top of page

learning to be alone


A few nights ago, I experienced an intense sense of loneliness, when I was in bed by myself. I have to admit my mental health in the recent weeks has not been in the best shape, and during that particular day, I was feeling way more unstable than usual. I felt acute anxiety that was irrational, but very real. I had a scary thought that I was completely alone in the world and that everyone had forgotten about my existence. I have a habit of not letting myself be alone, mainly because I don’t want to feel isolated or vulnerable. I need to constantly be accompanied by someone else, whether we are doing anything or not. It gives me a sense of comfort, even if we rarely talk in the moment.


I think this fear of being alone is driven by a persistent problem of mine — I have such a lack of self compassion for myself that when I’m left on my own, especially at night, my mind begins to negatively spiral into a hole that is hard for me to get out of. I begin to pick apart small things — like social interactions or embarrassing mistakes — and turn them into a defining characteristic of myself so that I can no longer see myself as a good person, because all the bad things (no matter how insignificant) have eclipsed the good things. For example, when my mental health was in a particularly bad state, I would have an anxiety attack just from the simple mistake of misplacing my keys. Later on, the episode still would haunt me because of how guilty I felt that I “overreacted” or “was too dramatic”. To cope with this habit in an immediate and small term way, I would hurriedly try to see friends to silence my bad voices.


* セルフ・コンパッション = 自分に向ける「思いやり」「優しさ」「慈しみ」のことであり、自身の「強み(長所)」・「弱み(短所)」を認め、どんな状況下でも「あるがままの自分」を肯定的に受け入れられる心理状態のことである。

Ever since the pandemic has kept us all locked indoors, it’s been a challenge to confront this habit. I could no longer just go out and distract myself from my problems -- I figured now is the time to learn how to prevent downward spirals that lead to worsened habits of self-harm. When I was overwhelmed with my anxiety that night, I decided to reach out to a friend who was thankfully also awake at the same time as me. They guided me through my feelings as I began to calm down and breathe better. I spilled out all of the fears and frustrations I was going through, and they took the time to validate every single thing. I talked to them about my fear of being alone, because my brain immediately begins to make every bad thing from my past take over my entire identity. These spiraling episodes of anxiety could be caused by previous traumatic events — specifically a history of abuse and bullying, that have taught me to internalize these toxic behaviors into a destructive form of self-criticism. My friend suggested that I talk to these voices — to myself — with kindness and compassion as I would talk to my child self. What would I say to them, if they were verbalizing what my bad thoughts were saying?


On the phone, my friend asked me if I’ve ever tried hugging myself, or some other physical gesture that is self reaffirming. I admitted I never really touch myself in an intentionally compassionate way. They urged me to try it out, reminding me that I have the power within me to deescalate a heightened triggered state. After the phone call, when I was alone again, I hugged myself tightly in bed. The gesture grounded me, more than I expected. It felt good to be aware of my body, warm and alive. After that, I fell right asleep.


Since then, there’s been a number of other vulnerable times when I felt on the precipice of another downward spiral. When I notice myself fixating too much on a mistake, or criticizing myself too harshly, I stop whatever I’m doing, and just hold myself as I listen to my breathing. It’s a reminder that no matter what mess up I make, I’m human, I hold a body, and I deserve to give myself breaks. This method often works, both on a physical and mental level. When I do this self embrace and talk to myself in a calm manner, my heart rate gradually begins to slow, and the loud noises in my head dissipate with time.


I think there are great things to be gained when alone, even if the internalized judgements stick around — it gives you a chance to talk to yourself with unveiled kindness and love. What do you need right now to feel more grounded? We all need to be cared for, but when you are alone in a time of need, you ultimately have no one but yourself. Doing these small things, like a physical gesture of self embrace, or speaking to your own insecurities with forgiveness, helped me feel ok with being alone, little by little. It reminded me that I, just like everyone else, deserve to love and be loved. I’m still learning, but it feels good to write about my experience and recognize what I’ve gained from it so far :)

一人でいるときにしか得られない、かけがえのないものもある。例え、自分が信じ込んでしまった自己批判が完全に消えていない状態だとしても、一人でいる時は、自分自身に対してとてつもない優しさや愛をもって語りかけるチャンスだから。心の落ち着きを持って過ごすために、あなたにとって今何が必要?人から気にかけてもらうことは誰にとっても必要だけど、どうしても一人で対処しなければいけないときもある。小さなことだけど、自分を抱きしめたり、不安な気持ちに対して寛容に接することで、私は一人でいることに少しずつ慣れてきた。そして、私もみんなと同じように、愛し愛される権利があるんだと思い知らされた。まだ学習中の身ではあるけど、経験をこうして文章にすることで成果を認識することができて嬉しい :)

Images by Asuka

Japanese Translated by Mia, Hikari and Kiara

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

bottom of page