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The price for solitude
Navigating between physical pain and emotional need
At the end of last year, I felt that by sharing time with other people, I was conforming too much to their expectations, ceasing to be me, and embracing some qualities of my company. It felt like wearing someone else’s clothes. I was desperate to get them off.
So, the first thing I sought this year was solitude. The week after January 1st, as the days unfolded and invitations appeared through notifications on my phone, I found myself weaving a tapestry of excuses in order to have it. I spent my days reading, napping, watching movies, and feeling guilty for enjoying solitude more than company.
It was the zenith of summer activities, and I wanted to be alone.
On January 7th, after a week of isolated chilling and multiple white lies, I woke up to electric shocks coursing through my body. The numbing ache traveled from my lower back to my legs, arms, and neck. I tried to get off the bed, but everything hurt. Positioning my legs to stand up was torture. I couldn’t move without radiating pain stirring through my body.
My legs hurt, my elbows hurt, my neck hurt, everything hurt, and my awareness of all the parts that make up my body was distressing.
Instead of reaching out for assistance, I pulled out my phone, my fingers hastily typing a note. “Maybe this is just psychosomatic,” I wrote, trying to convince myself that my mind was fabricating this agony as a legitimate reason to keep away from the world.
A pang of guilt washed over me; it felt like I was the architect of my suffering.
Not even an hour had passed when I realized the pain was disabling. I put all my mental and physical strength into taking an Uber to the hospital. After a short inspection and a lengthy questionnaire from the doctor, I learned that I have joint hypermobility, which is strongly associated with lower back pain.
The diagnosis was almost a win. It meant my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me.
As I was trying to wrap my head around this new detail that makes part of my identity, the doctor looked me in the eyes and explained that I spent too many hours sitting, which is particularly harmful in my case.
I needed to move my body. Message received.
The next time I turned down an invitation, it was because I was lying face-down in bed with Arnica lotion on my lower back after a physical therapy session. Guilt was nowhere in sight. I had a new standing desk, yoga classes scheduled for twice a week, and was attending physical therapy.
My body was on the way to recovery.
I was also focusing on what I wanted instead of other people's expectations.
Turns out, nowadays, physical pain is more readily accepted as a valid excuse to seek alone time than an emotional desire for solitude. It took my nerves to compress like a coiled wire to learn that.
With a culture that places high value on social interactions while judging the need for solitude, it’s difficult to express the necessity for alone time without causing misunderstandings. We fear being judged or stigmatized for showing vulnerability, while physical pain is more understood and accepted.
I gave excuses because I believed that saying “I don’t feel like going out” or “I don’t feel like joining you today” was not an option when it was a perfectly valid one.
Solitude isn’t a sign of weakness or escape. It’s a personal choice that can bring clarity.
How many of us have silenced our true desires, only to be heard by the unexpected shouts of our bodies?
I went through physical therapy, but my body was not the only thing that healed. Now, I’m more honest with myself and others. I respect my wishes and try to communicate them the best I can.
By showing vulnerability and expressing my need for alone time, not only do I deepen my connection with others, but I also feel empowered.