A few years ago, I left my dream job. My work was fulfilling and rewarding. I had great relationships with my co-workers, but my boss was toxic. One day my boss would give me gifts and compliment my abilities. The next day she would threaten to fire me. Her moods rose and fell like the tides and her tirades were inescapable.
After a particularly bad exchange with her, I chose self-preservation and handed in my letter of resignation. Instead of searching for another job, I decided to spend some time with my family and to take care of projects around the house.
The first month after leaving my job, I was able to relax and be productive. I sent the kids off to school in the morning, cleaned the house, and lounged on the sofa watching Netflix and eating my favorite snacks. I missed my co-workers and the clients that I had worked with, but I was content to be relieved of the many responsibilities that my job entailed.
After that first month, something changed. There was a shift in my mind as I began to ache for human companionship. I took the kids to school in the mornings and came home to an eerily quiet house. My friends and family were at work, and I had no one to talk to. I began sitting on the sofa refreshing my Facebook page over and over again. The longer I sat, the harder it was for me to stand up. Some days, I sat for hours alone. I talked to myself out of sheer desperation.
I began to experience a separation from myself – a distance from the outgoing person I had once been. I felt trapped inside my mind. I stopped answering the phone when friends did call, and I spent less time talking to my family. Loneliness overwhelmed me.
I lost myself and the connections I valued. I was desperate for emotional intimacy, but unable to reach out and talk. I cried every night about how lonely I was, and laid awake for hours at night dreading the isolation I knew would overtake me in the morning. I stopped cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and even brushing my hair. With each passing day I lost confidence in my ability to be with people again.
The days were long, and they had no end. Months passed with no relief. I lived in deafening silence every day and many nights. My energy levels fell with each day that I sat alone. It was harder to climb the stairs or walk around the block. My distress and hopelessness metastasized like a cancer in my life. I experienced a profound loss of personal and professional identity. I believed I was a bad wife and mother. I lost confidence in my ability to work again. In my heart, I believed I would die of loneliness. I was unable to see a way to break through the cycle of despair.
My husband works long hours. He tried to spend time with me in the late evenings, but he was tired and distracted. He cared about my suffering, and brainstormed ways to help me feel less alone.
One Saturday, he took me out for a drive in the car and told me that I was going to get a surprise. The line between loneliness and depression had blurred, and I had a hard time getting excited. We arrived at a farm, where I was presented with a beautiful, black puppy that my husband had purchased for me. He told me that he gave her to me so that I wouldn’t be alone anymore.
Bringing Misty home was a turning point for me. I finally had some companionship, and things began to change. Caring for Misty gave me a purpose each day, and she was all too willing to spend time sitting on my lap and play games with me. Misty seemed to sense my desolation, and she often comforted me by lying next to me when I sat alone. I began taking her for walks where I breathed in the fresh air and considered how to escape the loneliness holding me hostage.
After nearly a year of suffering, I began making changes in my life. I found volunteer opportunities to get out of the house and be around people again. It wasn’t easy to put myself out there because of how isolated I felt, but socializing began to feel good again. I started engaging in activities I had once enjoyed, like scrapbooking and writing. As I grew in my confidence, I started my own business. This is something I had always dreamed of but had never thought I could accomplish.
In the end, loneliness led me to find a more authentic version of myself. I stopped blaming myself for the ending of my job, and I let go of my concerns about what other people thought of me. I abandoned the perfectionism that had kept me from forming new relationships or trying new and unfamiliar tasks. Instead, I reflected on how I wanted my life to look. I accepted being a “good enough” mom and friend. For the first time in a year, I was able to be by myself without feeling alone anymore.