Every once in awhile I'll mention something about being lonely or wanting to be with people and get a dubious response from whoever I'm talking with, as if an introvert could never be lonely, because isn't the whole idea that introverts don't want to be with people? Of course, that's not the case. Introverts like their alone time, but they value time spent with people they care about as well, and when they go awhile without it, they get lonely just like extroverts do. It may take a little bit longer for the joy of solitude to wear off for us, but it happens.
The problem is that, sometimes, we spend so much time seeking solitude during our busy overpeopled times that we end up accidentally isolated when we need people time.
That's been a huge adjustment for me the past few months. I spent the first 26 years of my life looking for ways to get away and have a break from people. I went from living with my family of ten to traveling in the drama company to college to living with four roommates in a tiny trailer to living with my family again. Then, suddenly, I found myself in a situation where, even though I am living with someone, I'm completely alone for a good 8-10 hours every day. I work from home and don't have a vehicle of my own, so while my husband is at work, I'm by myself.
For the first four months, I was like, "WOOHOO LOOK AT ALL THIS ME TIME I GET!" And it was wonderful. But then we went to Illinois to visit my family for Thanksgiving and I came back home with a profound sense of aloneness, and not in a positive way. I was suddenly struck by the fact that I no longer always had someone around to hang out with if I wanted to, and I began craving more human interaction.
Turns out when you're not constantly in a situation where you have to socialize with people, it's easy to withdraw until you've withdrawn yourself all the way out into hermitiness.
Still working on how to fix this for myself in my current situation. With no outside job and no vehicle, it's hard to do things like finding activities to get involved in. These are a few of the things I'm trying to see if I can regularly recharge my social meter:
1. Take advantage of any social opportunities that DO come along.
There's at least a part of me that will always go, "Ugh," to being a part of any social gathering, just out of habit. I'm getting better at reminding myself that, no, I want to do this. And then my brain goes, "Oh, yeah! This will probably be fun and good for me right now!" and I can cheerfully go off to church or a planned event or, heck, even a trip to the grocery store where people might be. (Just as even being in the same room as others can drain me when I'm overpeopled, being in the same room with others can recharge me a little bit when I need it.)
2. Reconnect with friends via the Internet.
I used to be big on texting and chatting with my long-distance friends, and I've lost some of that. A lot of us are really-for-real-now in the adult world, married, with kids, with jobs, with responsibilities, and it's easy to lose track of far-away friends in the shuffle. I've been trying to deliberately reach out to some old friends and reconnect with them, even if it's just a text or a Facebook message saying I'm thinking of them.
3. Look for meaningful conversations.
I can keep myself socially afloat by exchanging pleasantries with grocery store cashiers and people at church, but it's not satisfying. It's like keeping yourself alive by eating cotton candy when, really, what you need is an actual meal. Sometimes a single thoughtful, meaningful, significant conversation, even if it's with someone I barely know, can be enough to keep me going socially for weeks. I have been working to seek out these conversations and make the most of them.
How about you guys - especially my introvert friends? How do you deal with loneliness?