March 26, 2011 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Help. I've been struggling with mild depression for most of my life, with it becoming full blown since the last 5 years- I had a major traumatic experience happen to me where someone I thought really cared about me did horribly cruel and backstabbing things to me.

With that said, I've always had a issue with keeping people around, my whole life. My family is not supportive in the least or any way, I've never had any sense of family or anyone I could turn to, except for one family member. I've had some unthinkably mean things happen to me via family members and others, and for the most part have been friends with people who were quite selfish and completely uncompassionate and incapable of being supportive or anything more than judgemental types of friends. I've forgiven them and moved on from it because I don't want to hold onto any negativity from past events.

This being said, after such events happened it made me transform into a extremely compassionate and accepting human being- I really couldn't think of hurting anybody in the least way. It makes no sense to me to try and purposefully cause pain to another human being, as I know how much these things have an impact on a person (I myself am an extremely sensitive individual just in general, I tend to feel things and experience things different than most people do I think. Certain little things have effect on me, just as the beauty of the world, or simple present pleasures). I always have been.

The persistent problem is that I can't seem to keep people around.
I mean anyone. Everyone I know is always at arms distance to me, and not by my making. I am very giving and loving to people I care about (some would say I'm a quite overboard for people I love, but I really can't help it- if I care about somebody I always want to show them, because I know how short life is and how you might have someone you love around and gone the next in an instant. I'm very aware of it because I've had a lot of people I cared about who I thought cared about me just vanish out of my life like I never existed).

I'm extremely tired of being alone. To the point for a long time that I can't take it anymore. I think I'm making a good conection with someone to only find that once again I am at arms distance with them, no one ever lets me into their life. Before you get into it- I've tried meetups, talking to every person I meet, medication for my depression which I keep at a low murmur so that know one really knows the extent of it (I was on medication for a period of time, which almost made me take my life due to it's effects).

If you meet me I'm not a sullen person, I am admittely a moody person but some would say that's just a quirk. I always try to make the people around me laugh and feel at ease, cause most of my life I wasn't. People always tell me how funny I am, and some tell me that they feel a strong connection with me.

But no matter what, after a short period of time, they go away.
I really can't take it anymore because in short I have no close friends or anyone to talk to. I know humans are social animals so really what is the point of a life if you can't share it with anybody?
I really don't know why I am alone all the time, it hurts my soul because I would never wish any pain or solitude on anyone else. I think I am a little to altruistic in the sense that I for the most part really believe most people are good, generally cause I don't think any bad thoughts about anyone I know, or would think of a cause to hurt or be uncompassionate to another human being.

I really don't know if anyone could make any suggestions that would help me, I really think I am beyond anyone's help. It just seems there is no one who has any similar experiences or draw to me that wants them to stay around me for a solid bond (I do know in a sense that's what keeps people around is commonality). I am not ugly for sure, I really can't figure out why this is my lot in life. In a room of strangers I would talk to anybody without fear, because I know I've been alone for so long that there really is nothing to lose, so it's enjoyable to talk and make someone laugh and not worry about what someone might think of me, which I don't really anyway.

I really don't see a point to my life. I have substantial and apparent talents that no one ever really complements, nor does anyone really say anything nice to me other than daily conversation. I can't really go on much longer, I've been thinking about suicide for a long time and am afraid that one day I'll finally get the courage to see it through. I really don't think anyone would miss me, despite the efforts I've made to show others I care and do things for them just cause I know they would like them, and it would bring them joy in some way.

Can anyone tell me what makes a person stick around? What makes a person your friend and someone you care about? I believe I've done most the things that I think would make some kind of bond with another person, but it never ends up staying. Why are some lives more important than others? Why would you keep your distance from someone you say you care about? What could someone do to make you stay away from them? Does anyone else out there feel this way?

I'm so tired, so tired of trying on a daily basis. Just to keep up appearances, and to be beaten down to square one again, even when I have the least of expectations. I really don't think I can take it anymore, I can't find anything to make me feel like going on anymore. I'm so tired of being alone dispite my best efforts. I really don't know what I'm doing wrong, and I really don't think I can hold out for much longer, one person can only take so much. This seems to be a pattern I can't break, and I can't take anymore. I see other people who have people who care about them, and it seems so easy. I can't seem to make that bond with anyone, I feel like a picture on a shelf that no one takes down, only looks at from a far. I know I don't put out a "stay away" vibe in the least, I really feel for any living creature on this earth. Are there some people who are just meant to be alone? I've met several in my own experience who seem to me. I'm tired of being one of them, despite how good a person I try to be. I don't know what to do anymore. I can't express the depths of these feelings, and how much it hurts. I just want to be happy and loved, like anyone else. For me that doesn't seem to be why I'm here, you try it. Going alone. It isn't good, for anyone who experiences it. I know there's others out there worse off than me, but I know that soon it'll take me, cause I can't feel anything on the inside anymore. Just when I get hope, it takes me back to sqaure one. I'm tired. I've run out of options and opinions. I don't know what to do, and I just want to make it stop.
posted by readygo to Human Relations (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
In all of that, your only reference to any contact with mental health professionals is a "low murmur" of "medication." You can't think your way out of the funk you're in. You need professional help, of a stripe you don't seem to be getting or even considering.

Therapy. It's not optional.
posted by jon1270 at 4:42 AM on March 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

There's no magic way of making people stay. People are an independent variable.

You can raise the probability of them staying by giving them a reason to stay. The number of self-help books on that must be in the godzillions, and an old standby is "How to win friends and influence people". Kind of really, really dated, but the essentials of what people are looking for OUT OF YOU is in there. I liked "What to do between birth and death", but I forget the author.

Your post screams depression. Depression isn't in the list of things to do to win friends and influence people. It's hard to be around and it's a chicken/egg problem. Is the depression causing the socialization problem or vice versa? You should figure this out before you kill yourself, which honestly, sounds like something you seem to be flirting with. Needless to say, that path is suboptimal.

Good luck, amigo. Life is a prickly beast and everyone has your problem to some degree or the other. Even our best friends die, leave, move away, get lost. If you have a bunch of them, the loss of one is better tolerated, and there are lots of lonely humans out there who need a friend, too. I'll bet you can find a lot of people worse off who could use someone like you who wouldn't leave them. Just a thought.
posted by FauxScot at 5:03 AM on March 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

you mentioned that you are moody and that it is just a quirk, but i've learned that moodiness is a major turn off to people and the more tenuous your relationship the easier a person will get turned off and put you on the not friend material list when you act moody around them. Everyone has ups and downs to some degree, the trick is to learn to deal with the downs (the mood swing) on your own and to hide it from others. I know it sounds like i'm advocating not being your true authentic self, which kind of sux, but i suggest that when you're in the new stages of forming friendships that you hang out with people only when you're feeling your best. When I'm down, I tend to stick to myself, take care of myself until the mood passes and then I go out and seek relationships. Its hardest at work because you have to be around people every day, but I've learned to "fake it till I make it" as the phrase says and it actually works. When you smile, and pretend you're feeling fine, sometimes you actually do feel better (it can be draining as well). You are not the only one who struggles with forming and keeping friendships. One thing I remind myself is the trick to making a friend is being a friend.
posted by dmbfan93 at 5:11 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing depression, and please see a therapist about this. You are not as alone and isolated as you think you are, but depression has a way of making that impossible to see.

I do think that "going overboard" in showing your love for friends can come across as needy and high-maintenance--by showering endless affection on someone, you actually can push someone away rather than bring them closer by creating an emotional debt that is impossible to repay.

People like balanced relationships--not that we keep score, exactly--but as with a romantic attachment, when one partner is more interested than the other, the imbalance makes the less-interested partner feel inadequate, and since you can't -make- yourself feel something you don't, the humane thing to do when you feel like you can't live up to those expectations is cut ties and withdraw.

Also, an emotional pile-on can signal a lack of trust. You can't create true intimacy by baring your soul in the first week--intimacy is built of a thousand tiny interactions and exchanges over time, and trying to circumvent that by laying it on thick tells a potential friend or lover that you aren't looking for a partner so much as an emotional safe-deposit box. It's true that we don't know how long we have on this earth, but real intimacy is the shared experience of living, not an insurance policy against being forgotten when we're dead.

That said, you aren't hopeless--you are far from hopeless. I think you need some perspective (happily supplied by the friendly, caring folks at Ask MeFi), and possibly a medication adjustment, and a therapist. (Also--exercise regularly, make sure you get good sleep, and try to eat well--can't hurt, could help.) And I think once you get all those things on board, you'll see improvements in other areas.

Good luck. You can get past this.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:56 AM on March 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

The tone of this post indicates you're in a real, painful crisis right now, and I'm so sorry that you're in so much pain. And I mean this compassionately - snap out of it.

One of the nasty hallmarks of depression is the kind of recursive, all-or-nothing thinking you've shown in this post. You've mentioned some traumas in your past, and you've generalised out from these traumatic relationships to say that everyone will leave you, always, that people won't be available to meet your needs, that your needs for care, support and love aren't valid. I'm not denying in the least that you've been through painful events, but what matters here is how you think about them.

Sadness, hurt and pain come and go, unless we come to identify with our pain, decide that we are fundamentally the sort of person who will be abandoned, and interpret everything through that painful lens.

Your mind is like a dog right now, and these harmful, negative beliefs are a chew toy, and you're just gnawing and gnawing away.

One of the tragedies of being a human being is that, at some point, we're all completely separate from each other. You can never know what happens inside me, and I can never know what happens inside you. We're like squishy water balloons*; we bump up against each other, create ripples and waves inside each other, shape each other, but we're still totally separate. You infer what's going on inside me based on what's going on inside you, and vice versa. What's happening now is you're reading the actions of those around you through your own beliefs of your own unworthiness.

What you need right now is help, and by that I mean a compassionate, outside perspective on what is happening inside your head. I don't know what country you're in, but I strongly urge you to find the number of a suicide hotline and speak to them immediately. Then you need to find a therapist and commit to seeing them often, and also talk to your doctor about your medication, which could be contributing to your distorted thinking right now. Feel free to memail me if you also need someone else to talk to.

You aren't seeing or thinking clearly right now. You are worthy of love, support and care. Please get help.

* a big chunk of my PhD dissertation was on Maturana and Varela, so I've thought a lot about autopoiesis and cognition, and the 'water balloon' simile was my way to get my head around their ontology.
posted by nerdfish at 6:07 AM on March 26, 2011 [12 favorites]

The most obvious option that you've not tried - at least, you don't mention trying it - is therapy. I have been in your position, lots of people around these parts have been in your position, and many, many more people will go through what you're going through. The only thing that's going to improve your world view, help you start sorting through some of your major family baggage, and give you some perspective is professional help. It's an awful thing to live this way. You weren't the one who caused yourself to view the world through this very dark lens. Unfortunately, though, you are the only person who is going to save you.

You say you're on medication; I think you need to talk to your prescribing doc about a different prescription. This one clearly doesn't seem to be really doing the job you need. After you have that talk with your prescribing doc, you need to ask for the names of some good psychologists or clinical social workers and start attending weekly or maybe even bi-weekly therapy sessions.

Can anyone tell me what makes a person stick around? What makes a person your friend and someone you care about? I believe I've done most the things that I think would make some kind of bond with another person, but it never ends up staying. Why are some lives more important than others? Why would you keep your distance from someone you say you care about? What could someone do to make you stay away from them? Does anyone else out there feel this way?

These are all huge questions and I can't give you hard, fast answers to any of them. What I can say is it's pretty obvious that you didn't have a great example in your parents of how to form lasting, loving, healthy relationships. (That, by the way, isn't rare. I, myself, could have written your post fifteen years ago.) What I can tell you is that your notion that selflessness and completely giving yourself over to others and expecting that they will do the same for you is unrealistic and not really how healthy, lasting relationships work. In my experience, a willingness to readily over involve yourself in the lives of others only leads to two things - being used and dumped, or being labeled as "needy" and avoided altogether. It's hard to understand that when you feel like you feel; it seems now like the root of all your problems is other people's selfishness and inability to see how vulnerable and loving and good you are. Well, what you see now as selfishness you may in time come to regard as a sense of independence and healthy boundaries. It's hard for you to see that now because you weren't taught. That's horrible and I'm sorry. Trust me when I tell you that if you commit yourself to a course of therapy with a therapist you trust, you will improve your self-esteem. Once you start doing that, you will become more independent. Once you do that, you will learn how to set and keep healthy boundaries for yourself, I promise. And once that happens? Loving relationships with kind people will follow. I promise.

Get a therapist. Get one right now. And get to the doctor to check on those meds. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:13 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I actually know someone who may be just like you. He just moved into the area not even a year ago, found a great high paying job, very eager to make friends and connections, and he seems like any regular guy when you meet him--and yet he is probably the loneliest person I've known. Not through lack of trying--he initiates conversations and calls to people asking them to hang out, etc. And yet, even knowing how lonely he is, I find it hard-pressed to actually hang around and be his friend.

This person may be decently outgoing and willing to talk to people, but there are two things I've noticed about him: 1. He has very little going on in his life outside of work, and 2. Of what there is going on in his life, trying to get him to talk about it is like pulling teeth. These two aspects have led to a third related problem--it just feels fucking awkward to be around him because he expects all the interesting conversation and activities to come from the OTHER person. That is, he hardly contributes anything going on in his life; it's almost as if he expects interesting things to flow into him through osmosis from other people.

The problem may be in your approach to getting to know people and how you're trying to make friends. In your post, you've mentioned how lonely you are and how no one sticks around, but I noticed one huge thing: You don't tell us anything about your life. It's almost as if you somehow regard all other aspects of your life as irrelevant to the fact that you can't attract people. You mention "substantial and apparent talents"--exactly what are they (not to mention, "talents" is a somewhat strange way to describe yourself; "hobbies" may be what you're more looking for)? When you're getting to know people, exactly what activities are you guys getting involved in with each other? You simply can't build a relationship based on conversation/talking alone; you absolutely need to get involved in activities together, whether it be volunteering for a homeless shelter, going ice skating, playing basketball, etc. Are you simply meeting these people and expecting a relationship to form from the common interest of...talking? Believe me, any normal person can talk. It's what you guys can do together that causes friendships to develop, and conversation naturally stems and clicks from your activities.

One of the paradoxes I've discovered is that people tend to be more attracted to you when you develop a fully independent life where you don't need other people in your life, simply because you have activities going on in your life. I don't mean that you need to become antisocial or intentionally avoid people; rather, what I mean is that you've developed your own life with enough of your own work (e.g. hobbies, exercising, volunteering, etc.) that you feel content with the direction in which your life is going, and you don't feel the particular need to latch on to people for them to give you meaning/entertainment in life.
posted by qxrt at 6:17 AM on March 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

medication for my depression which I keep at a low murmur so that know one really knows the extent of it

I bet this isn't true. People are emotionally sensitive to things like this to a degree they often don't even consciously realize - I guess it's some kind of adaptation. 

For many people, depression is hard to be around, and even more so when it's kind of taboo - if they feel that you're depressed but unwilling to acknowledge it to them (or to yourself), or to talk about it, that creates a very really barrier - a distance between you and them. 

I'm not saying to spill everything to everyone.  But you need to be honest at the very least with yourself, and that will help you be more authentic in relationships. 

It will also help you get the help you need - whatever you're doing now isn't right, or isn't enough, for you. If you're doing therapy, you need a new therapist, or a new style, or openness.  Very probably you need different drugs, even a different psychiatrist. 

Allow for the possibility that the person who feels at arms length could some day feel closer, could be there for you in a crisis, etc, but that it's not really in your power to determine whether that will happen or when - you can only do your best to take care of yourself, and other things will unfold as they unfold. Maybe that will help you decrease some of the inappropriate 'extra' intensity in some of your relationships - as someone here said, people are drawn to balance in relationships. If they feel like you're giving too much, they'll also feel like you're expecting too much (even if you don't think you are), and that will make many people draw back, to manage your expectations. 

Except of course for the people who are happy to receive without giving - users who will ultimately make you feel even worse. 

It may seem counterintuitive but I guess that for you the best way to be closer with others is going to be to take better care of yourself. Acknowledge the extent of your depression and treat it. Don't give more in relationships than is given to you. 

Hang in there. Please don't give up. Change is possible and even likely even when it seems implausible  Your experience and depression persuasively tell you that change only happens for the worse but it's not true. For one thing, life isn't that organized. 
posted by Salamandrous at 6:25 AM on March 26, 2011

some would say I'm quite overboard for people I love, but I really can't help it

Oh, yes you can -- help it, that is.

If people are telling you you are going overboard -- you are going overboard. And apparently that isn't wanted where you think it is wanted, so, cut it out.

I'm going to guess that as soon as you "find that once again I am at arms distance with them" you drop the whole thing and walk away, carrying a lot of hurt? Not all relationships can be, not all relationships should be, deep and loving and intimate. It is perfectly alright to have relationships based upon mutual like. Next time you have somebody willing to be your casual friend, keep it at that. Don't go pushing for something more, don't be "very giving and loving," just chill and enjoy it for what it is.

What is the point? Well, eventually the casual connections may change into deeper ones. But that takes time, not an initial surplus of contrived affections. And what you are offering does sound rather contrived; pre-meditated stuff because you have built a little script for how relationships are supposed to work. Drop the script and you will be much happier.

I think I am a little too altruistic... I really feel for any living creature on this earth

Great. Volunteer work is a first-rate way out of depression. Give freely with no expectation of receiving in return, and the burden of thinking about oneself all the time starts to lift.

Part of the reason depression is such a monster is because it forces so much self-centredness -- break out of that and things improve immensely.
posted by kmennie at 6:43 AM on March 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have two close friends who were suicidal before I met them. One was so depressed he sat alone on a little dirty blanket all day long. The other wrote a suicide note and like you was convinced no one would ever love him. They both got really terrific shrinks and both got better. A lot better. They have friends and significant others. One has gone on to great success in his career and the other has recently started a new chapter in his life by going to graduate school. And I'm so thankful they both had the courage to get help because my life would have been a much sadder bleaker place without them in it. They are both very special people and I'm so thankful that neither of them killed themselves.
In both cases the shrinks helped them get out and meet people and make new friends and girlfriends. It turned out weren't unlovable, they had just gotten in to a bad head space where they thought they were unlovable.

A great therapist or psychiatrist really can help with this. A good shrink is a godsend. And there may well be some future friend or SO who hasn't met you yet who would really want you to get help. Since that person can't speak for him or herself I will speak for them. Please get help.
posted by bananafish at 8:08 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

A therapist can bring an objective, outside perspective to your life story and help you figure out why these patterns are occurring and how you can break free of them. Even very smart and socially skilled people have trouble figuring out their own lives. You're too close to your needs and problems to really see them clearly. The best thing you can do is enlist a helper (a psychologist) so that you can figure out what the right changes to make are and be supported in making those changes.
posted by prefpara at 9:34 AM on March 26, 2011

When you're looking for a therapist, consider Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It's meant to help you cope with strong feelings: if people ever say you're over-sensitive or have thin skin, this is the kind of therapy designed specifically with someone like you in mind. It's often done in groups (you can find a DBT practitioner who does one-on-one therapy, but the group aspect is helpful, particularly in showing that you're not alone in these feelings) and generally is a long-term commitment of one to two years.

I know you feel alone and impossible right now. It's a terrible place to be, and I'm sorry you're in it. But the good news is, you can get better. You can feel better. You can learn which of your quirks are just quirks and which are real problems. You can learn how to interact with people better -- this is a huge part of DBT.

If you're in or around NYC, feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I know of a few DBT folks whose phone numbers I could pass on.

And finally, please, if you get to a point where you feel you may act on your suicidal feelings, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
posted by brina at 9:45 AM on March 26, 2011

If your family is like that, first, I'm really sorry. Mine are like that. A lot of people don't know what it's like to not have any family you can turn to for support. It's hard. Second, if your family is like that, you probably have a knack for deciding to care about people who aren't capable of being there for you, because that's what you learned from your family. Third, you don't need to always perform when you're around other people - always trying to make them laugh and feel at ease, no matter how you feel or what's on your mind. I'm not saying impose all your bad moods on everyone, but there's no need to always pretend everything's fine and you're just there to entertain others. If you do that with everyone, it's a pretty superficial relationship, unless the friend in question is selfish and self-centered. That friend will drop you eventually. One thing I might advise is to try and focus less on how you feel, and focus more on what you do. Go places, go do stuff. If someone you know invites a group of people to a party, or happy hour, or a dinner, or a gallery opening, or a concert - show up. A lot of people don't show up.

I'm not sure what else to tell you. We live in a dysfunctional society and it's isolating and depressing and the Internet doesn't help. A lot of your question resonated with me, and I've heard people say that I seem like nothing ever bothers me and I don't need other people, when the reality is the complete opposite, but when I try to express how I'm feeling, most people ignore it, change the subject, make a joke, or go right back to talking about themselves. I think a lot of people are not that sensitive and it's human nature and you have to do the best you can.
posted by citron at 10:06 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I myself am an extremely sensitive individual just in general, I tend to feel things and experience things different than most people do I think. Certain little things have effect on me, just as the beauty of the world, or simple present pleasures.

I think I am a little to altruistic in the sense that I for the most part really believe most people are good, generally cause I don't think any bad thoughts about anyone I know, or would think of a cause to hurt or be uncompassionate to another human being.

I encourage you to examine your belief that you feel things "differently" or more intensely than others. Also your belief that you "don't think bad thoughts about anyone." While on the surface these beliefs may seem like a good thing, they can be extremely toxic to you and your relationships. The implication is that you are a *special* person. You FEEL MORE than other people do. You are BETTER than other people because you don't think bad thoughts (because, honestly, we all think badly about others sometimes; if you don't, you must be better somehow). People can sense this kind of deep seated superiority. It's condescending and impossible to relate to. It also makes you feel like you are more alone than you really are. I assure you, there are countless others that feel just as much as you do. You are not special. And ultimately, this is a gift, because it also means that you are not alone.
posted by smokingmonkey at 10:10 AM on March 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

I really, really urge you to take Smokingmonkey's point on board. Part of moving past this crisis will involve letting go of beliefs that comfort you - and one of those, based on your question, is the belief that you're distinctively sensitive. Thinking that you are uniquely sensitive and compassionate implies that you somehow know that those around you don't feel as deeply as you do - and, as Smokingmoney says, that's something you can never know.

As David Foster Wallace said in this speech, which you should read, many of the things we tend to be absolutely certain of turn out to be, on further reflection, wrong and deluded.
posted by nerdfish at 11:18 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who was brought into a hospital with zero pulse. He was dead for many minutes until they revived him. It was deemed a miracle that he survived. A few more minutes... and he might not have made it.

He was riding his motorcycle through an intersection and was hit by a van that blew a light. The van took off... leaving my friend for dead. A witness to the accident jumped off of his bicycle and assisted my friend. He gave CPR until the ambulance arrived. He basically saved my friends life.

When the world seems like it's full of van drivers, just remember that there are bicyclists out there.

Find good people and keep them close to you. The way you do this is by getting therapy. Now. The world may seem like a shitty and lonely place sometimes but it's not always that way. There are people who can show you how to appreciate the gift we call life.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've dealt with loneliness and depression and lack of friends, in varying degrees, throughout my life. Some time ago, I joined a support group that was centered on dealing with loneliness. In my self-centered mindset, I was convinced that when I got there, it was just going to be me and the therapist in the room. Nope, there were plenty of other people there, looking for help grappling with this issue. Although I highly recommend therapy on an individual basis, since that will target your specific situation, the group setting was extremely helpful to me, as I felt I had some allies in my struggle.
posted by medeine at 12:00 PM on March 26, 2011

I'd also suggest you check out these two books. I read them after seeing many recommendations here and they've both helped me to become a much healthier person.

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie (You may be initially turned off by the description of this one. I certainly was. I'd encourage you to take a look anyway. It's more about how to create healthy boundaries than anything else.)

Intimate Connections by David Burns
posted by smokingmonkey at 1:22 PM on March 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all your postings :)

I probably didn't explain a few things very clearly,
I have gone to therapy. I went to a therapist 2 times a week for over a year, which actually really helped me work through a lot of my issues with family, and increased my self esteem which was quite low at the time. I really didn't even think I was a good person at the time, or even worthy of love due to those bad experiences and a bad relationship breakup. So I am grateful for that!This is also the same therapist who gave me medication that was making me feel suicidal. I had told him it was making me freak out after he upped the dosage to 20mgs of antidepressant medication, then didn't seem to believe the medication was causing me to feel this way (there was also a patient who I got to know in the waiting room who had the same experience and got the same reation from him). After I slowly lowered the dosage so I could stop, I literally went through a mental hell as the meds had such a negative effect on me. Wouldn't wish that upon anybody. It took a long time of going through a bevy of really horrible psychologists to get to the one I had found, who actually did help me out a lot but due to his lack of understanding I almost took my life. He's the doctor, he's supposed to know about these things. I know that finding a good therapist is hard, and you have to wade through it to get one.

But with all that said this was a number of years ago, I am a lot better than I was, in every sense I do feel I'm a better person and like standing on my own ground. I take anti anxiety medication now, which helps out a lot.

When I'm with people I'm not trying to put on a show and try to make people laugh, I only brought that up because people comment on it a good deal, and I enjoy the conversations when they're light in mood, I usually am inclined to keep it that way cause when I'm around people I do feel light and happy, and others seem to be to when they're with me. I also like talking about deep issues and usually find people who enjoy that too. I'm always conscious of keeping a good balance when it comes to conversation, because I really like entering into it.

But as far as the giving thing, I totally understand now. So thank you very much I never even thought of it that way, that others might feel a sense of expectation that can't be fulfilled. When I do do it I'm not looking for anything back, like I said I do like seeing other people happy. And I've think I've only really gone overboard with one person, but this person has told me repeatedly what a big influence I am on them, and how much they like me, without me going towards that subject and just say it out of the blue. This seems like a good indicator that there are mutual feelings there, at least to me. I wouldn't just do it without any indication that they like me back, and in this case this persons face always seems to light up when I do do these things, which I would take as an indicator that it's effect is a good one. So it confuses me. I've never had anyone do these types of things for me. You might say it's not true, but believe me it is. Don't even get calls on birthdays, no one seems to do that for me. I had my best friend at the time tell me while I was really depressed that "If someone wants to commit suicide they should just be able to do it". This was a time when I was severely depressed, and hadn't even brought up that subject. I found that really cruel, especially when you see your friend is hurting really bad, basically saying I wouldn't care if you did it. This has been a lot of the experiences I've had from people whenever I was in need of help. So I don't ask for it anymore. I dont like feeling like I "need" someone, really the feeling of being attached emotionally to someone cause I've had quite the experiences in the past. But I still try, I don't give up on people but maybe with my history I'm attracting the wrong ones, as one of your posts said (which is a good insight by the way). The point I believe would be that I've been prone to showing affection this way because I've never gotten it, but now I realize it's probably not that important to other people as it is to me. Apparently it's uber-important to me, that's why I've done it cause I want people to know someone out there is thinking about them. I do send texts and emails every so often to let them know as well, but nothing overboard there in that sense, or in a needy way.

I'm quite conscious of being needy, and I have read that book. I used to be somewhat co-dependent, and I always admired people who didn't seem to need anybody, and could stand on their own two feet. I finally am that way, after a long period of personal growth. So I don't believe I come off as needy, I've ok with the fact that people come and go out of your life, some meant to stay longer and others shorter. I know that's the natural flow of life, it doesn't really bother me until it's someone I really want to stay, but that's probably natural. I know you can't control what others think or do, only your own actions.
It just hurts that I'm alone most of the time, that I can't seem to find anyone who wants to have me in their life more than extremely casually, I must be doing something wrong. I never get hit on either, this further compounds the problem, and makes me think I must be doing something wrong. It seems no one else thinks I'm worthy of being in their lives, though I know I am worth a lot and I don't think that, about myself.

I don't think I'm special because I'm sensitive, it's not some ivory tower on my end. I just haven't met anyone who relates to being this way too. If they do they don't say it, obviously there must be other people, but just none that I've seen or admitted to. I also mean it in a chemical way, not the "I'm going to take everything u say personally cause I'm sensitive".

when I am with someone I do talk about myself, I love to travel and usually have stories to tell about them. I'm interested in a lot of different subjects, and enjoy talking about them to a good extent. So I'm not the type who's gonna sit there and make you do all the work.

I have done some volunteering as well, I always like to help people if I can, it feels really good. Usually the way I meet people is through common activities and interests. I just never get passed the activity- I suggest going out for lunch or something if I feel there's a mutual like, but it doesn't seem to last. I feel like I get thrown away, that's probably due to my past experiences that I feel that way. I just seem to be obscured to making a lasting bond, this is what troubles me. I like having alone time, but I also really enjoy being around people. It makes me feel loved, that of which I haven't felt much of in my life. I just want to make some decent bonds with people who care about me, as I care about them. That's one of the reasons I try and do little things for people to show that (although when I dont do it, I seem to get the same results as well, so I dont know what to do). I dont know if I should be more distant, or more friendly, I try both with similar results. I guess I'm curious as to what keeps a friend around in your life, one that you call on a semi regular basis and you make plans to go out with. I know its someone who you have fun with, common bonds, and trust. I do these things, I just don't know why my interactions end up short lived. I see people who have supportive families, a good amount of close friends they can talk to who they mutually care about, I would really like that. I know I don't have the family part, but the other I think should be possible. I just want to fit with someone who feels it to, cause on my own, makes me feel so isolated and alone.

I have a good deal going on in my life, but mostly things I end up doing myself cause I dont have anyone to do them with. I'm not afraid of doing things alone, i would rather do things with someone I enjoy being with, this makes it so much more enjoyable, and makes me happy. When I feel like I've got some people who care, my depression lessens, immensely.

I really appreciate the advice on the giving part, the line about "don't give more than you get", really resonates with me especially now that I understand the thinking behind it. Friendship has to be 2 sided, and you can't make someone else want it more if they don't. It's just confusing when they say really positive and "you've changed my life" sort of things when they're not even asked. It feels good cause I like hearing it, but if it was true I probably would hear from them more. I don't understand that behavior. But I agree I can help it, and I will stop doing it. A friendship has to be mutual or it won't survive. Thank you so much for your insights, it really helped. I think in the end that's what I'm looking for, is a little help.

Sorry for the extremely long posting, I didn't feel like I explained myself very well in the beginning.
posted by readygo at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2011

First, I am sorry that your previous experience of therapy did not work out. I am sure that there are people who can personally recommend a more sensitive and appropriate professional if you would tell us your geographical location. You should also consider group therapy, especially since your primary concern seems to be about how to overcome a social interaction problem which you don't fully understand and which may be caused by something you're doing of which you're not aware.

Second, in this story:
I had my best friend at the time tell me while I was really depressed that "If someone wants to commit suicide they should just be able to do it". This was a time when I was severely depressed, and hadn't even brought up that subject. I found that really cruel, especially when you see your friend is hurting really bad, basically saying I wouldn't care if you did it. This has been a lot of the experiences I've had from people whenever I was in need of help. So I don't ask for it anymore.

You do not describe asking your friend for help. You do seem to read a lot into your friend's comment. Had you explicitly told your friend exactly how depressed you were, or were you waiting for your friend to figure it out based on clues in your words and actions? People can be incredibly oblivious.
posted by prefpara at 6:11 PM on March 26, 2011

I'm sorry you had trouble with your first therapist, but you should go through the effort of finding a new therapist and adjusting your meds. Getting meds right takes some trial and error. Your current thoughts of suicide are a very clear sign that your current dose is also not working for you. Please find someone else and keep trying. Success won't be immediate, but when you find the right med and dosage, things will look differently, and you'll remember this time like wandering lost in a fog, and you'll be glad you got out of it when you did and not any later. Please read bananafish's comment again.

I can't seem to find anyone who wants to have me in their life more than extremely casually

One thing to consider is that all relationships start there. And putting too many expectations on a relationship (at any stage) can endanger it. I sometimes think of my social needs as totalling "one hundred pounds." If most of my relationships are weak, like when I was new in town, each can only carry, say, four pounds, so I need a LOT (25) of these shallow relationships to avoid overburdening any of them. Maybe over time, four friendships' muscles develop to the point that they can carry 15 pounds each, leaving 40 pounds remaining to be distributed across, oh, 8-10 acquaintances. (I don't assign points to people in reality. This is just a thought tool.) You can also see the risk of putting all your eggs in one basket. If you have only three people carrying the weight (an SO of 50 and two friends of 25, say), then God forbid you break up with one of those people; you might keep some space to maintain acquaintanceships. So, if you find relationships to be shallow, don't get frustrated, but do find more of them. Don't overburden them, but respect them for whatever level of friendship they offer. Some will disappear, and some will grow stronger over time.

Best of luck. Glad you're looking for help.
posted by salvia at 6:56 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm probably wrong, but after I stepped away from this question, I got the sense that you were really mad at someone for betraying or hurting you, and that this was somehow behind your experience now as someone who sees themselves as always being betrayed and hurt by everyone. I'm not sure what the link would be. Maybe showing that person that you don't have friends is a way of expressing your hurt, betrayal, and anger toward them? Maybe you're going in with this "you're going to betray or hurt me eventually" chip on your shoulder? Feel free to reject this theory; I'm just someone on the internet who read a few paragraphs you wrote.

Whether or not that theory has any merit, I would bet money that there are Mefites who could go head to head with you in an "unsupportive family and shitty friends" contest and maybe even win. I'm not saying you haven't been through a lot or that it didn't hurt. (And you really may be more sensitive than average; studies show that bad life events have a bigger impact on some children than on others; people's resilience and sensitivity does differ.) I'm just saying that it doesn't have to define you or keep you from going on to thrive and have a happy, healthy life full of good relationships.

Anyway, apologies if my intuition is totally off-base here!
posted by salvia at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2011

That people feel you have a positive impact on them and tell you so is a great thing.

Someone can tell you that, 100% truthfully, and it still doesn't mean that that they will want (or be the right person for you to have) an ongoing close relationship with. These are just two completely separate things.

I wonder whether part of what's going on for you is hat on the one hand, your expectations are too high, and on the other, you notice and feel every single time someone doesn't follow up or follow through in an extra acute way.

For example, I feel overall very fortunate with my friends. But even my closest most intimate friends, who it would feel normal to speak with and see every other night for a week, it also feels normal to go for weeks or sometimes months without seeing or talking with them. That's just how life goes, people get busy, people get partners, schedules get complicated, etc. It's not necessarily a sign that their warm feelings toward you have disappeared, and it's very possible that if you don't take it personally but continue to periodically reach out to them (when you feel inspired to) at some point they will be back in your life in a more active way - meaning that at least on some level they were never really gone.

It seems to me that you have a certain script in mind for how relationships unfurl, and it's just broad enough that at some point, you'll be able to fit almost any relationship into it - casting the other person as yet another 'friend' who wasn't really there or who didn't stick around and casing yourself as the person who can't hang on to people. I bet that script is also constantly reinforced by your family, if you're still engaged with them. It's really just your family being themselves and doing what they always do and always have done, but you can experience it as a continuously new but consistent response to you and what they perceive as being wrong with you.

It sounds like over the years though you've had a generally positive arc towards better relationships with yourself and with others. Keep taking care of yourself and it will keep getting better. Taking care of yourself might well include exploring ways to disengage, perhaps completely if not permanently, with your family and other people who are more toxic to you than not.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:07 PM on March 26, 2011

Response by poster: My friend actually knew all about what was going on with me (I was going through a bad breakup where my ex was pretty much living a double life at the end, which was very shocking cause there had been no indication of such a betrayal before that- this was devastating) , and commented that I seemed really depressed just before saying that. I actually asked for help to which my friend replied sarcastically "what do you want me to come down there and hold your hand?". I had another close friend also say to me "if you take a dirt nap I'm not coming to your funeral". This friend then avoided me after that, which was needless to say very hurtful, especially cause I'd always been there for them. So I try not to tell my problems to people, as it seems they start to go away if things become anything but good times. This brings up old feelings of being defective in some way, cause I can't seem to form lasting bonds. I've had this problem pretty much all my life, except for middle school where I seemed to have a good deal of friends who also stuck around, they were going through things as I was, it was kind of a support system. In high school I used to sit by myself behind the school cause I didn't have anyone to talk to. as for friends my family also seems to have this issue. I don't think I portray any antisocial vibes, and am quite friendly. I used to have very low self esteem, but I am a whole different person now. I know I am worthy and deserving of love, I never thought I was before. When things don't last with people though I start feeling like what's the use again. I usually don't find very many people I feel a strong connection with, so when it does happen it hurts when it turns out to be just the same as my other relationships. When I try or when I don't make an effort, I seem to get the same results. It's really tiring on my soul. What do you do if you've gone "overboard" with someone, is there anyway to make it better and not have the other person feel like there's an expectation on the friendship that they can't live up to? How do you get someone to want to be a part of your life? How can you tell if someone does? Please any more insights would be welcomed, I'm so tired of trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong.
posted by readygo at 6:35 PM on March 31, 2011

I'm so sorry for your pain and your friends' responses.

One answer is that you can't get more than a person can give. It sounds like some of the people you've befriended just haven't got much to give. That's about the nicest thing I can find to say about someone who would tell you that they wouldn't come to your funeral.

It's possible that you're not great at choosing friends. It would even make sense, given your background. With some people, giving up on them is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Just because you thought once that someone would be a good friend is no reason to hang on to them and try to make them into a good friend once they've shown you that they aren't one. If they can't be a good friend, you could be the kindest most fun person in the world, and they still wouldn't be a good friend to you. Because it's about them, not about you. Giving up on a friend may sound to you like a terrible thing to do, but it can also be a way to be kind and respectful of *yourself*. Then you will have more space in your life for good friendships.

Please take care of yourself. It's a cliche for romantic relationships that you can't really love anyone else unless you can love yourself. I think it's true for friendships also - if you can't be a friend to yourself, how can you be a friend to someone else?

You say that you know that you are worthy and deserving of love, but are *you* treating *yourself* as someone who is worthy of your own love and respect? Continuing to be around people, to expose yourself to people you know have been cruel to you, whether friends or family, that's not a friendly thing to do to yourself. Feeling depressed and hopeless and not looking for (more) effective help from doctors, therapists, meds, etc - that's not a friendly thing to do to yourself.

I usually don't find very many people I feel a strong connection with, so when it does happen it hurts when it turns out to be just the same as my other relationships.

Can you consider the idea that you can't really trust your own 'connection meter' for now? It's been steering you wrong, and it needs recalibration. That 'feeling of connection' isn't a sign from above or some kind of deep truth. It's your mind and body's physical, chemical, emotional response to another person, a response that's based on past conditioning and past relationships. If your connection meter is off, and the people to whom you feel connected are consistently the kind of people who can't be good friends, then no wonder it so often turns out to be just the same as past relationships.

It can be easy to see when someone continually chooses romantic partners who are bad for her, and to see how those choices are based on 'feelings of connection' with no healthy basis in reality - it's the emotional unavailability that she's attracted to, the resemblance to a prior (bad) partner or (bad) parent, etc. We're used to thinking in romantic attractions in terms of 'chemistry', but your 'feelings of connection' to people as friends are likely equally 'chemical', and it sounds like it's time to question those chemical responses. It can be done. People who are attracted to those who are bad for them can change that (largely by becoming healthier themselves), and you can change this too.

These two projects - being a better friend to yourself and choosing better friends for yourself - are so interconnected. Each will support the other. For both of them, I think it would be really helpful for you to have the support of a good therapist and to kick, at least to some extent, your depression - which I think is more significant than you may realize.

Then, if with a better sense of perspective on you and the relationship, you look back at a certain friend and think that they really can be a good friend (as opposed to someone you felt a connection with that was not and is not and will not be able to be a good friend to you or to anybody) and the problem is that you went 'overboard', you can go to them and let them know that you value them and their friendship, and that you realize you weren't always the kind of friend they needed you to be, and that you want to be that, and that you're taking steps - therapy, etc, to be that. And maybe the relationship can be rebuilt or maybe it can't. But at least, the bridge won't be quite so burnt - and you'll be able to go forward and make real good friends.

I think you can do this. I have a lot of hope for you. I think it starts with you being your own best friend first.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:26 PM on April 4, 2011

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