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The Pros and Cons of Living Alone When You're Mentally Ill

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Living alone is supposedly a true identifier of independence for an adult. It means that you’ve reached a certain level of financial stability, and that’s what everyone is typically looking for/after in life. 

Well, I reached that point which was a bigger shock to no one other than myself. I lived with roommates, family, and then a few years ago I was able to finally move out on my own. I had my own apartment with a big purple couch and blue walls (light blue of course), and flowers in as many places as I could have it.

In a lot of ways I loved it, but it was also not the best for my mental health at times. 

I’m an ENTP, otherwise known as the most introverted form of extrovert. I do love being around other people, and I’ve been chronically lonely for as long as I can remember. I don’t like being alone, but I sadly became very good at it, and that wasn’t always good for me. There was no one to sit with silently on the couch to watch silly TV with when my brain was being mean, and all the household responsibilities fell on my shoulders. It’s hard to take care of house and home when you’re simply trying to survive and you’re in a constant duel with your own brain.

I’m currently in a position where I’m between living situations and I have to make the decision between living alone again or having a roommate. This is a tough decision I feel for anyone, but especially for someone who does consider themselves to be mentally ill. Is the freedom and control that you gain with having your own place worth the loneliness and overwhelming responsibility that comes with it? Is the potential partnership and shared departmental duties worth whatever else comes with having a roommate (because it’s always something else at some point whether it’s partying, cleanliness, etc., for you and them)?

The pros of living alone when you’re mentally ill:

1. No one can see you at your worst.

Dishes may not get done. Hygiene may slip at times. These are aspects of mental illness that are very real for a lot of people and it’s also the parts of mental illness that tend to be stigmatized pretty harshly. Being able to experience these parts of mental illness while not feeling stressed or worried that a roommate is going to get angry or mad at you can be beneficial, if only because it’s not adding more on your plate to feel bad about.

2. Control control control.

When you live with trauma, it’s easy to seek and need control in a lot of areas in life. Having complete and total control of your space, time, and person is amazing and healing in a lot of ways. It’s also great to be able to control the people in your space. If you’re neurodivergent, I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with what it’s like to have friends you have to mask with and friends you don’t. Having to mask, at random, isn’t ideal. 

3. If you’re an apologist, you finally really have nothing to apologize for.

Once again, mental illness (and neurodivergence as an aside) can cause some less-than-ideal roommate situations. Whether it be chattiness, disorganization, having very specific routines that you need to be followed, sensory sensitivities, clutter, etc., it’s easy to find something to apologize for when you live with someone else. However when you live alone, unless you’re going to apologize to yourself (or someone else when they come over more realistically) you’ll be saying “I’m sorry” a little less, which feels like a weight off someone’s chest in itself. 

The cons of living alone if you live with mental illnesses:

1. You’re alone.

A straightforward truth, and dangerous in a lot of ways.

You’d be alone with suicidality peaks and when you’re craving human touch or connection. Not to mention the times you could just use someone to eat dinner with. Then there are the times your brain is being mean to you and saying your friends hate you, and since you’re alone no one can combat that. Loneliness is dangerous, and at times deadly, especially if you live with mental illnesses. 

2. The weight of the world may feel like it’s on your shoulders, and help can be expensive.

When you live alone, it’s your responsibility to cook, clean, pay bills, take care of any animals or plants, and any other tasks that tend to occur. That can be a lot when like I said earlier, you’re just trying to survive. It’s enough of a chore to exist at times, so you can forget about the ones that come with being an “adult.” Getting help could be as easy as calling a non-judgmental friend, but sometimes we can get in our own way, and any professional help can cost an arm and a leg. 

3. It’s easy to stay in bed too long.

When you live alone, there’s no one to stop you from staying in bed way longer than what’s considered healthy. Sleeping in is fine, but what happens when sleeping becomes a coping mechanism? Sometimes when you live with someone else, there’s incentive to get out of bed. Either that or someone else wakes you up with a question or an errand that has to happen. When you live alone, you have no one to disturb you when you’re depression napping. Sometimes the clinking and clanking of pots being used to cook, or a TV on in the other room, is enough to pull you away from your weighted blanket, and that isn’t inherently a bad thing.

Depending on what specific mental health conditions you live with, the pros and cons may vary. It’s important to weigh them all out before making your decision because living alone isn’t for everyone, regardless of what society may say. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and your health, and if that means getting a roommate or just being by yourself, then that’s what you do.

Getty image by Luis Alvarez

Originally published: July 14, 2022
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