Loneliness and finding comfort in things I enjoy

Autophobia: the fear of being alone. My biggest fear, and what gives me hope. 

Written by Kyle J. |

Man's hand reaching towards blue cloudy sky
"It’s a dilemma of wanting to make friends and relationships so you’re not alone, but feeling like you’d rather be alone than feel out of place or feel some form of loss when things aren’t what you thought they were."

I’m scared of extreme isolation. I love “me-time” but constant, uncontrollable time alone? That’s scary. I use the time I have to myself to focus and really get to grips with what makes me tick, and to understand myself better, but I want to inspire and be inspired. I want to be the best version of myself not just for my own benefit, but to help others be the best version of themselves as well. I was moved by some of my idols, and though I can’t say if I’ll have the same impact on others, I’d like to at least try!

The thing is I don’t really fit in anywhere. Socially I feel like I’m not the same as everyone else. I’m always the odd one out in the group for a multitude of reasons. My interests are never the same as others, and without generalizing or sounding critical about society in 2022, I don’t like doing what most 21-year-olds in the world like doing. I’m super introverted, and although I would think I have a lot of interesting things to say, I can’t articulate it like most extroverts can. I can physically see my friends being closer and having more fun with each other than they do me, and it makes sense; they have more common interests, but is it like this with everyone? I’m yet to meet someone who I feel I could genuinely talk to and be myself in front of, without being put in a situation that I’m uncomfortable in, or just generally feeling out of place. It’s made me really insecure about who I’m friends with because I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t like the feeling of seeing my friends slowly drift away from me because we don’t have as much in common as we thought.

Autophobia and loneliness aren’t really the same thing, but I seem to battle with either-or every day. I don’t want to be the odd one out; I want to be me and have relationships like others do with each other, but every time I put myself out there, I seem to emphasize the feeling of segregation more. I do try, I don’t want to be alone, but why should I try if I feel more and more lonely each time? It’s a dilemma of wanting to make friends and relationships so you’re not alone, but feeling like you’d rather be alone than feel out of place or feel some form of loss when things aren’t what you thought they were.

So how do you deal with it? I don’t know, but my Aunt told me to be hopeful. Though I might not fit in everywhere, there are things I like that make me feel like I belong. I love telling and experiencing stories. I’m passionate about the things I love. I talk about a game called ‘The Last of Us’ a lot and I’ve never been happier than when I’m playing that game and getting to experience its story. It may sound counterintuitive to recommend doing things you enjoy if you’re feeling lonely but from my perspective, taking care of yourself is always the priority. Not everything in life is bad, some things are good, and if even the smallest things make you happy then why not enjoy them? Those feelings should be cherished and if I’m being 100% honest, when I look back a couple of years, I remember the emotions I felt playing The Last of Us, and not the emotions I felt when I was feeling lonely. Even if I can’t answer the question, the least I could do is appreciate all the little things that made, and still make, me happy.

Just a side note, you should always talk about how you’re feeling with someone. In my case I went to speak to my Aunt and my take on what she said was “it might be this way forever, but it might not be either, I’d rather be hopeful than pessimistic”. I feel the advice was just what I needed to hear, but even the act of getting it out of my body and into the world definitely took some of the weight off. I highly recommend speaking to someone, even if you don’t necessarily want advice. If you feel more comfortable talking about this anonymously then I know the TalkCampus peer-support app is a great place to have that conversation. It’s great to not only talk about loneliness but anything else you might be feeling. Give it a try if you are feeling lonely!

Kyle studies BSc Computer Science in Malawi.

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