Pets don’t count, do they? The number of cats has grown freakishly high over the years, six to be exact, and a dog. (BTW – I think the “crazy, cat lady” has a certain charm to it.)
After I tried to end my life, resulting in a serious brain injury, my ex-husband sued me for custody of our two sons and upon winning, promptly moved out of state with them. While going to live with him was in the children’s best interest at the time, and while I know it wasn’t his intention, the arrangement was absolutely best for me also I would find out.
My boyfriend of three years had taken himself out of the picture rather unexpectedly, partly prompting the suicide attempt. I was planning on a future with him, whether he was with me or not. I had it all worked out nicely in my head.
So, here I was all alone. Even seriously brain-injured, my first instinct was to struggle against the void filling it with people, TV, emails to the kids, and any other general busyness. Sleeping as much as sixteen hours a day became a favorite pastime. Because of the brain injury, I couldn’t not sleep, and also when asleep, I didn’t have to think, feel, or be alone. For a while, I considered getting a roommate but eventually nixed the idea.
While walking the dog around a lake near my house, I remember seeing geese grazing on the bank. Have you ever noticed how geese always seem to be in pairs? Boy, I did and was actually jealous of the birds. “Why do they get to have a mate and I don’t? Even he does honk annoyingly as hell and poops green slime all over the place,” I fumed.
With time, and I mean years, I grew to appreciate and even like my solitude, and in retrospect, being alone was vital to healing from the brain injury/suicide attempt physically and emotionally. With barely enough mental energy to exist and function immediately following the injury, I didn’t possess the reserves to worry about anybody else or their opinion of me, and being around people was mentally exhausting. Isolating myself, I withdrew from everyone and everything.
With nothing else to do, being alone gave me the opportunity to focus on and put energy into myself. Investing in myself was something I had never done. With a man or the kids always at the top of the list, I came in somewhere near the bottom after the dog. Being alone also forced me to grow up, finally in my mid-forties. Better late than never. I had to figure out who I was without hiding behind the roles I played in life or by trying to be what I thought some man wanted me to be because all of that was gone and I had to figure out who was left.
In her book Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, Caroline Myss writes that the fear of being alone lies at the core of many people’s inability to heal. Not healing allows people to lean on others for assistance and play on their guilt to keep them around. There’s a certain power over others in not healing.
My singular existence meant that I could eat whenever and whatever I felt like, play my music as loud as I wanted, and walk around with zit cream on my face. Being alone allowed me to heal, become self-sufficient, and learn to like my own company.
And, you know what?
I think I’m pretty cool!
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whetzel/