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Trauma Made Living Alone Feel Like a Prison, but Now It Feels like Freedom

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, neglect, or home invasion, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I look around my space at the items that fill my home, each piece either with its own story or background and some a reflection of me and my interests. For the first time in years, I feel at peace. My environment is comfortable and curated with my needs in mind.

I was always afraid to live alone. Growing up with complex PTSD (C-PTSD) and trauma from neglect produced an immense fear of being alone, both in relationships and physically. My childhood homes always had a little busyness to them.

Whether it was the calm, quiet sounds of my mother’s keyboard in the other room or my brother’s TV as he played video games, and sometimes the sound of my mother’s voice carried throughout different rooms as she talked on the phone, there were sounds of life outside of my own. When I first moved out and into my own apartment four years ago, I couldn’t sleep at night. I was anxious. Every sound from the hums of appliances, the crickets outside, or the sounds of my neighbors entering and leaving their own units, kept me on edge. Quietness is typically associated with comfort and serenity but for me, quiet was absence, nothingness, and when you’re trying to work through abandonment issues and the anxiety of being alone, quiet doesn’t bring you ease.

There were many times I woke up in a panic, heart beating out of my chest, sweat clamming my neck at a sound outside I’d convinced myself was an intruder. My brain was filled with thoughts of my home being broken into, as I’d been haunted by all the times I’d woken up mid-home intrusion as a toddler. It became a routine to check every door, every cabinet, and under my bed when I came home and before I went to bed for someone hiding in the darkness. Pets helped, whether it be the sounds of my cats meowing or playing, or just the knowledge that I wasn’t completely alone. Their presence was a comfort while I also relied on their perceptiveness to give away things in our environment being amiss.

It took years to stop looking over my shoulder in my own home. Years to sleep with the lights off and stay asleep throughout the night.

Being alone felt like a prison, but now it feels like freedom.

I frequently listen to Ari Lennox’s “New Apartment” even though my apartment is far from new because it reminds me of the journey it took me to get to this level of peace in solitary.

I actually look forward to the quiet, calm environment of my home after a day filled with strong colors, endless conversation, and the sounds of busy city life. I look forward to a space that is my own to mold and control to my whims and ever-changing aesthetics. My space is always my own and I’m free of the fear of my home ever being uncomfortable because of a falling out between myself and a roommate or partner. Coming home is the equivalent of taking a bra off after a long day; I can shed my mask and slip into comfortable clothes, free of perception from the public.

I still check behind the doors, in every cabinet, and under my bed routinely, but now, once I’m settled, I can truly relax and enjoy my time to myself, no longer incapacitated by my need for other people to be in this space with me.

Getty Images photo via Luis Alvarez

Originally published: April 5, 2022
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