When a letter writer found herself home alone, all she did was study.

It’s time to check in with yourself, says our elder.

Dear EWC

Hey, I’m doing my A-levels living with my parents; however my family has left me alone for a couple of weeks. This isn’t a big issue; I can look after myself and I’m not fussed. However my behaviour has changed since they’ve been gone. I’m not sure I’m suited to living alone as I’ve essentially stopped doing stuff entirely. I haven’t stayed watching shows I love; I haven’t read any more of my books; I haven’t kept up with my exercises or met my friends once. All I do is wake up, go to school, and then study until the earliest point I can go to bed — and even then I have to fight to not just sleep from 3pm. I didn’t notice until my teacher told me that I need to rebalance my work-life because I’m studying too much. I just have no motivation to do anything other than work and I don’t think it’s healthy. I need a social life and hobbies but I don’t have the energy. It’s not like my family told me to do these things, but I guess being with them makes me feel more whole? I don’t even feel tired, just immensely bored but uninterested in doing anything. I feel really lonely but can’t make myself do anything to be with my friends. Any advice on why this may be or what I might do would be appreciated 🙂

PJH replies

I picked your letter because it reminded of the first time I was alone for a couple of weeks. I had a summer job and decided to stay home while the rest of the family went on holiday. With everyone out of the house, I acted a lot like you’re doing. Sixty plus years later, I often still act the same way when there’s no one watching me. If I have a project I throw myself into it; if not, I may have little motivation to do much of anything. I guess the message is we’re hugely cued by other people’s expectations of us. We want to pull our weight, look busy, do worthwhile and useful things, and but for one more line in your letter I’d have simply reassured you — said you seem pretty normal to me. 

What bothers me is you may be implying being bored and uninterested is not new; it’s your default life when you’re not being stimulated, or meeting other people’s expectations of you. If that’s true I wonder whether the problem goes a little deeper, whether it rubs up against a mental health issue. I know on the cusp of adulthood there’s a lot to be concerned about, but we need to keep our worries in line with our abilities, get some joy out of solving problems, and more satisfaction from doing things for fun. If you’re not laughing a few times most days perhaps it would be worth talking to a trusted mentor or counsellor about your state of wellbeing. 

As I know only what you’ve written I have only a keyhole view of your life and I don’t want to catastrophize, but as you felt concerned enough to write for advice I urge you to consider your letter the first step in a longer journey. As you get ready to leave school it may pay to take an inventory of your emotional health as well as lining up some winning marks on you’re A-levels. And if you feel there’s more we could explore please feel free to write again to me or to the Elder Wisdom Circle. We’ll be happy to hear from you. 

Letter #: 430589
Category: Self-Improvement

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