What is there to celebrate?

It’ll be my 21st birthday in 2 weeks. Since the age of about 14, I’ve hated my birthday because it serves as a painful reminder that I have no friends or a boyfriend to celebrate it with. It also reminds me how much of life I’ve missed out on because of my anxiety, and I worry that I will still be this way in years to come. The suicidal feelings tend to reappear around my birthday. I would honestly rather not have a birthday at all. No matter how much I try to focus on the progress I’ve made with my social anxiety, it’s difficult not to feel awful about the fact that I’ll be 21 and still have no friends except online friends, and I’ve never kissed anyone or been in a relationship. It’s not really even about what society thinks of me anymore. I’ll admit that that does get to me sometimes but it affects me a little bit less now than it did when I was a bit younger. I’m well aware that society in general sees people who have no “real life” friends as losers and being of less worth than popular people. Do I think it’s the truth? No. I would never think that anyone was a loser for not having friends. I think that the real loser is anyone who treats someone who doesn’t have any friends in a rude or nasty way or sees them as being of less personal worth than others simply because of this fact. Similarly, I realise that there are plenty of people who would think of me as a loser for making it to the age of 21 without having ever been in any kind of relationship, without ever having been kissed, and still a virgin – I think virginity is such a stupid, arbitrary, harmful and (in many places around the world) dangerous concept, and not even really a thing, but that’s another post… But then I think that anyone who would see me as less of a person because of those things is probably quite vapid and not someone who I’d want to get to know or be friends with anyway, particularly if it’s because of the latter two.

More so than societal pressure, the main reason I feel awful about not having friends or a boyfriend is because I really want those things but I fear I may never experience either for as long as I live. I’ll admit that I cry about that a lot. I am under no illusion that the universe owes me anything and if that’s the way my life goes, that’s the way it goes, and I must try to make the best of a bad situation. But how does one live a happy or psychologically healthy life with no relationships or close friends? How does one survive at all without those things? Sometimes I feel like giving up on friendship and relationships altogether, but how good can a life without any meaningful human connection really be? At the same time though, I want to make sure I’m not seeking friendships or a relationship purely out of loneliness, or for other selfish reasons. The best thing to do would be to develop some close friendships before getting into a relationship, to avoid the risk of being clingy and so that I’m better able to deal with break ups. But I can’t even make friends, and I think even in the best possible scenario, it would take me years to do so. And with every year that goes by, it will just get harder and harder to develop both friendships and relationships. I’d like to remain hopeful that it’s never too late to make friends because people make friends in all stages of life, but I worry that it may even already be too late for a relationship. If men somehow aren’t put off by my social anxiety, avoidant features, depression, self-injury scars, and lack of friends/ a social life, I’m sure they’ll be put off by my complete inexperience with even the most basic aspects of a relationship. What is a social phobic to do?

My relatives have been asking me what I’m going to do for my 21st birthday for months. I find it really irritating at times because I’d rather just forget about the whole thing. Everyone who doesn’t know about my SA and lack of friends seems to expect me to have a massive party with about 50 people and get drunk out of my mind. The whole of the extended family went out for a meal to celebrate my grandad’s 80th birthday a few weeks ago, and my cousins and their mum would not stop asking me about it. I responded that I don’t enjoy parties so if I’m doing anything, it’ll probably just be a small thing, and judging from the looks on their faces, I think they thought I was joking. I have absolutely nothing planned so far. I usually go out for a meal with my family on my birthday but I don’t think I can face the extended family if they’re all going to incessantly ask what I’m doing later that night, when I’m having a proper party, asking why I don’t have a boyfriend, pressuring me to drink, and so on. I know that none of it is intended to make me feel bad, but those comments just add to the feelings of hopelessness, and often to the suicidal feelings. Does anyone have any idea how I can celebrate my birthday in a way that doesn’t involve feeling awful about myself/ wallowing in self-pity?

The one thing that just about makes up for all of the inevitable negative feelings – and I’m going to sound extremely spoilt here – is that my mum has revealed to me that we can get a rescue dog for my birthday. She really misses having a dog in the house and as it was mostly the two of us that looked after our previous dog, and as she probably realises that I’m not really able to do anything special for my 21st, she says that I can choose a dog from a rescue centre to be our new pet. It’ll be the family pet but if the dog is still alive when I move out (SA makes getting a job, and therefore moving out, much more difficult), I can take it with me. In a way, getting a dog is, for me, much better than any drunken party could ever be anyway. It means (hopefully) having a loyal companion who won’t reject me or stab me in the back like a human might. And yes, it will hurt like hell when they die, but they’ll never judge or betray me.

My mum and I went out to a rescue centre on Saturday, after doing some driving practice. (I drove on the city bypass in high winds and heavy sleet/ snow – the first time I’ve driven in really bad weather – and managed fine, despite my driving anxiety. I never thought I’d say this when I had the old instructor, but I actually quite enjoy driving when I’m more calm, and I’ve been gradually becoming more calm/ confident with my driving with the help of the new instructor). I did see a few dogs that seemed suitable for us but most were either out of my ideal age range (I’d prefer a dog younger than 3 years old, if possible, but may increase the age limit), had separation anxiety (there are parts of the day when no one is in the house), and one had quite a bad biting/ snapping habit. I will have to be quite cautious when trying to choose a dog, because many rescue dogs do seem to have behavioural issues and I don’t want to take on something that we aren’t able to handle/ correct because it wouldn’t be in the best interests of us or the dog, and it wouldn’t be fair to the dog. I think it will be difficult to choose a dog because my mum and I ended up wanting to take them all
home with us after visiting the shelter. There was a 10-year-old dog that kept doing puppy dog eyes at us, and a 5-year-old, three-legged cocker spaniel – that I really liked – that kept wagging her tail at us and leaning against the mesh of her kennel.

We were going to go to another rescue shelter but our rear-wheel drive car was struggling in the snow (it was only about an inch or two deep but if you live in Scotland/ anywhere in the UK, you’ll know that the entire country comes to a standstill as soon as there is even a thin covering of snow on the ground), and skidding all over the place, so we decided to call it a day. We might be visiting another shelter this weekend.

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2 Responses to What is there to celebrate?

  1. Nick says:

    It’s my birthday this week and I am not looking forward to it either, for many of the same reasons. I know this will probably sound hollow (I know I would have dismissed it when I was 21) but you are still very young and you have plenty of time to do the things you want to do. Reading your previous post it sounds like you achieved a lot last year and I hope you can take encouragement from that and keep on going.

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