I was happy living alone in my studio flat. But the long, dark solitude of lockdown changed everything

Solo living offered sanctuary after mental ill health. Then came our coronavirus summer, and I felt a new yearning for community

When I moved into my tiny top-floor studio flat in 2018, it was a blank page. After the removal men had gone, I stood in the middle of the one-room apartment, just me and my boxes and bed linen in bin bags, and worked out I could walk the length of the place in nine steps. Still, it was mine, just mine (for as long as I was willing to pay the extortionate rent).

For the previous eight months, I had been living on a blow-up bed in a box room in the home of my enormously generous friends and their baby son. After a lengthy period of mental ill health (with a stint in a psychiatric hospital followed by a bad breakup and a period of unemployment), I was taken in by my friends, who treated me as one of the family and helped me heal. When it was time to move on, I thought living alone would give my mental health the best chance of continued recovery. It could be a retreat, a place where I didn’t have to pretend to be well, or sane, if I wasn’t. A place where I didn’t have to “belong”.

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