mental health

Friends and relations

Not long after my wife died, I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to avoid spending Christmas or New Year’s Eve on my own. I wasn’t going to fly back to the Netherlands, just to be with some people. I did end up spending those days with friends, and it was good, but I’d have been alright anyway.

From when I was a small child, I have enjoyed spending time on my own. I rarely get bored and even within a relationship I enjoy finding some time for myself. These days, I don’t really mind coming home to an empty house or sleeping in an otherwise empty bed, nice though sharing a house and a bed with someone is.

I did not think I would get lonely now that my wife was suddenly gone.

Then I did.

It is of course a normal and healthy thing. If anything, it confirms I am a normal human being, who needs human contact to stay mentally healthy. As someone who has at times wondered how normal he really is, that is good to realise.

But I have also struggled with finding a new balance in life, now that the natural balance between friendships and the relationship with my wife has gone. And I have struggled more than I realised.

Now that I look back at the past year, I realise I have often been acting like a 15-year-old, at least inside my head. I got unhealthily excited about new friendships and equally unhealthily worried about existing ones when messages didn’t get answered, or when I thought I might have said something wrong. I have felt very lonely at social events because I realised none of these people were really my friends.

That same inner 15-year-old inside my head gets at times stupidly obsessed over confirmation on social media. Twitter likes meant far more to me than they should have. Even now, I often check Twitter first thing in the morning when I get up.

I find it rather embarrassing to write that down. I haven’t been 15 for a quarter of a century. I strive to be a grown-up, sorted person, who uses life experiences to become a better human being. I can deal with death, so surely I can deal with this too?

But then, I guess what happened threw me more off balance than I realised, and in ways I had not anticipated.

Thankfully I am a lucky person and I can turn all of this into an important life lesson and become that better human being that I want to become. It will take both a bit more work and a bit more patience though. And thus a bit more loneliness too. Tough. I’ll just have deal with it.

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