23.4.19

Learning to love nights to myself (spoiler: It took me a LONG time)


So nearly 8 years ago I moved away from my family in Essex, and moved to Norwich for university. I did the very standard thing of living in halls in my first year, going back and forwards to visit family at the weekends, and then moved into a house with friends in my second and third years. Once I left university for good, I moved in with Harvey and his parents, as we'd decided we wanted to buy a house together and thought it would be the easiest (read: least inexpensive) way to save some money but still be together. Cheesy huh?

Anyway, the point I'm making in a very roundabout way, is that I'd never really spent a great deal of time by myself as I'd always been surrounded by other people, so when Harvey and I bought our house in 2015, it came as a bit of a shock to the system. For anybody reading this who doesn't already know, Harvey works shifts. He works more than his fair share of night shifts too, so once we'd moved in, I suddenly found myself spending evenings alone, and falling asleep alone for the first time in a long time.

In total honesty, I found it less than comfortable. I was anxious and on edge, convinced that something bad was going to happen and there was very little that stopped me feeling that way. Most nights, I'd grab supplies and hole myself away upstairs, where I could close all the blinds and be certain that no one could see me from outside. Completely and utterly irrational I know, but that's just the way my mind used to work.

Quite clearly, I knew there was an issue, and I thought about trying lots of different things to rectify the situation. Some of the more ridiculous considerations included getting a dog for company and taking supplements to help me relax/fall asleep but generally I think my alcohol and unhealthy food intake just increased, as I used it to comfort myself.

Something had to change, and so I made a conscious effort to eliminate things that used to 'trigger me'.  One of the worst things for me was silence, because it made me hyper aware of noises outside of the house, and even noises inside that houses make just because. So one of the first things I did was to start making sure there was always background noise, and that's when I got really into watching YouTube. The playlists I'd make were absolutely huge and they would auto-play throughout the night, as I used to rely on them to help me fall asleep. I eventually realised that sometimes even YouTube acted as a trigger for me, because of the adverts. Adverts became the bane of my life, particularly around the Halloween period, as there seemed to be a never-ending supply of trailers for horror films. Not really the sort of things you want to be thinking about when you're home alone.

Step forward Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and ITV Hub+. Reading this post back, I realise that sounds very much like an #ad but as much as I wish it was, I promise you it isn't. I quickly realised that these three channels were the key to my anxiety-free viewing on nights home alone as I could control the fact that they don't have adverts. I banned myself from watching anything remotely scary or crime-related, and began to use it as an opportunity to watch all of the trash TV, saving the scarier TV shows for when I got ready for work in the morning.

Essentially the key for me was to keep myself busy and distracted in any way possible. Happily, I can report that it seems to have worked for me. I do sometimes feel a little edgy and that feeling can be totally random or related to something I've seen or read, but on the whole I don't feel the need to consciously distract myself anymore and truth be told, I've actually begun to look forward to nights in by myself.  These days, when Harv is at work, you can generally find me watching trashy TV (favourites are repeat episodes of Love Island, Suits, Gossip Girl, The Mummy Diaries and the Real Housewives of Cheshire if you're keen to know), having a nice long bubble bath, doing a face mask and writing blog posts. The latter has sort of dropped off the face of the earth in the past year as I've been working 50+ hour weeks, but I've moved on to a new job now where I am working significantly less hours, so hopefully I can get back into blogging a little bit now I've got more time.

So why did I decide to write this post? Aside from wanting to celebrate what I consider to be quite a big personal achievement, I wanted to write about the subject as I'm quite certain I'm not the only person to have felt like this. If you're struggling with something similar, my one piece of advice would be to give yourself time. Although it was a conscious effort for me to shake things up a bit, the most important thing probably has been time. It's been a process that's taken me years to get to this point, to get to a point where I'm not running up the stairs at the end of the night and locking myself away in my bedroom just in case.

As with most issues in life, a problem shared is a problem halved, so if you're ever feeling anxious, talking to someone is a great first step to rectifying the situation. The way you feel now, doesn't have to be the way you feel forever. Chat to someone you trust, or chat to a total stranger. Whichever you choose, it'll help you feel less isolated, and without you even really realising, will help the matter a great deal. Sometimes social media can be a force for good...

Probably going to leave it there because I'm at serious risk of making this blog post even cheesier, but hopefully you get the gist. If it's something you're struggling with, or you want to talk about it some more, I've linked my Instagram below.

Thanks for reading,

Laura x

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