• Mair Elliott

Alone does not mean lonely

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

**I realise this may read as if I think more highly of myself than others, which I do not. I wrote this because I am frequently irked by people’s reaction to my choice to be alone. I am also completed angered by the continuing suppression of women by making them internalise the idea they only have value if they are in hetero relationships. **


Many have tried to pathologise my deep desire to be alone. Many have told me that I am isolating myself because of my illnesses or because I’m autistic. I have been told that it’s wrong to want to be alone, or that all of my problems would be solved if I ‘engaged with people’ more. I know these people to be wrong, however. Alone does not mean ‘lonely’. Solitude does not mean ‘isolated’.


We live in an age where we can connect to anyone from across the world. We could be alone at home but still feel we are with people, even if it is online. We grow up with popular media conveying that we only have worth if we are in a hetero relationship. The same media shows us that we have to be a part of a social ‘gang’ in order to have a place in society. This idea, to me, is suffocating. The internalised idea that we must be in a romantic relationship is evidenced by the insistence on asking, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”. Firstly, this question annoys me because it’s an underhand way of excluding LGBT+ people. Secondly, I don’t see the relevance of asking it or the answer. What does it matter if I’m in a relationship or not? Why, as a woman, is my social worth measured by my relationship status? The same goes for; “why don’t you see your friends more often?”. I love my friends and I hope they know that I am there for them no matter what, but what is the point of asking that question? To size up my vulnerability? To judge me?


I love being alone. I love the freedom. I love the space. It’s not that I don’t like people (although I find them needlessly complicated), it’s just I am not relaxed around people. I find that when I am around people, even my nearest and dearest, I am drained of my energy. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy spending time with my friends, family and acquaintances; I do, just in small bursts and with plenty of recovery time afterwards. However, I am very happy to spend days by myself without any communication with other human beings. In fact, my idea of a great holiday is having the house to myself for a week, pottering around my garden, reading, enjoying my usual activities, and going to bed early every night. I like being able to make my own decisions without having to compromise for others, I like not having to listen to other people’s drama, I like having the space to do what the hell I like, however I like. I don’t crave human contact, acceptance or connection, its just not in my blood.


When it comes to romance, it has never been something I have actively wanted or searched for. I am fiercely independent and, frankly, the thought of being in a relationship threatens that independence. That doesn’t mean I will actively avoid people or relationships, but I certainly don’t value myself anymore or less if I’m in one.


The art of being alone is fading away. I see young people, girls especially, whom only value themselves if they are in relationships, or they have no other ambitions than to be liked by others. People react oddly to me saying that I am my happiest when alone because, to them, I am going against everything they’ve been taught. Humans tend towards fearing that which they do not understand. Part of it is that we’ve been taught that we have to be productive, we have to reach certain life milestones, we have to always be doing something, and this inherently means we have to be with other humans. I call bullsh*t. We don’t have to be ‘productive’ all of the time, we don’t have to follow the already tread life-paths like sheep, and we don’t have to always be doing something. Being still in your own space is a skill that will reap more reward mentally, emotionally and spiritually than anything else.


The first and most important relationship we have is the relationship with ourselves. If we cannot sit with ourselves in silence comfortably, we will never be able to have healthy relationships with others. It’s about meditating on who you are, what your values are, what your flaws are. It’s not about changing anything, or self-improvement, it’s about getting to know and be comfortable with your own rhythms. I truly believe if a person is not comfortable spending time alone then any external relationship is an avoidance tactic rather than an act of acceptance and commitment. The craving to be liked by others, especially in this age of social media, is the same thing. Rather than learning to be comfortable in our own skin, in our own space, we are searching to distract ourselves with the judgements from other people. I couldn’t give a toss about the judgements of others. My love for being alone gives me the space to learn who I am; therefore, the judgements (particularly the unsolicited judgements) of others is irrelevant to me. I suspect that people are unnerved by me because of this, I have certain power in not tying myself down to the judgements of others.



I feel in this age of connection we need to learn to take a step back and be comfortable in our own space. Why do human beings fear solitude? There is of course an obvious evolutionary drive for us to be social, but in this modern age it has snowballed into a drive to be liked by everyone, to fit in, to follow each other unquestioningly like sheep. Those who seek solitude are pathologized and feared. In reality, the ‘age of connection’ is driving a mass disconnection. We are disconnected from who we are, what our values are, and we avoid our flaws at all cost. To fear being alone is to fear oneself. I truly believe if more people could learn to be comfortable in their own space, in their own silence then we would see a happier society. With regards to the matter of teaching children, especially girls, that they only have value if they are in a relationship with a boy/man; can we just not do that. Just f*cking stop it. Your value comes not from your relationship status, who or how many like you, or how well you fit in; it comes from owning the space you occupy, calling it your own and breathing to your own rhythms.

About Me

I am a young patient  activist, speaking openly about life with mental illness and autism. My activism includes public speaking, trying to affect change in mental health and/or autism services by contributing to relevant organisations, panels, committees and executive boards. I hope to break down misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma relating to mental illness and autism, and to create a future where mental health services are fit for purpose.

Want to hear me speak? Curious about my story? Think I could help you or your organisation to understand mental health and/or Autism?

Get in touch; Mair.elliott97@gmail.com

 

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