It was the second night of the Reading and Leeds festival I was at the Leeds site and it was late at night. All around me thousands of fans were heading back to their tents, to their campfires, their warm beers and weed. A string of yellow bulbs hung from posts on either side of the muddy path. Conversations were in full flow; drunken lads were singing Oasis songs at the top of their lungs while hugging and pointing in seemingly random directions. I stood still, watching all of this, humanity, and not feeling connected to any of it. In that moment I remember feeling a great sense of loneliness. I am not too sure what made me feel that in that particular moment. Whether it was just watching the multitudinous couples walking, laughing, singing, living. Whether it was just the feeling that I had joined an established friendship group and was still feeling on the outside or whether I was just simply pissed after drinking all day in the sun and not bothering to eat, I am not sure. It could have been a combination of all of these.
I mention this because the feeling of being alone can hit you whether you have no one or if you are surrounded by many. It can also occur if you have someone that no longer loves or appreciates you. It is also a very common feeling for people with autism or mental health issues.
I don’t think that loneliness in this sense has anything to do with romantic relationships, or the continual lack thereof. I think it is more down to how I saw myself and how I saw my place in the area I lived. My school friends turned into my little brother’s friends as I withdrew more and more into myself. I ended up being perfectly fine, not happy but fine, with being on my own most weekends. I would drink and watch TV while everyone else was at work or out. I became the norm so didn’t feel like anything different. I am ok with my own company and it is something that I have worked on a lot over the years. In the past I would not have dreamt about going to a restaurant for food on my own. The sheer idea would fill me with horror. I would imagine everyone looking at me but I learnt that is not the case, no one cared.
On feature of autism is needing or seeking out time on your own. People can be too much; they can have too many feelings and it can be overwhelming. This can, quite understandably, lead to feelings of isolation and for many people with autism the last eighteen months have been hell. Likewise- people with autism that are forced into a situation of constant stimulation and constant social interaction like those in communal settings or in student accommodation it must have been awful.
For me, being on my own is something that I need. Especially after working or parenting all day. I need the quiet and the isolation. I feel like I recharge slightly and if I am playing a game like FIFA then the repetitive nature of the game relaxes me and hours pass. If I am reading then this splendid isolation is welcome.
As much as I don’t mind people, I do like being on my own.