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August 21, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Personality

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Always alone

Question:

My mother abandoned me a couple of weeks after I was born. My father and stepmother were angry, violent, insensitive, and sexually inappropriate. I lived in fear. I was also smarter than most kids. I went to an excellent public school program for gifted children and went on to a good university. However, between the ages of 19 and 26 or so, I tried to kill myself 5 or 6 times. I was diagnosed with Major Depression and Borderline Personality. More recently, my therapy has continued for the depression and PTSD. I take Zoloft and Cylert.

I've never known how to make friends and cling to people with whom I have almost nothing in common. Lately it's occurred to me that I keep some people around just to avoid being alone. I've asked my out-of-control alcoholic roommate to leave, but I'm not looking forward to being alone again. I had boyfriends non-stop from the ages of about 17 to 26 - but since then I've had only two and both were situations that I knew were unreasonable from the beginning. So lately I've been feeling desperately lonely.

A couple of years ago I went to internet dating services and found it humiliating, since as soon as they would see a picture they would just stop talking to me. So I went to the "adult" dating sites and found sex partners but I don't want to do that anymore. When I went to college I didn't know what a party was. Now I have more of an idea, but whenever I try to go to a social event I'm absolutely terrified and have no idea what to say. I want to have friends, but I don't even know how to have a conversation (unless I think of something incredibly clever). I started going to a beauty salon to get regular treatments. When I answer conversational questions about myself to the stylist or manicurist I see the pity in their eyes; I feel the empathy in their kind words and then I just cry. I don't want people to think I'm pitiful; I want to connect to them somehow. Lately I've been gambling online too much. My physical difficulties with my joints have declined enough so that I can exercise, but I get too scared to go to the gym among all the strangers (and I need to use the equipment there to be gentle enough to my knees).

How do I learn social skills? For example, what do I say to someone who introduces themselves to me? After we have exchanged names and job titles I'm stumped and just want to run out of the room. How do I stop the snowball effect of answering people's questions with increasingly negative and surprising information? (Them: What are you doing this weekend? Me: I don't have any plans. Them: So, where's your family? Me: I don't have any family. Them: Your mother? Me: I don't have a mother. Them: Laughter...Everybody has a mother, you had to be born! Me: Yes, but she left right after.) How do people figure out what to do on the weekend? Other than doing laundry and going to church I'm stumped. I don't enjoy the outdoors. I feel nervous out in the open. I'm tired of saying I don't have plans for the weekends. I've asked others to do something with me, but they have their husbands or families or boyfriends or children. I'm almost 40 and have no hobbies that involve leaving the house. I know that is one obstacle to meeting people. I get so scared when I leave the house to be alone among a group of people. It's hard to be at church as everyone else shows up in groups.

I have always had some depression in the corner of my brain. I'm so used to feeling this way that part of me is afraid to be helped. I'm afraid to feel really good. I've been depressed for so long, it's very comfortable. But, I'm afraid if I continue, I'll go mad. Is there anything I can do to try to get past this new wave of depression and to get over my excessive guilt and anger at myself? Thanks for whatever guidance you can give me.

Molly, 37-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Molly,

You are obviously an intelligent and educated woman. I can relate personally to part of your problem - the part about having a beginning that was so dark that it is hardly conversational and no one can imagine how bad life was.

You said,

Molly

My mother abandoned me a couple of weeks after I was born.

Leya

This is more horrible than what I lived through, although my mother was so mean that I wish she'd left. I'm not kidding.

Molly

My father and stepmother were angry, violent, insensitive, and sexually inappropriate.

Leya

This is ridiculously awful. I'm so sorry you grew up this way. Are you talking this through in psychotherapy? Psychotherapy can be a hugely helpful environment in which to do your work. It was for me. I offer online mental health services which could offer you an adjunct means to write and learn. If you are depressed in a major way now and there is any chance of your ending your life accidentally or on purpose, you need to work more closely with someone where you are because I am off in Santa Rosa, CA.

Beyond therapy I spend three years working on a novel about getting over having had a mean mother. That helped me get really sick of the topic and forgive her so I could let it go.

Molly

I lived in fear.

Leya

I'm sure you did.

Molly

I was smarter than most kids.

Leya

I'm sure you were. You sound smart today.

Molly

I've never known how to make friends and cling to people with whom I have almost nothing in common.

Leya

What are your interests? What do you enjoy that involves other people? One clue to making friends is to take a real interest in the other person. Practice love.

Molly

Lately it's occurred to me that I keep some people around just to avoid being alone.

Leya

What happens when you are alone?

Molly

I've asked my out-of-control alcoholic roommate to leave, but I'm not looking forward to being alone again.

Leya

What happens when you are alone? What does it mean to you to be alone? Is it worse on the weekends or evenings?

Molly

I had boyfriends non-stop from the ages of about 17 to 26 but since then I've had only two and both were situations that I knew were unreasonable from the beginning.

Leya

Why did you participate? These are questions worth writing about so you don't repeat and repeat.

Molly

Whenever I try to go to a social event I'm absolutely terrified and have no idea what to say.

Leya

This is something you can practice in your therapy and in the real world and then come back to therapy and discuss (with some humor) what happened.

Molly

I want to have friends, but I don't even know how to have a conversation (unless I think of something incredibly clever).

Leya

This is where you want to take an interest in the other person. You don't have to entertain.

Molly

I started going to a beauty salon to get regular treatments. When I answer conversational questions about myself to the stylist or manicurist I see the pity in her eyes; I feel the empathy in her kind words and then I just cry. I don't want people to think I'm pitiful; I want to connect to them somehow.

Leya

After you work through your "stuff" you won't have to drag it out when someone asks you how your week is going.

Molly

Lately I've been gambling online too much.

Leya

Oh, oh.

Molly

Recently my physical difficulties (with my joints) has declined enough so that I can exercise, but I get too scared to go to the gym among all the strangers there. (and I need to use the equipment there to be gentle enough to my knees).

Leya

See about finding a Feldenkrais class in your area. The Feldenkrais Guild website has a directory of practitioners or call 800/775-2118. Some articles I wrote are posted on my website to give you more info.

Molly

How do I learn social skills? For example, what do I say to someone who introduces themselves to me, after we have exchanged names and job titles I'm stumped and just want to run out of the room.

Leya

That person has a story and interests. Find out little by little what he or she is excited about. Your background didn't lay the foundations for having good boundaries. You'll want to start light. This is hard to remember, because who you are probably seems to you like a weight. Social interaction is light at the beginning. For example, if you are at a wedding, you have the decorations and cake and bride and groom and service as openings.

Molly

How do I stop the snowball effect of answering people's questions with increasingly negative and surprising information?

Leya

You can ask questions and see above for other suggestions. As I said, this is the part of your story I relate to. You don't have to tell everyone about your mother from the get go.

Molly

How do people figure out what to do on the weekend? Other than doing laundry and going to church I'm stumped. I don't enjoy the outdoors - I feel nervous out in the open. I'm tired of saying I don't have plans for the weekend.

Leya

You can write. You can walk a tiny little bit. You can see theatre and go to clubs.

Molly

I've asked others to do something with me, but they have their husbands or families or boyfriends or children.

Leya

Not everyone. First you can start out by going where people are. Think what you enjoy now or have ever enjoyed. Make a list.

Molly

I am almost 40 and have no hobbies...

Leya

Sounds like some self-love is in order, don't you think? What would you say to you if you were someone else advising you? Take yourself out on a date. Find out what you'd like to do. Would you like to have a picnic? Take a short walk? Start small and practice love with yourself. This will make it easier to get outside of your pain and take an interest in the people around you.

Molly

I get so scared when I leave the house to be alone among a group of people. It's hard to be at church as everyone else shows up in groups. Thanks for whatever guidance you can give me.

Leya

You need to talk out getting scared and being alone among people and develop discriminations, so that you find places where you feel a bit more comfortable alone among people as you begin to take the risks of getting to know someone else without having to pull out the whole story at once.

All the best,

Leya Aum, MA, MFCC

This question was answered by Leya Aum. She is California licensed marriage, family, child counselor certified in clinical hypnosis. She teaches Feldenkrais Method® of Neuromuscular Relearning, is practitioner of the Bowen Technique and Jin Shin Jyutsu®. She is also human resources consultant, writer and editor.

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