I have found that I love being alone. In fact, I prefer being alone. I struggle to be social. It’s not my natural tendency to want to spend time with people.
I will admit that there was a period of my life in which alone time was not healthy. I would categorize my versions of alone time in the last five years to either be “depressed/eating disorder/isolative” alone time and “healthy/recharging/introverted” alone time. From about 2012-2014 I was engulfed in the former category and from 2014-present I am enjoying the latter.
Depression in college made me want to be VERY alone. All I wanted was to be somewhere where no one needed me nor wanted to spend time with me. I wanted to live in my cocoon and be completely invisible. I ran away from seeking close friendships, community, or social engagements. The eating disorder was my companion. It kept me engulfed in eating disorder behaviors, it kept me isolated from others who care about me, and it consumed my thoughts. As you can assume, this mindset was extremely unhealthy and I learned to associate alone time with engaging in eating disorder behaviors: bingeing and purging.
However, as I recovered, I still had this pull toward alone time. But, I thought it was wrong. I couldn’t trust myself to be alone. The eating disorder would take advantage of me again.
Over time though, I started trusting myself. I could spend an hour alone without bingeing and purging. Soon an hour became two and so on. As I slowly disassociated alone time with bingeing and purging, I re-discovered how much I enjoyed being alone. The eating disorder stunts your growth on every level. So this new, healthy, alone time allowed me to grow again and learn about myself. I discovered things I enjoyed. I found I love to reflect, learn, and teach myself new things. I enjoy reading and writing to entertain my reflective side. To entertain my desire to learn, over the past year I have taught myself how to: dress my body type, do make-up, curl my hair, run a website, take and edit photos/videos, iron, cook/meal plan, study the Bible, sew a button on Ben’s uniform – and those are the ones just off the top of my mind. I would also listen to what my body wanted. If it was hungry, I fed it. If it was energetic, I would do something active. If it wanted to dance, I would listen to some upbeat music. If it wanted to worship, I would worship. If it wanted quiet, then I would enjoy the silence.
Alone time went by so quickly for me. I felt recharged afterwards. I felt healthy and at peace in accepting my introverted self.
Then reality would hit. I had to push aside that introverted self to succeed in an extroverted world.
I feel that I conditioned myself to fake extrovert qualities in order to succeed in college. But ultimately it was draining. Before I would leave for class, I had to give myself a pep talk, “Okay, now Megan put your face on.” As if I had to activate the extrovert side of me and suppress the introvert side of me to get through the day. But then at the same time, as opposed to many introverts, I actually don’t mind public-speaking (if I’m adequately prepared) and I can make my presence appropriately known in a group of people. So I feel that I possess just enough extroverted qualities to blend into society, but I’m bent toward introversion.
Strangely, I actually married an extrovert.
When we first were married, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, I truly thought something was wrong. Ben is definitely an extrovert. He gets energy when he’s around lots of people, meanwhile being around lots of people drains me. His “alone time” is with me. When he comes home from work, we spend an hour chatting about our days. He doesn’t need time to unwind and be quiet. He says, “I just want to chit-chat with my best friend.” Meanwhile, I’m a serious introvert. I need lots of alone time to function. I felt bad because we were so different in that area. At first Ben felt like he did something wrong when I would gravitate towards being alone. It took us a while, but we were able to pinpoint that my personality needs that alone time and it’s not his fault or anything he did wrong – it simply is part of my introverted personality. So once we pinpointed it, we incorporated into our days. I would just let Ben know that I needed some alone time, and he would say, “Alright baby, just tell me when you want to hang out.” It worked well for us. Now, that I’m home all day, I have plenty of alone time to recharge. So when Ben comes home, I’m able to give him the whole evening that his extroverted self loves to process the day and chit-chat. It works really well for us, but took a bit of a learning curve.
What actually spurred this post was how I noticed I wasn’t feeling resentful about volunteering so much at our church. Here in Texas, we’ve been quite involved in our church – between attending service, playing in the volleyball league, serving the Young Couples ministry, and now hosting a Life Group. It keeps us quite busy on our weekends. In North Dakota, I struggled with volunteering at our church. And it has nothing to do with the church itself. It actually has everything to do with how different my days have changed between North Dakota and Texas. Now in Texas, I spend a majority of my days alone, I recharge, I reflect, and I am able to have a healthy dose of alone time. However, in North Dakota, my days were surrounded with people- going through nursing school, completing hospital clinicals, and teaching exercise classes. It’s not that these were bad things, they were just very draining for me and I had very small glimpses of alone time then. Now because I can recharge during the week, I’m able to serve our church with a joyful heart. I can commit my social energy to the church on our weekends knowing full well that I have the ability to recharge and regroup during the week.
I still am ambitious and work hard everyday. I’m self-motivated to accomplish my goals and my alone time facilitates the best environment for me to do so. My days of alone time don’t just involve staying inside all day. I take Louie on walks/runs, I teach exercise classes at our local gym, Ben and I go on dates, and we meet up with friends. I’m definitely in the minority for my age group and culture, but I’ve learned (and am still learning) to be confident in my introverted, alone-time craving self.