Our new writer, Simon Day, introduces his solo living diary by sharing some of the challenges of living alone with neurodivergence. This is a series you won’t want to miss!
Every solo living journey is unique. We all have our own challenges. We all find pleasure in different places. We are all wired in different ways.
The responsibility of keeping your house tidy may be an insurmountable problem for some people, whilst others will find it no trouble at all. Likewise, issues such as finance, self-care, relationships et al., will present varying degrees of difficulty to every single person living alone. It’s all part of the rich tapestry involved with solo living.
This is my story of solo living.
What is neurodivergence?
As a neurodivergent living alone, I face several interesting challenges daily, but before I get into that, I think it’s important to explain a bit about neurodivergence and my condition.
Neurodivergent refers to people whose brains operate differently from neurotypical people. In other words, a neurodivergent person behaves, thinks and learns in a different way from what is considered typical. This often creates a number of mental health issues.
To make matters more complicated, neurodivergence has a huge spectrum and many associated conditions. Autism, ADHD, dyslexia and Tourettes are just a few of the most common neurodivergent conditions, but essentially all neurodivergent people are unique.
In many ways, my neurodivergence allows me to function largely in a normal fashion. I have a reasonably mild form of ADHD and sit somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Specifically, this means that I have prolonged bouts of depression and anxiety caused by (to give it a very basic explanation) overthinking. My attention span is extremely short, and I struggle to concentrate on tasks.
The upshot of this is that seemingly trivial issues can cause me great stress. On the flip side, some issues that are widely seen as being important, I can regards as being entirely inconsequential.
So whilst the prospect of deciding whether to shop at Tesco or Morrisons can leave me in a state of abject panic, preparing for a job interview or date is something I can take in my stride and not break a sweat. Planning and booking a holiday abroad – no problem at all. Sorting out a trip to the cinema with a friend – no thanks, I can’t cope with the pressure. Essentially, there is no logic to what causes me anxiety and stress – it’s just how my brain works.
For a neurodivergent person such as myself, living alone presents the same challenges as it does for a neurotypical person. The big difference is how I process and deal with those issues.
Here are five of my biggest personal challenges whilst living alone with neurodiversity.
1 Focussing on work
I’m self-employed and work from home. Unfortunately, my attention span can best be described as ‘gnat-like’. Ten minutes represents a solid stint of uninterrupted work in my world. After this point, my brain wanders off, and I lose focus.
If you’re working in an office or somewhere else with other people, it’s easy to switch off and chat with a colleague, send a few social emails, grab a coffee or undertake another time-killing exercise. Working at home alone is slightly trickier, as none of the time killing exercises involves other people. The temptation to dive down a YouTube rabbit hole, pop out for a walk or watch the next Netflix episode can be overwhelming at times.
Of course, the good news is that because I work alone, I CAN watch a Netflix episode, go for a walk or meander down a YouTube rabbit hole during the working day!
2 Relaxation time
A similar issue occurs when I’m not working, my brain also has a minuscule attention span. So concentrating on the aforementioned Netflix episode, a book or any other form of entertainment is not easy.
The net result is that a relaxing evening can be hard to achieve, but on the rare occasions when I do manage it, it feels amazing.
3 Coping with loneliness
Like many neurodivergent people, I often enjoy being alone, and I’m comfortable with my own company. It’s good for my mental wellbeing, as solitude helps me to minimise the ‘clutter’ in my head.
The problem is that solo living, for me, regularly creates a huge amount of alone time, which leads to bouts of loneliness. To quote a late 90’s indie song, ‘I panic at the quiet times’. My overthinking spirals and takes me down paths that cause great stress and anxiety.
4 Financial anxiety
I’ve always worried about money. If I won the lottery, I’d still worry about money. Cohabiting took away a large element of this worry. You can make joint decisions and split the financial burden.
Obviously, living alone removes that luxury. For most people, it’s simply a case of replanning and budgeting accordingly. For me, it means sleepless nights and constant worry. Spending money causes even more anxiety, even when it’s on essential items like food and petrol.
Meeting people is easy. However, if you’re neurodivergent, it can be less than straightforward. Shyness and social awkwardness are common traits in the neurodivergent community.
Living alone often creates a need to meet new people and make new friends. Doing this whilst suffering from feelings of shyness and low self-esteem is especially tricky. Luckily, there are now a number of apps and social media groups that can help on this front.
In addition, other areas of life, such as house maintenance, self-care, eating and dating, can lead to tricky situations. But there are a huge number of positive aspects to my living alone experience – the freedom, the choices, the lack of compromising and much more. If you can overcome the hurdles, then solo living can be hugely rewarding.
Over the next few articles, I will be delving deeper into the issues I touch on here, and explain how exactly they impact me whilst living alone. I’ll look at the positives and negatives of solo living with neurodivergence. How do I plan my time? How do I ensure that essential jobs get done? Most importantly, how do I survive and have a happy, fulfilling existence whilst living alone?