Feel miserable, trying to establish friendship.
July 13, 2009 4:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm lonely but I don't want to be around anyone. Please advise how to get through this grief.

A whole bunch of really bad events have happened in my life recently, one on top of the other. I feel absolutely awful.

What do you do in times like this? You turn to friends right? Thing is, one of the awful things that happened had all my friends gang up on me like we were back in junior high (We're in our 30's for goodness sake), because someone said that I did something I actually didn't. They refuse to even hear my side of the story. I don't want to try and win them over any more because now I don't feel like they were ever really my friends in the first place.

What I feel like doing is sitting at home eating ice cream and feeling sorry for myself. But I refused to, and I spent the last month forcing myself to go out and do things and meet new people, because then I'll feel better. Unfortunately, it just seems to make me feel worse when I'm out somewhere with lots of great, nice, friendly people but I'm just feeling miserable.

I can't seem to really establish a relationship with anyone, so that the "people I hang out with" friends become "people I love and trust and depend on" friends. I guess that takes time, right? It's a Catch 22 because I really need that type of friend right now, but I'm in the wrong state of mind to evolve that kind of friendship.

It may be relevant to disclose that I'm on anti-depressants and have been for around a year and a half. They work great, but this isn't depression. This is grief, and there's no pill for that.

I really thought that just going out and doing things and keeping busy was the answer, but nothing seems to distract me from feeling miserable.

So, I'm sorry if I don't have a clear, direct question. Just hoping for some general advice. I guess the question is: What do I do?
posted by giggleknickers to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you are able to make a long-term commitment to an animal, I'd suggest getting an affectionate non-demanding pet (cat?). My cat is the best "counselor" I've ever had. I'd also suggest doing some writing to sort out what's going on in your head. Also, a good book for perspective or distraction, and some kind of physical activity. Getting out to a place with fresh air and sunshine can do wonders. Find things to do that will give you a sense of accomplishment that don't take forever to complete. All these things have worked for me.

When you are ready to be around people again, force yourself to concentrate on helping someone else feel better first. You may be surprised at what happens.
posted by livinginmonrovia at 4:20 PM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

Date, so to speak, yourself for a while. Volunteer. A pet is a good idea, although it is, of course, a commitment not to be taken lightly. (I'm not saying you would.)
posted by jgirl at 4:26 PM on July 13, 2009

Thanks! I already have the sweetest kitty in the world, and she is definitely a help. I took up karate twice a week a month ago, plus salsa once a week. The karate is even taught outdoors during the summer. I had wanted to do karate and salsa for ages, but right now they are giving me no joy and just feel like work.

I do think the writing is a good idea, though. Making small, short-term goals sounds like excellent advice. I'm looking for some volunteer work, but I'm a little worried that I just won't be up to it, so I admit I'm hesitating on that one.
posted by giggleknickers at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2009

Well, it's hard to say, because when you say 'they don't want to hear my side of the story' it kind of suggests that there is, in fact, a story. So it's hard to come up with a good answer but I'll give you two things I've found helpful:

1) The notion of the fallow field. We aren't meant heavily to give and give and have our hearts broken and go on and work and get fired and give some more and then take up pottery and then move to Des Moines and then go to grad school then give some more and have our hearts rebroken and get a different job. People are like land and we need some time to rest, sometimes a couple of years, between one thing and the next, especially if we've gone through something difficult. So maybe forcing yourself to hang out with people isn't what you need right now. Maybe you need to stay home and learn to knit or cook awesome Indian food.

2) Get some plants or a cat. Only get a cat if you can commit to being around enough to give it a good life. If not, get into plants, maybe orchids or something.It makes you feel good to have something to care for.

3) Review your meds with your psychiatrist or physician.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:29 PM on July 13, 2009 [15 favorites]

I personally would vote against a pet, as that could lead to bigger problems... My suggestion would be seconding volunteering or something task-oriented along those lines, like learning a new skill. If you can afford it, go get your pilot's license for example. If that's too pricey, learn to weld. Etc.
posted by glider at 4:29 PM on July 13, 2009

Perhaps I'm taking your question too literally, but when I've been in dark times, I find hanging out at book or coffee places tends to be comforting. Sitting in the library magazine area, the cafe at Borders book store, or any coffee shop allows me to be in my own personal space, yet in the general company of others. Then I get into a "life goes on, this too shall pass" kind of mental perspective, and eventually I can mingle again. Easing into social spaces is sometimes easier for me than forced cheeriness - perhaps for you also?
posted by dorey_oh at 4:31 PM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

two things

Heh. Um, three things.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:34 PM on July 13, 2009

Haha, I always wanted to be a pilot, but unfortunately I'm one of those rare females who happens to be colourblind. :-P

Seriously, though. I've been trying to learn new skills, which is usually delightful, but right now everything just feels like a whole lot of work and effort with no joy.
posted by giggleknickers at 4:35 PM on July 13, 2009

I agree with A Terrible Llama. Sometimes you think you'd feel better when you're better off alone. Rather than sitting at home, spend some time in a different coffee shop each day, or take a really long walk to some random destination. Leave the ipod at home. The idea is just to immerse you in a new environment and let its sounds and sights prod your senses. It really can help.
posted by vincele at 4:35 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you need someone to listen to your side of the story and to take your side (since none of your friends did). If that's the case, your goal should be to find a way to do this that doesn't rely on your former friends. Things that might work:

- Start an anonymous blog, where you pour your guts out.
- Or on the low tech side, start a diary.
- Write poems/songs about your feelings during and as a result of this situation, and share them at a public poetry/open mic night.
- Send a postcard to Post Secret
- Reach out online. Find a forum or chat room that is related to whatever started the argument with your friends. Tell them your story.
- Send me a MeMail about what happened. Sure, I don't know your or your friends, but I promise to listen to your side and try to be supportive :)

I'm sure you can come up with others too. No, these things won't be quite as good as having a good friend to pour your guts out too and cry on their shoulder, but maybe one of them will help take a little weight off your shoulders.
posted by geeky at 4:55 PM on July 13, 2009

Have you allowed yourself any grieving/moping/crying/self-pity time? I think after something tragic has happened, you ought to be able sit at home and eat ice cream while feeling sorry for yourself for a little while, at least.

When I was growing up, I sometimes would just "need to get my feelings out" and cry into a pillow for a while. Eventually, I was satisfied that I had expressed the disappointment or hurt that I needed to, and was in a position to move on.

So I would say, if you haven't done so yet, it might be helpful not to fight these feelings, wallow in them for a time, and then go out and try to do all the things you're doing now.
posted by losvedir at 5:04 PM on July 13, 2009

If you are interested in volunteering, and like animals, maybe you could volunteer to walk dogs at a local animal shelter. The volunteering can be as social as you want it to be, and you'll get out in the fresh air, and help animals very much in need of a friend.

I went through a tough time as well recently, one that left me not able to be friends with people I had previously valued a lot. It sucks. Don't be too hard on yourself if you need to curl up into a ball and go into homebody mode. Life is all about balance. Right now I'd guess you might want to put more focus on being gentle with yourself, rather than forcing yourself to Get Out In The World.

Love the idea to go read in a coffeeshop or bookstore.
posted by warble at 5:04 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

As I'm sure you already know far too well, grief takes time and I don't know when the struggle of putting one foot in front of the other suddenly gives way to a new, more peaceful state of living, but eventually it does. Both how long it takes and what actually flips the switch are different for everyone. I have to say it sounds like you are doing an admirable job of getting yourself out there and trying new things. I realize it isn't pleasurable like it normally would be, but I hope you continue to pursue other people and activities. Sometimes when you "fake it, 'til you make it," it suddenly evolves into something very rewarding and genuine.

How's your concentration these days? If something can hold your attention, I recommend losing yourself in stories whether it's in the form of books, television, or movies. I have always found fictional worlds to be a great way to escape when the real world was letting me down. Similarly writing and daydreaming have also been incredibly helpful.

I don't know if you have a car, but I also love just driving and listening to music when things get to be a bit too much. That's better for times when I just can't focus, and just need to be doing something, but nothing too strenuous. It allows me to be out in the world without having to deal with people too much. It feels a little less insular than listening to an iPod and taking a walk, but that has also been a good alternative. Basically, anything that can qualify as mindless wandering with the benefit of a really good soundtrack has always been a big help to me.

Lastly, if you have a bathtub, I highly recommend frequent, leisurely baths with some sort of bath gel that has a scent you love. Whether you relax with a glass of wine, read while you soak, or just close your eyes and let yourself just enjoy the sensation of the warm water and the pleasant smell of your choice, you may find it comforting and relaxing. I don't know why I've always found it to be such a healing thing, but it's often a huge help. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 5:05 PM on July 13, 2009

Don't forget that

1. ...no single one of the excellent ideas above is likely to be "the answer", so don't place that burden of expectation on anything. Mix and match. This can include self-pitying ice-cream nights.

2. ...there's nothing wrong with having negative thoughts. They're allowed. Keep checking in to make sure you're not placing a double burden on yourself: "I feel lonely" plus "I need to banish the feeling of loneliness." It's really fine to not feel fine sometimes.

3. ...in the same vein (my pet piece of advice on AskMe), if you know something's good for you, like the karate or other physical exercise, don't wait to feel like you want to do it. Just say, OK, I really don't want to do this, and that's fine, and also, I am going to do it. These two things can co-exist happily.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:19 PM on July 13, 2009 [6 favorites]

Photography. You need to rediscover the minutia in the world in order to appreciate it as a whole. It's why kids are endlessly fascinated with everything and dogs have to sniff everything. Just explore your environment. Photography is good for that. Maybe take some classes later on. For now just focus on cool backgrounds for your computer, including people. Photographica was big for me at the time.
posted by jwells at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2009

You say you're on anti-depressants that are working, so I'm assuming you're in touch with a psychiatrist or counselor. Get in touch with her or him and ask about grief counseling. Not every instance of grief is brought on by death; there are lots of reasons why people feel what you're feeling.

Do you have family who will listen to your "side" of what happened? A sibling or a parent or someone who is on your side, unconditionally? If you can get in touch with them, and ask them to keep tabs on you (when I'm feeling bad, I don't want to "bother" my loved ones with my feelings, but I find if I ask them to be proactive, they're more than happy to take that on) by calling or writing or showing up (if they're close by).

Refusing to feel sorry for yourself sounds noble, but sometimes, we need to allow the grief to happen, and when someone's there who'll listen and empathize, it helps a lot.

Take care of yourself.
posted by xingcat at 5:49 PM on July 13, 2009

How depressed are you?
Read this: How Not To Commit Suicide which is an excellent article.

Be your own cheerleader. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, and the things for which you are grateful.

Exercise & fresh air & sunshine are critical.

Therapy and anti-depressants are really helpful. I say all of this from experience. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 6:04 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to the excellent ideas above...

If you are replaying this in your mind over and over again, and that's contributing to the problem, it might be time to replace some of the grief with being indignant. Pick yourself up a little: They said you were their friend, but were able to just dump you like this? Without even hearing your side of the story?! Fuck them! You don't need them anyway, if that was the type of shallow friendship they were offering! Really, you are better off without them! You shouldn't talk with them ever again, even when they realize that they were wrong and come back with apologies!

Like that. It's hard to wallow in grief if you are pissed off. Use that as a trick to your advantage, playing a bit of a mind game with yourself.
posted by Houstonian at 6:22 PM on July 13, 2009

Second exercise and fresh air, every day! Go for a long walk, or a swim, something repetitive and mindless.
posted by mareli at 6:23 PM on July 13, 2009

Have you allowed yourself any grieving/moping/crying/self-pity time? I think after something tragic has happened, you ought to be able sit at home and eat ice cream while feeling sorry for yourself for a little while, at least.

Seconded. I often find that sometimes when I've suffered a setback, if I try to "shake it off" and "tough it out", that just delays and suppresses the need to mope and wail and hide and sulk, and it just makes it worse. Invariably, whenever I finally give in and let myself have my temper tantrum, it vanishes quickly.

Do what you feel you need to do -- and that includes a weekend spent entirely indoors doing nothing but watching bad sci-fi movies and eating nothing but ice cream, if that's what you feel like doing. You're correct to also want to try doing lots of other things, but don't discount a couple days of retreating into your cave like a wounded animal if that's what you need to do.

Actually, "wounded animal" is a good metaphor -- when an animal is hurt, it doesn't just try to tough it out. It hides for a little while until it's a bit stronger. It doesn't stay overlong, just a little bit. It's okay to let yourself be a wounded animal for a couple days if you have to, and then get back out again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I like the concept of being alone around people. I will go wander around somewhere busyish, like a mall, and there are people around so I don't feel quite as excluded from the world, but I don't have to actually interact with anyone. Depending on where you are, perhaps it's the right season for pool or beach, which even gets that sun benefit in.
posted by that girl at 6:34 PM on July 13, 2009

A lot of people find comfort in nature, ie going down to the sea/into the forest/feeding the ducks at the lake. Or perhaps you would like to go to the zoo and the art gallery and the library and other places where there are things to do, and other people, but no requirement to interact with them.

But perhaps you should allow yourself a week or a month of eating ice cream at home. That may be what you really need, and soon you'll find that you're sick of staying at home eating ice cream and ready to go out.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:15 PM on July 13, 2009

Not that you're at this stage, but, I've found cleaning the house has saved me a few times. When I've been depressed to the point of jumping off a bridge (oh, it's wonderful not to be young and sensitive any more), I'd clean everything. I was taught that you couldn't leave without cleaning up after yourself, so I'd haul out the rubber gloves and scrub. Then, fix everything that needed fixed. And, if really really down, made myself a nice dress to wear. Sounds silly beyond belief, both the drama queen and the scrubbing, but it worked. Cleaning is mindless and wears you out and, side benefit, most people who knock at the door take off as they might be asked to help. Walking and seeing that spring's crop of new babies made me worse off after my divorce as I thought I'd lost my one true love and would never have children (wrong.) And, unlike you who seem such a nice person, I'm mean when I'm down, so going to classes doesn't work.

Good for you that you're taking up new things and getting out! Everyone is different, so, if you feel you need some time, take it and do whatever makes you feel better. Nthing what Terrible Llama said about people need time to heal. This getting closure and moving on is nothing more than a modern way of getting you to not impact someone's bottom line or, Heaven forbid, need some actual tlc from another human being. That's too human and might be an inconvenience. I like old fiction where the heroine gets to take to her bed for a week after something awful has happened.
posted by x46 at 7:38 PM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have to say it: anti-eponysterical.

Good luck.
posted by zadcat at 10:20 PM on July 13, 2009

You know, I just wanted to congratulate you on doing so much!!!

It sounds like you're doing everything you can to move on and feel better... !!!

Things WILL get better, maybe just not as fast as you'd like.

Perhaps you still feel miserable because you haven't really wallowed in your grief? Like other posters suggested, maybe you do need to take some time to feel really sorry for yourself.

You can write about it. I've found it very helpful to write letters to the person who hurt me, not for the purpose of sending them, but just to really get it all out... or just writing about the pain and the injustice and the sorrow of it all... really examine the hurt... for me, doing that really is the first step in dissolving the pain.

Also... volunteering might do more for you than the salsa and the karate classes... those things you are doing for yourself, and you may not be ready to really be giving to yourself... however, giving to others may be just what you need. They are people who need you, you make a difference to them.
posted by Locochona at 10:31 PM on July 13, 2009

You may still be able to get a pilot's license to fly recreationally. A quick google found this About page which, while not authoritative, seems to quote some FARs to the effect of "don't expect to make a career out of it, but you can probably get a limited medical."

I fly sailplanes (which by their nature fly in visual meteorological conditions only, during the day), and while there are questions on the exams about signal lights, I've never needed to use them in the wild. You'll want to discuss your colorblindness with your instructor and eventually your examiner, but I can't imagine it would prevent you from flying. If you're interested, check out the Soaring Society of America, or drop me a MeMail and I'll try to set you up with a soaring club in your area.
posted by Alterscape at 2:57 AM on July 14, 2009

Not that you're at this stage, but, I've found cleaning the house has saved me a few times.

Me too.
posted by vincele at 6:43 AM on July 14, 2009

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