I never imagined that I would be doing this, traveling by myself. The thought scared me, and it still does, every single day.
Most of you wont believe me when I say that I am an introvert, even my own mother laughed at me when I was talking to her about what being an introvert means to me, but I am. Even though you all see me as this argumentative, sarcastic and sassy woman who never shuts up, I’m a total introvert. Not only am I an introvert, but I suffer from the remnants of a very severe and debilitating social anxiety, which I have worked through over the past few years but has crept up again recently with the new challenges of traveling by myself.
The truth is, I love being alone and in fact I usually prefer it, but I don’t like being publicly alone. I really struggle with the idea of being in public by myself, walking around the shops by myself or having a coffee sitting at a table for one.
When I was a teenager, I had severe anxiety and depression followed by suicide attempts and my refusal to leave the house for months because I was so anxious to be around other people. I was medicated for a couple of years, sorted my shit out and now I lead a normal life, but the common misconception is that these tendencies to revert to these patterns go away. Yes, I can now go to the supermarket by myself and even wander around the shopping mall, but does it still make me anxious? Yes
Do I feel confident to have a coffee by myself? No
Do I make myself do it so that I can still live a normal life? Yes
The other day I was feeling really introverted, I didn’t want to leave the house or get out of my jammies for the day but I only have 4 days in Melbourne and I didn’t want to waste them so I made myself leave the house. Not only did I leave the house, I had dinner in a restaurant by myself which is something I have still to this day never done (talk about putting pressure on myself on a tender day but I like to mix it up). Yes, I was paranoid that people were watching me and I was wondering what they might be thinking but halfway into my meal, when another guy entered the restaurant and proceeded to eat his meal alone I realised something. I always think people are so brave and self assured when they do these things alone, maybe they think that about me too. Or maybe they don’t think about me at all because we’re all self obsessed douche bags that are mentally writing our grocery lists or wondering what we’re going to watch on Netflix when we get home.
Either way, these people have no idea who I am and the likelihood is that I’m never going to see them again. These people can’t see that on the inside I’m a crumbling mess trying to hide behind a bit of red lipstick and a nonchalant look to keep up the appearance of being a self secure adult, they probably are doing the same and think that I have it all together. And these people aren’t going to care if I have a coffee alone or if I stay at home starving because I don’t want to face the world by myself.
Even though I have not had the label of ‘mental illness’ for the last 8 years now, the anxiety definitely doesn’t go away, and if that’s the way your mind works then I think it just naturally swings that way in stressful or challenging situations. The only difference is now I don’t let the monster win, it might still be sitting next to me while I have my coffee for one (suddenly I’m not so alone after all) but it’s not going to stop me from living my life.
Because there’s something entirely daunting and overwhelmingly liberating in being alone – because you can be whoever you want to be and no one knows any different.