I’ve become the most boring person I know.
September 18, 2011 9:54 AM   Subscribe

What do you do when you’re the most boring person you know?

I’ve become a shell of the person I used to be: open, engaged, social. Okay, so in the past couple of years, stressful things have happened. But, I’m slowly seeing that I’ve just become, well, boring.

I’m not interested in dating. I have no real social life. And, the funny thing is, after a while I no longer seem bothered by that (dating is whatever, can live without and totally normal not to want to, for me, but the social life thing seems so important).

I’ve been in therapy, and actually haven’t found it all that useful. I find myself getting into fits and starts of taking walks or doing other forms of do-it-at-home or free exercise. I am variably assertive to very closed off sometimes, and I’ve considered medication, but honest to goodness can’t afford it right now, and am a long-time underemployed person. If I were to take medication, I’d want to make sure I didn’t just get it from a GP or someone who wasn’t really invested in who I am as a person, or at least a good physician or psychiatrist or someone who was a combination psychologist/psychiatrist.

But, beyond previously feeling so desperately lonely, I wonder if I just feel numb. I don’t know if I’m lonely anymore, because I don’t feel like I am. I just feel like I’ve adjusted to not having any friends. I think I just plum don’t trust people anymore, and it’s weird for me, because I’ve always had at least some curiosity in other people, and hanging out. It’s as though I don’t know how to talk to people anymore. I do work, and even there when I talk out loud, because I haven’t really been talking to anybody up to that point, I just end up squeaking something out in this surprisingly tiny voice. After a while, it’s better, but I’m noticing changes happening in me. Like, last week I went to the grocery store, and someone in front of me put a divider in the check-out line, and when I said, “Thank you,” that was the tiniest and squeakiest thing I said all day. I cleared my throat, I think, and said it again, but not talking to people really isn’t good for me. But, I'm also really resistant to talking to people. Like, I avoid emails and phone calls and even text messages. I'm afraid I don't know how to relate to people anymore.

I've lost a lot of friends in the passing years, and I feel ashamed about it, and also don't know how to be friends with people, or don't trust myself not to screw it up.

Please don’t ask about family. I consider friends to be family (well, when I was actually interested in friendships).

I freak out before heading to work, mostly just panic about leaving the house, but somehow make it happen. It's always a little stressful, though. (It's very odd to see this all written out like this. I had no idea I was feeling this way.)

So, what do you do when you’re the most boring person you know?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I would suggest starting a hobby that can be at home, then foster a relationship around this hobby online, and possibly branch out into meetup.org meetups concerning this hobby. If you truly interest yourself in the hobby, you'll have something to talk about, make a few buddies, online or in real life, and branch out from there. Perfect example would be knitting, sign up on raverly which has an extremely active community, read the community until you feel like you won't want to avoid emails and posting on the site.

This is not an overnight thing, you can't have new friends tomorrow, but you can certainly try in the most low-risk way possible. Plus, knitting is crazy therapeutic, but really any hobby with a healthy online following is great.
posted by banannafish at 10:09 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Check out anywhere close where you can go on a meditation retreat. A Vipasana centre could be ideal, and they're usually free or by donation. First timers usually do a ten day course. You'd be spending time in company, but in silence, with a daily opportunity to talk to the leader of the course. Surprisingly, relationships often form in the silence, and you'll have time to get to know yourself better, without any outside pressure - though it isn't an easy route to take.
posted by nickji at 10:32 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

How would you feel about volunteering? There are tons of things and places to volunteer. If you find something you love, or that is clearly helpful, it might help get you out and about, and have some interesting stories. If you want to start with something less people intensive, animal shelters and many parks and or zoos will take/desperately need volunteers.
posted by Jacen at 10:35 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes the key in situations like these is to find the best therapeutic match for yourself -- if you aren't finding therapy beneficial, you probably don't have the right match. You might investigate a few modalities of therapy and figure out which ones seem like good fits for you. CBT is trotted out here a lot, as is the sub-category of DBT -- both are good, particularly for a situation like yours where you're having difficulties getting motivated.

Here are some tips on low-cost/high-value health care:

1. Check the teaching hospitals in your city. They often have clinics that are free or cheap. If you don't qualify for Medicaid/Medicare, you may qualify for charity care. This is where the hospital literally chips in a huge chunk of the price. It's not a loan; it's a gift. Take it if you can find it!

1a. Not all programs are created equal. You want to ask if the program is staffed by residents -- this is a bad thing (though not necessarily a deal breaker), because residents rotate out after a few months. If residents are the main staffers, ask how long you would have to work with each one. If the program you're looking at offers both therapy and medication management, ask about the qualifications of the therapists, and also whether they are residents. I find that having a counselor who is a resident is a bigger problem than having a psychiatrist who is a resident, only because continuity of care is so important.

1b. If the teaching hospitals don't work out, search for private sliding scale institutes. These exist. They're generally based on providing therapy within particular modalities, so you're getting really focused care. If you're in New York City, send me a MeFiMail. I can recommend a few.

2. Medication can be much cheaper than you might think. If you do go to one of these teaching hospital programs, they will work with you to help you find a way to afford the medications. And everything is generic these days, too. A lot of chain pharmacies offer automatic discounts when you tell them you don't have prescription drug coverage. Some hospitals have pharmacies. Clinics often have pharmacies where the medication is super-cheap. Whatever your budget is, even if it's four dollars a month, there is a way to access medication when you're uninsured.

3. In therapy, don't hesitate to let your provider know if you feel the treatment isn't helping. You're paying for a service, even if you're only paying fifteen dollars. Your therapist may actually be able to recommend other professionals who she or he thinks would be a better fit for you. Having a current therapist actually gives you a leg up on the hook-up with someone who matches your needs better. And that is going to make all the difference in how helpful therapy is for you.

Until you get yourself matched up with the right services, be gentle on yourself. You're not the most boring person -- I can tell just from having read your question. But you do sound depressed. Anhedonia, or lack of interest, is a classic depression symptom. And negative self-talk, and isolation, and maybe some dissociation in the form of numbness -- these are all symptoms of depression. It gets better, sometimes with just talk therapy, sometimes with talk therapy and medication. Get what you need, and your view of yourself will improve.

(Note: I am not a therapist. I have seen a lot of therapists.)
posted by brina at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

How much is your general anxiety coloring your thoughts about taking medication? Is "I can't afford it" your first thought--or is it your second thought after "I don't want to and..."? Just something to think about...
posted by anaelith at 10:39 AM on September 18, 2011

A lot of the stuff you said is the stuff I could have said in my questions about the partial hospitalization program I'm in now, if I hadn't been so wrapped up in the anxiety about the program itself. And the CBT we've been doing has definitely been helping with the surprisingly quiet voice/avoiding mail problem. I still have a long, long way to go, but I'm glad I'm in therapy and on meds.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you woke up tomorrow and had no commitments, no obligations, and no lack of resources, what would you do?

Would you travel the world? Would you start a business? Would you go to the park and feed the ducks? Maybe you'd take up lion-taming, or become a pastry chef.

Whatever it is, imagine yourself working toward doing it. What's involved? Do you need money, or time, or a pilot's license, or an army of minions? OK, so it won't happen today.

But if you break it down into tiny pieces, you'll find something you CAN do today, right now, to make your daydream a little more realizable. Maybe it's a dollar in the cookie jar. Maybe it's going through that box in the attic and finding those papers. Maybe it's checking a how-to guide out of the library.

Whatever it is, DO ONE THING. Don't worry about what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow. Just do one thing. Today.

And tomorrow, do one more thing. One tiny little thing.

In a month, you'll have stacked thirty things. In three months, you'll see progress. That goal, whatever it is, is a bit less blurry, a bit better defined.

And as you go, you'll meet people who want that thing, too.

But today: DO ONE THING.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2011 [17 favorites]

anon--you sound like you do have a touch of agoraphobia, but you can over come it. If you've faced harsh disappointments, I guess isolation is a way that the mind is trying to protect you from further disappointment. (People who have scads of friends will also lose friends for a variety of reasons, but it doesn't feel as bad for them, because they have such a "reserve").

This may sound like a strange (and scary) proposition...but I think you should consider joining Toastmasters to learn how to give a speech! Don't disregard my idea out-of-hand...a person's voice is extremely important, and if you go to some Toastmaster's meetings (and adopt some speaking skills) you will feel more powerful and engaged. If you give just 2 or three speeches in the "safety" of the Toastmaster's meetings I promise you, you will overcome the reclusive feelings you are now having. For one thing, if speaking in front of people is VERY foreign to you, and you try it, you will have a whole new feeling about yourself later.

Just think about it. Our voice and the words we use are so powerful. I was as introverted as a person can be, and I "shook myself" out of it.....by learning how to speak publicly! My life was improved one thousand percent through overcoming shyness. (Toastmasters teaches you how to listen too). think about it.... Dale Carnegie was right about "How to make friends and influence people"....! (He was an advocate for public speaking) :)

posted by naplesyellow at 11:52 AM on September 18, 2011

It doesn't sound to me like you're boring - it sounds like you're depressed. I think that changing your idea of what is ailing you (depression, an illness that is very treatable vs. having something fundamentally wrong with you, i.e. being boring) may be a help in tackling the problem. I second all of brina's suggestions on how you can find help on a budget so that you can get back to the social, open and engaged person you used to be.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Eeeek does this sound familiar.

I'm not sure that medication, hobbies and volunteer work are going to patch this problem over the long haul. Boredom, like anger, is a fairly surfacey state - it marks the beginning of the bunny trail pointing to a deeper problem, but is not, by itself, the problem. My guess is that within your cocoon of boredom and numbness is a profound anxiety about yourself and your self-worth. That anxiety is making it very difficult for you to develop and sustain relationships with others. Asking us to not prob into family issues is your giant stake in the ground screaming "Dig Here Please."

This all sounds familiar to me because I've been in a lot of therapy, ditched my old boring job, got a new interesting job, volunteered, am on meds and still profoundly struggle with relationships - even though part of my new interesting job it to help folks with theirs. I spent a good two-three years in therapy hovering just above a rather large cauldron of pain. I blamed my therapists for the holding pattern until it became frightfully clear to me that I wasn't going to get better until I started taking some very real, very terrifying risks. The first layer of that was coming to terms with how my parents fucked me up good and proper. The second layer is how I've fucked myself up good and proper. The third layer has been putting the cracks in my integrity under a microscope so I can go about patching them piece by piece. It's hard, scary and lonely, but then again, so is the cocoon.

So. This is my advice to you. Follow the suggestions above - do volunteer and find things to do that interest you that will put you in contact with others. Explore medication if you think it will help. These things will help cushion you as you start digging. They'll give you strength. But do start digging. Keep in mind that psychiatrists don't always do much talk therapy. Find an affordable therapist - don't worry about technique, orientation or credential. There are brilliant masters prepared social workers out there and abysmal PhDs. Don't wait for perfect fit, just a fit that is good enough that you're willing to make yourself vulnerable. Best of luck.
posted by space_cookie at 12:38 PM on September 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Perhaps you should practice with your voice. Pick a poem, your favorite poem, and read it out aloud to yourself. Practice the pronunciation, the emphasis, the loudness or quietness of your voice. Get used again to the way you sound and try to entertain yourself with the choice of the poems.

Give yourself some goals. One short telephone conversation per week, even just calling a department store to ask if it carries a specific item, seems doable. Try to graduate to calling a former friend, to reestablish contact, when you can trust your own voice.

I cut myself off from friends after a particularly hurtful episode, when it seemed as if I could not trust anybody except my close family. It was a lonely and difficult period in my life, but I learned that I was the cause of my own loneliness, and that it is better to trust and get hurt than to isolate myself. Please memail me, I'll be your absolutely non-critical, accepting penpal.
posted by francesca too at 12:39 PM on September 18, 2011

I've been there, done that. The first step for me was to start reaching out to friends. I know, you haven't been in touch in a while and you lost them over the years. But they'll be more than happy to hear from you (assuming that you haven't completely made enemies out of them), and even if the call in of itself comes to nothing, it's a first step and you'll feel better because you have tried to reach out to the world and you would have spoken to someone. So go out there and give your old friends a call. Not repeated multiple calls, one call per friend. Or you could even send them an email asking whether they want to catch up and suggesting a call at the end of the email.

These questions come up on AskMeFi every so often and the common advice is to get a hobby, volunteer, get therapy, feel comfortable spending time with oneself, etc, but that's just avoiding the crux of the problem, ain't it? Social skills is a learned trait. For some people it comes easier than for some others. But you aren't going to learn how to be sociable and how to be a friend if you don't work directly at the problem. Oh yeah, sure, therapy can help, hobbies can help, but eventually you're going to have to go out there to the real world and interact and learn to be friendly with other people.

On a somewhat related analogy, I know this guy. I don't really like him and I think he's incredibly self-centered and boring, but that's another story. He, like you, wanted more of a social life. So he decided to join salsa dancing to meet people. The typical format of becoming moderately tolerable at salsa is take a lesson to learn the basics-> practice by fumbling around awkwardly at social dancing -> take another lesson -> practice more by fumbling around awkwardly at social dancing, rinse and repeat. The point here is that in order to become better at dancing, he HAD to go through a period of practising and trying, even though it's hard and he was crap. But he was always too self-conscious about practising, so what he ended up doing was taking a lot of lessons, but when social dancing started, he sat by the sidelines and watched other people. Now, taking lessons is one thing, but lessons are fairly one-sided, they don't prepare you for the real thing, to dance with an actual person, to engage in their non-verbal signals, to hear the beat at the same time, to think on your feet. If he had even just practised at social dancing, he would have been a fun, cool, vulnerable person, and he would have gotten much better at dancing at each attempt.

So my advice to you is to go out there and practice, and be shit at it at first, but just keep trying and practice and practice. I consider myself pretty okay at being sociable nowadays, but not a day goes by that I don't have super awkward why-did-I-say-that moments. But you know what? It's totally okay. At least I have tried and I'll have learned something from that.

You will learn to care about people and people will learn to care about you, and once the positive feedback virtuous cycle starts, it'll keep on going.
posted by moiraine at 12:42 PM on September 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

This is me, this is sooo very much me. Even the slight/vague agoraphobia. It seems to me that you think it should bother you, not that it actually does. If it does bother you, you should change and there's lots of good advice above. But there's nothing wrong in leading a quiet/boring life.

Until my late 30s I had more "excitement" in my life than I really wanted. Boring is good.
posted by deborah at 2:09 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

lots of good advice here. Just wanted to add that if you can- go on a trip to visit some old friends or family who know you well. They'll remind you of who you used to be! You'll come back refreshed.
posted by abirdinthehand at 3:15 PM on September 18, 2011

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