I am not naturally an open person. Various experiences in my early life caused me to shut down and keep everything bottled up. For years I never let anyone in. I lost the ability to trust, so I tried to handle all of my struggles on my own, which often didn’t work out too well.
Over the last few years, I have been learning to be more open. I am learning to share what I am feeling and going through, although I am not great at it. I have been blessed with amazing people in my life and so I have learned to trust again.
But my instinct is still to bottle everything up. My instinct is to isolate myself and deal with things alone.
I have been living on my own for the past two weeks while my parents are on vacation. This is the first time I have really been alone in months, and it is the first time since my breakdown in October.
For weeks leading up to my parents departure, I was nervous about being on my own for three weeks. Then they left and a couple of days later my anxiety went through the roof.
I became paranoid about things like leaving the stove on, not locking the door, not closing the garage door or leaving my straightener on when I left the house. I started checking all of these things over and over before leaving the house. One day, I even turned around on my way to work to confirm yet again that I had shut the garage door. Even when I hadn’t used the stove, I feared it was left on.
Even after checking and confirming that doors were locked, the stove was off and my straightener was unplugged, I was plagued with worry until I got home again.
I had a couple of panic attacks because of this anxiety.
When I saw my psychiatrist I told her what was going on and she began asking me lots of questions, and I realized she was trying to determine if I might have OCD. She made a slight change to my meds to see if it would help.
I don’t know yet if the med change has made a difference. What I do know is that these anxieties have surfaced because I am alone.
Except that I am not.
Yes, I am living alone in the house for three weeks, but I am far from alone. Last weekend at my church gathering, I shared with my prayer group that I was experiencing heightened anxiety as a result of being on my own right now. I told them everything I was going through, and a weight was almost immediately lifted from my shoulders.
They prayed for me, and I know they have been continuing to pray for me because I can feel it. And suddenly things are different this week. The anxiety is not gone, but it has been eased. Instead of checking if my straightener is unplugged 10 times, I am checking twice. The same goes for the stove, locked doors and garage door.
I am calmer, and trusting myself that I have done what I need to do before leaving the house. I still go through a checklist in my head as I go out the door, and I may run back to check one more time, but I am not panicked over it anymore.
Because I am not alone. My parents are checking in regularly, my sister is calling me, my friends are texting and calling. I am alone in the house, but not alone.
Sometime in the next year, I am going to need to move out of my parents’ house and be on my own again. This is something that I have been worried about. But I am less worried now. Just because I live alone doesn’t mean I will be lonely or anxious. I’ve learned that this week. I can function on my own. I can get to work on time. I can plan social events. I can make it to my commitments.
I am doing just fine.
And I know that if anything were to happen, I have countless people I can call for help and support.
So often in this life, many of us feel completely alone. But sometimes it is because we choose to isolate ourselves. We shut people out and fail to acknowledge those around us who love and support us. Those who want to know us, those who want to help.
I have been reminded of that. And I hope you know that too.
We are never alone.