So I’m having this conundrum.
In fact, I don’t just love time alone. I need it. I’m an introvert, and a big part of what that means is that I’m replenished and rejuvenated by time alone, and exhausted by time with others. It’s not that I don’t enjoy time with others — I do, very much. It’s just that I hit a wall with it. I enjoy it for a couple/few hours (more or fewer hours depending on the people and the situation), and then I get tired and need to go away and be alone for a while. (I believe the term for this is “social introvert.”) Solitude isn’t just a pleasure: it’s a necessity.
On the other hand:
Ever since this current stretch of depression, I’ve been paying attention to when I’m depressed and when I’m not. I’m paying attention to what gives me depressive symptoms, and what alleviates them, and what actually bolsters my mental health and makes me feel positively robust.
And I’m finding that when I have many days in a row where I spend many hours alone in the house without interacting with anyone but Ingrid and the cats, I tend to get depressed. When I get out of the house every day, and interact every day at least briefly with human beings who aren’t Ingrid, my mental health improves. This isn’t the entire picture, of course — my mental health also improves when I take my meds, go to therapy, get exercise, meditate — but it’s a big part of it.
I’m thinking about this because I’ve recently started a new mental health self-care routine. Instead of just generically promising myself that I’ll leave the house once a day to do some unspecified thing, I now have a specific routine. Every weekday, unless I have some particular other thing scheduled, I get to a cafe by 1:00 pm, and work on my laptop there. And I’ve found, just in the week that I’ve been doing this, with no other substantial change in my life, that my mental health has significantly improved. I’ve been having a rough patch with depression in the last few months — not terrible, but not great, and very stubborn — and just in this past week, I’ve become more alert, more energetic, more hopeful and optimistic, more engaged with the world. Heck, I’ve been positively bouncy at times — and I haven’t been bouncy in months.
Dammit to fucking hell.
Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous to be saying, “Gee, I’ve found this fairly easy trick that significantly bolsters my mental health, I was feeling shitty and now I feel great — dammit to fucking hell.” I’m aware of how lucky I am to have depression that isn’t completely intractable, that does respond to treatment and self-care. And if this is what it takes, then this is what it takes, and I will be fine with that. But I’m betting that at least some other introverts are reading this and going, “I know exactly what you mean.”
I do not want to give up my solitude. I love my solitude. I need my solitude. And it’s not just that I love solitude. I love being a person who is comfortable with solitude. I love the sense of self-reliance; I love enjoying the undistracted company of my own mind; I love the quiet. I am highly resistant to giving that up.
But it’s become increasingly clear to me that — for me anyway, for right now anyway — solitude and depression don’t mix. (My understanding is that this is common, but I don’t want to speak for anyone else’s depression, or give anyone my unsolicited amateur medical advice about their own mental illness.) I said earlier that long stretches of time to myself are a luxurious pleasure. But it would be more accurate to say that this used to be true, that it is sometimes still true but not always or even mostly true. Solitude has become more like sweets, or television: a pleasure, but one I need to be careful about indulging in, one that can make me feel good and happy when I have just a little and am in a good mood, but can send me spiraling into crappitude when I have too much and am already feeling bleccch.
But not now.
I’m trying really hard to not end this by saying “Yes, I realize I’m lucky, dammit to fucking hell” twenty more times. So I’ll end with a question. If there are other introverts with depression — what’s your experience with this?