or to the shadows in the other room. It watched and waited and wanted to be closer. Then, as things got more tough with my ex and he began to lie to me, loneliness got closer and closer until it walked in stride with me on a daily basis and ultimately began sitting on my chest.
Once loneliness sat on me my breathing got tighter and tighter. My world started to shrink and no matter what I did it was breathing in my face and chomping at the edges of my memories. In the most intimate emotional moments it was still there staring back at me taking up more space and getting bigger and bigger with its black nothingness.
This is why I was shocked that I could breathe freely. It’s why I was shocked that even though I am alone and making very hard choices, I don’t feel alone. Surprise lit up my consciousness when I looked at the depression and anxiety in my life and they were not drowned out by loneliness.
Being alone thrills me. Having friends delights me. Having a social life, such as it is with a chronic illness, has filled in the circle. I find myself happy and grateful and filled to the brim with liquid that heals and refreshes. I am no longer drowning in dark, black loneliness. Instead I am swimming in a natural spring that is giving me my life back.
Maybe I don’t feel lonely anymore because I had a dear friend say to me, “Sounds like your life is falling apart right now. Sometimes it has to do that so it can be built back up in a good way. You have a chance to start over.”
I looked around and realized she was right.