Long post about my struggle with friendlessness, shyness and borderline personality disorder inside. Short form: how does a shy, sensitive, friendless guy meet kind, like-minded people and build up a social support network, and should a borderline avoid seeking a partner altogether?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
My apologies for the long post.
I'm male, approaching my mid-twenties, living in Brisbane, Australia. I lost my parents to a car accident when I was in my early teens. I lived with my grandmother until I was 17, and then moved out on my own. She has since developed Alzheimer's and now has a full-time carer. I see her far less often than I should.
I didn't enjoy school, I had few close friends and was generally unliked. I felt very strong negative emotions whenever I was teased or criticised, and my only external reaction to being hurt was to become completely silent. I had always been very shy, but became much more so after I entered boarding school. I had one intense relationship from about age 14 to 17, which ended with me being dumped. I realise that's not atypical, but I mention it because it's the only emotionally intimate relationship I've ever had.
Not long after this relationship ended and I left school I became totally reclusive, leaving my apartment only to go grocery shopping and for haircuts and dental appointments and little else, really. There's a multitude of reasons for it. First and foremost though, I feel incredibly uncomfortable around people; I hate being judged or rejected and I'm terrified of the powerful negative emotions that being emotionally close to someone can stir up. Sometimes I feel as though simple financial opportunity also keeps me here - if I had to go out and work, I probably would. Other times though I feel completely helpless, as though if it weren't for the inheritance I'd be homeless and utterly unable to function. I feel very ashamed of myself for achieving so little in life.
My days have consisted of little more than reading, watching television and browsing the web. After a while I got sick of fiction and started to only watch the news and documentaries on television, read news websites and expose myself to a wide variety of opinions on various political topics and educate myself on the various things that interested me; liberal political ideologies, economics, technology and science, chemistry, physics, programming, electronics, business, sociology, history, religion, that sort of thing. I feel like I have a fully-fledged personality, but it hasn't ever really been exposed to anyone.
For a while I maintained some friendships over the internet. However when my ex-girlfriend reached out to me a couple of years ago as a friend, I became far too enamoured far too quickly, experienced rapid mood swings and overwhelmingly powerful emotions (positive and negative), I started blaming her for everything, experienced rages and then one evening a suicide attempt and hospitalisation. After that I cut off all ties with everyone, both out of shame for what I had done and fear of feeling those emotions again. I visited a psychiatrist again and received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, the description of which really rang true for me, aptly describing my emotions and post-predicting much of my behaviour in relationships through most of my teens and beyond, as well as my personality when dealing with people I'm forced to deal with (like the barber and dentist and so on), which is always incredibly friendly and deeply interested in whatever they have to say, regardless of whether i really care or agree.
I've tried therapy and medication, on and off for years, with a few different professionals. There's some comfort in knowing there's an explanation for my shyness, rapidly changing moods and intensely overpowering emotions, but ultimately I found therapy and medication to be ineffective, even though I tried it with hope and an open mind. I remained terribly lonely and unable to meet people.
However after this most recent lonely new year's eve I decided to finally stop feeling so sorry for myself and try to turn things around and get out and meet people. I stopped blaming my past for all my problems and finally accepted that I did most of this to myself. There's also a creeping sense of desperation that my life is slipping away from me, that before I know it I'll have missed my entire youth. 23 is still early enough for me to turn things around and have some semblance of a normal life. I'm sick of being a loner.
Since starting to entertain the notion of going out or even *gasp* finding a girlfriend a whole new raft of insecurities have cropped up. I worry people will find me terribly boring, who could ever be attracted to someone so insecure and needy, someone who can't even sort out his own life, i have serious body-image issues, lack of sexual experience (I'm a virgin), i'm too self-centred, what if people find out i'm crazy (do i even tell them?), men are supposed to be assertive and secure, blah blah, the list goes on and on and on. I'm fairly confident most of these insecurities will go away over time, I just have to push through them and force myself to try.
But more importantly, I don't want to hurt anyone like I have in the past with stupid shit like suicide attempts and terrible rages and blaming people for all my problems. There are some who view borderline personality disorder as an uncontrollable and endless series of manipulations, and while I disagree and find that opinion deeply damaging and hurtful, there's no denying that my actions and inability to cope with powerful emotions have caused deep pain to people, for which I've only recently been able to apologise.
After the new year began I asked an old school friend to meet up some time. Just this week he and his girlfriend came over for dinner. There were a few moments where we all seemed to enjoy ourselves. I forced myself to turn off my default "I'm fascinated by everything you're interested in" personality but I had difficulty connecting since I don't have many experiences to draw conversation from and neither of them are into politics or follow the news or have much interest in science or anything I had to say, really. After I had mentioned off-hand that I "hadn't been out in years", they invited me to go out clubbing with them the rest of the evening. I turned it down, thinking it'd be far too much far too soon, and then they left. I felt good about the evening for a while but soon after I felt quite apprehensive that they may have found me quite boring or weird.
I don't really know what to do next. My other few friends from school have left the country.
So, given all of this;
How does an almost completely friendless person find friends? How do I meet people? I would find it easier to relate to people who have similar interests to mine; so, current events, politics (more socially left-wing than not, but totally open-minded and not blindly aligning to either side), science, skepticism in general (including atheism but not preachy about it), economics, media, society in general. Preferably quite intelligent people. All of this with the caveat that I'm extremely shy and fragile, and that's not likely to go away until I get a lot of practise socialising. I don't think I'd ever enjoy the bar scene or music festivals or anything like that, which is unfortunately what my old school friend seems to enjoy the most.
What am I going to do if I do actually find someone with whom I can be close? Should I explain how insecure I am, how easy it is to set off mood swings? Should I just avoid seeking a partner entirely, for now?
How do I explain locking myself away for the last 5 years without totally creeping people out?
Fellow recluses, shybies or borderlines, I'm also interested in your anecdotes of recovery or coping.