Whether you like it or not,
Alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.” – Dr Seuss.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling very down again. For some reason, that’s always the pattern I seem to follow – I will make some progress in fighting my anxiety and feel happy for a while but then eventually the loneliness and hopelessness will catch up to me and I go back to feeling miserable. I’m constantly going round in circles. It’s always the loneliness that gets me the most. The fact that I have no friends or a partner and feel that I never will. I’ve actually been almost completely convinced of this since I was 14 years old. I see everyone at uni chatting and laughing together. I see high school kids mucking about together with friends. I see my siblings having fun and going places with friends. I see people connecting and making friends and having conversations everywhere I go. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world. Although I try hard to convince myself otherwise, it really seems as if I will never have friends irl. I can’t open up to people. I emotionally distance myself from people to avoid pain and rejection. With all the ‘friends’ I’ve had in the past (or at least the most recent ones), I’ve never revealed anything personal about myself or my life. With the one person I sometimes talk to at uni (JW), I always just talk about coursework or about something else dull and emotionally unrevealing. I emotionally distance myself – to some extent- from everyone. I feel like an outsider everywhere I go. I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting me to be their friend or girlfriend. I’m too weird, ugly, pathetic, socially clueless, etc. I feel as if I don’t deserve friends or a relationship – those are things that happen to other people, not to me. I ask myself if life is really worth living if it’s lived without connecting to other people. I fear that I’ll never experience happiness, love and tenderness with someone, like most other people do. I long for nothing more than to just cuddle up on the sofa beside a guy and watch a film or something. To have someone I could share almost anything with – my deepest thoughts and feelings. To have someone who I could trust enough to completely open up to. And yet I can’t imagine that it will ever happen. I feel anxious just thinking about it. And I feel weirdly ashamed to even talk about it really – as if it’s laughable for me to think that I’d ever be worthy of having that kind of relationship with a guy. As if anyone could even stand the sight of me or put up with me. As if anyone would waste their time on a loser like me. Even if – by some miracle – people could see past all of my flaws, how would I ever meet a potential partner? I am completely socially isolated. And I can barely even make eye contact with men, never mind talk to/ get to know them or ask someone out. I wouldn’t even know how to act. I don’t know anything about dating/ relationships.
You’d think that because loneliness is something I deal with most of the time, I’d have either gotten used to it or gotten better at coping with it by now. While there are some coping mechanisms I’ve found that temporarily ease the loneliness/ hopelessness, there’s nothing I’ve found that helps for any longer than an hour or so. In my highschool days, I dealt with the loneliness, pain, and misery by becoming addicted to video/computer games. Except fantasising about suicide, it was often the only thing that got me through the day. I knew that after I’d endured the seven hours of bullying, isolation and boredom, I could go home and escape into a dream world where none of those things existed, for a couple of hours or more. Games were about the only things that worked because they were either so fast-paced or so immersive that they took my mind off the negative, spiralling thoughts for a short while. The game world was so much better than reality could ever be, although sometimes playing for a long time would just make me feel even worse. Reading, watching TV or going out for a walk didn’t really help because they invariably allowed my mind to wander off and end up back in the same old negative spiral. Nowadays, the way I usually deal with these feelings is by becoming a ‘studyaholic’. Sometimes burying myself in uni coursework or studying for exams helps; sometimes it doesn’t. However, uni will soon be over for the summer and then I will have even fewer coping mechanisms. I believe that this a big part of why I often feel suicidal/ depressed even in the summer – it has so far been the part of the year when I’ve been most socially isolated and my mind has the greatest opportunities to wander. Of course, not that I’m not isolated the rest of the time, but sometimes – despite the pain that seeing others my age just getting on with life can cause – just having somewhere I can go for a few hours a day, where I feel part of something and where I’m at least in the company of other people, helps.I mentioned in a previous post that I believe my depression to be more complex than just S.A.D. – the other part of it is as a direct result of the social isolation imposed by my SA. Sometimes, when my mind is really allowed to wander, there is also an existential component to it as well. For example, last summer, during the family holiday, I managed to come up with a host of reasons as to why suicide is almost logical in the face of the futility of life, all the terrible things that will happen, the insignificance of my life and my own actions in the grand scheme of things, and the fact that the outcome of life is death anyway. My lifespan will be the blink of an eye in comparison to the universe, so what does it matter?
I feel as if I have very little control – if at all – over my own loneliness. Although trying to keep busy does help sometimes. It’s always the times when I have more free time and I don’t have any goals/ a project to focus on that I feel the worst. This is perhaps why medications haven’t helped me so far – they failed to address the underlying issue, which is not caused (at least not completely) by a chemical imbalance, but as a direct result of circumstances and my own thinking.
As I’ve mentioned before, memories – particularly of high school bullying – are another big trigger for me. Literally not a single day goes by when I don’t recall something that happened to me there. And sometimes I look back on my life and realise that I have never fit in anywhere. Not in nursery school, not in primary school, not in secondary school, and now not at university. I feel like a complete outcast and freak everywhere I go. Sometimes I even feel like the outcast of my own family. I’m convinced that I won’t ever be accepted anywhere or by anyone, so there’s almost no point in even trying with people. Most people with social anxiety fear rejection, some expect rejection, but I’ve gone even further and feel that I am rejected, even before I’ve said or done anything or even met someone. I feel hated by almost everyone, or feel that they should hate me. Sometimes I fear that even the people closest to me secretly hate/ dislike me, as crazy as that may sound. I’m not sure if this is a direct result of bullying/ friends leaving me or not. I just run through all of the hurtful things people have said/ done to me throughout my life…shutting me out of conversations/ events, telling everyone else what a freak I was, humiliating me in front of the whole class, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome, telling me that I look like a serial killer because of the facial expression I have when depressed, announcing how incredibly stupid I am in front of the entire class on many occasions, saying that I must be some sort of dangerous, psychopathic freak because I was so quiet, didn’t have any friends, and didn’t really show any emotion (which hurt quite a lot because underneath all the defences I put up to stop other people hurting me, I’m a very empathetic, emotional, and caring person who would never hurt anyone. Even having to kill an ant upsets me and I will avoid it if possible). Anyway…the list goes on and on…. I can’t get any of those things out of my mind. They affect my mood daily.
As well as the bullying, what also gets me down is just thinking back on things like: all the times I walked around the playground alone in primary school because I was too afraid to play with the other children and didn’t feel welcome, all the times I ate lunch alone at high school because I had no friends to sit with (and not being able to say anything and just sitting there anxiously, feeling a complete weirdo in my final year, when people actually invited me to sit with them), looking back on all the birthdays I’ve had with not a single friend to invite, all the times I cried alone in my room, all the times in my first year of uni when I’d eat my lunch while walking the streets alone because I was too afraid to sit in the busy canteen and didn’t have anyone to sit with, all the weekends I spent alone while all my classmates were out partying/ doing fun things with friends, all the weekends I continue to spend alone while my sister is out partying and most people at uni are out getting drunk…I could go on and on but you’re probably sick of it all by now. I feel very selfish and ungrateful for moaning/ being upset about those things, because I’m a lot better off than a large percentage of the world’s population, and there are many people in the world who would probably give anything to be in my position. They probably would have made much better use of my life than I have so far.
I don’t really even know where I’m going with this post…I manage to get everything quite fluid and succinct in my head, but as soon as I actually try to write it down, it just ends up as aimless word vomit spilling all over the place.
I did manage to make some more small progress lately (though not as much as I did with the things I mentioned in my last post) but I still feel disheartened for some reason. I feel like I’m not moving fast enough; I’m not really making progress. I feel that no matter what I do, I will still end up being alone. I will never be able to conquer this thing. My psychologist has recommended that I actually come up with a proper plan/ schedule of exposure exercises once my exams are finished. He says that I should be aiming to do something anxiety-provoking every day, or at least every other day. He pointed out that he thinks the reason why my past attempts at exposure therapy (which I did without consulting any professional) didn’t help very much was because I pushed myself too hard. He says that if I’m at the point where I’m having a bad panic attack, I’ve probably gone too far and it might actually make me feel worse rather than better. He says that the best idea is to face situations which make me anxious but not so anxious that I have a full-blown panic attack. He wants me to focus on ‘one dimensional’ tasks – such as going to the supermarket or making a phone call – for the time being.
The university counsellor who I’ve been seeing for the past few weeks (who is actually easier to talk to than any other professional that I’ve seen in the past) has given me the task of starting a conversation with him (a small talk type conversation, not a typical professional-patient conversation). I don’t even know how to do that. Other people make conversations look so easy. I didn’t really even understand the point in small talk until he explained it to me – well actually, I still don’t really see the point in it, but I suppose that for most people, it’s the stepping stones towards a friendship. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do it but I’ll try. Cue the awkwardness.
I should probably just end this post here because I’m not even sure what else to say.