Alone and Afraid :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 4

Joe Butterfly

I’m not going to pick on introverts. I have a special love for them.

I am them.

But even though I’m in a special, happy place when I’m alone – I don’t like who I become when I’ve been alone too much.

The same is true for my daughter. It has been difficult, balancing her alone time. She has a brother who is an extrovert and enjoys talking with someone all-the-time. And so on the rare occasions when she can be outside his vocal range, she has done things that were destructive and compulsive and she doesn’t know why.

She would not say that she was lonely or that she wanted to be with someone, just that something didn’t feel right.

She would say something I remember saying when I was her age: “Just leave me alone.”

Oh, how those words hurt me. Saying them and hearing them.

At over thirty, I’ve grown out of this some. Or maybe I can just see it whereas before I was blind.

Before kids I worked outside the home and I liked the accountability. But my “off time” was “free time,” and alone time wasn’t always good for me. I was unsupported, my companions weren’t always there for me, and I was lonely. Instead of reaching out, I retreated in. I wasn’t confident in my identity and I wasn’t a safe place for myself.

The more lonely I became, the more I wanted alone time. And the more alone I was, the more fearful I was of social engagements. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from a chemical imbalance of some sort, but I can only see that in hindsight.*

And that’s when fear became an untamable beast in my world. Every social engagement became an exercise in controldo-not-panic I would preach to myself. I shied away from more and more places. I didn’t want to engage in small talk anywhere. I was afraid to run into people I knew in the store. I would hide.

(If you ever saw me turn, run, and hide – I apologize. It’s not you, it was me.)

My husband would say, “but you don’t look scared of being around them – you’re smiling!” And I could smile. That was all a part of the grasp on control. I knew I shouldn’t feel so fearful of others, somewhere inside I knew that what I truly needed was more people not less.

Then add in small children.

I knew I needed to get out of the house with them. We would go to the park, the store, the library. Those places only pacified our need for relationship by putting us around people. We weren’t with any of them. We didn’t belong to them. We weren’t supported by them.

It wasn’t until my oldest was nearly 6-years-old that I realized that I had to change our social habits or she would never gain the companionship she needs.

Joe Butterfly with friends

And me? I’m amazed at how much different I feel toward people since embracing how I’m wired. I was designed to share, encourage, and support. Fear taught me that people don’t need that from me. I believed they wanted wit, humor, and surface. But love has taught me that I’m free from the expectations I thought others had of me.

Now I still don’t jump at every chance to be in a group, and neither does my daughter, but I strive for a better balance in our overall routine. I pursue investing in others on purpose because loneliness will never be cured by spending more time alone.

*One thing I must encourage strongly is the need for healthy companionship. If you feel like you can relate deeply to the feelings I explained here, please open up to someone trustworthy.

This is Part 4 in the series, to catch up on the other posts click here for the Index.

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