Alone Time

So if the absence of the posts on this blog didn’t hint enough at it, I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting things done in a consistent way. This includes my writing, taking care of my health nutritionally, and exercising. I’ve had a few days to think about it, and I’m trying to work out precisely why by comparing how I spend my time now versus how I spent it when I was in a healthier and more productive state of mind and body. Either a couple years ago, or even as far back as high school.

Yup. I was more productive as a teenager. Ugh. Makes me cringe.

So I started with something in common: I spent a lot of time alone in high school, and often do now as well. But back then I would occupy it with stuff that brought me genuine satisfaction and fulfilment, whereas now I mostly fill the time with stuff that distracts me from whatever thing happens to be giving me anxiety/worry at the moment.

“Ah-hah!” part of me wants to say. “That’s it! You just have to spend your time alone doing better things!” But it’s more than that. The way I spend my time is a consequence, not the cause, so I needed to dig deeper.

I came to the realization that when I was younger, the time I spent alone was often not by choice. The transit system where I lived ended at 6pm (and didn’t run on Sundays), and I didn’t have a license, so my ability to meet up with friends was incredibly limited. I got pretty depressed. I would go months without having a conversation with someone in person besides my mom (I worked at a grocery store, but my co-workers there didn’t exactly provide stimulating discussion unless you were an NHL fan). So essentially, when I looked for activities to do, I did it with the driving motivation of finding something to fill the void of social and personal contact I felt. I needed something viscerally fulfilling and investing, so I worked out. I biked downtown every day (a close to one hour bike ride one-way) before or after work to work out (so an 8-hour shift, plus a two hour workout, plus 2x 1-hour bike trips). I would get home, make something to eat, kill time before bed, get up the next day and do it again.

Now, I still suffered emotionally. I was often angry and felt incredibly lonely, but my routine was something I could find genuine joy in to some extent.

In contrast, the time I spend alone now is very much by choice. Not a healthy choice by any means, but I have other options available to me. I live in a city with a decent transit system, friends within (mostly) walking distance. I COULD avail myself of these options, but I don’t, primarily because what motivates my isolation is this need to like… HIDE from seemingly everything when I’m not obligated by employment to do otherwise. So much of my default setting seems to be worrying. I don’t know WHY (depression/anxiety is PROBABLY a solid contributor, but it wasn’t always this bad), but I feel so overwhelmed, even when (hell, ESPECIALLY when) things are going well for me.

So when I’m alone, instead of searching for something to engrossing myself in, I numb myself. Either with distractions/stimuli to eat up all my brain’s RAM so that I physically CAN’T think about my obligations, responsibilities, etc (mindlessly surfing the internet), or things to give me that quick hit of dopamine to make me momentarily forget the negative feelings (porn again, video games, sugary, fatty foods).

I’m not entirely sure what the next step is. I know from reading my old notebooks that I need to somehow put the structure back into my life (recording calories, day-planning, streamlining things, etc), but I’m unsure what form that will take.

Join me on the next exciting adventure of Vince Tries To Get His Shit Together!!