When you're sick with mental illness, being aloof from others can often feel like your best friend.
Each night after a full day of activities I'd be in bed by 8 o'clock and get up by 7. I'd begin with a long walk by myself, dropping by the pharmacy on Main Street to get a cup of coffee, chatting briefly with those on their way to work in town.
Walking, along with watching nature and drinking cups of coffee, had all been part of my life since my teens. My morning walks were a form of meditation. They were an opportunity to consider what else I needed to do to become more normal as the rhythms of my steps and my observations of the world around me affirmed that I was real. As long as I was alone, I felt part of a subtle ecosystem, spiritually joined with the trees and the squirrels. Once faced with having to show people who I was, of having to seriously interact with them, the comfort of my surroundings fell apart. I melted into soft anxiety. I was pulled deeper into wanting to be alone.
For most of my adult life I had rarely taken the time to listen to people. Perhaps because I was overly concerned with protecting myself, keeping my limitations and weaknesses from being discovered during a conversation. So I kept my conversations with people short and superficial and would pull away from any sustained subject. As a result it wasn't until much later, after I began getting healthier, that I learned that people, other people, had concerns and problems just like me.
My doctors had encouraged my meditation and my walking. Some how, as I moved along the streets, morning after morning, I began to discover that the world around me was bigger, more interesting, and even safer than the world that existed inside my head.
To be continued ...