Being alone vs being lonely (aka how to be your own best friend)

There is a profound difference between being alone and being lonely, between solitude and loneliness. As many of you probably know or read by now, I just moved into my first big-girl, all-mine apartment. It’s my first time ever living completely on my own, without anyone to share my space with. I’m not going to lie to you guys- I’m in love with my apartment. I love how cozy it is, I love the big windows and natural light and the back door with my own little space outside. I love that I can put my stuff wherever I want, I love that I can eat whatever I want for dinner, I love that I can leave my dishes in the sink for the night if I want to.

I’m basically on a honeymoon with myself.

Being alone is wonderful. Over the past few years, I’ve become far more introverted than I was in my teens. I like nights to myself. I would prefer wine and Netflix to a bar any night. I would rather have dinner with a couple close friends than go to a party. I don’t really enjoy getting dressed up to go out and I would much rather be in sweatpants (or more accurately, no pants).

But being lonely is dreadful. My eating disorder days were filled with loneliness. Loneliness that had nothing to do with how many people were in my life or how many people loved and supported me. My loneliness had nothing to do with being alone. In fact, most of my loneliest days were days when I was living with friends, roommates, family. As cliche as it is, some of my loneliest moments were in crowded spaces.

My loneliness came from somewhere much deeper and much more profound. The kind of loneliness that makes your heart hurt. The kind that’s a combination of nostalgia, sadness and something else that I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. I’ve felt it all throughout my life; I remember being sick when I was younger and having that feeling growing in the pit of my stomach. That kind of loneliness didn’t visit me much during my childhood or my teenage years for that matter, but it came back full force when I was in college. Part of it had to do with homesickness, I am sure. But a much bigger part had to do with the fact that I felt like there was a hole I couldn’t fill. I felt unfulfilled, dejected and sad. For all the friends I had, I still had a empty space inside me that I could not fill. It took me several years and many therapy sessions before I realized that space can’t be filled by anyone except me. I’ve worked very hard to fill this space and I’ve done a good job, but that kind of loneliness is still so fresh to me. The feeling that it left with me lingers around like smoke after a bonfire. It’s hard for me to fear it coming back.

BUT. Since I started recovery, I can see that space filling back up. I’ve been working on doing things I’m passionate about and things I enjoy doing. I’ve been spending time with my friends and family, going for spontaneous ice cream dates, filling my days with books and writing and relaxing. I’ve began enjoying food again, savoring meals with the people I love. For goodness sake, I ate a THREE COURSE MEAL on my birthday last week after an afternoon snack of Ben & Jerry’s, what? Recovery Meghan is AWESOME and so much happier and more fulfilled than pre-recovery Meghan.

Recovery me is learning to love herself, which fills that hole inside me more than anything. I’m learning to be my own best friend. Not because I don’t have wonderful, beautiful best friends/soul sisters/actual sister (because I do) but because I’ve relied on people for my sense of contentment for far too long. I find my happiness in making other people happy, which is not inherently a bad trait. But as I’ve been forced to learn in my life, putting people’s needs before your own does not lead to long-term happiness or gratification. So I’m taking awhile to see what makes me happy, what I like, why I do what I do and think what I think and to explore what I really want from this big, grand, wonderful life.

Living by myself for awhile is my way of being a little bit selfish, which I’ve always had a very hard time doing. It’s my way of taking some much-needed time for myself.  It’s my way of being my own best friend and putting myself first. So I’ve been going on best friend dates with myself- to the coffee shop, to the beach, to get ice cream. I’ve been learning how to keep myself company in a way that feels kind and genuine and not like I’m being a total jerk to myself like I used to be. I’m alone, but I’m certainly not lonely. I know I have supportive and beautiful and loving people on my side and I’m grateful for that but I’m also grateful for some time to myself. Here’s to coffee dates, lots of ice cream and no pants ever.

Some best friend dates I’ve had with myself this week. Ice cream the size of my face after my first day of work (coffee kahlua brownie, yes please), some beach time and lots of coffee always.

Do you like being alone?
What’s your favorite thing to do by yourself?
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?