Finding solitude is like having an energy drink. I know, it might seem like a strange comparison, but I’ll explain.
Fuel for the brain
Years ago I had a brief period in which I drank a lot of energy drinks. I had a job were everything was always changing and I had to write pieces under time pressure. Needless to say that by the end of the day my creative flow was often dried up. What if you then have to write? One day I decided to try an energy drink. Much to my surprise this actually worked. The ideas were flowing again and I could finish whatever I was writing. As a result I took one of those drinks whenever writing became difficult.
Nowadays, I crave my moments of solitude as much as those energy drinks back then. Not only in order to be able to think again, but also to allow myself to deal with others once more. Sometimes ten minutes will suffice whereas other times I need a whole weekend by myself. This can be difficult for others to understand. I’ll get questions like, ‘don’t you like to meet again?’ ‘Why do you leave so early?’ ‘Don’t you want to go outside for a bit?’
Of course I like to meet people, to spend time together and to go outside, but unfortunately this isn’t always an option. At times I just need to be by myself. As being around others simply requires more energy. Even when they stay silent, my battery will drain faster when others are around.
As a part of my brain will focus on every sound or movement that is being made. Therefore my attention will be divided between whatever I’m doing and all the changes in my surrounding. People often aren’t just present, they will eventually also speak to you. Which also means you have an extra worry of whether or not you’ll be able to express yourself correctly and hoping that you won’t do or say anything strange.
Those moments of solitude have become vital for me. That moment when I can close a door behind me to be alone, feels like a burden has been lifted. In that moment I don’t have to make an effort. I don’t have to concentrate, to work to exclude distractions or to try being pleasant company. I can simply let go.
During visits, those ten minutes of solitude are like having an energy drink. I can allow my brain a moment of peace after which I can concentrate and interact once more. When I seek solitude at home, I simply go to bed with my earplugs and sleeping mask and tune out the world for a bit.
Now luckily, I live by myself. The moment I get home I no longer have to worry about being pleasant to be around. I can do whatever feels good. Which is why I admire those who share their home with house mates, a partner or even a family. I can’t even begin to imagine the delicate balancing act that that requires.
Drinking those energy drinks helped me to reawaken my brain. After a couple of weeks I started to familiarize myself with what I was actually drinking. Apparently a whole lot of caffeine and sugars. It turned out they weren’t healthy at all. Also I didn’t like the idea that I had to rely on an external stimulant to do my job. So I went off them completely.
Luckily solitude is a lot more healthier than drinking energy drinks. The only downside is that it takes more effort to reconnect with the world again. Especially after a day of solitude. At those times, the temptation to stay in my PJ’s and to remain in my own world can be very alluring.
Recently I listened to a podcast (can’t remember which one) where someone mentioned that you sometime shouldn’t give yourself a chance to say ‘no’. Instead of asking yourself whether or not you should do something, to just do it. Because the moment you start to deliberate, it’s very likely that you’ll end up saying no. That comment stayed with me.
Last week was one of those weeks in which I needed a lot of solitude and struggled with reconnecting. Remembering this comment helped me to make that phone call, to send that text and even to go outside for a walk. In all honesty I will admit that thanks to this comment I now also have a large cake in the fridge. Apparently I need to fine-tune to use of it. But well, the cake will be an extra motivation to go one step further.
Do you also feel that sense of relief when you can be on your own? Do you struggle with finding these moments of solitude? Does the world makes you reconnect or do you have to push yourself?
7 Replies to “Why solitude is my new energy drink”
Survivors need neurotransmitters and a lot of them. Here is my favorite and most effective beverage for that:
I recommend it to everyone, survivor or not.
Connection is critical to yourself and others. Brene Brown writes about this so well.
If we are so drained that we can’t even connect to ourselves then how can we connect to others?
So unless we want to be strangers to ourselves and others, it is easier to manage our cognitive budget, or spoons if you like the spoon theory.
Absolutely true 😊 and thanks for the recipe! I’ll try making it when I’m back home!
I completely understand this. I’ve always needed time alone and post TBI, more than ever.
I’ve got to be careful though. I need to ensure I’m still talking to people – which means forcing myself at time to connect!
Yup, I can relate! Maybe the ‘don’t give yourself a chance to say no’ strategy can help? Though it’s a dangerous one around sweet treats. 😉
Oh yes! I understand I need solitude, to reconnect. I need to have that safe place, some time when no demands are put on me, no explanation, no expectation, when I can be ok with myself and not notice the difference.
I am getting better at judging when I need to go and recharge my brain, because it’s depleted. I now limit myself to 20 minutes or 30 or I will regret it. The fatigue will hit and that’s really bad for me.
I do feel guilty sometimes, I say no to so much, I know I won’t cope and then I will be embarrassed. It’s about building up slowly and having a good outcome from an situation. So many times I’ve tried to push myself through the uncomfortable, and have paid for it, with fatigue for days. I am getting to be ok, that solitude is about rest, recharging, it’s the medicine that brings some recovery to a poorly brain. It’s not being lazy, or can’t make an effort. It’s survival.
Most of my friends have disappeared because of this, I suppose their lives just carry on at a fast speed, I can’t be included in that, but some get me, when I say, not today, but ask me again please. Or I will make plans for just a 20 minute catch up.
I hope in time, I can be social again, but those times of solitude will always be needed, my safe place is looking over my garden and the wood behind, listening to the rain, the breeze, the trees moving. Or I lie on my bed, and watch the clouds move past my window, I can doze off sometimes, I always feel I’ve escaped for a while from this brain tumour and can learn to be ok again for a while.
Thank you for sharing your story!
It’s hard to limit yourself, to take care in order to increase the chance of a positive outcome. Especially when you have to say ‘no’ to the things you would like to do. I can absolutely relate to that. I really like your framing of solitude as a means of survival, as a medicine to help our brains.
I’m sorry to read that you’ve lost friendships as a result. That can’t be easy. I hope that knowing that you’re not alone can provide some comfort, however small that may be.
I love the sound of your safe place! Reading the description alone already relaxed me. 🙂
I wish you all the best and take care!