real life

'People don't want to know that I'm not OK.' The reality of being single and isolating alone.


When the global pandemic hit, I thought I would ace self-isolation. I live alone, I’ve got this right? Why wouldn’t I? I’m used to it. I’m good at it. I even enjoy it.

I was wrong.

Back in ye olde life, I didn’t actually spend that much time alone at all. I was always connected.

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To work friends, to work foes, to family and friends, and strangers on the internet. From those moments of contact, I experienced emotion and change. I learnt things, I felt things – micro-learning and micro-feelings that layered up to create a day in my life.

So, back in this land of normal, the hour or three before sleep each night, alone, were fine. I reflected, I tuned out, I rang mum, I devoured guilty pleasures like Ramona Singer or Lisa Rina – or a cheeky pinot noir or two. I made plans and I kept the momentum of life going.

It wasn’t a perfect life and there were a lot of gaps – a partner, a lover, children, a better job, holiday plans – but it was a life.

Now those daily distractions are gone, I’m struggling. Isolating alone isn’t all at-home facials and Netflix.

It started off OK. A little more freedom with my work hours, a bit of ‘catch up’ time to get the things done I’ve been thinking about for ages. The novelty of Zoom meetings and virtual Friday drinks. Setting up the home workspace and seeing how excited the dog was to have me all to himself every day. Not wearing a bra under a fleece hoodie and combining boxer shorts and Ugg boots.

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Then came the thoughts of worry and fear, a small cloud in the distance of my mind I knew would grow into a storm. Everyone’s battling some kind of storm in these times, but when you’re isolated alone trying to mimic your existence for weeks on-end, by yourself, the voices in your head become dominant. There’s nowhere for them to go.

Will I have money? Will I have to move out? Will I sell the humble property that I’ve worked so hard to pay off?

What if I get COVID-19? If I can’t breathe and no one is here, will I die and not be found? What if my 79-year-old dad gets it and I never see him or hug him again?

I’ve never been unemployed before – I feel ashamed, demoralised and embarrassed – what will happen, when will this end, will I make it through?

People call, people so close to you check on you. “Are you OK? Just like everyone else waiting to get through it, I’m sure we will all be fine.”

They don’t want to know if you’re not OK.

They don’t have the answers and for most in isolation with others, they can’t relate. It feels like a burden to say you are worried or barely coping. And maybe it angers them – how is she not fine? She’s not homeschooling, working full time, cleaning and cooking for five humans. I wish I was her.

The back and forth in my mind every day is exhausting, but I can’t sleep. You should be fine. You’re safe in your home. Stop complaining. 

Tears have become cathartic for me. An upside of isolating alone is no one sees you cry. The tears are for people I miss, people who’ve lost everything, and tears of hope that get me through. The hope that when it all works out, for most of us, it works out better.

But for now, just a note from the alone isolator, it’s not all facials and Netflix.

Feature Image: Supplied.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Are you isolating alone? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.