Me and My Water Bottle Against the World

An ode to overcoming loneliness.

Max Phillips
May 17 · 6 min read
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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Bear with me on this.

Loneliness is never something I thought I would experience. I’ve always had plenty of friends by my side.

So, when I experienced it for the first time, it took me a while to adjust. More on that shortly.

There is a constant, however — your water bottle. It may sound juvenile, but it’s true.

It made me realise; you’re always alone. Of course, I have loved ones around me. When it comes down to it, however, it’s you against the world: you and your water bottle.

You go to your job; you fall asleep at night, you choose your hobbies and on and on it goes.

Experiencing Loneliness

Now, I’d like to rewind a few years.

It’s 2016, and I am in my first few months of university. Things are going just as I’d hoped, I’m getting drunk every night, bonding with my flatmates and just having fun.

Two months in, however, and things start to go south. Fun wanes, hostility grows, and passive-aggressive post-it notes adorn the kitchen walls.

All of a sudden, after years of being in a large friendship group, I was cut off. I was paying thousands of pounds for a well-furnished, if slightly cramped, prison cell. Seriously, the shower was smaller than a phone booth. I’m 6’3”.

But I digress.

I watched a shit tonne of Netflix. I burned through five seasons of Homeland in about a week. There I was, alone in my room, with my trusted water bottle.

The water bottle was constant. It felt like a homing beacon. To this day, I still carry it with me everywhere I go. My girlfriend now just assumes I have brought it when we go on walks (she’s right).

It made me realise that you do face life alone. Help is readily available, but you process it internally.

Learning the Value of a Night In (At 18 years Old)

Let me get something straight. I did not talk to my water bottle, but then I hope you would’ve you had gotten that.

Its constant presence in my life, over anyone and anything else, taught me a valuable lesson:

It’s not a lesson you learn overnight or one you continuously remember. I needed to remind myself of it on numerous occasions. Specifically, when your flatmates play music so loud, it vibrates your radiator. That sucked.

For months, I was asking people I barely knew to go on a night out just to get out of the room. Nobody likes to feel desperate.

So I started to plan my evenings. Cook a nice dinner, do some work, phone family and watch the third season of Hell’s Kitchen that week. With my water bottle there to replenish me, of course.

I learned the value of nights in at 18 years old during what was supposed to be one of the wildest years of my life. Even now, the irony makes me smile.

While listening out for anyone in the kitchen before I made dinner was not how I had envisaged university going at first, it taught me that life isn’t always going to go your way.

When life gives you lemons, fill up your water bottle with lemonade, right?

Breaking Free From Introvert/Extrovert Labelling

My whole life, I had considered myself a classic extrovert. In school, I was in a large group of friends. I played team sports such as football and rugby every week, and would much rather have been out with friends than sitting indoors on my own.

Passing up a night out? Pah! How could I do that?

I was viewing myself as extroverted, making loneliness hit that much harder.

However, it did make me realise that we adopt these labels to fit in. My friends and I all appear extroverted, and we bounced off of each other’s behaviour. Life just isn’t that simple.

In reality, we exhibit both types of behaviour. Even if you spend as much time with people as possible, you have to be alone at some point. What’s so wrong about that.

I can have an evening by myself, or go out and get far too drunk with my friends. My water bottle will be there to nurse the hangover.

Loneliness Comes Back, But It Hits Different Now

The described experience humbled me. It taught me more about myself than I could’ve imagined.

For one, when I binge a series, I binge it hard. Mind you, watching the first episode of Black Mirror by myself put me off it for over a year — get some company for that one.

From time to time, it returns. Not nearly as fearsome as before, but it does all the same. Particularly during a lockdown, when I spend most of my days cooped up in my bedroom. I guess it’s easier when the government tells you to and you aren’t trying to avoid the people you live with.

A key thing for me has been finding an outlet. For me, it’s writing. I express myself on the page far better than I ever could vocally.

It doesn’t even need to be blogging. Write anything and everything. Share your loneliness with the page.

And guess what? I write this with my water bottle right next to me.

Your Relationship With Yourself Is the Most Important

What we believe about ourselves at a subconscious level can have a significant impact on the outcome of events.

Loneliness gives you far too much time to listen to your thoughts. Overthinking can make things worse and send you down a deep rabbit hole.

Start by reminding yourself that it is okay to be alone. Don’t dwell.

Besides, if you listened to EVERY thought your brain produced, life would be a messy place. Do you ever have a voice in your head that says “I wonder what would happen if I drove into that lampost” or something random like that? Your brain is a chaotic place. Organise the chaos.

Affirmations, mainly when alone, are a powerful tool. Positively affirming yourself will rewire your subconscious to have a more positive outlook on life.

The key is to positively talk in the first person, like this:

  • I matter and what I have to say matters.
  • I forgive myself for past mistakes.
  • It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.

“This will be over soon, you are not truly alone” pinged around my head for months. It got me through.

Being Lonely Teaches You to Be Selfish Once in a While

A family member recently told me about a task a therapist gave him. The therapist asked him to draw a triangle. In it, he wrote the things he cared about from top to bottom. Kids, family, friends, job. Have a guess what was missing?

You.

More often than not, the voice in our head accounts for others and neglects us. As a result, we compare ourselves to other people’s achievements and dwell on our failings too much.

Just because you’re alone, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

You want to order a pizza and watch season 13 of Hells Kitchen? Go for it.

Drink Up, You’ve Got a Long Life Ahead

I’ll probably lose this water bottle at some stage. I nearly did one time in London, and my heart sank. Over a god damn water bottle.

You may put this down to some weird attachment issues. I don’t see it that way.

I will carry it with me to all events in my life, big or small. Of course, there will be people that share these events with me. Beer over water, on occasion.

Even so, coming to terms with your inevitable loneliness is a valuable life skill you must learn. I am glad I learned it from an early age.

So be kind to yourself, put the TV on, and fill up your water bottle.

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

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