I’ve lived on my own for 26 years. Actually that’s not strictly true – I rented the top floor of my last house out for ten years to a long succession of strangers, and we shared the kitchen and bathroom, so technically I lived with people only we didn’t really have anything to do with each other so to all intents and purposes I lived alone.
Living alone has its downsides, which I’ve mentioned in various posts over the last two years, but what I’ve failed to mention is the upsides and they are many and varied.
When I first got ME in 1994 I was in a long term relationship with someone I thought I would eventually marry. Three years into my illness I dumped him and the relief was enormous. I was too ill to be in a relationship. I could barely cope with getting myself through the day, let alone another person. I no longer had the resources to think about someone other than myself, to expend energy on someone other than myself or to worry about someone else’s needs and feelings. For romantic relationships to thrive and survive they need work and I was no longer up to the job.
I lost a lot in terms of companionship and practical support but here’s a list of the things I gained:
- I have insomnia. When you live alone you can have a bath at 2am. You can watch TV without disturbing anyone. You don’t have to creep about in the middle of the night to make a drink or have a snack. I can go to bed when I like and get up when I like and no-one wakes me getting up for work when I’ve only just dropped off at 5am.
- I try to have set mealtimes, but often I’m too nauseous to eat when I should or on the flipside am starving hungry at 4pm and decide to have an early dinner. If I don’t want to cook I don’t have to. I can have Cornflakes for lunch or eat the same meal two days running. There’s no-one coming in from work expecting food I don’t have the energy to cook. I also don’t have a cupboard full of chocolate or Pringles tempting me off my low histamine wagon.
- I need a quiet, peaceful environment to charge my batteries. Talking, although nice in small doses, is exhausting and I’m not capable of long daily conversations. And, selfishly, I don’t want to waste my very precious energy listening to a run down of someone else’s boring day at work.
- I rarely attend social events. I wish I could say this was due to energy limitations, and it is, but I wasn’t a particularly sociable person before I got sick and have been known on many occasions to use my illness as an excuse to get out of attending events I know I’m going to hate. If I were in a relationship I’d feel pressured into keeping my spouse company at dinner parties and work events, using precious energy which could be put to better use doing the things I enjoy.
- I don’t have to bathe. It’s knackering and makes me feel ill. So I keep it to the bare minimum of washing when it’s critical, which is usually once or twice a week. I can’t imagine being in a relationship and having to do this every day of my life – I’d get nothing else done.
- Ditto with keeping the house clean. I’d feel pressure to keep the house nice for my spouse and I simply don’t have the energy. And before you all start saying “well let your partner do the housework” we all know they don’t even know where the hoover is kept, let alone how to work it, and they never empty the bag 😉
- I’d have to keep on top of the laundry, which currently only gets done when I’ve run out of clean undies and sometimes not even then 😉 And before you all start saying “well let your partner do the laundry” we all know that washing machines are a technical advance too far for men to cope with. They can launch a rocket into space, they can build a tunnel under the sea, but ask them to distinguish between cottons and synthetics, whites and coloureds, and they fall apart.
- I don’t have to worry about my spouse running off with someone else, someone healthy who can give him all the things I can’t.
- It’s been nearly 30 years since I had an argument with someone. I can be as grumpy, tired and hormonal as I like and I’ve no-one to take my bad mood out on. Conversely, I don’t have to put up with anyone else’s crap.
- I don’t have to keep a track of my spouse’s family’s birthdays or buy their Christmas gifts. We all know that men leave it to women to do this stuff and I don’t have the energy or inclination.
- I can watch what I like on the TV. This may seem like a trivial thing, but when I’m too ill and exhausted to do anything the telly is my way of escaping and switching off. I get physically wound up at the thought of having to waste my leisure time sitting through a football game or an episode of Top Gear.
- I never have to have sex again. It’s wildly over-rated and I’d genuinely rather be watching the telly, reading a book, walking the dog, taking photographs………in fact, I’d rather be doing just about anything other than having rumpy pumpy. When I get horny, and I do, a 3 minute masturbation session is all that’s needed to scratch the itch.
- I’m under no pressure to look pretty, or wear high heels or have my hair cut or shave my armpit hair. Freeeeeedom!
- I don’t have to compromise. On anything.
- I don’t have to put up with someone else’s annoying habits, like leaving their shaving hair in the sink or not putting their dirty socks in the laundry basket.
- As I’m typing this I can hear………….absolutely nothing. There is no-one crashing about in the kitchen (why are men so noisy?!), playing music, ‘making things’ which usually involves hammers or bench saws, or just generally disturbing my peace. And, being so noise sensitive, I need peace to function.
I’m sure there are many other benefits to living alone when you’re ill which I just take for granted, but you get the gist. Just the thought of living with another person in the house actually makes my stomach knot as I know I simply wouldn’t be able to cope. I need peace and quiet. And I need the freedom to do whatever my body dictates, which changes from day to day and even hour to hour. My solitude isn’t a choice, it’s been forced on me by my illnesses, but it’s the only way I can get through the day and I cherish it.