Why I Love Living Alone as a Highly Sensitive Person
Guest post written by: Helen van Soest
I have lived in so many shared houses and flats, I have lost count. An amazing feat really, considering I am a highly sensitive person (HSP).
I grew up in a stable and strict home and was pretty sheltered. I finally moved out of home at 25 years old and my education about the world really began, especially by living with various strangers over the years.
I shared flats and houses with people in Sydney, Melbourne and London. I saw the goodness in people but also unfortunately, the dark side of human nature.
In London, I lived with my landlord in a shared house and he decided to bully me as he was lonely and bored. The good thing about being highly sensitive is that you reach a threshold where enough is enough. After months of enduring his erratic behaviour and tendency to control, I finally moved out.
When I moved back to Sydney, my home town, after a brief sojourn at my parents’ place, I moved in with an older lady who was overconfident and showed a bit too much interest in my life. I couldn’t afford to live on my own at that time but really needed my privacy, a quiet place to relax and not have to worry about other people. In the end, she got sick and asked me to move out. I was more than happy to — the stress of living with her had taken its toll.
Many years later, I moved to Melbourne, fresh out of a relationship. I decided to live with a flatmate again as I thought it would be a good way to make new friends and establish a social life. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong person — she was too tough and sometimes appeared a bit cold. Now and then, she would open up to me and I saw a warmer side to her. Because of the pain she had suffered in her life (a death in the family), she had developed a tough exterior that was hard to penetrate.
My bathroom became problematic — there was a mysterious leak and she was not willing to help me. I ended up moving out five months later. I was really upset that someone could be so unhelpful and uncaring.
My last shared flat started well but ended badly. My flatmate was nice to me at the beginning but then the performance was over and I saw what was really happening — someone suffering from a serious mental illness, who was not in control of her life. In the end, she chose a guy over me — her on-again, off-again boyfriend wanted to move in. I was not happy with this arrangement, so she said I could leave.
I finally found a cute and cosy studio to live in — I got the peace and quiet I was craving and felt at ease. I had to accept that as a HSP, it's impossible to live with someone and not care about them, even when they don’t deserve it. Highly sensitive people have open hearts and often get hurt by other people, which is why alone time and having strong boundaries in relationships really helps.
I have tried to move on from the past and learn from it. I have learnt that people need to earn my trust and care — it's hard for me to hold back like this, but sometimes I have to do it for my mental health and wellbeing. Being sensitive in a tough world is not easy.
At the end of the day, living alone is the best thing for me. Somewhere to retreat to at the end of a busy working day, to get away from the noise and clutter of everyday life and to breathe in and enjoy silence and peace.
Helen is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. As a HSP, she loves reading and writing articles about this unique personality type and how best to navigate the world!