Day 507- “I Don’t Exist When I’m Alone”

This is what I said to a friend today.

He said “I’m a different person when I’m alone.” I replied, “I don’t exist when I’m alone.”

I don’t really know why I said this. And as soon as it was out of my mouth I felt sad, and unsure as to whether it was even true or what had prompted me to say it. But saying these words connected in my mind to something we had been talking about earlier in the day; about my childhood and how I had spent so much of it alone, from early morning to late at night, while the rest of my family worked on the house we were building. I was too small to help in the early years. It started when I was five years old.

We had moved from Sydney up to a rural area on the Sunshine Coast at the end of the school year, and for three long months over the summer before grade one started I was left alone in the house. I didn’t have any friends yet to call over, and my sisters, being quite a bit older than me, were recruited to help my mother and father with the laboring.

I remember the boredom and loneliness of those long hours without anyone to keep me company but the television. Watching the movie Grease several times each and every day, rewinding and restarting as soon as it ended; I can still recite the dialogue if pressed. The anticipation of my mother coming home after dark to relieve my solitude, so much like the way I feel now when I’m expecting a lover to arrive. This continued for years: after school, weekends, and school holidays. Sometimes I would have friends over to relieve the loneliness, but the majority of the time that I spent at home I was alone, waiting, anxious, not knowing when or if my mother would come home, my father being as violent and unpredictable as he was.

I had never before connected the way I feel when I am alone as an adult with these early years I spent alone , though it seems so obvious now. But now that I know, what can I do to change the way I feel about time by myself? I feel that time alone is time lost, time not shared is time not experienced. Time sucked into a vacuum. I’m still aging. Time is still passing. But I have nothing to account for it. No way to prove I ever even existed during these periods…unless I am with someone, to corroborate.

For now this is just another connection, another realisation. For today that is enough. I understand why being alone is so painful: the child in me feels she is missing out, while others are out creating something. I understand why waiting for someone to show up makes me feel so desperate: the child in me doesn’t know if they will ever come back, and one more second alone is an eternity of loneliness, interminable.

She only needs some reassurance that she will not be left alone forever. Or now that she is an adult, to go out into the world and join the others. She no longer needs to wait for someone to take her hand and lead her out.

2 thoughts on “Day 507- “I Don’t Exist When I’m Alone”

  1. I actually googled the title of this article because it’s exactly how I feel and I was so grateful to read your blog on it. I never associated this feeling with the fact that I’m borderline but I guess it does make sense given that we as a group tend not to have any feeling of identity. I feel like I only exist when someone is there to give me a role to fill. I am a stay at home mother but my son is in school all day and my husband is of course at work. In the mornings I am the dutiful wife and mother, making breakfast and getting everyone ready for their day but when I come home to an empty house from dropping my son at school I cease to exist. I have no purpose or meaning in the six hours I wait to pick him up again. Like you said the time just gets sucked into a vaccum and is lost. I plop down in front of the TV and wait until I can go sit in the parent pick up line at school. I simply don’t know who I am or how I’m supposed to be behaving without someone there giving me the queues as to what I am to do. So I am nothing in those long hours. I do not leave my house as I have nowhere to go. I have no friends so there is no one to meet for lunch. Some days I am so sick of the TV I just sit in silence for hours and then I fear I will really go mad. It reminds me so much of high school. I was completely outcast and often I would go an entire day with no one speaking to me at all. Eight hours surrounded by people but without any interaction at all. So many days I wanted to kill myself just to avoid having to go back the next day.
    I sit on my couch and think to myself how I’m wasting my life when could be doing anything I want, anything at all. But I simply don’t know what to do and there is no one to tell me what I should do. MY whole life I was told what I was going to do by my father and I lived to fulfill that purpose, nevber thinking or asking if I actually wanted what he wanted. I just did it because that was what was expected. Unfortunately I developed a horrific drug problem in my teens adn completely derailed my ability to fulfill that dream for him. I did not get sober until 27 and by then there was no option to go back and make what was meant to happen happen (as I had spent all his money on rehabs) and I was stuck with no one’s purpose to fulfill. There as no longer anyone there telling me what I should be, what I was supposed to do and I realised for the first time that I had never even contemplated what I wanted to do with my life for myslef, and now I had no idea how to do so. How do you begin to have your own dreams when for so long you lived in someone else’s?
    Paralysed by fear I became nothing. I married so that there would be someone to take care of me because in all my years I had never learned how to do that for myself. I took meaningless jobs to please my husband who couldn’t support us himself when we married. I excelled in all my positions, naturally because I had someone defining exactly what I was to do when and how. I think this is also why I always thrived in institutions. There was always someone there directing me and I knew how to please them. I’m very good at pleasing people if they only tell me how. Yet everytime I left one I floundered. Maybe that’s why I continued to relapse. So I could go back to the only places I felt comfortable. To the life I knew I could succeed in. I was always a staff favortite because I could be so good if I only knew what they wanted. But when there is no one to please and I am left on my own to “live” then I am completely lost.
    I want to change this desperately but I have no idea how. I want to feel like a person again, but I don’t even know what that means.

    • Hi Kristin,

      Your comment brought tears to my eyes, as I know exactly how you feel. I’m desperately searching for a relationship right now as I feel so alone. But I can’t meet anyone I feel I can connect with or be attracted to. I understand excelling when you are given direction, as I do too, and flounder when I’m given a brief that is too open. I lost a job recently because I was always just told to “do what I think needs doing” and it made me panic.

      I wish I could give you advice, but I’m still struggling with this too. I tell myself that there must be some evolutionary reason for people like us to exist; we are caretakers and love being part of a community. I think that’s a completely valid way to be, but unfortunately it is looked down upon in our culture, and independence is revered as a desirable trait above all others. I secretly think this is why our society is starting to fall apart. Maybe there should be more people like us…I don’t know xx

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