How Isolation Helped Me Feel Less Alone

Before this quarantine, I often found myself in a state of anxiety and extreme loneliness. I would spend most of the day either busy or around others, to the point where time with others became a source of distraction rather than enjoyment. Any sliver of time spent alone felt like the end of the world; going home for long periods of time was even worse. I genuinely hated being by myself, but I also hated the idea of needing anyone else in order to be happy, so I spent most of my days feeling anxious and talking myself out of almost every emotion. 

When I was upset, I couldn’t decide if I was actually angry or only acting angry because I felt like that was the appropriate response for the situation. When I was happy, I couldn’t tell if that happiness was proof that I was doing something right or proof that I was being mindless and ignoring my problems. I didn’t enjoy activities that I used to, no matter how hard I tried to talk myself into them. 

In the daily hustle of classes and work, that feeling of uncertainty became such a permanent fixture in my life that I stopped questioning it—I began thinking it was just who I was, and I should just accept that. I didn’t know what I thought about anything anymore, and I didn’t understand any feeling beyond loneliness. I pushed people close to me away, only to draw them back in once the burden of being alone became overwhelming. My happiness became dependent on others, and I forgot how to just be myself. 

During quarantine, I was stripped of most human contact and the distractions provided by college life. What I learned was that my relationships to others were essential, but the fluff surrounding them kept me from acknowledging and accepting their value. Being listened to and feeling seen doesn’t require parties or pregames or brunch or sex; keeping other people around to outrun your own loneliness isn’t a permanent solution.

I spent the first few weeks of quarantine stuck in my head, thinking about all the things I believed were wrong with my life. Because I didn’t know how I felt, and I didn’t have anyone else around pressuring me about what to think or do, I realized this would be a good time to disconnect and do some inner searching. I read new books. I started doing yoga. I played Trouble with my family at dinner every night. I started doing hot oil treatments for my hair. 

What these activities did for me was highlight that everything “essential” I needed was already in my house and within myself. It isn’t easy, and it’s definitely not ideal to be in quarantine right now, but every day, in a million different ways, the pandemic demonstrates what really matters. Everyone I love is breathing. I’ve been able to enjoy the gift of uninterrupted time with my family. In the wake of the devastating effects of the pandemic on our country, I was able to find some perspective. 

I realized I don’t need anyone else to be happy. Once I started to see my relationships for their immense innate value, instead of thinking of ways for them to fix me, I found comfort and safety both with my people and by myself.