Suppose you're never going to have any friends for the rest of your life
August 23, 2013 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I have no friends. I have no reason to believe I'll ever have any friends. Is it even possible to have a worthwhile life?

I've lost all my friends at this point. I talk to no one. I have entire stretches of no social contact, and "entire stretches" at this point is threatening to turn into "most of 2013." In addition, I'm in a field where everyone else's friendships are flaunted and obvious. It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me that they can reach out to them - in some cases awful people! We're talking abusers, convicted criminals, sanctimonious pricks sometimes - but see me as beneath that.

The problem is it's been that way all my life. I have never had any real friends, and I don't see any indication that it will change soon. I go to meetups but I feel so different from everyone, and they see me as different in a bad way, so even if I've been going for years no friends come of them. I've tried going on dates (this was a roommate's suggestion), but I'm not attractive enough to get many dates and none of them have ever resulted in friendships, which is to be expected when the waters muddy.

Besides the obvious crushing loneliness and feelings of being pointless as a person - without friends you are basically expending resources until you die - having no friends has several tangible limiting factors on your life:

People see you as a horrible person that everyone should stay away from. Like this, from a recent dating thread:


This is truly abnormal behavior on his part. If he's alone, that's a red flag (does the man not have any friends??)

OMG, I don't have any friends??? HOW CAN SOMEONE NOT HAVE ANY FRIENDS??? Awesome: I'm a red flag. I don't think this is an uncommon opinion either. I think it is standard. And the only way to get yourself out of OMG YOU FRIENDLESS HORRIBLE FREAK is to lie about which form of square zero you're starting at. I don't like lying, but I also don't like people seeing me as someone to whom the proper reaction is OMG - RUN.

Reduced job prospects. Google "friendship economy" or "social capital." With the economy the way it is, more and more if you don't have capital-capital the only way to be able to put a roof over your head and food in your mouth and etc etc is to have friends who give you work.

Reduced leisure prospects. Nobody actually expects you to go places alone. You look like the weird loner, because people go places with their friends. You end up spending money (which due to the above you don't have much of) and feeling like you've wasted it. And when they do, they certainly aren't looking to meet people. When I was out with acquaintances, like at the beach or something, I know none of us were letting randoms join our group. Again, this is default.

Reduced safety. Never walk home alone. Oh. Okay. I'll just walk home with this group of friends I don't have. Never travel alone. Oh. Okay, I'll just summon people at will. Always tell a friend where you'll be. Oh. Okay. I'll just make a phone call into the ether. See what I mean?

You have to face everything in your life alone. What was the worst crisis you've ever had to deal with? Think of it. Now imagine that your support system just didn't exist during it, that you could never talk to anyone about it, and you have basically everything in my life. Certain things that happen are bound to wear people down by default even if everyone in the world loved and supported them. When you're alone, it's that much harder to handle or bounce back from.

So basically: how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world (please don't say anything like "OMG YOU HAVEN'T MET EVERYONE IN THE WORLD," I think I've met a scientifically sound sampling) wants anything to do with you?
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (158 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
You sound depressed. You sound like your depression is telling you that you must be alone, that you are the only one who will ever be in this situation.

You're not a freak, you're not a red flag.

I have friends and acquaintances, and I still feel this way sometimes. I still travel alone, walk alone, go places alone.

You don't have to do this alone.

Have you tried therapy before? You seem like a perfect candidate for it.
posted by RainyJay at 9:25 AM on August 23, 2013 [30 favorites]

It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me that they can reach out to them - in some cases awful people! We're talking abusers, convicted criminals, sanctimonious pricks sometimes - but see me as beneath that.

I go to meetups but I feel so different from everyone, and they see me as different in a bad way

I'm not attractive enough to get many dates

This is the kind of stuff I was telling myself when my depression was really bad. You really sound depressed, and I really believe you can come out of this but you need some external help. I think you should look very seriously into therapy and I think you should talk to your doctor about these feelings. Another thing that helps me is really vigorous exercise. It helps to boost my mood chemically, and the fact that I am doing good things for my body makes me feel proud and happier that way too.

but seriously, look in to therapy and talk to your doctor. You don't need to feel this way. You can feel better.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:25 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

Dear dekathelon, I have read most of your previous questions, and really there is only one person that doesn't like you, and that is you. You need to learn to be your own friend first. You really should seriously start seeing a therapist.
posted by florencetnoa at 9:26 AM on August 23, 2013 [120 favorites]

dekathelon, I have read a lot of questions by you in the past and I feel for how difficult your situation is. You really need to see a therapist. It's not going to get better from posting questions on Ask MetaFilter.

A professional is trained for how to help you get out of this situation and how to make friends and make your life better. You need to see one. Go find one. Let us know if you need help finding a therapist.
posted by grouse at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [41 favorites]

You sound like you have low self esteem/self worth, and that you may even be depressed... You're not a freak, nothing is wrong with you, and you are deserving of friendship/love even if you're flawed (we all are!).

You should talk to a therapist.
posted by fireandthud at 9:29 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: (clarification and I promise I'm not going to threadsit: I can't afford therapy because I have zero income right now - see "friendship economy," or "it's all who you know" - and I'm not particularly interested in what I "deserve." I'm interested in how I can make the best of the bad situation I'm in right now.")
posted by dekathelon at 9:36 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is social contact. We are other human beings. So far nobody seems to find you particularly revolting. I agree with the therapy thing, but I also think that maybe socializing online is a good start.

You can MeMail me if you want--not for any particular reason, just because.
posted by Sequence at 9:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [20 favorites]

I have never had any real friends, and I don't see any indication that it will change soon.

Ridiculous. Friendship is the easiest equation in the world. I will give you the secret: to have a friend, be a friend.

Be a friend. It's an effort. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. You have to show interest in someone else's life. You have to make time for them. Be kind to them. Listen to their bullshit. Remember birthdays. Buy gifts. Sit with them in the bar when they feel bad and make them feel good - or just share the misery. Bail them out of jail. Help them move a body. It can be exhausting. But it's what you do if you want people to do this stuff for you. If you can't be bothered to be a friend, then it will never change for you. Simple as that.
posted by three blind mice at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2013 [22 favorites]

From your posting history, it looks like you're in NYC:

Here's a listing of free mental health services (scroll down the page)

Specifically, here's the webiste for Lifenet

I've never used any of these services in NYC; I cannot attest to their efficacy.

Cost shouldn't be a barrier to getting help; this is how you make the best of a bad situation.
posted by RainyJay at 9:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [34 favorites]

311 might also be helpful in identifying free mental health resources near where you live.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

grouse above just offered help to you in helping find a therapist, and you shut that suggestion down. "I can't afford therapy." You could have rephrased this to say, "I can't afford therapy. Can you help me find free resources where I live?"

I'm not saying this to harangue you. Just to point out that your mindset is closed off. Is there a way you can open it?
posted by Leontine at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [41 favorites]

To add on to what Greg Nog was saying, have you ever considered getting a pet?

Also, volunteering to help other people or animals makes you feel less useless.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

1 - The whole premise of the question is flawed. Losing friends and/or not having had friends before does not mean you will NEVER have friends. Although to make friends you might have to make some huge changes like therapy or moving to a place with a different culture or changing jobs or something else like that.

2 - Yes, plenty of people have no friends. They usually have spouses, though, and that one person is enough for them. But are there total loner types who talk only to their dog? Sure. In my experience both types of "friendless" people are content that way. They either liked it better that way from the start, or learned to appreciate it eventually. But I bet there are many others who are depressed about it and I just don't know them.

3 - People don't really know or care (outside of your limited world, I guess) about your friend count. E.g. I've moved around a lot, so in several periods of my life I've had seemingly no friends. I did have friends, they just lived thousands of miles away from me at the time. But to anyone I met where I actually lived, I was "friendless." It does limit some activities you can do (though not as many as you seem to think) but it really didn't get in the way of that much of what I wanted to do in life.

4 - You seem to think you're some kind of pariah but there is obviously something compelling about you because you ask these questions you are not willing to hear answers to and a whole bunch of people keep reaching out to help you. So there's that...
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

This is truly abnormal behavior on his part. If he's alone, that's a red flag (does the man not have any friends??)

You're taking that a bit of out context. The issue was that the dude was relying on a woman he met a week ago for his emotional support for his parent dying. That's the red flag, not the part about him not having any friends. If you have no friends but establish appropriate boundaries, as the guy in the example did not, none of this applies to your situation at all.

Nobody actually expects you to go places alone.

Who is expecting you to do anything at all? The ticket guy at the movies will sell you one ticket. The hostess will sit a party of one. No one looks twice at a person sitting by themselves in a park. Half my my leisure stuff is done alone because I prefer to do it alone. Sometimes I talk to people, sometimes people talk to me, but usually it's just me and there's other people around, but I'm still alone. No one is expecting anything out of you when your leisure time is concerned.
posted by griphus at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [28 favorites]

Since you've done the scientific sampling, would you be open to subset group participation? Example: military, political activist, spiritual journey communites? Won't cost you a thing.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:45 AM on August 23, 2013

This might be weird, but=-go to 12 step meetings, even if the topic isn't your issue. You will meet people, you have the experience of fellowship and it's a supportive environment. Church/synagogue might also work for you.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to get therapy.

Listen, don't worry so much and don't (for want of a better word) fixate on 'friendships'. These are not objects to collect. They also do not say anything about you. You cannot make these happen out of thin air. Live your life, say 'yes' to things, be open and optimistic, see what happens.

Work on creating happiness for yourself. What makes you happy? The answer doesn't have to be other people. Do you like animals? Cooking? Making things? Exercising? Find what makes you happy and pursue that.

Not only will this help you feel better in yourself, but happier people simply are more pleasant and attractive to be with so it's more likely you will make friends once you've started focusing on yourself. I'm not saying "this will get you friends!" but it's a possibility.

The only person who you need to like you is you.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

posted by Ziggy500 at 9:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs that include help for this sort of thing. EAPs are purchased by the employer, so there's no out-of-pocket at all to use the services. It's one of those job benefits that a lot of people forget about, but can be super-useful.
posted by jquinby at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2013

Oh, and those "never travel/walk/exist alone" people, they're just inexperienced and scared. Don't even listen to them, seriously.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]

You are catastrophising. Yes it kind of sucks not to have friends at the moment but that doesn't mean you'll never have any, that you'll never have a job, that you can't go places and do things alone, etc. I have friends but got my job through an ad online, go to the movies and out to eat alone quite often, etc. There have been times in my life when I have been very lonely. Those times have passed for me now and they almost certainly will for you, too.
posted by hazyjane at 9:49 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

It is truly no fun to be around someone who is miserable and hates herself. From your posting history, I can see why you alienate people.

I think you view yourself as objectively worthless, unlovable and unattractive, and thus the suggestion to love yourself as you are is a very unappealing prospect. Unfortunately, while you hold these beliefs it will be impossible for you to make a genuine connection with another person.

Friendship is a two way street. During this time while you are friendless, you could try to inculcate some of the traits you value in other people in order to improve your "objective" self-worth. Learn a language, a new skill, etc. You should foremost learn to enjoy your own company before seeking out that of others.
posted by lemerle at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

I agree you should talk to a therapist, however, I don't think it's right to not acknowledge what your experience has been. For what it's worth, I have met people who seem to have no friends, so I believe this can happen. I have met people that others shy away from, so I believe that can happen too. I also think that what people wrote in the threads you cited is true: very often, people view it as a red flag if someone doesn't have any friends.

I say all this to let you know that I hear you and I believe you. I'm not going to pretend that depression has led to these circumstances in your life. Its possible that you have trouble relatng to people and this has led to feelings of isolation that have put you in a cycle of depression and then further isolation. However, that doesn't mean that you aren't depressed and that therapy couldn't help you.

I suggest a couple of things. Think about people who you would want to have as friends. What do you like about them? This doesn't mean, what do they do for a living or where do they hang out? Rather, what qualities make them seem likable? Some may be more difficult to emulate (like a strong sense of humor), but think about how you might emulate those qualities. It may be as simple as smiling more or talking more about positive things rather than negative ones. It may be relaxing more when you're with people rather than anxiously rushing through stories. I don't know because I don't know you, but getting outside yourself to think about what qualities you admire about others may help. Then join a new meet-up (preferably one rooted in an acivity you like rather than a general one like a singles meet-up. You may also want to consider joining a group around something people do to have fun and not to win championships in like a kickball league or bowling club. Make sure its a group that goes out for drinks or dinner after games) and try to apply these things in how you present yourself to others. I'm not saying to lose who you are, but rather, to find some of the qualities you appreciate about others in yourself.

The other recommendation I have is therapy:) sorry to be repetitive, but the people above are right about that. It may be hard, but it will help you.
posted by superfille at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [21 favorites]

You are experiencing social anomie. It can be a powerful force, with or without an accompanying pathology. It is OK to need external resources, support and even contrivances to jump-start your social life to the point it can sustain itself and grow naturally, even with you working to overcome your old patterns. Similarly, it is OK to need external resources, support, and even medication and so forth to provide for your emotional and mental well being in the mean time, until you feel comfortable with yourself again.

Also, seconding that pets can be a big help with these feelings. When I feel like this I apply my kitty directly to my face.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:52 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

where do you draw your happiness from and where do your priorities lie? these are things i often ask myself when i have tried to invest effort in people, only to find myself disappointed. so if in the end it indeed is you, and only you - then what? why bother? who are you without other people? YOU ARE PLENTY. i personally try to see the lighter side of that situation. i think of my interests that oft get neglected when i am around other people and tend to them. drawing. reading books. seeing movies. trying a new recipe. going for hikes. hugging my cat. more time to think for myself. etc.

it's also not just the things you do, but how you perceive yourself around others. if you are in a crowd of people and feel entirely alone because you know no one, you can change that just by thinking. instead of feeling alone, why not realize the pleasure of having no responsibility to anyone around you? no social protocols to follow, right? because no one knows you and hey, once you leave it won't have any repercussions. you could... just start dancing! fart really loud! spout your ideas on the tops of your lungs while standing on a fountain in the middle of a public square! or use it as an opportunity disappear and people watch - because you're not involved with anyone in that crowd and not responsible for responding in conversation or body language or any of that human interaction nonsense - you can sit back and observe from the outside. it's amazing what you can see when no one is paying attention to you.

a lot of people will suggest you go into therapy. sure, that could definitely help with self esteem issues and it could help you pinpoint what work you need to do to reintegrate you into society. in the meantime though, learn to enjoy being alone. yes humans are social creatures and are designed to crave one another's company - i don't deny this. yet there are those of us that have plenty of friends and companions that desperately seek out MORE of this alone time but cannot due to social obligations. it's that wordsworth quote - "when from our better selves we have too long been parted... how gracious, how benign is solitude."
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're in NYC? have you tried coming to a mefi meetup? They're free, even if they're usually held at a bar, there's no pressure to actually buy a drink.

Metafilter IRL is pretty active in New York, and we're pretty damn welcoming. (although absolutedly not a substitute for therapy)

So even if you come once and don't walk away with an instant friend the first time (or the 20th time for that matter), at least you talked to some friendly people, and that helps too. Getting into the swing of chatting and bullshitting with pretty much a group of mostly strangers is a good first step.
posted by larthegreat at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Regarding therapy: You've been provided links to free services in your area. You probably aren't keen to follow up on those because you don't think it will work. I know I had a "why bother!" attitude about therapy and antidepressants because i really did believe there was no coming out of it, that it was just the life I was doomed to live.

Then someone told me "Look, you've done it your way and you're still miserable. Why the hell wouldn't you just TRY therapy, just in case it DOES work? Seriously, what the fuck do you have to lose?"

I went.

I got better.

So I say to you: You've done it your way and you're still miserable. It is time to try something different. What the fuck do you have to lose? And look at what you stand to gain if it DOES work! I swear on everything I have ever valued in my whole life, you have nothing to lose except for a bit of time if it doesn't work, and you stand to gain a tremendous amount.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [45 favorites]

I've grappled w/social anxiety and at times felt isolated, so I sympathize - however:

Nobody actually expects you to go places alone. You look like the weird loner, because people go places with their friends.

This honestly isn't true - I've gone to the movies, to bars, to concerts, etc. by myself plenty of times in the past, w/no comments, no weird looks, no nothing from any of the other people there. In fact, I've often ended up talking to strangers that I might not have had I been with friends.

This is in your head and you are projecting it - most other people are equally self-absorbed and are focusing on themselves. The chances that they even notice you for more than a few seconds, let alone think about what you're doing, are negligible. Go out and have a good time.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [29 favorites]

Also consider support groups or meetup groups for people on the autism spectrum.

Many people on the autism spectrum do not have friends. Perhaps you could learn from each other.

But yeah--volunteering will give you a purpose and it will give you social interaction.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know some people who turn every social occasion into a pity party. Every conversation is about their shitty job (or lack thereof), their shitty relationship (or lack thereof), and whatever else is "wrong" with their lives. People get really really tired of these people in a hurry and people who are just starting a friendship with them usually run for the hills, further feeding their feelings of rejection and hopelessness. Are you that person?

Look into the free mental health resources posted above. When I was depressed, once I got over the "I failed at coping with my own shit" feelings and got some help, things improved dramatically. Also, I saw "exercise" and "hobbies" constantly listed as a way to battle mental health issues on AskMe. It wasn't until I was in a real funk that I realized how important those things were. Bonus: I met a ton of people and learned how to do some cool new stuff.

You have given some sage advice to others here and now it's your turn to listen. You need help. It's the depression telling you help isn't possible but it is.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [24 favorites]

If you can find sliding-scale therapy, or perhaps a research study on depression that would provide free therapy, there may be options for you, and I think that would greatly help.

Meanwhile, let me take a slightly different tack on this, in case it's helpful. I am someone who has primarily internet friends. I think the only purely social offline thing I've done this year was one lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in a solid six months before that. In my case this is partly a matter of rarely meeting people I click with in my daily life, but also choice. I'm a solitary hermit by nature; I have my cats, I do have a partner which is no small thing, but beyond that I'm just not that into in-person interaction.

Friendless by choice is a different thing, but these consequences you're listing seem like they should apply to me if you were correct about them - and they do not. So I can kind of be a case study in "not having friends does not have to equal the consequences you're deriving when you look at the rest of your life", if that's useful.

Job prospects: I have never found my nonexistent social network to limit my job possibilities. I look for jobs, apply for them, convince them I'm a pretty good worker who knows my stuff, and have a pretty good track record of getting hired. I'm sure some of this is field-dependent, but it can be possible to get jobs without personal connections, without much difficulty.

Leisure prospects: If you are somewhere alone, I promise you no one is putting effort into thinking that you are a weird loner. They are doing their own thing, alone or with other people, and are not thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. You can go out just to have fun, have a good meal, watch that movie you want to see, whatever, just for you without it being an exercise in making friends, and no one is going to think twice about it.

Reduced safety: Sure, I'll give you some of this. I don't walk around in the middle of the night alone the way I might in a group. But I go alone to plenty of reasonably safe places at reasonably safe hours, and it's no problem. There is a vast world of places to go alone and be perfectly safe.

Support: Again, I'm with you partway here. This is hard sometimes, and I do lean on my internet friends a lot for things other people might have local friends for. But there are other options. Depending what you're going through, a peer support group can be great. Better than friends in some cases, because while a friend might sympathize with how much my partner's mental illness can suck, a peer support group can sympathize but also offer tips and experience. They don't have to be my friends for this, although we become friendly over time. Sometimes there are online support groups if there's nothing local.

You want friends. I think it would be great for you to have friends. Keep trying things, and please, please, try to find a way to get some free therapy. But meanwhile, don't immobilize yourself with panic envisioning an entire life where Everything is Awful And You Are Friendless Forever. There is no need to panic. Even if you really truly had no friends ever for the rest of your life, these things you are telling yourself about the consequences are simply not true, or you're vastly overexaggerating them out of fear and loneliness.
posted by Stacey at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Contrary to the popular opinion, you are not depressed. You sound like, and write like an INTJ. More later if I remember. Memail me for more info and how to remedy your situation.
posted by squirbel at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hear you. First, please ignore the comment above saying that friendship is the easiest question in the world.

Not everyone knows how to "be a friend". It's a genuinely complex problem. " interest in someone else's life" gets some people in trouble, because they don't know exactly how to do this. You can't just pick a random stranger and "sit with them" when they are sick or something -- you have to have a basis beforehand. The commenter who said all this (including "Ridiculous") probably had great parents who taught him a lot of social skills he has no memory of.

Please don't feel bad for not knowing how to do everything. You can learn.
posted by amtho at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

I agree with everyone else, that you sound miserable and despairing and that you needn't--there's help for this. Others have gone through this in the past. You can take so much advice here and slowly begin to work through these things, a little at a time.

I'd take a second look at this, though:
In addition, I'm in a field where everyone else's friendships are flaunted and obvious. It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me that they can reach out to them - in some cases awful people! We're talking abusers, convicted criminals, sanctimonious pricks sometimes - but see me as beneath that.

If you're in a field that has a high percentage of assholes--people you genuinely dislike as people--is that a thing that you can change?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Now, that I'm in my late thirties, I can look at all these ask metafilter questions that I would call anxty, sad "twenty something" questions, and see myself and my husband and some of my friends. It's so common, I feel like us folks who have gotten out of our 20s alive should start making "it gets better" videos. Or maybe not better, maybe just different. In your thirties you have other problems -- more health issues, more marriage issues, more kid issues etc. But the soul crush loneliness, sense of unbelonging, and dating hell tend to abate. I promise.

So here is some advice from someone who survived to make it to the other side --

(1) Those who say you should get a therapist are incredibly wise. I know you feel like you are the only person who has been through this, but it's actually incredibly common. My ex-boyfriend went through exactly this in his twenties (he was living at home, he didn't have a job, he didn't have friends, he didn't have a girlfriend). The therapist was able to help him with all of it and within a year or two he had a passel of friends, a job, an apartment, and me (things didn't work out between us but he was still much happier after we broke up). Your twenties are just a hard time because you don't have a ready made family and it's not always as easy to make friends as an adult because you don't have the ready made posse you probably had in high school or college. The good news is that this is a common problem and a good therapist will have seen it often and can help.

(2) Volunteer. Here's a place to find volunteering opportunities: Volunteering is good for two reasons (1) the people who volunteer are incredibly kind. I have volunteered often with folks who are socially awkward or have social anxiety. They are always welcomed into the fold. So if you feel like you might be alienating people, it's not necessarily that something is wrong with you. It's probably just social anxiety and what you need is people who are kind and understanding about that kind of thing. The other reason you should volunteer is that it gets you out of your own head and focusing on the needs of others. That can make you feel better about yourself and stop the loop of negativity.

(3) If you happen to have a friend from college or elementary school or your old youth group who has seen you at your worst with warts and all, go ahead and call that person and lean on them a bit. At my loneliest times in my twenties, I sometimes forgot that I had loads of people who loved me and cared about me and were willing to listen if I needed it. They just weren't always in the same city. Now that cell phones make long distance charges a thing of the past, I would find some time to call old friends to tell them what's going on. They'll listen and that will make you feel better.

(4) Try your local unitarian church (you don't have to believe in god). My experience with UU is that they are incredibly kind and welcoming of everybody. Much like volunteering, it's a good safe place to start with making friends if you have social anxiety or are a little socially awkward.

Best of luck. It gets better.
posted by bananafish at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]

This is kinda a selffullfilling prophecy.

Check out those free counseling services-and if you can find one that is under group therapy, you have hit the jackpot. What you need is safe practice being social. While you are pursuing that, do nice things for yourself-as in grooming, taking walks/other enjoyable exercise, etc. in other words, treating yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

I know from experience that if you are dealing with a lot of selfhate, that shows on the outside and repels people. But the good thing about that is YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER THAT. It might not seem like it, but if I could urge you to take baby steps and reach out-you can and will come out of that hermit hole and have a good life.

Do you have family you are close to? They can count as friends too, if only just for practice.

One other practical tip-mindfully focus on other people when you are in groups. Ask them about themselves, talk about sports teams, be a good listener. Your temptation will be to open up to them too deeply too soon, and that won't help. People need to earn that level of introduction to your life. (I learned that in a communication class years ago and it was the one best thing college ever did for me.)

Hang in there!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:00 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't have a lot of friends. The few I have counted as friends over the years are beginning to die off. I spent some time in isolation, some years ago. One time I didn't talk with another person, or even see one, for about four months. That got a little weird.

What I took away from that was that we are somehow defined by other people, even if their version of who we are is wrong. I don't really know the scientific basis for that. Anyhow, we seem to be able to exist in solitude, but it becomes a chore. I am married now, have been for quite a while, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Still, I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand. Although I'm on good terms with my wife's family, and like most of them very much, I don't hang around with them, except for those family gatherings that come up a couple times a year. Before I married her my habit was to live alone--although I did try a few pairings, they didn't work out very well.

I guess what I'm saying to you is that you are not a freak. Sounds like you are lonely, though. My idea is that you get a few tools to help you define yourself. I found some in peer group therapy (in my case, with a bunch of combat veterans), around 1980. You may discover that your problems are not as complex or profound as they now seem.

By the way, I am an optimist regarding the human condition. Lots of fine people out there, but I just don't really want to mix with most of them. Lots of people I don't want to mess with on the "lying down with flea-bitten dogs" theory of socializing.

Before I got all boogered up my version of paradise was to pack up a mule, and take my favorite mare up into the high country of the Sierras. Most of my trips were solitary, and I would stay for as long as a month at a time. The past few years, though, I've been hankering for someone to play music with, and after a couple of years whining and bitching about it, RedBud shooed me off to an open mike session, where I sucked big time. But I ran into a guy who introduced me to a guy who got me interested in playing music with the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers Ass'n. Now I go play music with the fiddlers a couple times a week. Then I go home and decompress: no friends, those guys, but it's a lot of fun playing with them.

I offer this description as one version of what you seem to be describing. Counseling of some sort may help you sort this out, but your solution probably won't turn you into any good-time Charlie. I think what you'll find is a way to ring your bell. Your way.

Good luck.
posted by mule98J at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2013 [22 favorites]

I'm not particularly interested in what I "deserve."

But you are, or you wouldn't be here asking for techniques for coping with having no friends.

If you think you deserve some level of coping skills for that, then why don't you deserve to find out about free counseling services?

Humans are social animals. Depression can kill the ability to relate socially. If some terrible person had you locked in a box away from people and spent all day making you believe that that was the only way to live so deal with it, well, that would not be okay. Depression is that person.
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I read some of your old questions. It sounds like you have a very inquisitive, seeking-answers-now style. You don't give other people a chance to think, to explore their own feelings, to not know what they want. Probably you don't have patience with yourself either.

Examples include your desire to know, at the end of a date, whether there will be another date -- you or a dating companion might figure it out on the drive home after a date, or might need time just to figure out what to say, but expecting a resolution right then is problematic; it makes people feel like they don't have a chance to handle all the complexities of their life.

I've had this issue too. I sometimes think quickly, and I get super impatient with other people for not giving me the information I need, instantaneously, to be able to make optimal decisions.

It may be that this happens in conversations, also. You expect other people to be static and knowable, to give simple quick answers to your own queries. You even refer to yourself as "a 5 or 6" in dating -- there's more to dating than which other strangers will match with your ranking. There's more to you, but it takes an annoying amount of time to communicate it.

I read your account of your difficulty at a MeFi meetup - there too, it sounds like you reached a conclusion about what was going on very quickly. You admitted that you didn't understand why people were upset about one person's interaction with another person. You judged the situation and the people in it very quickly -- that's something that military officers have to do, but in social situations, when you don't understand something, it's usually far more advantageous to not judge.

This applies to you, also. You're having difficulties now. This doesn't mean that you are [X quality]. Make time your friend. Think of yourself as a set of actions rather than a set of qualities.

Learning about the Fundamental Attribution Error changed my perspective a lot. I'd recommend that, finding a book or two to give yourself more insights.
posted by amtho at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

OK, I have read your previous questions, in which you've also said that you can't afford therapy. You need therapy more than you need anything else you might be buying. As in, stop buying groceries, start buying therapy.

Until that happens, though, try finding opportunities where you can spend time with people for some purpose other than socializing -- preferably, something where you won't even need to talk to them. Do you play any instruments? Find a jam session. Did you play soccer in high school? Find a pickup game. Anything you can do that will allow you to participate in something alongside other people will give you that warm ambient tribe-membership feeling, and if you do enough of it, it should help with the loneliness.

Do entertaining stuff alone. There is nothing weird about going to the movies alone, I do it all the time. Same goes for eating out alone -- bring a book. Some things (like museums, in my opinion) are better alone.

And stop thinking about this in terms of your entire life. It sounds like what you're really worried about here is not the current day-to-day situation, but the highly depressing projected future of going your entire life without friends. Stop thinking about that, because of course that's overwhelmingly horrible, but it also doesn't exist yet. Start thinking about how this sucks in the current moment, and about how you can make yourself feel better in the current moment.
posted by ostro at 10:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have had long periods of my life with no friends, long periods with few friends, and only once have I had what most people think of as a close friend. There are lots of good, well-meaning and helpful answers here but I think some folks are not getting the reality that, for a whole variety of reasons, just as some people aren't very good at math or music, some of us just aren't very good at the whole friend thing. We lack certain traits that seem to be helpful and we have certain others that seem to be unhelpful.

I try to deal with it by occupying myself with thought, writing, daydreaming, reading, music, walking, travelling and drinking. Drinking really does cheer me up, most of the time. I'm lucky with that; it has the opposite effect for others. Most of the time these tactics work, in that most of the time I am at least not depressed, and occasionally I am almost happy. There are still periods of the black loneliness and self-loathing but so far, at least, my chosen coping methods seem to keep them manageable. Perhaps some of them will work for you. Good luck, and do be assured that you are not alone with this.

Oh, and also, yeah, that whole "don't do things alone" thing has to go. Do things alone. You won't, ha ha, be alone in that, either.
posted by Decani at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Everyone else is going to pile on the therapy suggestion, so I just want to say one thing: there is nothing wrong with being alone or with doing things alone. I love being alone! I love going out to eat and drink by myself, I love shopping by myself, I love sleeping by myself. That said, it sucks to do those things alone when you want to do them with other people or when you feel like you "have to" be with other people in order to be normal.

I'm just hear to tell you that you don't HAVE TO do those things with other people, and that it might benefit you to learn how to get more happy with spending time with yourself. You are your own best friend and worst enemy.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

email or call me any time.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Since all of you are so insistent on mentioning therapy: I can't fucking afford therapy. Do you just not know how money works? The tradeoff for free therapy, especially in NYC, is time before appointments and quality. I can't stop buying groceries because human biology does not work that way, and food is one of the few things that makes me feel okay anymore.

But because you insist on mentioning it instead of answering the question, therapists don't want anything to do with me either. At this point in my life I must have seen at least 100 of them and it never lasted more than a meeting. Sometimes they blatantly tell me they can't help and not to schedule follow-ups, other times they fade like a mediocre date. There is no connection, I can't relate to them and they can't relate to me, which makes sense. The whole problem is I can't relate to people and people won't relate to me, and they are people too. If we'd met in college they would probably have treated me like dirt or ignored me, and the only difference in the encounter is that I am paying them money (that I don't have) in order to establish a fake cursory level of cordiality. That's just a waste of money (that I don't have).
posted by dekathelon at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes it's possible for you to have a worthwhile life. People suck. Hell is other people. If you want a friend, get a dog.
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:39 AM on August 23, 2013

OK, sounds like volunteering is the solution!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

The tradeoff for free therapy, especially in NYC, is time before appointments and quality.

I'm really not trying to be a dickhead here, but, since your life is apparently empty of both work and socializing, it seems like you would probably have, you know...nothing BUT time. Make the appointment and wait the 6 weeks or 8 weeks or whatever.

In 6 to 8 weeks you can be on your way to therapy, or catastrophe spiraling on MeFi again. Your choice, natch.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [36 favorites]

Are you going about therapy the way you are going about this question? As in, do you have a stock list of problems with your life, your extrapolated end-scenario for them, and any suggestions are countered with why they wouldn't work? If so, then therapy will not work and therapists probably won't accept you as a client because they do not have anything to work with.

If you are 100% convinced of your station in life, true or not, correctable or not, no one can unconvince you. Not friends or a lover or the world's greatest therapist. The only way therapy works is if you go in there and say "I have these problems, I do not want to see these end-scenarios, and I will make a serious and honestly attempt to apply what you tell me in these sessions to my life as I live it."

I assure you, a lot of therapists, god and bad both, really suck at explaining that part.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on August 23, 2013 [36 favorites]

I used to have a very clear-cut idea of what I thought friendship was like. If I had friends, we would be going everywhere together, laughing over all of the latest gossip; they'd storm into my house after a bad break-up and spoon ice cream into my mouth; we'd poke each other on Facebook over the silliest little in-jokes, of which we would share thousands; they'd give me important jobs, road trips and silly presents for my birthdays; we'd walk home together at 4 AM in the morning after a long night at the bar, shivering at the full moon.

For the longest time, I beat myself up because by those standards, I didn't have friends at all. And everyone else seemed to have friends like that! I'd see them walking around in tight groups in public, laughing and having the time of their life - and wonder what was so horribly flawed about me that I didn't deserve that.

So it wasn't until subtle little signs started creeping into my life that I began to have a slow epiphany of what friendship was really about.

The person who gave me my job wasn't really a "friend", but someone I had met once through an email shared to me by my sister since we both worked in academia and I wanted to know what it was like to pursue a PhD.

The person who texts me every single day at almost hourly intervals when we're both awake isn't really a "friend" but someone in another province five hours away who I once shared a single DnD game with.

I went to the bars just the other day - and while I had the time of my life, I realized I didn't even know the first names of half of the people I was joking and gossiping with.

The girl who spent five hours hauling all of my furniture and suitcases into her pick-up truck to give me a ride to my new place across the city when I was moving from apartment to apartment in university was just some student in my chemistry class that I had spent literally three study sessions with before she noticed I was in a bind and offered to help.

The exchange student from England who visited me from all the way across the country at the start of this summer and planned her entire vacation around spending time with me - well, I had only known her for two months, and I knew so little about her that I didn't even realize that her parents were divorced until she casually mentioned it halfway into her trip.

The guy who offered me free tickets to the opera hadn't even met me beforehand, but one of my coworkers had a good word to put in about me so he trusted me instinctively that I would like it. The girl that I offered the other ticket to - despite only knowing her once from a meet-up, is now offering me a place to stay whenever I head down to her family home in Seattle.

The biggest and best epiphany I've ever had is that my life and my friendships and my social relationships were exactly where I needed them to be and exactly what most every other person had. Our culture and media does this weird job of portraying friendship as this very strange bundle where you breathe the same air and share all of your secrets and do everything in tandem. But that couldn't be any further from what friendship actually is - the casual little correspondences that bump into your life and affect it in the smallest, but most oddly monumental ways.

You might not believe the people who say you have friends and the people who say friendship is easy, but that's because we're engaging on friendship from this perspective - the way friendship actually is, not the way friendship is portrayed in books or movies or high school. So ultimately - you do have friends. Believe me when I say you do have friends.

Sometimes, I walk down the streets with two other people whose last names I don't even know and I don't even care about, laughing over their jokes and being acutely aware that this is the only interaction that I'm ever likely to have with them and being perfectly fine with them having that role in my life. And then I see a lone person walking past us, giving us the slightest glances. I have been that person so many times; I've walked past so many groups wondering what it is that they had that I didn't. What it was that made them connected and loved that left me standing alone.

And the answer is that there is literally nothing different between the two of us. And I sometimes wish I could grab their hand and tell them what they're seeing is an illusion based on their own weird models of friendship, and what friendship is actually all about.

You are that person right now. You might not believe what I have to say, but I'm going to hope that you eventually have the same epiphany that I have had, that all of us standing here on the other side have had too. We are loved and connected and our lives are filled with people who are loved and connected - and all we had to do was realize that was the case.
posted by Conspire at 10:49 AM on August 23, 2013 [121 favorites]

Have you considered participating in a smaller online community related to an interest/hobby you have? You express yourself well in writing and on a smaller board you'll be more visible and it may be easier to start interacting with people off the board (chat/email/whatever). It sounds like you might do better in a setting where the communication is a bit asynchronous until people get to know you a bit.

The other thing is to think about how you define friend. You're not going to end up with super close friends or support network right away, probably not for a year or two, to be bluntly honest about it. So for now don't think of these people as "friends who I can talk about my major problems with" but as "aquantinces I can relax with" or "friends I can tell that funny story about the guy on the train" or "friends I can complain to about how the bus was late and the grocery store was out of my favorite ice cream." It may not feel like it's fulfilling your emotional needs, but given time these friendships can turn into something that will fulfill your needs.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

You can have a worthwhile life alone and with limited resources. I'm not in that place now, but I have been.

What did I do? Found solitary things that made me happy. I like to draw. It is fun and I can do it with really cheap materials. Maybe you like to write poetry or make clay sculpures. Immerse yourself in that.

Since you have computer access, get a tumblr. You don't have friends? Awesome. NO PRESSURE. You can post whatever makes you happy without the worry of being entertaining. Turn off anon ask so the trolls are kept at bay and make yourself a tumblr devoted to 12th century art or fast food condiment packets or Observations of People on the Bus. If you get readers or make friends this way, super but if not, get a hobby and give yourself permission to get a little obsessed. Heck, I know someone who does nothing but reblog Welcome to Night Vale fanart. Which is super when you think about it.

Also, they say that insanity is the result of doing the same thing over & over and expecting different results. Bow howdy have I done this. One thing that has helped me as I try to navigate social interactions - and I did it this morning when preparing for an important meeting at work - is pretend/playact a potential interaction and they key is to do it out loud:
PretendMe: Hi, New Coworker, I like Chinese food. My ex husband did too but he was a jerk and maybe I deserved it but I miss Chinese food so do you want to go to lunch?
Me: Damn, that was oversharing and depressing. Let's try that again.
PretendMe2: Dynasty Dragon has a buffet. Are you interested in heading over?

Good luck.
posted by pointystick at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

Actually, here's another perspective. Fuck therapy, man. You need something more extreme.


DISCLAIMER: Not suicide. NOT SUICIDE. Not suicide. Not suicide.

I'm saying take every. Single. External. Element. Of your life. And get rid of it. Quit your job. Leave your apartment, break your lease. Sell your clothes and furniture. Cut off all your hair. Borrow money if you gotta to move somewhere else, work somewhere else. Give NYC the middle finger and get on a Greyhound to Minneapolis.

To be honest, I was a lot like you for a lot of my life. And then one month (literally, over the course of a month) it just....lifted. I felt like a real human among humans, awake and sane and calm and ready to give of myself and be given to. Seriously, this happened, like, this year. I am not perfect, but I am capable of happiness and friendship and love and the Good Things.

You know what I did? I quit my job full of assholes and dickheads. I got a different kind of job. And I GOT THE EVERLOVING FUCK OUT OF NEW YORK, because that place is a hell-den.

It's the American Dream, man. Your life isn't working? CHUCK it. Build a new one.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [35 favorites]

Well, if therapy isn't possible, and I am going to guess looking in to antidepressants also isn't going to happen, then if I were you I would:
- Volunteer
- get a pet
- Exercise daily. Start working out. Get fit. REALLY fit. Maybe to a CouchTo5K program. Luckily for you, it is 100% free. Jogging outside, or doing body weight exercises, or just going for a long walk. You have lots of options. There are also even lots of walking/running clubs around that you cuold eventually join if you wanted to. But the point isn't other people. The point is to lavish the attention on yourself. Focus on your phsyical health. That is how I could cope if I felt I would never have friends. I would expend all that time and energy and effort on myself and becoming the absolute best physical version of myself. I am saying this as a woman who used to weigh 335lbs. I was unhappy and lonely so I started working out. I lost ~100lbs and as each week passed I felt better about myself because I was feeling physically so good. That time was all about ME and my doing something POSITIVE for myself. I never met any friends at the gym, I never socialized or said "hi" to people on my walks, because that wasn't the point. I was out doing that because I was doing it for me, and I was doing it on my own terms. The other unexpected benefits were that I also felt happier mentally (Hurray runners high!), I slept better, and never felt like i had nothing to do because I could always go exercise. Even now I actively choose to go to the gym when there are as few people there because I don't work out to be with people, I work out to have some really positive me time.

So start getting fit. That is the 100% best thing you can do for yourself. It makes your time and life feel so much more valuable. It sucks sometimes because you'll be achey and tired, but it is such a great solo activity.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

Ah! Following up on my earlier animal suggestion, I just found a list of NYC-area animal shelters that can use volunteers!

This is really great! I think that volunteering with animals, who don't judge you and who need your help, would be a really great way for you to add meaning to your life.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Don't make friends, make plans. Make a list of the types of things you like to do outside your house, and try to check them off. Don't concern yourself with whether the people you might meet will be your friends.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

For many people, getting treated for depression can help alleviate "feelings of being pointless as a person." Here's one possible source of no-cost depression treatment in NYC.
The DEPRESSION EVALUATION SERVICE (DES) conducts studies of depression with antidepressant medication, offering eligible participants a free psychiatric evaluation and treatment of depressive disorders within the context of research studies.
posted by Orinda at 11:12 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Would you be willing to go to an appointment if it were set up for you? Are you on (or do you qualify for) Medicaid or Medicare?
posted by prefpara at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Dear Dekathelon,

We've kind of been around this mulberry bush and I reckon it's roughly as frustrating for you as it is for all of the people who are trying to help you.

In this particular question, you're asking how to go through life without friends. The answer is that there's no particular trick to it. You just sort of do it. You put one foot in front of the other and you live through a day and then the next one and the one after that and you repeat until you're dead. That is the answer to your question as asked, and it might sound pretty grim, because it is. And I don't think it's what you really were asking.

The answer to your underlying question is the same one that it's been before: If you want to be a happier person (which is entirely possible, despite what you might think) and if you want to be someone who has friends, you will need first to accept that your own perspective is flawed, and that, like so many pessimists, you are convinced you are a realist. You're convinced that it's a matter of objective fact that you're not likable and you ignore any evidence to the contrary and are prepared to twist anything else into supporting evidence. That needs to stop but it's a huge, far-reaching, deep-seated change and it is not something you can do by yourself. You can't fix this yourself. I'm not going to try to diagnose you over the internet, but I'm comfortable saying that if I did, it would be in ten-foot tall neon letters reading DEPRESSION.

And you're not going to solve this here, either. As much as I suspect we wish we could, we are probably the least qualified group of people to help you. You're asking for feedback that could only come from someone who knows you, someone who's capable of seeing how you interact with others. Someone who can observe your interpersonal relationships and who is experienced in helping people with this kind of thing. The best we can do is provide you the opportunity to vent your frustrations now and again, but even that doesn't seem to be helping.

I'm not going to say that you should look into mental health resources in your city, not even into the very good ones linked up above which are on a sliding scale or even free. I'm not going to say that because we've already established that you will not listen, that your brain is already coming up with reasons to dismiss these ideas. You're not there yet. So, okay.

Here's what I will say: This will not get better until you decide that you're not going to stop trying until it gets better. As is, if something doesn't work, you give up. What needs to happen is that when something doesn't work, you either try it a little longer, or strengthen your resolve and try something different.

My question is, do you want to be this way? Do you want to be miserable and sad all the time and trying to plan out a life where no one wants to be your friend? Or do you want to be someone who is comfortable with their own company? This can change. But it won't change until the day comes that you realize that your current approach has only gotten you where you are now, and maybe it's time to try something different.

This concludes this portion of this answer. The remainder, after the divider, is tough love. You can stop reading now if that doesn't appeal. If you do, please just consider what I've said above. You can do it. It'll be hard work, but you can. Good luck.

* * *

Still with me? Okay.

I'm going to spitball here and say: the sense I'm getting is that you have no friends because you're a huge downer. And that your lack of friends is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The sense you convey from your interactions on this site is one of endless, relentless negativity. You hate the way you look. You hate your city. You hate therapy. Every single time you post, you get a crashing wave of well-intentioned people, many of whom have been where you are right now and have experience getting out of it, and you refuse to listen to any of it. You think you're thinking clearly. You're not.

You want to move? Go ahead and move. Move to a brand new city with brand new people and whole new sights to see and make no other changes, and you'll find that four new walls still contain the exact same you.

Shooting down the advice of others has gotten you to where you're sad and miserable and lonesome. It's time to admit you might be wrong about your perception of yourself.

I mean, seriously:

At this point in my life I must have seen at least 100 of them and it never lasted more than a meeting.

Yeah, no shit therapy didn't help. The kind of issues you're talking about require tremendous familiarity with you and also a deep understanding of the way you work - in other words, they take time - and they also require not having someone shooting down everything that doesn't reinforce the worldview that they are a terrible person. You will never ever get anything out of therapy until you abandon your certainty that you can assess yourself correctly.

Here, perhaps, you are resisting the temptation to respond; perhaps you are trying not to say, "Well, obviously I'm right since you just told me what a horrible person I am. I'm just being realistic."

You're not, but you won't hear that until you're ready to hear it. Do you know what depression is? Depression is a cognitive bias. It's a disease of perspective. It filters every experience you'll have. And it hides. If you're depressed, there's every chance you don't know it or are rationalizing the severity away.

So, dekathelon - actually, hold up. Saying this to a screen name makes it lose a certain je ne sais quoi. So I'm going to pick a placeholder name and you can fill it in with whatever your real name is. The name I'm picking is my aunt's name, an aunt who was miserable for just about her whole life because of untreated depression, because she refused to believe that she was lovable, because she did not love herself. And maybe I'm picking this name so I can say this both to you, and to the aunt I wish I could have said it to when it mattered. So this one's for both you, whatever your name really is, and Aunt Mary:

Your attitude is the problem and it can be the solution as well, but that first choice has to be yours. You have to be the one to make the decision to keep fighting until this is better, not to just give up and try to find ways to cope until it magically fixes itself. There are resources out there. If they don't work, keep at them, or find others. Refuse to accept your current state of affairs. Refuse to accept that you should just be miserable. Start to accept that you can't do this alone. Decide to live.

The alternative is a long slow suicide that snuffs out your soul and leaves your body around for years and years. But it kills you, in every way that matters. And the empty years are hollow and painful. It's a decision to die.

Either option leads to a lot of other steps and choosing to fight for it means choosing to fight a long hard discouraging fight, but it's a fight that's worth it. I promise you, speaking as someone still climbing that mountain, that it is all so, so worth it. But it all begins with one crucal decision. A decision that you need to stop making passively and start making actively.

You have two choices, Mary: Live or die.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:20 AM on August 23, 2013 [184 favorites]

I'll be your friend!

There, now you have a friend.
For social skills stuff, this website helped me a lot: succeed socially
The other thing that helped me a lot was going on anti depressents. A lot of the stuff you describe wrt how you feel is exactly how I used to describe my feelings before I started on them. I spend $18.00/month on them. I understand if you can't afford them now, but maybe you can save up? Therapy didn't do much for me but metafilter loves it. But don't worry, this is going to get better. I'm memailimg you!
posted by windykites at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

I do not want to be patronizing or dismissive, but I have been in this place. I pretty much own a vacation home there. I don't have any family (by choice), which brings a lot of the same complications in terms of safety and support, and I very often feel like a walking red flag -- because oh my god, who doesn't talk to the people they were born to and raised with? Monsters.

So I know, at least a little bit, what it is like to feel so perfectly alone, like you are a singularly dark little island surrounded by nothing but miles of shining sea. I know crushing loneliness, suffocating despair, utter hopelessness, and the sort of isolation that feels permanent and irreparable. I also know how it can get eerily comfortable in the darkest corners, even as tiny slivers of you continue to buck against the notion that you are hopeless and irredeemable. I know how easy it is to disabuse yourself of the notion that you are entitled to anything but unremitting suffering and misery, and to do it so completely that you are moved to lash out if anyone tries to nudge you out of the mire. It is fucking scary out there! And I know how this cycle manages to isolate you even further, which makes it that much more difficult to get out in the first place, which further convinces you that your current station in life is inescapable, which pushes you down more -- and the years march on.

There's also the all-too-common tendency to shrink in fear from everyone on the planet because clearly, They All Know! that I am a godforsaken terrible excuse for a human being! worse than anyone! and no one wants anything to do with me! because I am so awful! &c. The only way you'll ever find your way out of it is to start looking in the mirror and saying, "Listen, self, shut the fuck up. You are wrong. I know it doesn't feel like it, and I know we've been at this for a really long time, but you're wrong. So seriously, shut the fuck up. It is OK. Let's have some ice cream." Your brain is lying to you. Don't let it ruin your life.

This book really upended my way of thinking and taught me how to stop manufacturing angst for myself -- by comparing what I think life should be like to what life really is like -- but I had to get to a place where I was able to even comprehend the information inside of it, and that took a lot of struggle. "Fake it 'til you make it" sounds like bullshit, but I assure you, it is key. Eventually, you will learn how to push past the bile, resentment, anger, and bitterness. The way out is through. (Don't worry, I just rolled my eyes at myself, too.)

So what is the real question here? What is a worthwhile life? We can't tell you that. I can tell you that you can absolutely have what I would consider to be a worthwhile life alone, but that has nothing to do with what you would consider to be a worthwhile life; it's a moot point. It is actually pretty easy to learn how to be happy alone; the hard part is that first, you have to learn how to be happy.

Are you trying to get us to admit that you are worthless, or remind you that you are not? Your questions remind me of this one. There is no way you are not clinically depressed, which is why everyone is so insistent that you should see a therapist. It's not because we're being obtuse or clueless or because we don't know how money works -- it's because you've posted questions wondering how you can fix your severed arm, and dismissed everyone who tells you that you need to get yourself to the ER (and keep going to different ERs if the first one refuses to treat you). It's because there are people who are trained to and experienced with giving help to people who have precisely this issue, and thousands of them at that. I'm saying this as someone who has also seen dozens of therapists; I've never once felt that "click," but they're professionals and you're the customer/consumer, which means you can keep shopping around. Yes, it's fucking annoying. Ugh, is it ever. Yes, it's fucking expensive! Is what you're doing now working, though? I would venture that it is not.

You are strong, you are resilient, you are a good person, but you cannot bootstrap your way out of this. You clearly want friends -- over time, your questions have veered from "sorry, I'm trying my best here" to "I've given up, how do I deal with it?" -- so why are you forcing yourself to project a future that specifically excludes them? You're young, and life is so damn long. To be able to have a fulfilling life without friends, you have to learn how to have a fulfilling life. Ease up on yourself, you don't deserve to be punished. What do you enjoy? You say you enjoy food, can you take a cooking class? Do you like yoga? Fitness? Find something you love and pour your heart and soul into it. Learn how to be yourself and get comfortable in your own skin (obviously, much more difficult than it sounds). Once things start to look up a little, you can start working on developing new relationships. You will not be able to make friends as long as you remain so doggedly convinced of your own worthlessness.

And yeah, you know what? Getting a dog turned my whole damn world upside down, in the best way. He is my best friend. I have never loved anyone or anything so much in my life. Life is better with a dog. Get out there and pet some puppies TODAY.
posted by divined by radio at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [20 favorites]

From this question and your past ones, it seems you put a lot of power in this belief that it's impossible for you to make friends and it horribly limits your life. My suggestion will probably be unpopular, but you might ask yourself, "What do I gain by believing that?"

For example, a person who believes "I'll never get a decent job, no one will ever give me a break" gets this payoff: Their current unhappiness isn't their fault; they're a noble victim of circumstances beyond their control, such as society's unfair rules.

While your postings here show that you want to change your situation, your responses also show that some part of you strongly believes that there's something fundamentally wrong that you are powerless to change. How might some aspect of you benefit from this belief?

Another example: someone who was treated like crap as a kid could logically conclude that she had no rights and no value. As an adult, she might choose boyfriends who treat her like crap because that's the familiar state for her and change is scary. And even though she hates it, she keeps choosing jerks because what other way is there to feel? And one of the payoffs is the thrill of martyrdom from being the nobly suffering girlfriend who pays for the jerk's schooling or whatever.

So what is the payoff for stubbornly believing you will never have friends, you can never make friends, and there is no solution for this?
posted by ceiba at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

This might be weird, but=-go to 12 step meetings, even if the topic isn't your issue.

Try Codependents Anonymous. The topic IS your issue: it's a "fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships." I was a regular participant a number of years ago when I was trying to untangle some relationship issues and it was enormously helpful. People come there with all sorts of issues around relating to others, and you do not have to be classically "codependent" to attend. (It's a murky enough term that most people would recognize themselves on the list of characteristics anyway.)
posted by Wordwoman at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Can you elaborate? I find it hard to believe a therapist would say they can't help-unless it was in response to you not allowing them to. Now hear me might have a confrontive personality style that makes it difficult for you to communicate with others and vice versa. This is one reason I recommend you suss out group therapy. Because the group can help you with this very thing. There is something you are not able to see and you need to hang in there till you find the right mirror.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

dekathelon: "Since all of you are so insistent on mentioning therapy: I can't fucking afford therapy. Do you just not know how money works The tradeoff for free therapy, especially in NYC, is time before appointments and quality.

It's not as if there are a group of people gathered together in a room here to judge you and deliver a verdict. You asked a question and got some similar answers from different people. Quite a few people -- not all -- happen to agree with each other in suggesting therapy.

Meanwhile, it doesn't actually make a lot of sense to snarl at people for ignoring the financial barriers to getting therapy right before you acknowledge that some people acknowledged the financial issue and offered advice on that front.

Your question is "how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world...wants anything to do with you?

Perhaps you could consider the possibility that the responses you're getting here ARE actually answers to your question.
posted by desuetude at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

I've lost all my friends ... I have never had any real friends

So which is it?

I think you are depressed and it is warping your perspective (to say the least). Here's why you need to try the free therapy, yo: nobody is going to begin a friendship with a bitter person who hates themselves in order to become their de facto therapist. Nobody except a codependent got time for that shit. I'm not saying this to be mean, I'm saying this to help you with your problem. You said upthread you don't want to talk about what you "deserve". Great, let's be real then. While I think everyone "deserves" fulfilling relationships, nobody is going to engage you in one unless you make it an appealing prospect in some way. Please do the work that is necessary to learn to care about yourself so you can help others do the same.
posted by threeants at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm going to spitball here and say: the sense I'm getting is that you have no friends because you're a huge downer.

I have an acquaintance who claims to have no (real) friends. Though she does know a lot of people. She is also in a field where friendships are flaunted and social capital is everything. She is pretty upbeat on the surface but occasionally she'll have a public tantrum of neediness. She'll get into this whole "No one cares about me" thing, and then two things happen. One is that a bunch of people will flock to her and tell her how it's going to be fine, which she shuts down. (And semi-rightly, because that sort of reassurance is often not true.) These people are flocking to her, as far as I can tell, because they're afraid she's mad at them for not being her real friend and afraid she will use her fake-friendship-flaunting job to do them professional harm. The other thing that happens is that the non-fake people, and I am one of these, pull away from her because an adult having a public tantrum of neediness is unnerving. It signals DRAMA AHEAD and although I do like her, it makes me not want to be her close friend. This is sad because it reenforces the very situation that's making her upset in the first place. But the sorts of people who will be real friends do not like drama, or that kind of neediness. It's perfectly fine to have needs, but not to make them into an all consuming sucking black hole you expect friends and acquaintances to fill.

I do not know whether you, OP, ever did the public melt-down thing with your ex-friends. I don't know if you do it around people that might be new friends. But it doesn't matter because people can sense it. It's unfair and ironic, because you desperately want friends and desperation scares off potential friends. But it's something you have to work on.

If you don't like therapy, fine. Some people need it, some don't. I don't know which you are. if you need anti-depressants, then you're not going to get better without some kind of medical care. But if it's a matter of how you think, I don't believe that no one is able to address that alone. But addressing it is hard, it's not an answer people on the internet or even IRL can simply hand you. You have to be really willing to change and think about yourself in a more open-minded way than you are describing yourself here.
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

To put it otherwise: nobody here can diagnose the 3D person you, so I won't, but your textual representation here obviously has extreme depression. If someone came to this site asking "I just lost sensation in my left arm and I'm starting to have trouble with my can I feel better?" any answer other than GO GET PROFESSIONAL HELP would be beside the point.
posted by threeants at 12:07 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Many people here have suggested volunteering, but I don't see a lot of discussion of why that can be such a lifesaver for someone in your situation. It's because when you volunteer--particularly if you make a commitment to something and stick with it for a while--you begin to really, concretely, truly see how you--YOU--make a difference in bettering the world.

Maybe you volunteer at an animal shelter and see how happy and grateful the dogs are to be taken out for a walk and go back in a clean enclosure.

MAybe you volunteer at a soup kitchen and see that there are way too many hungry people in the world and today you helped them by filling their bellies.

Maybe you volunteer to teach English to someone who never learned to read it and it increases their employability drastically.

Maybe you decide to be the trash pickup person for your block and your neighbors come to appreciate you for making the street look so much tidier.

Maybe you volunteer at an old folks home and read the news out loud to someone who can't see any more.

Pick something and do it. Your efforts will make a difference and people will notice. Including you. And you will begin to see that people actually do value you... Perhaps even you.

Sounds like you are in a tough spot.

You can make a difference.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 12:16 PM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

Comparatively few people have said this because it's usually considered bad practice to internet-diagnose people or give medical advice when you're not a doctor. I'm not a doctor either, so bear that in mind. But what immediately comes to mind, reading this, is that you most likely need to be on antidepressants. This situation is serious. I'm guessing there's probably a reason you can't make yourself feel better. If you do in fact have depression, and it's as bad as it sounds, trying to make yourself feel better is going to be like turning up the gas on a stove burner when the pilot light is out. It just won't take because something very basic is not working. Read back on your questions -- do they sound like the questions of a person who has anywhere near the same emotional baseline as most people? (In answer to the objection here: many people have your same problems, including no friends, and it does not make them anywhere near as unhappy as it makes you.) Well, you're luckier than you would have been at any other time in history, because we now have a way to deal with the problem of people being attacked by their own brains, which is called antidepressants. And it can take a while to find the right one, but if you do, things can get very much better very quickly, because it addresses the very basic thing that is not working.
posted by ostro at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

So basically: how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world (please don't say anything like "OMG YOU HAVEN'T MET EVERYONE IN THE WORLD," I think I've met a scientifically sound sampling) wants anything to do with you?

You have people here, in this thread, who are trying to reach out to you. People are offering to talk to you one on one, via phone or email. People are offering you TONS of suggestions on things you can do to try to feel better. Those people obviously want something to do with you, so... doesn't that prove your "scientifically sound sampling" idea to be untrue?

And if that thing is not true (and obviously it's not, otherwise you'd have zero responses to this thread and look at that, you have over 70 responses here! Obviously some people give a shit about you after all!), then... doesn't it stand to reason that maybe some more of your assumptions and judgements about yourself and the world around you might not be true, either?

Look. From the things that you've posted here, in this thread and in the many other threads where you've talked about how much you hate yourself and how worthless you think you are, it's very clear that you need some help. Many, many people have offered to help you, they've posted links to resources you might not be aware of, they've given advice, and as mentioned above they've offered to talk one on one with you in the hopes that maybe they can help. Because they give a shit about you. Please let them help you. Please stop shitting all over their honest attempts to help by posting YET AGAIN about how worthless and horrible and hateful you are. You talk about how you want friends? Look at all the people here who are trying to be your friend! Stop pushing them away and let them help.
posted by palomar at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]

WindyKites beat me to it, but I will be your friend, too. Consider yourself invited out for a coffee or a beer or a tea or the beverage of your choice.

I've had alone time that sucked and alone time that was great, and it all had to do with what I decided to make of that time. Your choice.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

You don't have friends right now because you are actively shitting upon everyone here's attempt to help you through this problem. Stop listening to your depression. Listen to the people telling you how to help yourself and be helped by others. We are not just saying that. If I lived closer to you I'd take you out for coffee and accompany you to your first free therapy session because that's what you need. You can do this. Just stop ignoring everyone's suggestions because your depression is telling you to do so.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]

You're fighting the wrong entities here, is what I'm saying. Fight your depression -- not this community of people giving you their hearts and their help despite you being a complete stranger to them. If that's not the purest form of friendship -- reaching out to someone you've never even met with love and support -- I don't know what is.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world ... wants anything to do with you?

Here we are, and by the evidence of this thread, we want to do with you. Of course we are just random typists on the internet, but there are real people behind each of these screen names who have shared their experiences with you in the hopes of helping. Plenty of people have recommended therapy already, and if I were the first answerer, I would certainly recommend it too, and/or medication. If you're going to insist on rejecting that answer, here are some more ideas.

First, it sounds like you are having lots of cognitive distortions. I don't think you'll see much improvement until you tackle those. Feeling Good is one of the standard MeFi recommendations for cognitive behavioral work. It should be widely available at libraries and used bookstores.

Second, it's perfectly fine to go out and do things alone. Lots of people do it and nobody even notices. Are you in NYC? Are you healthy enough for a long walk? Here's what I suggest: Pack yourself a brown bag lunch and a water bottle. Start off somewhere in the morning. Walk - not in circles, pick a destination - until lunchtime. Find a spot where office workers go to escape their cubicles and eat, or a park, or someplace like that. Sit and eat. Then walk back. In that day, you've accomplished a whole bunch of worthwhile things, the foremost of which is that you've taken care of yourself.

Third, find something that you enjoy and can do, then spend some time doing it. You don't have to be a supergenius or a superhero or a super anything at it, and it doesn't have to be important or world-saving. Write limericks. Make cornhusk dolls. Sweep the sidewalk. Grab newspapers out of the recycling and do the crossword puzzles. Whatever.

Now, have you found yourself reacting to these and all the other suggestions with "I can't do that, because..." or "That won't help, because..." or "That person's experience doesn't apply to me, because..."? Well then, even if the becauses sound perfectly reasonable, I'd say that you've convinced yourself that you are beyond help. And to tie this back to your quoted question above: Your life is worthwhile when you believe that it is. Friends and jobs and safety-in-numbers will not make your life worthwhile without that belief. Your current mental state makes that belief impossible. So the answer to your question is that you do whatever it takes to get just one brick knocked out of the wall your mental state is trapping you behind. And then you go from there.
posted by expialidocious at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

1) Make a list of 10 specific things you can do to try to make friends. For example, connecting with the people above who have reached out to you. 2) Do them. 3) Repeat.

Look, I've been dealing with depression for about half of my life. I have a hard time leaving my apartment sometimes. But I make myself do it. And more often than not, it was a good idea.

And feel free to memail me anytime. I'm short, overweight, depressed, anxious, and I have a sleep disorder. I love reading and French toast. I'm not a bad writer. I enjoy cooking, yoga, traveling, and running. I'm passionate about random things like human rights, democracy, and elections. I give good hugs. And I'll bend over backwards for people I care about. Including you. Think I'm kidding? Try me.
posted by kat518 at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I still lived in NYC, I'd be happily volunteering at God's Love We Deliver.

And yes, you absolutely took my "no friends=red flag" comment from another thread out of context.

There's been a lot of good ideas for you in this thread.

Are you open to allowing someone (or a collection of someone's!) to mentor you through some of these steps so you don't feel so alone making phone calls to find therapy or going to meetings, etc.

Like, maybe you text your mentor at each step, and check in by phone once or twice a day to ask questions or discuss concerns. That's what how a picture this working. What do you think?

I think something like this might really help.

Please update your answer in thread.

posted by jbenben at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

The tradeoff for free therapy, especially in NYC, is time before appointments and quality.

Well, no. How do I know this? Because IAAT but not yours. I am in NYC though. I'm also, like you, different. It's hard to be different, especially when you're young, because the Others look like they are NORMAL which makes you ABNORMAL. It is hard to make friends when you're different because people lead with their sameness (because they're afraid to show their difference.) I will try and find you a therapist you can afford (if you want).

The thing about well-intentioned people is they don't get it. They're well-intentioned now. They see you're in pain, but they'll get distracted or annoyed when you reject their help. The thing about being different and isolated is it makes you angry. Anger drives the well-intentioned away. And knowing that makes you angrier. It's hard to "be a friend" or "volunteer" when you're angry. A good therapist can accept that. I mean real anger, not a fake cursory level of cordiality.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm in a field where everyone else's friendships are flaunted and obvious. It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me that they can reach out to them - in some cases awful people! We're talking abusers, convicted criminals, sanctimonious pricks sometimes - but see me as beneath that.

Then screw your field and tell it to fuck off, because I don't see why anyone would want to work with people like that. I see this thing as being a recurring theme in AskMe. Someone who says, "I don't fit in with everyone I work with, my personality isn't a good fit in my job, and my field is all I've ever wanted to do." You know, jobs aren't that different from each other. Some jobs pay a lot of money, and always will. Some jobs pay very little money, and always will. Everything else is somewhere in between. So you might as well take a job in a field that is a good fit for your personality, that's conducive to your personality, where you like and relate to the sort of people who go into that field. It's better to be happy (and to support yourself) than to be able to say, "I work in THIS field." Does that field offer you lots of money? Do you really, really like the sort of people you work with and encounter, such that you've found your "place"? If neither of those are true, then I don't see the point-- you're just getting caught up in your ego trying to make something happen that probably isn't going to happen and is just making you unhappy and lonely.

Possibly you are drawn to fields and places and situations where people are the sort of people you don't fit in with and don't actually want to be with (and vice versa).
posted by deanc at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is just so painful to read. "FIX MY ENTIRE LIFE FOR ME, STARTING NOW, AND HERE'S ALL THE THINGS THAT WON'T WORK" is a thing I have demanded of people and then blamed them and punished myself when, predictably, it didn't work. It's not your fault, it's not their fault, but it's not a thing that can be done. This is you. The beauty and the suck of it is that only you can fix your life. You can get people on Team You, but the heavy lifting is yours and yours alone.

Financial problems and barriers to health care exist. Therapists who suck make the excruciating process of asking for help even harder and it makes you feel punished for having the hubris to even try to change. None of these things should be taken lightly and when people ask you to go the extra mile and 'just' go to the gym, volunteer, or negotiate the awful public health system (over and over) it seems like they just don't hear you and they can't know how uniquely awful it is to be you.

They do hear you. They want to help. And it does suck. But you have to allow for the fact that trying (and failing, and trying again) is honestly, I swear to you, less painful than what you're doing now. Trying to convince yourself that you have no choice but to accept the shittiness and loneliness of a life you hate is what's causing all this despair - because it's killing the healthy part of you that wants, can have, and deserves more.

Don't make the best of this. Get help and make it better.

posted by Space Kitty at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

You are loosely right. I want to get that out of the way first. You’re right about every single point you made, to an extent. They are all true. Absolutely. I’m not going to deny it; you deserve that validation at least.

However, you’re also wrong. And where you’re wrong is in the details and the exceptions. “Details and exceptions?” you ask. “Fuck details and exceptions.” Well, yeah, but hear me out.

Even as I was nodding along with every point you made, even as I was agreeing with you, and remembering these painful moments from my own life, a little voice at the back of my head was saying, “Wait, but…that’s not always true.” And “Well, yeah, but hang on, there was that one time…” If you have that voice at all, DO NOT IGNORE IT. If you don’t, well, you can borrow mine:

I've lost all my friends at this point.

Well, that means you HAD friends at some point, no?

I talk to no one. I have entire stretches of no social contact, and "entire stretches" at this point is threatening to turn into "most of 2013."

I’ve had these too. I think they’re much, much more common than you tend to think, probably because you’re surrounded by social butterflies at work. Not all people are like the people at your workplace, by far.

The problem is it's been that way all my life. I have never had any real friends, and I don't see any indication that it will change soon.

Now, hang on. In my more self-pitying moments, “I had one or two good friends” turned into “Yeah but they never really liked me, I never really had REAL friends.” Is it possible you’re doing the same thing here? Have you REALLY never had ANY friends, or are you retrospectively deciding that they didn’t count for some reason?

And the only way to get yourself out of OMG YOU FRIENDLESS HORRIBLE FREAK is to lie about which form of square zero you're starting at.

So tell a vague white lie. I’ve done this. It’s not a big deal. Another excellent trick to rely on is the, “I’m new in town,” trick. So you’ve been in town for a year, so what. Cut off half that time as “getting settled” and tell people you “moved here recently.”

With the economy the way it is, more and more if you don't have capital-capital the only way to be able to put a roof over your head and food in your mouth and etc etc is to have friends who give you work.

Now as I read this, I thought it sounded good, but then I realized it’s basically just New Yorker article buzzwords strung together. Depending on your line of work, and granted, the “socialite” lines of work definitely do exist, this can be true, but for others it’s spectacularly wrong. Most people in skilled trades don’t get a job via their friends, for instance. I’d say overall, considering every job performed by every person in the economy, this is way less true than more true, and is only true for a very specific milieu.

Nobody actually expects you to go places alone.

Now, this actually is noticeably true, I will admit. But I realized, I’ve gotten so used to it that I do it all the time. I used to think it was weird, now I no longer care. Maybe I’ve internalized being a kooky loner, but I can give you my tips. First, I’ve gotten so used to saying, “table for one, please” that I barely blink. Sure, sometimes they think I’m getting a to-go order, so if they do that, I fake it and say something like, “Well, I was going to get a to-go order, but since you’re not that busy, how about a table for one?” Big smile. Never, ever, gotten a bad response to this. Other things to know: Fast food places never, ever care. 24 hour restaurants (especially the type with bars) never, ever care. Chinese places and places that do take-out never care. People eat alone there all the time. Slightly trendier boutiquey places may care a little, but almost never for lunch breaks or “tea time.” They will care if you come in alone at their rush hour, though. Wait until about 7:30 to go alone for dinner, IME, and leave a nice tip. Fancy restaurants, simply don’t go in alone, it will seem weird. Movie theaters generally never care, but if it’s a packed or family film, it may be awkward. Go to less trendy films and not on opening night. I assure you, once I got used to this, I noticed that people do it ALL THE TIME. It’s really not a big deal. Beaches and parks and art shows and free theater stuff, people go alone all the time. All the time. If I feel awkward, I generally try to pull a “harried working single female relaxes away from the job” aura, and it seems to work. Bring a book or laptop.

And when they do, they certainly aren't looking to meet people. When I was out with acquaintances, like at the beach or something, I know none of us were letting randoms join our group. Again, this is default.

Again, I read this and it seemed true, and then I was like, “No, wait a second. That’s happened to me before. There was that one time that guy…” And so on. Granted, it is rare. But it absolutely does happen that strangers meet and become friends. Generally, it happens more in outdoorsy or vacationy settings. Haven’t you ever known anyone who made best friends with some guy at a hostel backpacking? It happens a lot, actually.

Never walk home alone. Oh. Okay. I'll just walk home with this group of friends I don't have. Never travel alone. Oh. Okay, I'll just summon people at will. Always tell a friend where you'll be. Oh. Okay. I'll just make a phone call into the ether. See what I mean?

This makes me think you’re a very young woman hanging out with other young women with a very “college drinking” vibe. In that sense, of course you go to the bar with your group of girlfriends and call each other, etc. But in real grown up life, adult women have to go places alone sometimes. Yeah, it can be unsafe, but you get your self-defense training, you carry your keys and pepper spray and flashlight, you don’t go out drinking, and you just take care of yourself as best you can and that’s that. As for traveling alone, it’s absolute bullshit that women can’t travel alone. Actually, hotels LOVE single female travelers- they typically cause no trouble, are quiet, etc. Seriously, all the women I know who travel alone are complete badasses and very interesting people. They even write books! Google “women’s best travel writing” or something. It’s simply not a “loserly” thing to do. It’s a brave, kickass thing to do. Lots of women do it. And you ABSOLUTELY meet people while traveling. I have met so many people on airplanes and at hotels. Now that we have facebook, you can even keep track of people met this way much more easily.

You have to face everything in your life alone.

This is true. It’s hard, and it’s sad. I think I’ve found new bottoms to my well of toughness this way, though, which is a silver lining of a kind. You can also find a good therapist, or rely on your mom or grandma- that’s what I do. Generally, it takes a really, really good friend to be there for you in really deep shit- that’s more of a family thing anyway, you know?

So getting back to your main question, “Is it even possible to have a worthwhile life?”

Well, let’s explore that for a moment. What is a “worthwhile life”? First of all, can lives even be “worthwhile” and “not worthwhile”? Depending on how you view the universe, whether you believe in God or not, etc: Aren’t they technically sort of neutral, just…lives? And why does it matter? Is your life truly only worthwhile if it’s worthwhile in the eyes of others? Really? It may really, really, really feel like it, but think about that for a moment. What about people who live their entire lives by social convention, for others, in the eyes of society, and at the end of them, suddenly realize they feel like they wasted them? Have you ever read Tolstoy’s short story, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”? I think maybe what you mean by this is more like, “Can I ever be mostly happy, will these painful moments ever pass and go away?” And that’s a more important question. And I think, “Yes, absolutely.” Not “Definitely 100%.” But I’d put the odds at way above 50%. Mostly because emotions almost always pass. Think really hard, and I bet there was a time in the past week or month when you thought for a moment, “Wow that’s a really pretty flower.” Or “Gosh, that puppy’s cute.” Now, granted it may have been followed by sadness, but the point is, it was there, and flowers and puppies will still be there. And sometimes a lot of good things happen to happen all at once. It’s rare, but it does happen, and your number will come up, even if it takes a long time.

Now, quick little fixes for crushing loneliness:

I want to ask, are there any children in your life? Children are wonderfully accepting and fun, and they will make you feel like a kid again, and make you feel appreciated. Surely, there is some person in your family or town who needs a babysitter.

If you can’t babysit, do you have pets? There were days when I really thought, “I’m living for my cats, and I don’t even care. Those little guys love me and I can’t let them down.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. Cats are wonderful creatures, better than humans in a lot of ways, dogs too. If you can’t get a fuzzy pet, get a plant or two, or a fish. Serious.

If you get lonely at night, or whenever, turn on the TV. Seriously, just turn it on, and listen to that smiley peppy news anchor or whoever saying, “Good morning America (or wherever).” It really will make you feel better. Listen to music, too.

Rely on your family as much as you can. Maybe you have no good family, which is unfortunate, but if you have any good family at all, move closer to them, or text them every day. This is far more common than you think, and some people spend most of their lives with their family members essentially being their main friends.

If you can, and it doesn’t make you too sad, visiting some elderly folks can be surprisingly uplifting. Especially the ones who manage to have a cheerful attitude and tell good stories, and they generally always like company.

If you don’t want to do any of that, simply go sit in park. If you want to look like you’re doing something, jog or bike, or bring a book.

I know lots and lots of people who met their friends online. If you don’t like going to MeFi or groups because you had a bad experience in the past, you don’t have to. You can just find a message board you like, and talk to people there. They count as real friends, and they will come to know you over time and miss you when you’re not around.

Also, you can try a therapist. I generally think therapy is a bit overrated, but the main thing is the therapist. They basically are a paid friend, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So just go to different offices until you find a therapist you’d really like, as a friend, and click with. It occasionally works.

Being a regular. Being a regular, even a lone regular, at a coffee shop or bar generally nets you a friendly conversation with staff and other repeat customers who recognize you. I’ve made “pseudo-friends” this way, and it feels good to have someone say, “Hey you haven’t been here in a while!” You know?

Things are really not as bad as you've painted them out to be. Maybe, 70% of the time, the world is cold, sure. But 25%, or 10% of the time, there will be some random connection. It definitely happens, and if you keep showing up, your number will come up.
posted by quincunx at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]

I have, at times, felt friendless and alone and depressed and anxious and miserable in NYC. This is a city where, if you don't have a solid vision of a career path that you are successfully navigating and an active social life, it's easy to feel crushed and hopeless. Volunteering sounded like a nice idea when I've felt my worst, but I was quickly overwhelmed by the process of figuring out who to volunteer for and how to go about actually doing it. For some reason, landing a volunteer position didn't seem all that much easier than trying to land a job.

You know what's perfect for this? New York Cares. It is amazingly easy to get involved with volunteering opportunities through their website. All you do is register and go to an orientation, and then you're free to sign up for any freaking volunteer opportunity available on their website. You pick the time, the place, the activity. You can work directly with people or not - teach kids things, teach adults things, clean up a park, plant flowers in a garden for a nursing home, put books away in a public library, and much more. All of these things! You can commit to a mere 1-2 hours or sign up for something that'll want you to come in regularly. I've only volunteered a couple times so far, but both experiences have given me the opportunity to do things I wouldn't normally have done otherwise. And the people were nice.

And since all of their activities involve working with other volunteers, it's an easy way to meet new people and make new connections while gaining new skills and helping people in ways that will help you feel more useful as a human being. A lot of people sign up simply because they want to do stuff that makes them feel useful. You're not alone in feeling alone, and you do have the power to do something about it.
posted by wondermouse at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Been there, believe me. I don't have a lot of friends (and there were a few years where all I had was Dr. TM, sort of (he was immersed in getting tenure, and I was very alone and depressed). I've kind of embraced the fact that I will always be something of an introvert and have a few close friends--that's just my nature.

But you--you're depressed, and all those miserable words and thoughts and feelings--that's not you, that's the depression talking. Including the belief that you'll never find a therapist or anyone to talk to who can truly understand and help you, and your refusal to even try (as opposed to not trying at all). You need help. Please, please put your name on the list for a free appointment. Better late than never. Really.

And I'm betting that you're probably someone who would really benefit from antidepressants. I know you think you can't afford them, but this is one of those things that, in your case, may not be a luxury but a necessity. And I'm guessing that there are ways to get subsidized medications--the helpful therapist I know you will finally, undoubtedly, encounter may be able to offer some guidance there. A lot of people are scared of them, and it's possible that in some instances they are overprescribed, but they really made a huge difference for me.

In the meantime, another book I found really helpful, in that it's very practical and rational and gave names to a lot of the thought patterns that had been paralyzing me for years, is Breaking the Patterns of Depression (Michael Yapko). There's a lot of self-help crap out there, but there are a few worthwhile books, and that is definitely one of them, and worth the investment of even a few bucks for a used copy.
posted by tully_monster at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with what everybody else says about therapy and exercise and volunteering and trying to make your life fundamentally better. But that doesn't sound like it will work for you at the moment. So here is something else you can try. I don't honestly know if it's a good idea. It's super fucking weird. But it occasionally works for me when nothing else will.

What you do is, you invent someone else. She can be anybody, but she's not you. She's the opposite of you. She is markedly free from the horrible flaws that are destroying your life. In my case, I am plagued by a constant puppyish need for approval ('Hey, do you like me? Do you like me? How about now? How about nowwwwww?!") that can send me spiraling into exhaustion and anxiety and misery and can be super off-putting in large doses.

So when it gets really bad, I imagine a person who is the opposite of that: cool, and distant, who doesn't give a fuck about what anybody else thinks. She's self-absorbed, expressionless, unshakeable. Kind of a bitch. (For some reason, she looks a little bit like Kristen Stewart in Adventureland.) Call her The Cool Girl. I think about The Cool Girl all the time. I imagine how she'd talk. [in a monotone] How she'd dress [in ringer t-shirts and cuff bracelets and sneakers]. How she'd respond to people who are rude to her, or condescend to her, or dismiss her [a blank, bored stare]. Wherever I go, being my own stupid, needy, over-expressive self, I imagine her there. Doing her thing. Being in all ways Not Me. She's kind of like an imaginary friend. The not-me. The antithesis of me.

And sometimes, when I go shopping, I'll buy a shirt The Cool Girl would wear, or a piece of jewelry she might like. And some mornings when I wake up, I'll put on a lot more eyeliner than I normally do, the way The Cool Girl does, and do my hair like hers, and go out in the world pretending to be her. It's totally superficial. It's just acting. It's not like I've fixed my flaws; I'm just pretending for an hour or so, like I don't have them.

I like to introduce The Cool Girl to people I don't know. People who don't really matter. The people who know me can see through me, and it's hard to pretend I'm something I'm not for very long. But for an hour or so at a bar, or on a single OKCupid date, it's easy enough to trick people into believing that I'm not some Type A ball of anxiety and self-doubt but instead a laid-back stoner who doesn't let anything faze her. Other times, when, say, I'm stuck in a conversation that is spazzing me out, I'll let The Cool Girl take over for a few minutes. Or I'll ask myself: what would the Cool Girl do? Don't tell anyone, but The Cool Girl has taught a handful of my more difficult sections for me. I've even snuck her into meetings with my advisors. She's not perfect (she alienates people sometimes, and she doesn't exercise, and she never does her homework) but she's good at what she does, which is getting through situations that overwhelm me.

I don't know if The Cool Girl would work for you, but you might be interested in meeting her close cousin, The Charming Girl. A girl who smiles a lot and asks people a lot of questions about themselves. Who's a little more flirtatious, a little less blunt. Who knows how to act like what that other person said was so interesting that it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The kind of person who seeks out the person in the group that looks the most uncomfortable, and makes an effort to be kind.

Tomorrow, you could buy a pair of dangly earrings The Charming Girl would like, and then go the 7-11 pretending you're her. Smile at the clerk the way that she would, and then go home. No one but you will know you were in disguise. That the smile wasn't "real." Who cares? Do that a few times, and then take the Charming Girl to a Meetup. One you've never been to, full of people you'll never see again. See what you can get away with.

Why not? It might be fun.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:28 PM on August 23, 2013 [72 favorites]

how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world ... wants anything to do with you?

Your life will be worthwhile if you find meaning in it. Many people find meaning in something bigger than themselves: religion, or a sense of the wonder of nature or the universe, or a cause like feeding their hungry neighbors or comforting shelter animals, or nationalism. Some people find it in a passion like a fandom, or running, or learning new things, or chess.

Whether your life is worthwhile doesn't have to have anything do with whether other people want anything to do with you. You have assigned value to that. If that isn't working out for you, stop beating your head against a wall and try something different. You don't seem to be updating your mental map to reflect reality; instead you seem to keep insisting that reality should change to conform to your mental map. You're not going to get anywhere with that.

If everyone you've met wants nothing to do with you, you're the problem. If more than 100 therapists have fired you at the end of the first session, you're the problem.

You play the hand that's dealt you. If you're not happy with how other people perceive you, act differently. (If you don't know how to act, and you ask other people, and they make suggestions, take them - even if you don't think they will work, because your way isn't working and you got nothin left.) If you hate everyone else, be happy you're not troubled with their company. If you think everyone else is the problem, seek medical help, because you are ill. If you are incapable of even imagining finding meaning in your life, seek medical help, because you are ill.
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:40 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your life is worthwhile the same way anyone else's life is - by the ripples it send out into the universe. Your decision to disclose your pain affected me tonight. And affected apparently everyone else who wrote in. And months from now someone will read this and be moved by your sharing of your pain. You could go for a walk tommorow and someone may smile at you and maybe you will let that little ripple of kindness wash over you. And their life will affect you.
Or you will choose to be resentful of what you think others have, and bite back at others. And that resentment will kill you.
I don't know what else to say. I liked your honesty about your pain, I was scared by your anger, and I hope you grow to see that life is worthwhile primarily in little moments and little choices.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:07 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I go to meetups but I feel so different from everyone, and they see me as different in a bad way, so even if I've been going for years no friends come of them.
(emphasis mine)

Who told you they "see [you] as different in a bad way"?

Did these people tell you they didn't like you? Or did you just get a "vibe" from them? That "vibe" might entirely subjective.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:10 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry you are filled with so much anger and sadness. I wish I could make it better for you. There are lots of good ideas in this thread and hopefully you can find a few things to try to make this better for yourself. You may not be interested in what you deserve and you may think that you are unlovable, but you deserve good things including love. I think you will find them. Keep trying. Keep seeking. Keep walking through the darkness to find the light.

You live out the confusions until they become clear. -Anais Nin
posted by valeries at 3:15 PM on August 23, 2013


How to Find Someone to Talk to When You Can't Afford Therapy

Lots of good suggestions ranging from full-blown counseling options to people you can contact "just to talk".

Online counseling, church, local universities, etc.

Gently suggesting that there are options out there that will fit your needs, comfort level and budget if you want them.

Good luck...
posted by tillei at 3:18 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm not a religious person at all, but I think the social network and community, as well as a common belief systenm, that a church can give might really help you. And it's free.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:38 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

dekathelon, with all due respect, to what length are you willing to go to get out of this situation? This is the first and most important question to ask yourself.

The clarity you're looking for appears as you make the effort to do the best you can in this very moment. Nothing more.
posted by strelitzia at 3:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh my lord, dekathelon, there is a lot of great advice in this thread. Please, please find a therapist who will see you on a sliding scale, and go in with an open mind.

I have lived a pretty crappy life in some ways, and I can relate to feeling utterly alone in the world, believe me. I have gone long stretches without friends, and for most of my life the only friends I've had have been the people I was dating. (So when we broke up it didn't just suck ass to lose my romantic partner, I was also losing my only friend!)

Meeting people and maintaining friendships can be very challenging, but you can't resign yourself to a life of miserable solitude.

For many years, I struggled to understand exactly what self-pity was. If your life sucked and you were sad or angry about it, was that self-pity? If so, it really sucked that people wanted you to feel bad about feeling bad about your bad life.

Then a couple of years ago, I had a minor epiphany. I was listening to the (often excellent) Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast, and the host, Paul Gilmartin, defined self-pity as feeling bad about your life without making any effort to improve it.

THAT clicked for me, that made sense. If you despise your shitty life but you are trying to do whatever you can to fix it, nobody is entitled to give you grief about that. But if you are just stuck in your shitty life, complaining about your shitty life but not making any real effort to de-shittify it... Well, that's on you.

And right now, you sound like you are mired in self-pity. You have a million reasons why it makes no sense to try and make your life better. Well, fuck that. Try. Don't plan for a life of utter, miserable solitude. Get therapy, join a support group, volunteer, get a cat... try everything, and don't ever give up.

You have to work for a better life. This is not optional.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:44 PM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's not that you have no friends because you're some kind of creepy freak. It's that you're starting to think if yourself that way because you don't have friends to validate you as a person and reassure you that you are worthy.

Take it from someone who recently discovered how to make friends as an adult after years and years of feeling the same way you do (albeit less dramatically): it is so, so worth it to make the effort. Your life will improve tenfold once you have some good friends.

First, quit beating yourself up about being friendless. Unless you've stayed in the same place all your life or are some effervescent extrovert that just can't turn off the charm, building a social circle is hard.

I hope I don't sound like an infomercial but within the past six months, I've gone from having no friends to having all I can handle - and good ones too. Here's what worked for me:

1. I found the places where my kind of people hang out and went there on a regular basis. For me, this has been book clubs, grad student parties, dive bars, and a part time job at a bookstore. For you, it's probably different but it sounds like you've got the right idea going to Meetups and whatnot. Don't bother trying to make friends at work if you don't really have much in common with the people there.

2. Identify people you meet in these environments that you like and -this is important- initiate! Ask them to drinks, invite them to a party whatever, but make it a specific time and place. Don't be afraid to show that you like them and think they're cool. Believe it or not, people are flattered by this. Also, be yourself. If you can't be vulnerable to at least some degree with someone, you're never going to be able to form a friendship with them.

What if they reject you? Unless they really seem annoyed by the question, ask again later. Sometimes people just really are just busy. If they've turned you down three times in a row, it's probably safe to say they're not interested.

If they say yes, go, have a good time and make plans to meet again as soon as possible.

It's actually easier than it sounds. I'm pretty shy and find Facebook, texting and emails to be great, mostly non-weird tools for "making the first move".
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:59 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: The thing about "look, people are friends here!" is that it's hollow. It is to friendship what slacktivism is to actually helping people. When it counts, nobody is there. It's quite common. I know a few people who pride themselves on being friends to everyone, in a "I love everybody!" sense - but when it comes to actually being a friend, you know, talking to you, chatting with you, texting you, inviting you places, supporting you and not some faceless anonymous everybody - you might as well not exist unless you're in their clique. (Which again makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me, because everyone loves them because they love everybody, except for me.) Or I've been down a different road before. So often. Someone will reach out and offer to get coffee or a drink or whatever, and they'll seem completely sincere and friendly. Then either it'll never happen and they'll disappear, or it will happen once and be enjoyable and pleasant but never happen again and then they'll disappear, and either way in the end it'll be more hurtful than if they'd just not reached out. It's getting my hopes up for nothing, and I'm tired of falling for it.

And, like, we would be going everywhere together, laughing over all of the latest gossip; they'd storm into my house after a bad break-up and spoon ice cream into my mouth; we'd poke each other on Facebook over the silliest little in-jokes, of which we would share thousands; they'd give me important jobs, road trips and silly presents for my birthdays; we'd walk home together at 4 AM in the morning after a long night at the bar, shivering at the full moon - yes! This is exactly what I want. Everybody else has it. I've seen so much proof because they show off so much proof and then there is so much proof that goes on behind the scenes. Right now it is Friday evening and they will soon be flaunting it for an entire weekend. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everywhere will be full of what people have decided I'm not good enough for. And they never tell you why.
posted by dekathelon at 4:05 PM on August 23, 2013

Having worked for four years at a training clinic, I would say that it is still possible to get good psychotherapy for low cost. Mainly I would recommend looking for low cost clinics that are run through universities or other training sites, rather than free standing clinics. Often the university/training site helps to fund said clinics, so they tend to be better quality and less shoe-stringy.

Re: NYC, it's a been a few years, but a good friend went to Columbia's Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research for $25 a session for a couple years while she was in graduate school and she highly recommended them.

Here's a random page from Brokelyn that also has some psychotherapy low cost clinic recommendations in NYC.

I wanted to nth the recommendation for group therapy. I have only done my own personal individual therapy, but, as a training psychotherapist, I co-led an interpersonal process group last year and it was so powerful. Like the patient/therapist relationship often has the implicit dichotomy of crazy/sane, healthy/unhealthy, that can feed feelings of worthlessness and shame. I know that I struggle with that stuff in individual therapy, and I can imagine how your particular struggles might make individual therapy really difficult. For me, it was amazing hearing the group members interpersonal struggles and how much they mirrored my own, which I found healing even as a co-leader. It really helped me to hear other people talk about shame, isolation, worthlessness, people who on the surface seemed to have it all together. Further, the group members became very close and wanted to spend time together after the group ended. In some ways I was a little jealous, as it seemed like a really cool supportive community that I got to facilitate but not totally be a part of as a leader. Another plus, group therapy is often significantly cheaper than individual therapy, so it might be a better bet from a financial perspective as well.

Anyway here are some NYC groups from the Psychology Today website.

Here is a process group that is currently running that is $50. Another dealing with anxiety/depression for $40. Another on emotional communication for $40. There are like a billion more. A lot of these group leaders do sliding scale between group members too, so you could always try to request a lower fee if ~$40 is still too onerous. Plus there may be ones that are cheaper too, I only looked through the first page or two. And as with therapy, dating, etc. you are looking for a good fit so if one group does seem right, you can always try another and find a group of people with whom you feel comfortable.

I wish you the best of luck with figuring this stuff out. From my own experience, I think it takes a lot of time and often emotional pain to figure out how to be a person with other people. Especially if relationships weren't modeled too well earlier in life. I am still in the middle of this process of figuring this all out too. But with persistence, I do believe that it eventually gets better. Unfortunately, I can also relate to it definitely sucking in the meantime! Take care of yourself, girl.
posted by amileighs at 4:16 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Self-recrimination is a symptom of depression. Repeat after me: self-recrimination is a symptom of depression. Here's another good mantra that I learned from Intervention: Nothing changes if nothing changes. Let's throw in one more thing for good measure: You can't change other people.

I really believe all three of these statements, and I really believe that treatment for depression works. I sympathize with where you are. You're in a hole. But I promise you that that hole is secretly a tunnel — you just have to start digging in another direction. All the other suggestions up thread? Those are people offering you maps and shovels.
posted by Charity Garfein at 4:19 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you found any of this helpful, dekathalon? One paragraph? One sentence even? You keep popping in here to tell us why we're all wrong and mistaken, but you haven't said one positive thing. And separately, is there anything at all in your daily, actual life that brings you joy?
posted by valeries at 4:22 PM on August 23, 2013 [22 favorites]

Get a dog. Get therapy. "Having to wait for it" isn't a good excuse, that's how public health works a lot of the time. If you got in the queue six months ago where would you be now?

I go places alone all the time, movies, events, etc. Nobody pays attention.

Turn off your Facebook. Getting bummed about people having a different life than you is a growing problem for a lot of people. I do it all the time.

If you don't have any money how do you afford to live in NYC anyways?
posted by thylacine at 4:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Right now it is Friday evening and they will soon be flaunting it for an entire weekend. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everywhere will be full of what people have decided I'm not good enough for.

Conspire explained exactly what is wrong with the perception of what we tend to think friends are, as depicted by TV sitcoms with a limited cast budget.

One of my Facebook pictures which I use as my profile pic shows me surrounded by people at a bar, where I am holding a drink looking great on a weeknight. One of the people in the pic is a guy I met that night and haven't seen since. Another woman is an old friend I am close with but see just a few times a year because she has moved out of state and is only around occasionally. Two other women in the picture I am Facebook friends with but only see from time to time when social/fundraising events overlap, and it has been almost a year since I saw them last. You cannot claim to have any idea what goes on behind the scenes of people's lives.
posted by deanc at 4:29 PM on August 23, 2013 [25 favorites]

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everywhere will be full of what people have decided I'm not good enough for. And they never tell you why.

I left Facebook partially because it exacerbated my general loneliness to see all these people go on about their especially amazing friends and the amazing parties they have that I wasn't invited to. Bear in mind also that a lot of people who put on this fantasy social media show are actually very lonely people, even if they appear to have a lot of great friends. I've observed that many people who regularly boast on Facebook about how incredible their life is are actually very insecure - their goal is to look happy and often to make people envy and admire them, not to be deeply honest and frank about their feelings about life and the world.

I feel much less disconnected from people now that I'm no longer on Facebook. I don't miss it one bit. You might be well served by getting away from social media while you feel like this.

You sound like a caring person who doesn't know what to do with that caring in a way that is good for you. You also sound very depressed, and maybe you have your reasons for that that aren't solely internally generated. I don't personally know therapy options in NYC, though it sounds like a lot of other people here do. Please consider signing up with New York Cares in the meantime. It is free and it's something you can pursue immediately that might make a big difference in how you feel.
posted by wondermouse at 4:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dekathelon, you quoted the entire first paragraph of my answer to you in your latest follow-up, but did you even read the rest of my answer? What you're looking for - a close clique - simply just doesn't exist for the vast, vast majority of people. And honestly speaking, most people don't even bother to do the clique thing because they are complex and mature and it's difficult and tiring to expect just one set of people to meet their complex and mature needs. Most mature friendship dynamics and social networks involving piecing together bits of interactions from literally dozens of different people who all step up to meet small but different aspects of your social needs.

I suggest you go back and re-read what my comment again, because I feel you have a very grossly distorted idea of what friendship even is.
posted by Conspire at 4:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [32 favorites]

Oh, one other thing re: going places alone. Once I went to a diner alone on Christmas eve. It was fine, the servers were the only other people there and they totally did not seem weirded out. I go places alone all the time, it's not a big deal!
posted by windykites at 4:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

yes! This is exactly what I want. Everybody else has it.

You need to read the rest of the comment you're quoting, because this is a fallacy.

Your life won't change until you take actions to make it change. This includes--more than anything, perhaps--breaking unhealthy thought patterns, which are on full display here (and your other questions). You desperately need more help than metafilter can provide. Please, please, please get therapy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2013 [25 favorites]

Also, you do realize that having coffee once every six months and then fading out is actually a very normal thing to do, right? It lets you catch up with people who aren't a major figure in your life but whom you still care deeply about. I get way more help in my every day life, in everything from jobs to moving to random major favors, from the people I talk and share heartfelt moments with once in a blue moon than I do from the friends who maintain a more persistent presence in my life. No one on the other side of the coffee table even thinks anything is wrong precisely because this is just such an absurdly normal social thing that no one bothers to think about it.
posted by Conspire at 4:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]

Everyone else doesn't have it. Defining friendships that way is like defining all love as romantic love in that it leaves out so many other profound and valuable ways to be friends.

I don't have it. I moved to NYC a few years ago and I'm still hopelessly lonely at times. Its a tough place and making adult friendships in a new place is hard.

But the only way to make things better is to keep on trying. I go all kinds of places on my own because its better than sitting around my apartment being upset. Making friends takes work and persistence.

You're post honestly makes me want to cry. If you come to the next mefi meetup i'm at I will buy you a drink and talk to you, other people will talk to you too and that'll be one night you're not at home alone. Please be kinder to yourself.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 4:43 PM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

This is exactly what I want. Everybody else has it. I've seen so much proof because they show off so much proof and then there is so much proof that goes on behind the scenes.

All due respect, but this is such bullshit. "Everybody else" has the going everywhere together, doing everything together, spooning ice cream into each other's mouths after a breakup and living in each other's pockets sort of friendships? Really? Then where's mine? Because I'm looking around myself, and I certainly don't have those kind of friendships. Never have. And there are plenty of people here in this thread who also have not had those kind of friendships.

What you're displaying here is classic distorted thinking. Like, basically everything on that list.

Right now it is Friday evening and they will soon be flaunting it for an entire weekend. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everywhere will be full of what people have decided I'm not good enough for.

Right here are prime examples of distorted thinking -- numbers 1-4 on the list I linked, a little bit of 6 through 8, 11, and 13. Probably others. Definitely number 14, the need to be right at any cost. No matter what anyone says to you to try to help you, you're shooting it down. Everyone else is wrong, you're right. What do you want us to say? Do you want us to agree with you, that you're hopeless and beyond help and not good enough? What if I don't want those words in my mouth?

The thing about Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all other forms of social media? Those are platforms for people to display what they want others to know about their lives. I guarantee you that the people you're accusing of flaunting their awesome social lives have plenty of problems of their own. They're just not broadcasting all their troubles on social media for everyone in the world to know. All you are seeing is the happy veneer that they display to the world. For all you know, you're looking at happy socializing-in-a-bar photos on the Instagram feed of some girl who's out partying to forget that her beloved grandmother is dying of cancer. Or she just lost out on a great opportunity at work.

The point is, you can't possibly know how great someone's life is from looking at their social media presence. Stop doing that. If you can't stop torturing yourself with your interpretation of someone else's social media presence, then disconnect from it entirely. Shut down your Facebook profile for a while. See how you feel after that.

Someone upthread asked you what the benefit is of continuing to believe the horrible things you say to yourself. I'd encourage you to really, seriously think about that. What's the payoff of sitting in your apartment tonight, hating yourself and telling yourself that nobody's ever going to like you and you'll be alone forever? How does that benefit you?
posted by palomar at 4:57 PM on August 23, 2013 [19 favorites]

Seriously, at this moment it seems like the friend you most need is yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. It sounds like a stupid cliche, but it's not. Cut yourself a break and it will lift so many burdens. Have faith that consistent kindness to yourself will pay off. For now, forget everyone else; take yourself out for a cup of coffee and make a friend.
posted by kneehigh at 5:04 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

(Which again makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me, because everyone loves them because they love everybody, except for me.)

Could it be your relentless negativity and rejection of every suggestion for how to not be like you are now - remember, you asked for help and advice here. You didn't get a ton of mefites just randomly showing up at your door to tell you how to change your life. You asked.

You're so far down the rabbit hole of depression-caused distorted thinking that I don't know what to say here. You're not going to snap out of this. You need and deserve professional help. You do not have to live like this and feel like this.
posted by rtha at 5:08 PM on August 23, 2013 [34 favorites]

What would you say if this was your sister or brother or cousin or uncle telling you this? Imagine this person is someone other than you? Wouldn't you have compassion for that person? Because you have so little of it for yourself.

Believe me, I understand. I've spent years of my life beating up on how others suck, not only that, that I was being rejected because I was somehow lacking. When I gained an ease at being alone, at accepting myself, people started gravitating toward me. And I learned that what I spent so much time and energy telling me about myself was simply not true. Do not listen to your internal narrative. Stop that record. Turn it off.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:13 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dude, did you read the context to that comment about friendship, in which the commenter discusses how they discovered that friendship doesn't usually work that way? For myself, I have a couple friends I'm that close to - but it took years of development for our friendship to reach that point. For example, for one, I think our friendship has become that close sometime in the last year - and we've known each other for about five years, for about two of which we saw each other nearly every day. Almost always, you have to pass through the superficial stages to get to the deep stages. So try to develop more patience for the superficial stages. If people are a bit flaky about following up after a first coffee, that doesn't say anything about them or about you or about them liking or disliking you - there's just no particular reason for them to be un-flaky, because you aren't friends yet. Since it's more important to you, you need take it upon yourself to be aggressive about following up - you can't just expect people to fall in friend-love at first sight with you. As for "they never tell you why," people have told you why right here in this thread: to the extent that people sometimes don't want to spend time with you, it's probably because you sound miserable. It doesn't have anything to do with you being "good enough" in the sense of being a good person; friendship is not given out according to merit. People want to be your friend if they think there will be more fun and good feeling and interesting conversations when you are present. Being happier in yourself is what will allow you to give people that impression.
posted by ostro at 5:19 PM on August 23, 2013

How I lived life without close friends: I am self-sufficient. Look at those words. I am sufficient unto myself. I'm totally okay alone. There is no problem with being alone in and of itself.

I have some life crisis? I deal with it. Really. So what if I can't call my hypothetical BFF. I can get my car out of a ditch, I can quit school just ahead of failing out, I can have surgery, I can move house, I can cope with an abusive alcoholic parent, I can do anything. Sometimes it makes sense to hire someone to help, sure, but it doesn't matter how weird the guy with the tow-truck thinks you are for going out skiing by yourself and then sliding down an icy hill backwards because you didn't want to bug the people with a four-wheel drive for help. It just doesn't.

I will admit that, though I do try to process my feelings about bad things (usually through some of Burns' exercises in the oft-recommended Feeling Good), I don't always feel better afterward. However, talking things out with someone doesn't always make them better, either. Some things hurt, and you ride it out and don't keep score because constantly rehashing all the ways you've been hurt just prolongs the pain. Check out this article about reinforcing bad memories.

Safety? "Never be alone" is paranoia talking. I'm alone all the time. The closest I've been to "in danger" was on a bus full of people and you know what I did? I smacked that motherfucker with heavy end of my umbrella and called the police on him. No one was helping me. I guess someone who knew me might have but they couldn't have stopped the situation from happening in the first place. Walk confidently with your head up, even if you're faking it, even if you have to sing to yourself because you're so scared. It'll save you from anyone who'd have been deterred by you having company and as for others, you just need to take them as they come.

Job prospects: okay, nepotism is real. But it's not the end-all be-all. You can get a job because you're a good fit to their checklist, because you bring skills the company needs, or even just because you're cheap. The place I worked the longest, I started well below the pay new-hires normally received (totally unbeknownst to awkward me). It stung when I found out but it was still more money than I possibly needed to spend anyway, given that I only had me to worry about. Over the years I received raises that better reflected my contributions, and when I left they begged me to stay.

Leisure activities: I saved this for last in hopes of arriving at some clarity by the time I reached it. I'm still not there. Your basic premise is "everyone dislikes me" so why, why, why do you have to please them by not going places and doing things on your own? Who bloody cares if they think you're weird? I go to movies and restaurants alone, travel alone, join revolutions on my own. Your money and presence is just as good as the next person's.

Now, I'm not going to say this all isn't sometimes stressful or lonely. It's an extrovert's world, and sometimes that gets rubbed in loud and clear (see "social capital" articles, and "people without friends are creepy creeps"). You're hearing the loudest voices, and of course they come from the people who are bold and outgoing. Introverts rarely brag about how peaceful their weekend sitting at home reading a book and petting the cat was. That extroverts are, well, extroverted doesn't mean that their truth is the only one. And yet, that you're not (or at least don't seem to be) an extrovert doesn't mean you're not allowed to be lonely. That is a valid feeling, though I have found that it becomes more manageable when you can phrase it as, "I'm fine the way I am and enjoy my own company, and right now I'd like to share that with someone". People are more receptive to it, too.

As to the therapy thing (which I mention only because I see you have a lot of responses about it): if it's not for you right now, that's fine. For the sake of AskMe, I tried one free therapist, felt insulted by sessions that consisted of her constantly probing me for symptoms of psychiatric disorders I don't have, and then avoided the whole business for years until I decided I wanted to try bupropion. My psychiatrist checks in every three months or so to see if I'm okay but otherwise just keeps faxing in those prescriptions. The drug does just what I hoped it would -- yet, spoiler!, there's still no one besides 911 I'd call if I fell down the basement stairs and broke both legs. I want you to know that you can be alone and totally okay. If you think you need help with your head for other reasons, there are obviously resources for that, but there is absolutely no need to think that your life is worthless without other people in it.

Everyone else: I know y'all think dekathelon to needs a therapist yesterday because you want to help with what you see as the big underlying problem. I'm pretty sure she knows that too. However, what I'm saying is that I was depressed for years and years and found ways to cope with some of the specific problems she's talking about while still being depressed. These things are not mutually exclusive and as she's very clearly indicated she doesn't want to seek therapy right now, I think maybe more on the "how to be happier without friends" front would be kind.
posted by teremala at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2013 [16 favorites]

It sounds like you want close relationships with people but you don't want to risk getting hurt. Yeah, that's actually not a thing. Sorry. You might have to meet 10, 100 or 1000 or more people to get the fictional friend group that no living person actually has on instagram or whatever. No one can say exactly what you need to do. But all relationships include the risk that you might get your heart broken. That's the price of admission.
posted by kat518 at 5:47 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love to read and I love movies and I love TV and I fantasize and daydream like it was my job. But I will tell you something that was painful for me to accept throughout my 20s and 30s, because all those stories were endlessly soothing and deeply satisfying. The world depicted by certain kinds of movies, TV and books fucked me up pretty good when it came to my expectations of what adult life would be like. All those ideas of what life would be like were like wolves in sheep's clothing. That's because all those mediums -- and this includes the storytelling tools of Facebook, etc. -- are all editing out the in-between parts. The parts where you are bored or boring or lonely or anxious or idiotic or dense or sad or scared.

I feel like what you want out of life is the edited version. That version doesn't exist, but it can be pretty difficult in American society to recognize that. For anyone. In fact, the amazing thing you'll discover when you come out of this spiral you are in right now (and you will come out of it!), is that real life, the most juicy, vibrant, interesting, unexpected portion of life, is actually made up of all those messy, incoherent, imperfect bits left on the floor of the editing room.

I'm sorry you are going through this. It's tough. It's okay to feel these things. What's making it feel so much worse is your shame about it, and perhaps your disappointment that life in your 20s isn't what you were led to believe it would be. Ask for help. From family, from professionals. It may be counterintuitive, but saying aloud all these dark things can be the key to lessening the power they have over you. Perhaps medication would help give you the steadiness and breathing room you need to gain some perspective.
posted by megancita at 5:54 PM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

You don't need to be in crisis to call a Crisis Hotline and talk to a mental health professional for free.

I think you should pick up the phone call a Crisis Hotline, and read them this question.

My hope is a trained professional will succeed where we did not.

Again, I'm sorry my comment in another thread sparked this AskMe. It was a poorly phrased comment regarding weird boundary crossing behavior. The comment was not about you and the situation you've laid out here. Not at all.

Call a Crisis Hotline. Please.
posted by jbenben at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

dekathelon, I just wanted to repeat what Obscure Reference (a therapist in NYC) said above:

I will try and find you a therapist you can afford (if you want).

Please take them up on their offer.
posted by mlis at 6:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

Hi, Dek. I'm not sure what to offer you, this time. I was going to say something about keeping trying, but you expressed frustration with how that's been working for you. I know it is hard to keep trying when everything never seems to work. I'm sorry. Two things I can recommend trying: Lower your expectations to almost nothing, and every time you find yourself saying something negative (in your mind and to people) replace it with a positive.

If your expectations are set at 1 instead of 50 or 1billionty, you wont be disappointed. Its easier to keep going out and trying things, doing things, meet people, etc, if you expect nothing. Pleasant surprises abound, bad experiences can be shrugged off.

I know replacing the bad thoughts with optimism can sound silly, but it works. Tell yourself who you want to be, and that you CAN and WILL achieve this.
posted by Jacen at 6:10 PM on August 23, 2013

I just want to say to you that I'm sorry you're going through this and that you have such difficulty enjoying your existence. I can relate.

Yes, you're right. Many people do not understand depression, they don't want to know depression, they cannot imagine feeling as if they're less important, less worthy, less attractive, less visible than other people. They can't imagine looking around and wondering just how in the hell most people aren't screaming inside. They may occasionally feel like a pile of shit; eventually, though, their hangover wears off or they get over the failed relationship or getting fired and tell themselves, "Well, that's just how that went, I guess." and then they go buy themselves a scarf or some hair product and eat...brunch? I guess? I don't know. I wouldn't know. My brain doesn't work like that. When I go to brunch I just feel like this is all the food nobody ate during real meals like lunch and dinner and now I'm basically eating thrift food so, yeah, that's probably a real joyous attitude for people to be around when they're trying to eat eggs and drink mimosas and just live their lives.

Anyway, what I'm saying is, you're not wrong. Lots of people don't understand you and most folks are afraid of things they don't understand and don't want to be around them. But here is also the deal. The other thing that you need to see. You need to look at the number of comments in this thread, and the number of people who've turned out to talk to you, and the commitment of these people to really hearing what you're saying and pulling it apart and using reason and compassion and tough love to break through your wall of shame and hurt to try to understand you. See. These people - these intelligent, compassionate, interesting, and, in some instances, profoundly weird and awkward and depressed themselves people - hung out with you to try to talk you into giving yourself a break and doing the one thing you can do for your brain to get it to stop fucking with your life. They tried to understand you and get you to give yourself a goddamn break. I hope that at least makes you see that there are a lot of weirdos out here who'll hang with you when you're at your lowest point without asking anything of you or demeaning you or taking anything from you. Lots of us are doing this because we've been where you been and still sometimes visit. Maybe that will at least be reassuring. Perhaps with that feeling of reassurance you can at least begin to consider that your ideas about "all" people doing one thing or another are not entirely correct.

Lastly, I offer you this. I had three friends in my twenties. Three, and two of those were from high school. I spent a lot of time alone, drinking and smoking, in a small apartment with a really cantankerous cat. It was the opposite of fun. I got therapy. Fifteen years of therapy. Now I have a little boy who reminds me everyday that we all start out crying all the time and shitting our pants and doing the best we can between naps and meals.

Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:15 PM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

I know it's your skewed perception talking, but the responses you've been getting are not superficial and/or fake. People are sharing profound and often painful parts of their lives with you - please don't dismiss them as random words on the internet.

PLEASE, dekathelon, try to go back and read the advice you've received here without being primed to make a rebuttal at every turn. Pretend, just for a few minutes, that it's possible and realistic and feasible by your standards. Because the biggest thing that people here are telling you is that YOU ARE NOT AS UNIQUE AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.

Yes, sure, on some level we are all special snowflakes and unique children of the Universe yadda yadda yadda, but the truth is that deep down there are a lot more people who feel friendless and lonely, at least some of the time, than is obvious to the naked eye. And that, my friend, is a BLESSING. Because I, for one, have never felt so not-alone, so able to get OUT OF MY HEAD AND MY OWN FUCKING WAY, as when I was finally able to understand (with the help of my therapist) that very little about me was as unusual, weird, and (hence) unlovable as I had convinced myself it was.

I often praise the internet for exactly this reason, because I am always coming across people online who are a hell of a lot like me in many of the ways that I considered myself Terminally Unique for the longest time. And I seek them out, even after years of working on my Stuff, because I find that this self-esteem thing requires constant maintenance. This is a lot of what I love about AskMe, and I feel like maybe you get that on some level because you keep posting Asks, and you keep coming back. We are more alike than you think we are, both you and I and you and AskMe, and I hope with time you're able to see that.

Here is some of the hardest advice to take that I know of: Try to be kind to yourself.
posted by camyram at 6:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [13 favorites]

Coming back in here to say that I can't tell from reading your responses if you've tried medication. When I was in my early 20s, in a similar spot to you, I couldn't even contemplate taking advice or talking to a therapist until several weeks of taking an SSRI for the first time gave me some blissful relief from my brain. (And I wasn't in a place to even realize I needed to consider medication; my mother had to tell me I was sad and rageful and she called our doctor and got the script. Hopelessness makes it hard to believe anything can get better and that there are solutions to be tried.) So, have you tried medication? The generic versions nowadays are pretty affordable, and both times I've used meds my primary physician prescribed them with the barest of description of my feelings on my part. The meds quieted the relentless dirge in my head. Then, and only then, did therapy help.
posted by megancita at 6:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is a suggestion: there are a bunch of mefites in NYC. I bet you could ask a couple of them to - wait, not to be your friends! - to meet and talk with you and give you some honest feedback on how you actually seem in the flesh. If you've genuinely tried to go to a bunch of therapists before and none of them have helped you, there's something going on, and maybe someone who could talk to you for an hour or two could pinpoint what it is and tell you. A lot of these questions you ask aren't really answerable without talking to you in person. Maybe what you need is a non-therapeutic consultation. Therapists generally don't tell you really unpleasant truths about yourself; they try to get you to figure them out. This is the gentle way, but apparently the gentle way isn't going to work for you.

Unpleasant truths? I think you're hiding from unpleasant truths. I think it's easier to say "I am totally unlovable and hideous and fated to be alone, also everyone else is terrible and doesn't understand me yet inexplicably they have nice things they don't deserve" than it is to say "If I worked to really change myself, I could be loved and not alone, but that's risky and it means I might try something and fail". Everyone thinks they want to change to improve their lives; most of the time people - on an unconscious level - are actually terrified of change. I say this as someone who spent much of their adult life hiding from unpleasant truths by telling unpleasant lies about myself, since the unpleasant lies were at least something I controlled.

I feel better now that I have substantially reduced the amount of unpleasant lies I tell about myself. The unpleasant truths are actually much less horrible.

So let's assume that you don't go to therapy. You hate it, you can't afford it, it raises your hackles. What is going to help? Practicing being around people. Maybe you shouldn't go somewhere where emotional engagement is required or where you'll be helping others; maybe you should just join some kind of public book discussion group or something. Just go to that, practice being centered and present and pleasant until it becomes natural, and then start going places where you might make friends or help others. Baby steps, right? You're trying to rebuild your entire personality, and that won't happen quickly or without a lot of discomfort.

I had no friends in high school. I had no idea how to make friends in college, and was very fortunate that a few kind souls put up with me when I was actually horrible, annoying and a real drag. I was even more fortunate that kinder friends later gave me a real come-to-Jesus talk (on the roof of the foreign-teacher-housing building at a small college in Shanghai). That was a fucking unpleasant talk, since it was basically "no one likes you a lot of the time because you do [various stupid and annoying things]". It was really upsetting and shook me up badly for weeks. But it changed things. I started being different after that. I'm not the world's easiest person even now, and I am not good at being close to people. I've found that actually intimacy scares me and I tend to freak out when I get too close to people. But I've become a relatively likeable person instead of the judgmental, snotty person I used to be, and that has made my life a lot easier. But the first step for me was really letting all the genuinely scary stuff ("I'm not actually uniquely terrible, I'm just annoying!") in.
posted by Frowner at 6:34 PM on August 23, 2013 [41 favorites]

Wow. Just, wow. I don't have much to add in the way of advice that hasn't already been stated more eloquently above, but I wanted to reiterate what one commenter said, which is that this thread has affected me deeply. I can very strongly identify with the predicament you're in, and reading your questions and arguments and the responses in this thread tonight has brought me close to tears. I expect I will refer to this thread again in the future when I'm feeling down. Your being here and asking this question has made a difference for me. You matter.
posted by whistle pig at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

A friend can be a lot of different things and I doubt that anyone has the same definition when they talk about "friends". A friend could be as simple as someone that you see at the bus stop each day that you exchange small talk with. You may not even know their name but you connect on a certain level and you get along. That is all you need. I have some closer friends that I don't share all my intimate details with and don't hang around 24/7. Sometimes I don't see them for years but I still consider them friends.

The biggest thing about small or large friendships is this; you must give as well as take. You can't continuously lay bullshit on them and they shouldn't do that to you. No guilt, no drama, don't exchange your dark secrets unless it is mutual and you have deep understandings. Even a deep friendship can't survive the darkest of secrets. Some of the secrets that you mentioned in your OP should only come out in therapy with a pro who knows what to do with them. Any of that told to a friend will only freak them the fuck out.

You mentioned this BS about not being able to afford therapy. Therapy comes in a lot of different forms. It can be feeding the pigeons, it can be in running, painting a picture, it can be in yoga. There are also free support groups for everything including depression. In a big city they are everywhere. Make your priorities in life. Your health should come first.
posted by JJ86 at 8:17 PM on August 23, 2013

It is not possible to answer such an intense post with just one post so I will touch on this as concisely as I can, and frankly most of the work needs to come from within you.

People see you as a horrible person that everyone should stay away from. Like this, from a recent dating thread:
This is truly abnormal behavior on his part. If he's alone, that's a red flag (does the man not have any friends??)
OMG, I don't have any friends??? HOW CAN SOMEONE NOT HAVE ANY FRIENDS??? Awesome: I'm a red flag. I don't think this is an uncommon opinion either. I think it is standard. And the only way to get yourself out of OMG YOU FRIENDLESS HORRIBLE FREAK is to lie about which form of square zero you're starting at. I don't like lying, but I also don't like people seeing me as someone to whom the proper reaction is OMG - RUN.

I think that some answers in that post are amazingly harsh, and I did point it out. A few others answered who didn't seem that the guy in question was crazy or anything- based on the initial post, not the follow up. I was actually appalled at some of the answers. You have to realize that everyone here looks at things based on their experiences. People who wrote the harsh answers probably dated guys they didn't have good experiences with. You read it from the point of view of a person who doesn't have a ton of friends. I read it from the perspective of someone who is undergoing a ridiculously difficult time- months and months after I lost a parent. My answer is based on my experience. Ditto for others. Frankly there are posters who offer a lot of wisdom in general who were remarkably judgmental in that post. It doesnt make the guy in question a "red flag". It does make the posters think that in their opinion he is a red flag- two very different things. You need to appreciate these nuances and subtleties for the "truth" or "reality" is ALWAYS much more complex and multi-layered than what a paragraph or two on the green can possibly convey. Bottomline- Do NOT take some random answers and apply them to yourself. It is hard, but you have got to learn how to do this. Over and over again, till your brain gets it. Like when you were first learning how to ride a bicycle. You didn't just buy the bike and went off the first day. You struggled to balance. Fell down. Got up. Tried again. Over and over and over. Thats what you have to do here, and with other cognitive distortions.

Reduced leisure prospects. Nobody actually expects you to go places alone. You look like the weird loner, because people go places with their friends....

Why do you care about what others think? I am alone a lot. I go places alone. The flip side is that I go where I want when I want. Do some people think I am weird? Sure. I'd do more of it just to baffle them more. Do all people think I am weird? Probably not. Do I care about what every single human on the planet is thinking about what I do and whether I have anyone to go out with? Hell no. You know why? Because I'd like to be happy whether I am alone or not, and enjoy my life, whatever comes my way.

I mentioned I am going through a rough time. You can read some of the questions in recent months. You know what I learned among so many things? Many of the friends I had (and I didn't have many- probably can count them on one hand) did and said some pretty awful things when I was going through this time. And I mean remarkably awful. You know what I am doing with many of them? Letting them get lost. I am making no efforts to repair those "friendships" because I have learnt that those I thought were close, were really not. I have tried forgiving some of them, given them a chance to repair the damage but they are completely oblivious to how they are behaving or what they are doing. And I am not their mother so its not my job to fix it. And you know how dropping these pathetic friends makes me feel- A-W-E-S-O-M-E. I have very few people who really let me be, and only two of them (one is a therapist!) truly empathize and understand the intensity and depths of what I am going through. I dont see this therapist because I am suicidal or anything- its very daily basis life stress stuff. Its like having a sound, objective and wise counsel most of the time. most importantly, its about providing me what I need help with right now. Its about providing me perspective because when I am down, I cannot see things clearly for how they are and they provide me that. But I have to actively seek that- I have to make the effort to go see them, not the other way round.

You have to face everything in your life alone. What was the worst crisis you've ever had to deal with? Think of it. Now imagine that your support system just didn't exist during it, that you could never talk to anyone about it, and you have basically everything in my life. Certain things that happen are bound to wear people down by default even if everyone in the world loved and supported them. When you're alone, it's that much harder to handle or bounce back from.

As mentioned previously, I have experienced this first hand, and my woes are not done yet. As in, the universe is throwing all sorts of obstacles on almost a weekly basis- I kid you not. I have experienced the loneliness of suffering like I had never before. I still do. On top of that, some "friends" have been amazingly callous and insensitive. You know what I learned? You are always alone at the end of the day. But, and this is a big but, I have also learned that I cannot be as uptight and "independent" as I used to be- some things in life just wear you down and these are times when EVERYONE needs someone. The thing is that that someone isn't always the buddy you think it will be. When you go through stuff, there will people you think are close who will fade out of your life, adding to the ongoing hurt and pain. And there will be people who will appear out of nowhere with very trivial kind of support - I urge you to learn to recognize this support OP, this maybe as simple as someone asking you if you'd like to catch coffee tomorrow- learn to say yes and give these kind of "invisible" friends a chance. THAT is what will get you through tough times.

Also be cautious about cultivating too many friends. Real friendships take time and energy- the kind you just cannot put into 200 FB "friends". Do you understand what I am saying? Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff- and it takes a ton of falling down to do this- at least I had to be completely on my knees to learn this lesson. I am so glad I have. Because I do not care for the superficial friends. I am still learning to tell the wheat from the chaff, and to let myself let go of the chaff when I have recognized it instead of thinking that maybe it will turn into wheat!!

Like some one said above- no single friend will fulfill you completely. I am now approaching mid-thirties and it is only now that I have learnt this (with the rough time I have been through, which is quite a string of firsts...). Every person you encounter will satiate a small need within you. You put together these people in your life- I urge you to be proactive and mindful on the pieces you pick- and that will only fulfill part of the picture that represents all your needs as a human being. There is so much more to life that will need to put in there.

You say you've got no friends. Have you looked at the number of people who have responded here?

So basically: how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world (please don't say anything like "OMG YOU HAVEN'T MET EVERYONE IN THE WORLD," I think I've met a scientifically sound sampling) wants anything to do with you?

Life is worthwhile if you make it so. The healthiest of us, not suffering from depression, will get down from time to time. We all have to learn how to pick ourselves up and ride the storm of our negativity. With depression, a little help goes a long way. Cognitive behavioural therapy if you look for it.

You think you are not worthwhile? Its got nothing to do with what you have in your life that establishes one's worth. EVERYONE's worthwhile.

Instead of focusing so much on your worth, direct your focus to those less able than you. You've got eyes right? Go volunteer and help the blind. Or disabled people. Go there and learn what a day is like in their life. There is always something to be thankful for in life. Not having enough friends or *any* friends is hardly the end of the world. I am not dismissing the importance of quality relationships in life, mind you. I think they are very important. But I also think that like anything worthwhile in life, like life itself, you have to nurture those things slowly and let them grow- and be proactive and put in the effort needed. It doesnt happen on our timeline, it certainly doesnt happen according to our wishes. The best we can do is recognize the good in life, appreciate it and nurture it, and that would affect how you view life and worth and importance of people in it.

Finally, read The Guide to Rational Thinking by Albert Ellis- the 1976 (?) version where he is sounds ridiculously harsh, not the newer ones where he has toned down!! And remember, there will always be some, excuse me, idiots answering in every post (and you know what I mean...) so please just IGNORE them and take the useful bits. While all of us are worthwhile, not every one of us is worth listening to every single time.
posted by xm at 8:44 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'm gonna quote Paul Gilmartin again: our lives can feel like nothing but outtakes and bloopers, but we're judging them against everybody else's highlight reel.

I think maybe more on the "how to be happier without friends" front would be kind.

Only in the sense that it would be kind to scratch somebody's back rash for them, without suggesting that they go get some damn medicine for it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:19 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I won't be as eloquent as those above but I am in NYC and will talk to you if you want. I've been thinking about this thread all day and I relate to many of your feelings.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:49 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I had depression, I felt like you. A lot. I wrote a lot of anonymous AskMes and went to inappropriate people for help. And I had no friends. Part of it was that some people (the immature ones) run away from people with depression, and part of it was that I was incredibly unhappy and in no position to hold up the other end of a friendship with anyone who stayed.

On a day after I read some AskMe responses, when I wasn't feeling like shit, I made an appointment for therapy. I hated therapy, and I hated my therapist. I didn't go back. I got worse and more unhappy. I read some more AskMe responses and bought a copy of Feeling Good. I thought it was absolute shit, and couldn't get past the first chapter.

I eventually made an appointment with a different therapist, and I missed my appointment because I couldn't talk myself into taking a shower and going outside. I called and rescheduled the next time I wasn't feeling like shit, which was about a week later. Please come back and reread some of the AskMe answers on a day you aren't feeling like shit and think about making an appointment. It might take you a long time to actually get yourself in a seat across from a competent therapist, but that's okay. You can do it.

I went to two therapy sessions (just long enough to get a referral to someone who could prescribe me psych meds). My meds let me cope enough to make changes. I started being able to hold up the other end of a friendship, and even the immature people who couldn't cope with a depressed person started talking to me sometimes. I'm better now, and I'm off medication, and I hung out with a friend for five hours yesterday. When I am alone, though, I don't obsess about what other people are thinking about me anymore, because I'm now able to see that no one is thinking about me. Going to the movies, seeing a concert, or getting lunch alone just aren't a big deal.

And, like, we would be going everywhere together, laughing over all of the latest gossip; they'd storm into my house after a bad break-up and spoon ice cream into my mouth; we'd poke each other on Facebook over the silliest little in-jokes, of which we would share thousands; they'd give me important jobs, road trips and silly presents for my birthdays; we'd walk home together at 4 AM in the morning after a long night at the bar, shivering at the full moon

I know you want this. A lot of people want this. I want this. Very, very few people have this. Facebook is not real. The only time I post pictures is after I've done something fun. I don't post if I'm still in bed wearing my pajamas at 6 p.m., you know? It took a while for me to realize that when I was depressed. You might want to try staying off social media for a while.

The fantasy of a perfect friendship is really intoxicating when you're depressed. You wouldn't be unhappy if you had a friend like X, but X would know what to say if you were unhappy! X would make you an appointment for a therapist, lend you money for the bill, and come with you to make sure you got out of bed! You would be happy again, and everything would be perfect!

When X doesn't exist, you have to take responsibility for booking your own damn appointment, and that's really scary and hard. If you're depressed, your brain will tell you to fuck off and go back to angsting about stupid shit, and you won't even realize your brain is sabotaging you. But it is. Your brain is telling you getting help is too expensive to think about, but it's worth it to seek out free services or scrape together enough for low cost services (sliding scales exist, and are magical). You're worth it. Don't let your brain tell you otherwise.

In the meantime, make an effort to be kind to yourself. Get up at a consistent time, shower, and go for a walk outside in the sun. Eat food you like. Wear clothes you like. Do things you like to do and can afford to do, whether it's watching movies from the library or going to donate-what-you-can-to-get-in art museums. If you have family, try calling your family so you can hear friendly human voices. If you're feeling up to it, go out and sit in on classes at a local college or volunteer with animals or something. Just be kind to yourself. Your life is worthwhile, so make it pleasant. The loneliness won't feel as crushing.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:07 PM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

The thing about "look, people are friends here!" is that it's hollow. There are a bunch of people here behaving in a pretty friendly way. That's how friendship starts. Then it's "Really, you like steampunk/ classic cars/ 17th C. Japanese widgets? There's a show next month - you going?"

This is exactly what I want. Everybody else has it. Friday night. Lots of people are at home, hating Friday night teevee. Some people have those glossy friendships where they get together every week, tell their deepest secrets, stay friends for years. Mostly, people have friends from school, or work, or their bowling team. Many people have extensive families and have limited room for friends who aren't family. Some people have a lot of acquaintances, but few deep friends. Comparing yourself to what you see on facebook, tv or books is a way to feel horrible. Maybe they aren't the friends you imagined. Maybe they're not cool or they have some bad habits, or whatever.

You have to *be* a good friend. Of people I know who have lots of friends, they make an effort to stay in touch, remember birthdays, send letters, they remember that it's August and your dog died last August and they check in. They call just to say Hi. It's a skill, you can improve it.

Therapy? Hell, yeah. A good therapist, who you find by interviewing them 1st, cause you might be so angry and hurt that you'll be difficult to work with. A lot of therapists are lightweights. You need a therapist who can also act as a coach, helping you with the life skills you may need to polish up. I'd recommend you bust your ass to find any work at all so you can afford therapy.

Read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends, etc. It's dated, but it's still essentially right. As much as the suggestions here seem useless to you, you can still try them. The risk is low. The potential reward is friendship, fun, feeling better. I feel like I want to shake you, and at the same time, I want to hug you. I want to shake you to get you to see a little bit outside your misery, to see that people care, to see that there's a way forward, and I want to hug you because you need a hug.

I have no friends. I have no reason to believe I'll ever have any friends. Is it even possible to have a worthwhile life? You deserve love. You're lovable. You're depressed, irritable and difficult, but you aren't giving up. Even a life without friends/love can be worthwhile, but you can have friends and love.
posted by theora55 at 11:18 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think the therapy angle has been pretty well covered, so I will set that aside and just say yes, your life can be worthwhile without friends. When you don't have any friends, it can become a real fixation. It can cause you to question your self-worth in extremely painful ways. I've had multiple years of experience with this, although I was fortunate during that period of my life to have a significant other as well as some structured social interaction to make me feel less lonely. Still, that time in my life was extremely difficult, and sometimes I still feel like the person with no real friends, even though that's no longer true for me.

At that point, I think it becomes a little bit like dating -- you feel so desperate to make a friend, any friend, that you start grabbing onto any person who's even slightly interested in spending time with you, regardless of whether that person is actually good for you or not (or whether you even like them or not). Then when THOSE friendships don't work out, you feel even worse, because you couldn't even manage to maintain a poor-quality friendship with someone who wasn't that great. Although what you can't see at the time is that that friendship was actually a terrible idea, and that even a more skilled friend-maker probably would have struggled to make it work! This is particularly true for those of us who don't click with most people -- it's like trying to force a romantic relationship when there's no chemistry or spark.

As with dating, I think the the only solution might be to stop actively seeking friends for awhile and start trying to create a "single" life for yourself that you enjoy. This means spending more time and energy on your career and/or your hobbies. (Some of those hobbies can be frivolous. Seriously, playing Lego video games counts, as does watching trashy TV. As long as you actually enjoy it.) Pick a few things and start focusing on them in your spare time. (They can all be solitary -- that's okay! But if you can pick one that isn't completely solitary, that will probably be a good thing.)

After a few months of doing this, your life will be richer and more enjoyable. Maybe you will make friends along the way, or maybe not. (I made some when I went back to school, and then when I started working in a new job after finishing with school.) It doesn't matter. The point is that you're shaping your life into something closer to what you actually want.

My main point with all this is that you can make your life better by putting more positive things in it. And you sound like you really need more positivity in your life. Some sources of positivity are not within your control, but others are. Stop thinking in terms of having friends or not having them, and start thinking in terms of ways to enjoy your own life more.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 11:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think your life can definitely be worthwhile, even without friends.

Humans are inherently social creatures, but they're also a waste of time, for the most part. At least, I often feel that way. You have to find people that are worth your time. Sometimes that isn't immediately possible. Sometimes it takes ages. A lot of times it can depend on luck, although putting yourself in situations that involve a lot of people, or contacting people online (on OkCupid or something like's not just for dating) certainly helps. But during those periods when you're alone, you have to explore fun new ways of sustaining yourself. You have to make use of all the resources available to you to make sure you are as nourished, entertained, and comfortable as possible. The world is a big place and it can offer you a lot if you seek it out. Whether it's books, music, spirituality, food, exercise, or just aimless exploration and arbitrary "quests," you can continue to find ways to engage directly with the grand possibilities of the world. Even if you don't have other flesh and blood humans to share that with, know that ultimately the incredible, intricate mysteries of life are best experienced directly between you and God, or you and nature, you and the universe, however you want to view it. Between you and yourself may actually be the best way of putting it.

I personally don't think you need therapy. I don't think you are a problem to be fixed. I think you're just tired of being without companionship. And that's totally understandable.

Anyway, I don't know if what I have to say resonates with you or not, but I would love to talk more with you if you're interested. Feel free to send me a message.
posted by cosmicbeast at 2:02 AM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

And, like, we would be going everywhere together, laughing over all of the latest gossip; they'd storm into my house after a bad break-up and spoon ice cream into my mouth; we'd poke each other on Facebook over the silliest little in-jokes, of which we would share thousands; they'd give me important jobs, road trips and silly presents for my birthdays; we'd walk home together at 4 AM in the morning after a long night at the bar, shivering at the full moon - yes!

Most of this happens, um, where? Romantic comedies? Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Look, I was you once. I figured that other people had it all figured out, that was never in the cards for me and I was so angry at other people for being so goddamned happy with themselves and each other!

The fact is, almost no one has it figured out. Everyone is floundering, making mistakes with their best friends/lovers/house guests/spouses. You just think everyone has it better than you, I did too.

You are trying to crush yourself into a fantasy of what you want your world to be and, believe me, that way lies pain. I thought no one wanted anything to do with me but that was because I didn't want to have anything to do with me. Learning to be alone, first, is the hardest but most important part. The less you care about who is happier/more satisfied/has the most friends, the better. Start small, build up. Don't expect it to happen overnight, expect it to take years. I am old, happy and far away from the angry, bitter person I used to be. It takes years. Years.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:29 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm an introvert and a woman. I love going to places by myself. I enjoy lunch or dinner for one and just people watching. I enjoy and have traveled to places alone, places as exotic as Moscow. I walk home alone too. There's a certain freedom and peacefulness to being alone, though I also have friends and am not ALWAYS alone, which I think is the problem in your case. But I wanted to say if you wanted to do something alone, that's fine, and you should go do it.

As for red flags, they're called "flags" for a reason. That is, it's a signal. It's not a deal breaker.

Even I first moved back to my current city, I had no friends in town. That was true for a year or so. It didn't hamper my life; I dated, finished university, and got a job. So I don't think it's a deal breaker for that many people, unless you have other interpersonal interaction problems.

My dad doesn't have any friends. He's lived in the same city for 12 years now. His sister arranged his second marriage, basically, and he socializes with his wife's friends, but I'm not sure he considers them friends. But he seems to enjoy his life, with his family (including two kids and a house) and manages by living close to family.
posted by ethidda at 5:21 AM on August 24, 2013

I didn't want to say anything about going out alone and traveling alone because I am not a woman, and concerns about safety are different for women than for men, and I don't have that perspective. But I do frequently go out alone, especially in New York. I went to a weekend-long music festival in Ridgewood, Queens that I tried to convince friends to go to, and none of them wanted to come, so I went myself. I had a fantastic time! I asked one of the performers about one of his songs, and it turned out he was from the same country as my parents. I saw some great acts! I ended up shooting the breeze with one of the other concert-goers and then one of the photos I took ended up sparking an online facebook argument between one of my friends and one of the performers. There's a bar I like going to in the LES that I can't convince my friends to join me at, but I go anyway, have some drinks, some a hookah, and listen to their bands.

I met a few people from a local bar I used to live near that I went to because given the choice between sitting at home reading my weekly issue of The Nation and sitting at my local bar having a beer while reading it, I chose the latter.

I've traveled to a lot of places staying in youth hostels, and I run into a lot of people who are themselves traveling alone, as well. It's totally normal. I can't say it's all excitement and friendliness. My photos from my world travels conceal the reality-- moments of extreme social and adventurous intensity punctuated by long stretches of downtime (it's not like there's much to do in a city in eastern Anatolia after dark when you don't know anyone and there aren't many other tourists around). You can focus on the lonely downtime, or you can focus on the great adventures. You can desperately try to make things "happen" socially and get frustrated when they don't, or you can be a friendly, calm person and place yourself in a situation where things will happen.

My point being here that you can't simply refuse to live your life because you don't have any friends to go out with. If you don't want to spend you time moping around the house, the first step is not being in the house.
posted by deanc at 6:08 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a lot of friends in NYC, but sometimes still do things alone, and I'm a woman. Sometimes people aren't around and i want to do something, so I just go. I've met friends that way. Also like deanc says I've gone to a bar alone to read. I was a regular at one spot and the bartender would sort of strike up conversations with one group of people and with me, and then go attend to other people, and we'd be left talking to each other.

Everyone else has covered therapy and medications, and your overall attitude to trying to make your life better, so I won't go into that, but New York is a great place to go out alone, even for a woman (just know where to go, careful at night, don't drink too much but that's a good rule for anyone), and also there is so much free stuff. SO many meetups I can't even keep up with them. I assume you're not in the tech community but I go to a lot of those, and people present their projects and you can go talk to them about them and the whole thing is very invigorating and fun. It's all maybe $5-$10 per thing but that just helps them cover renting the space and buying the beer.

I guess with making friends, too, especially if you're going to things with a bunch of strangers, is that you have to accept that sometimes people just won't like you. Sometimes I've been the life of the party, sometimes people will look at me like I'm REALLY weird and also I might steal their purse or their boyfriend or something. Everyone has these experiences.

There are people out there who really, really don't like me. They think I'm boring and weird and annoying or unattractive or whatever else. I don't care though, i just don't give those people my attention and spend time with the people who like me. You might think those people just don't exist for you, but you have to put a ton of work into it, like going to a bunch of things where people think you're weird, and just not caring, and going ahead and going to the next thing hoping that one will be different. And one day it will be.
posted by sweetkid at 6:35 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two more things.

1. Regarding books like Feeling Good and A Guide to Rational Living- when you first start reading it, you may think its pure s*@#. I had a very, very hard time getting past the first chapter or so in Feeling Good- you know, where the author goes on and on and on about why you should read this and believe him. The only reason I still persisted was because so many people here have recommended it and I thought that if so many people are saying something, then I've got to try it, for it must have something of value in it that I can learn from. (You can think of therapy and changing your mindset with a similar rationale.) When I say separate the wheat from the chaff, thats applicable to everything in life- including picking who you want to spend time with, which answers on AskMe you are going to pay attention to and which parts of a book you are going to focus on.

2. Everything worthwhile in life takes effort.

And, like, we would be going everywhere together, laughing over all of the latest gossip; they'd storm into my house after a bad break-up and spoon ice cream into my mouth; we'd poke each other on Facebook over the silliest little in-jokes, of which we would share thousands; they'd give me important jobs, road trips and silly presents for my birthdays; we'd walk home together at 4 AM in the morning after a long night at the bar, shivering at the full moon - yes!

Consider the parallels between friendship and romantic relationships. What you have written above is the ideal fantasy, similar to what one thinks of for the awesome-est romantic partner. Does it exist in reality? Hell no. The best relationships on the planet take a truckloads of patience, understanding, maturity, energy and work. While a friendship may require much less of these things compared to a relationship with someone you live with, it still takes work. And its reciprocal. Do NOT ever give so much importance to the other half of the dyad than you give to yourself. When you say you are not worthwhile- not worthy of being friends with X, you have taken the worth from your end of the scale and put more in on their end of the scale, tipping the relationship scale off balance. You've got to maintain balance. I am not sure how and why this happens- and it seems to be a human problem than a cultural one- we seem to "forget" ourselves for others, and don't give our needs and wants as much importance as we do to others. Be careful there too, that's the extreme other end of where you are now.
posted by xm at 7:16 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here is your stated question:
how can your life be worthwhile when nobody in the world ... wants anything to do with you?

By finding things you enjoy doing on your own, and actually enjoying doing them. Of course your life is worthwhile regardless of how much people want to spend time with you! Just like anyone else's life is worthwhile if they aren't a millionaire, or their life is worthwhile if they've never travelled outside their hometown, or their life is worthwhile if their parents disowned them for being gay. Life is worthwhile. Your life is worthwhile. The problem is that you don't feel that your life is worthwhile right now. So there are sort of two parts to this: (1) feeling worthwhile, and (2) wanting to feel connected to people. The two are tightly related.

If you met you at a party, would you be friends with you? I feel like if you and I met at that beach gathering, and I found out you were a MeFite, I would totally want to be friends with you. I like people who like beaches, and who tend to be smart, deep thinkers.

But you are so, so down on yourself. Having asked for advice, you are very quick to reject swaths of it, sometimes with some venom. You describe wanting friendships that look a certain way, but don't describe friendships that make you feel a certain way or seeking friendships with particular kinds of people. I don't know you; I only know what you wrote here. But based on it I, personally, would find it difficult to be friends with someone who comes across as so self-loathing, who asks for advice but does not take it, and who is pursuing a "friendship that looks like this and anything that doesn't look like this is not real friendship" rather than an actual friendship with the person I am, with something that exists in the real world instead of in your head. Note I didn't say I wouldn't be friends with this person I've constructed, just that it would be difficult for me to expend the effort to make it happen.

xm mentioned that this is kind of like dating. Romantic and platonic relationships take work and they are reciprocal. I agree. It's common dating advice to "be the person you want to date." I'm going to apply that here: be the friend you want to befriend. You want to feel connected to people. To form genuine connections to people you need to live outside your head. The way to do that may take a little volunteering, or a little forced socialization, or a little therapy, or a little of everything. Don't do it because "this will get me friends." Do it because "being a better-adjusted person who is kind to herself will make me capable of forming actual connections with people."

It will take a lot of trial and error and heavy lifting on your part. Doing all of those things I mentioned has helped me get out of my head and consequently feel my life is worthwhile. It may help you too. It takes gobs of work, way more than seems reasonable, and way beyond what feels like a good point to give up.... but feeling that life is worthwhile and forming friendships and feeling connected to people would be worth it, right?

AskMe is for asking questions and getting answers. You've gotten a lot of answers from people who are trying to help, and I'd be curious to see which ones you would mark as best, as the advice you'd be most likely to take.
posted by nicodine at 8:43 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Um, would it be weird to join the people who are deeply affected by this thread? Because I've read your others (and even responded to one previously). I have been you, and last week I felt it so strongly I actually came back to this site to see if you posted a question.

I know everyone's suggested therapy and everything. And I don't know if it will work for you, but my voice can't add to what everyone has already said more eloquently than I have.

But sometimes, when you're in a situation, and you're surrounded by people who loathe you and judge you and hate you ... and have done so, with impunity for years... it's really hard to imagine that there's some place where there's a friendly voice, a friendly face, or something that's not outward hostility that's based on total rejection of you as a person. Sometimes people say that the hostility is in one's head. I know it wasn't in mine. Whatever I was, whatever I said, I knew I wasn't worth shit. I wasn't smart. For a long time, I didn't have a job or much of one. I have a disability that precluded/continues to preclude high achievement. And because I was forced to socialize with these toxic people (think family and friends) I shrank as the toxic bubble sort of flourished around me. Not having friends?

Not being able to connect?

It kills you. It kills me. There are studies that say that it kills, and I can believe it because I feel it all the time.

Writing these questions mean that you're fighting it. You have the energy. I read these questions, and even when you are at your most bitter and your most upset, I admire you. I admire you because I could've easily written your questions and didn't. Haven't. I don't have the energy to care. I'd rather curl up on a ball, let the world rage around me, and die a little every day. I wish I knew you.

Not everyone understands this. I mean, you did reach out, and you're going to get people who don't understand. But many of us do. I don't know if I can say that it will get better, but you're alive and I'm alive, and each second is another opportunity to claw ourselves out from this monstrous hole.
posted by orangutan at 8:55 AM on August 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

People see you as a horrible person that everyone should stay away from. Like this, from a recent dating thread:


This is truly abnormal behavior on his part. If he's alone, that's a red flag (does the man not have any friends??)

OMG, I don't have any friends??? HOW CAN SOMEONE NOT HAVE ANY FRIENDS??? Awesome: I'm a red flag. I don't think this is an uncommon opinion either. I think it is standard. And the only way to get yourself out of OMG YOU FRIENDLESS HORRIBLE FREAK is to lie about which form of square zero you're starting at. I don't like lying, but I also don't like people seeing me as someone to whom the proper reaction is OMG - RUN.
In the thread you are referring to, the overwhelming feedback was that the OP should not become romantically involved with someone who has obvious personal issues to work through. Not because people with personal issues to work through are bad, but because they are personal issues: they cannot be solved by intervention from a friend, or family, or a spouse. There's nothing wrong with this person for having personal issues, it's simply not in the best interest of the OP to get involved with them romantically until they address those issues and learn how to cope with them. Everybody has some "baggage", but not everybody has developed the coping skills yet.

As for developing friends, likeability has nothing to do with it. There is no logical reason to suppose that the people with lots of friends are inherently "better" in some way. Most people with a huge friend network got that way because they have an extroverted personality type and naturally gravitate toward having a huge network of friends. People who are more introverted (like myself) prefer to have a handful of close friends and spend more time happily engaging in solitary activities. Using your friend count as an empirical measurement of your worthiness as a person is exactly as misguided as using, say, your salary to indicate how good you are at basketball. No correlation, no causation, no relationship at all between the two things.
The problem is it's been that way all my life. I have never had any real friends, and I don't see any indication that it will change soon.
The past is past. There's no reason things have to be that way now. A lot of people who were misfits in high school go on to fulfilling social lives in college; a lot of people who were shut-ins in college go on to fulfilling social lives in the working world. Change is possible, and inevitable.
Nobody actually expects you to go places alone. You look like the weird loner, because people go places with their friends. You end up spending money (which due to the above you don't have much of) and feeling like you've wasted it. And when they do, they certainly aren't looking to meet people. When I was out with acquaintances, like at the beach or something, I know none of us were letting randoms join our group. Again, this is default.
For what it's worth, I go to things without my friends all the time. Sometimes I just want to go to get a nice fancy cocktail at the bar down the street and read a book in silence. I sincerely doubt anyone looks at people who go to bars or restaurants alone as some kind of malicious freak. If they notice you at all, they think you're just meeting someone later, or you're in town for business.

It is incredibly hard to meet "randoms" in a public setting and somehow develop a lasting relationship from the encounter. The vast majority of friendships develop out of a shared activity or membership in a group. For children, it's school. When you're a kid, almost all of your friends are people you had a class with at some point. In college/uni, you have more groups to choose from, but you'll probably end up being friends with people in your major or who were in some club or organization that you joined, or people who lived on your floor. When you're a working adult, you'll make a lot of friends through work. That's just the way it goes. Meetups, singles events, and the like try to simulate this experience; sometimes they are successful, sometimes not.

So, be realistic. Give yourself a break. The problem you're trying to solve is hard. It's even harder if you live in a foreign country or a city where you're a transplant. It's possible to make friends as an adult, but you're going to have to persevere. It won't be as easy as "I always do _____ in parties, which makes people not be my friend. If I stop doing that, I'll have dozens of friends!" The best advice I can give you is to get involved in some activity that you can do with other people (cycling, running, role-playing games, feeding the homeless, tutoring, whatever you enjoy) and stick it out for as long as possible. Eventually, you will have a bunch of friends just by sheer repetition and seeing those people every couple of weeks for several years. Maybe you will feel a connection to one or two of those people, and the friendship will develop into something deeper, or maybe they'll just be your "gaming friends" forever. You can't really force a friendship, but you can put yourself in situations where you will acquire lots of these activity-friends to increase your chances of running into someone you really connect with.

I wish I could say "There's something wrong with you, dude – all of us have tons of besties." That's not the case. Most of us just get by and make connections when we can. Try to make the best of your lot. If things aren't working out to your liking, change it up. You'll be okay.
posted by deathpanels at 9:52 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm in a field where everyone else's friendships are flaunted and obvious. It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me that they can reach out to them - in some cases awful people! We're talking abusers, convicted criminals, sanctimonious pricks sometimes - but see me as beneath that.

One more thing (and yeah, this question has been on my mind a lot for the last 24 hours also): don't underestimate how much of a part this is playing in how you feel. It really, really sucks to feel surrounded by people you feel you have nothing in common with and can't connect with. But remember that there are so many different kinds of people out in the world, even in NYC, and you're only seeing a tiny fraction of that in your work life and social life.

Part of the reason I've stuck in my own low-paying field as long as I have is I like the kind of personality it attracts, and I enjoy being around my coworkers even if we don't hang out outside of work. I feel comfortable in my own skin there. I briefly worked in another field a few years back that attracted a completely different personality type, and I felt like an alien there. I didn't know how to talk to anybody at work or what I might even talk to them about. We didn't seem to have any mutual interests. I didn't dress like any of them either - I felt quite unfashionable, which had never bothered me at my other jobs, but suddenly I felt like I stuck out in a bad way just by being myself. It was such a relief to come back into my industry and meet like-minded people again, where I feel like I fit in better naturally.

Find a way to surround yourself with different kinds of people at least some of the time. There are so many opportunities to easily and cheaply/freely do that here. Volunteering can help with this, and taking up a new hobby can help with this. I can personally vouch for knitting, and I think it might suit you from what you've said - it has a strong online and offline community, and can be as cheap or as expensive as one wants it to be, and it attracts a lot of quiet and thoughtful people and is also relaxing to do alone with the TV on in the background. But think of what sort of activities would appeal to you and try to focus on getting into those. Social relationships can spring more naturally out of doing that as opposed to trying to form relationships for relationships' sake.

I really hope you are finding at least some of these answers helpful.
posted by wondermouse at 10:39 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here are some things that you probably don't believe:
  • There really are people who really exist who will like you and love you for who you are
  • You are not unloveable
  • You are not horribly broken
  • You are capable of being a friend and havng friends
  • You are not worthless
  • You are entirely too hard on yourself

I know what it is like to be at the bottom of the well of depression. Life is a horrible slog. Nobody cares. It seems like it will never get better. It's so hard to fight your way back to the top. It's so far away. Besides, what's the point, right?

You need help. Use the links that you've been given. Dial the phone. Make and keep an appointment. You owe it to yourself and you have nothing to lose. You may not have any friends IRL but you have at least 143 people and counting on the Internet who are now rooting for you, even now, when you can't root for yourself.

It really can get better. You really can get out of that well.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have found my definition of "friend" has changed over the years. When I was in my 20s, I felt like the only real friends I had were people I had known for many years. I thought friends had to share everything and see each other at their worst. Friendships were emotional and I had to feel some sort of deep connection to my friends.

Now that I am in my 30s, my definition of friendship has changed. I lost a friend recently. We were close for about a year and then he met his now fiance and we've fallen out of touch. When I was in my early 20s, this would have been a tragedy fill with things like, "How can he do this to me? How can he pretend to be my friend and just abandon me? He must never have been a real friend." Now that I am older, I realize he was a real friend. We may never speak again, but I enjoyed his company and friendship.

I think re-defining friendship has helped me. I can just enjoy someone's company even if I know the friendship may die out. I don't need a "deep" connection with someone to feel like that person is a friend. Sometimes people stick around and sometimes they don't. The key for me is to enjoy a person's company, but keep my expectations for the future low.

I say these things as a very introverted person who hates being superficial.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:12 AM on August 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I just wanted to add one thing to what I said about doing stuff alone. You think everyone is judging you, and I think mostly they are not. But let's say they are. At least a few of them probably are, realistically. But visually, there is no difference between a person going to, say, a movie alone because they're:

-a cool confident person who just wants to see that movie,
-an entertainment writer.

People might be judging you, but they might judging you positively. I like doing things alone, but some things, like eating in nice restaurants alone, are just not pleasant for me. So I don't do that, and that's fine. But if I saw another woman eating in a nice restaurant alone, I'd assume she was a) super-confident, b) cooler than me and c) most likely traveling for her impressive job with a large expense account. I suppose there's a chance all her friends just stood her up because they hate her, but I - who am not the world's most forgiving person - would never think of that.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:09 PM on August 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

But visually, there is no difference between a person going to, say, a movie alone because they're:

-a cool confident person who just wants to see that movie,
-an entertainment writer.

People might be judging you, but they might judging you positively.
Yes, but also bear in mind that most of the people "judging" you for doing something that has no bearing on them whatsoever are probably just trying to mask their own feelings of inferiority. The majority of the people you will encounter in public will either a) be doing their own thing and not even notice you, or b) notice you and think, "Huh, that guy went to see The Muppet Movie alone on a Friday.. and he's wearing an ugly Hawaiian shirt.. that's sort of unusual, but not worthy enough of my time to think about it for more than ten seconds."

Let's do a thought experiment. Let's say in some fictional universe, you are the weirdest person ever and everywhere you go, people stare at you and wonder "What's up with that guy?" You are probably never going to see most of those people ever again. Why worry about what they think? Why prioritize the needs of people who you are never going to interact with more than once? Why does a complete stranger's opinion carry any weight whatsoever in deciding how to live your life?

It is logical and healthy and sane to proceed through the world as if 99.9% of what you do and say will not be remembered more than 24 hours by anyone that you meet on the street.
posted by deathpanels at 3:36 PM on August 24, 2013

If you look into Feeling Good, please also check out the Feeling Good Handbook. It has a lot of strategies for the very kind of questions in different aspects of life that all of us struggle with at some point in our lives. Speaking of which, if you are in a younger age bracket, please know that sometimes some years are harder than we anticipate or feel we can deal with. Its a learning opportunity; and if you try to learn from it, you will come out wiser, stronger and happier.

Please feel free to message me privately *anytime*.
(I am in the midst of a job + country move so if I don't get back right away then that's why. I will get back to you though.)
posted by xm at 4:56 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's the American Dream, man. Your life isn't working? CHUCK it. Build a new one.

I believe this is the equivalent of George Costanza's "Do The Opposite" strategy. While the suggestion is slightly glib, Jason Alexander has sworn that he knows people who picked up on the philosophy and did pretty well by it.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:53 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I will just answer your question: what do you do if you are never going to have any friends for the rest of your life, because that is roughly what my life is like.

So here's me: I am an unpleasant, physically and personally repulsive, single, childless freak in an area where even if I were normal, I'd still be weird because I am single and childless. As it is, when i make acquaintances I repel them even when I'm trying hard not to do so, and even when I manage not to put people off at first I usually end up somehow ruining it because I get tired or something one day and forget to ruthlessly self-censor who I really am and what I am really like. I only have five friends on earth except for three old work colleagues. All five of my friends live at least seven hundred miles away. I have not seen any of them in more than ten years. I will probably never see any of them again in person. The people with whom I work dislike me so much that it's best that I don't speak to any of them unless it is work-related.

So although I do have friends to whom I speak regularly, I don't have any in person. Outside of that, I am actually a person with whom no one wants to spend time. I am used to watching the look of mingled incredulity and disgust that eventually rolls across someone's face when I finally say something that makes them realize how strange I am. I know what that is like and I have known it my whole life, starting with my mother. I know.

Here are the things I'm going to tell you as someone who lives that way.

1. I had to give up caring that people think I'm a creepy weirdo. It doesn't always work, but most of the time I don't care that I'm not normal. I do try not to interact with people on a personal level, because on a work or volunteer footing what I'm doing can sometimes overshadow who I am, which helps avoid the rebuffs for a while.

2. When it does hurt, I have to accept it because there's nothing else to be done. I can't mutilate who I am to be acceptable to other people - I've tried over and over and I always fail. So I try not to think about the work functions from which I'm deliberately excluded, the people with whom I volunteer who go out of their way to snub me, the random petty cruelties that are just part of my life and always have been. I shrug, and cry, and move on.

3. I find things to love, even if there are no people to love. There are things that are important to me, things that make me feel whole. I cherish them. For example, we have a yearly music festival here for one of my favorite types of music and I look forward to those performances all year long.

4. I refuse to let the fact I'm all alone turn me into a shut-in, but it is a constant fight. I make myself go places and I've found that generally the worst part of going is the getting there in the first place. Mostly no one notices you once the event has started, so you only feel conspicuous for about fifteen minutes if you time things right. For example, I went a couple of weeks ago to a show that was in a tiny intimate space with little tables for the spectators and I was literally the only person there who was all alone. It was excruciating until the lights went down, but after that I had a good time.

5. I volunteer a lot. Now, this is hard because people in the volunteer organizations don't like me any more than anyone else, but if you show up, do your fair share, and don't do anything that violates basic etiquette pretty much no volunteer organization will kick you out. This does two things - it gives me something to do to feel good about, and it gives me connections that I can pretend might in some alternate dimension lead to a new job with people who respect and like me.

6. That brings me to the most important part: you have to have something to hope for, even if you know perfectly well that it's illusory. For me, I like to pretend that someday I'll have a good job with people who like and respect me even after they come to know that I'm not normal. So I do all kinds of things to try to become a more skilled and qualified employee, in the hope that someday it will happen. You have to have something to hope for even if it's just you lying to yourself. So set goals. Dream dreams. Work toward something, anything. It will give you something to hang the rest of your life on.

It's hard, but there isn't anything else to be done.
posted by winna at 10:55 PM on August 24, 2013 [14 favorites]

I"m not your therapist, but...

you seem very angry. If you realize this, you probably think it's because of other people. What you don't realize is that you're caught in a vicious cycle. Because you're now angry (and I'm sure you have perfectly great reasons for feeling this way) you're behaving in ways that you can't possibly recognize that are making it impossible for you to make friends. It's not just about what you might say on certain occasions. It's a kind of animal-ethology thing that we're all subject to: non-verbal cues that give the message to others to stay away. It's a figure-ground thing: you're just not going to be able to see what you're doing now. And it's why people have recommended group therapy to you: because others in the group will verbalize what is now not being said, but just acted out (by others' avoidance).

However, you seem SO vulnerable at this point that it seems as if group without individual is not necessarily the right sequence, unless you happen to get a group therapist who is exquisitely sensitive to your vulnerabilities.

"By the way," if 100 therapists have rejected you, I maintain that my hypothesis is correct: you come into an asking-for-help situation fully armed and ready to shoot, and the therapists then find you to be a "help rejecter," too defended to elicit a helping response in these professionals.

This stance that you take ("help me I'm desperate but, by the way, I'm beyond help and will reject everything you say") is obviously being replicated right here, in your question.

The most important part of your twisty confounding presentation, however, is that your question here right now: "what do I do now because I can't be helped?" is itself a plea for help (from the very insensitive rejecting louts* who have put you in this horrible position in the first place), thus strongly suggesting that you haven't given up. And that's why people keep trying to help you.

*us, and all of wo/mankind

What you're saying in the question, though, is "Stop helping me in the way YOU think I should be helped! Help me in the way *I* want to be helped!" thus accusing us even as we try and try to find some way to get "in" to you (this must be exactly how the hundred therapists felt, but who cares about them, this is about you)

Sorry I'm free-associating. You're a very hurt angry person and you need to try try try to relate to somebody who can see past the defenses and work with you, and that person is called a therapist. I suggest you make the investment in yourself -- it's going to be a lot less of one than going through decades trying to compensate for all these awful feelings you are carrying around all the time.

And, by the way, yeah, Facebook is yet another unconscious animal-ethological presentation-medium where people post stuff that gives off the vibes of "Look at me! I'm a healthy, good-smelling member of your species who does not warrant being left for dead." Try to avoid it until you're feeling better.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:46 AM on August 25, 2013 [25 favorites]

I agree with the observation several people have made about anger. I think starting to deal with your anger -- not as something that other people have made you feel, but simply as an emotion that is existing within yourself -- is a necessary precondition for you to start figuring out how to make meaning in your life, even when the world around doesn't seem to supply it for you. Since you insist that therapy (even free therapy) isn't an option, I would suggest reading Anger by Thich Nhat Hahn, which you can probably get for free via the library (or buy for less than $3 used); here's an excerpt.

If you can start to sit with this anger that is burning you, and begin to meet it with compassion instead of fear, you may be able to start to transform your suffering and begin to create a meaningful life, with or without friends.
posted by scody at 2:33 PM on August 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

There have been times in my life, sometimes years and years on end, where I have been essentially friendless and essentially alone. Usually this is around the end of a relationship, where my clinical depression kicks in after lingering under the surface for a long time (and after being the cause of the end of the relationship). Right now I have only one person I would really consider a true and solid "friend", and that is one of my nephews (he's about the same age as me, though, so it isn't completely sad and weird).

Being alone works for me okay, but only up to a point. After too long I tend to go a bit crazy (and booze never helps that, but I've got that under control now and very rarely have a drink) and that crazy starts to infect every waking hour. My judgement falls to pieces and I think and say really odd and uncomfortable things. The thing is, I recongise that they are odd and uncomfortable things and with nobody to bounce stuff off before I reveal it to an unwilling public, I only have myself to blame, and this just fuels the cycle of depression and craziness and pretty soon you gotta check yourself in to the rubber room for a spell.

But the craziness is what I want to talk about. Craziness is like a stain that you can never get out. After the spill, and after you notice the spill, you can start to treat it with chemicals, try and massage it out of the carpet of your brain, but no matter how well you clean it up there's always going to be that odd patch there, discoloured and slightly rough, and you always notice it even though others might not.

Once you've lived with your own craziness for a while, even if you've gotten "better", the stain is always going to be there, and it's going to pop up from time to time, and no matter what situation it pops up in it is never going to help it. Coupled with the fact that living alone makes you lose your ability to self-censor, and the gist is that you end up saying some fucked-up things to precisely the wrong people, and either end up with your ass beat at worst, or unable to ever make a connection with them at best.

Humans are social animals. You don't have to like other people, but you need to be able to tolerate some of them, and you need to find others that can tolerate you, even if it's only so you can sit around together for half an hour once a week gritting your teeth and wishing you were elsewhere. You have to force yourself to do it.

So, it's pretty clear that you are seriously depressed. Your serious depression in conjunction with your loneliness is going to eventually drive you crazy to some degree, if it hasn't already. Craziness is exactly like depression in that if you've got it you're always gonna have it, and it will show itself either nakedly or secretly but it will always be there. So you have to temper it as much as possible and I am convinced that the way you do this is by forcing yourself into therapy above everything else, and by forcing yourself to be social wherever possible (go to a movie, buy yourself some popcorn, and ask the person next to you: "So what are you seeing? Oh yeah? Have fun!") Just little dribs and drabs of it wherever you can. It's not a matter of being extroverted or introverted or having a social phobia, you don't have to be friends with anybody, but you need to recognise your innate predilection for social contact and you need to act on it whenever you have the opportunity.

Things get a little easier after that. Every word you exchange with another real-life human being is another short stroke of fine-grit sandpaper across the surface of your fear and loathing. Just talk to other people, wherever and whenever you can, even if it's just the age-old weather observation exchange, but remember this: only therapists want to hear you talk about yourself.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:56 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wow. You've gotten 150 comments. That's quite a feat. When I post I only get about eight if I'm lucky. So you've got something going there, at least! Most people don't get 150 replies to their posts, either. So, something to be said there, I guess.

Anyway, I don't think you're desperate. I think you're frustrated. Very frustrated. I think you go into situations with your best foot forward and good expectations, and are constantly troubled to find that people don't seem to want more of you. You might initiate things with others, and from your level of frustration, I think you probably do. You don't get anything back, though, and this is where your depression starts and frustration percolates up to the surface. Whoever said friendship is easy upthread, must have had good models of social skills probably from childhood, or could be one of the many individuals I've known who just seem to have people "flock" to them, seemingly without effort. I've watched these friends, and have taken note on what they do or don't do. I've found it's no different than what I do- engaging, friendly demeanor, humorous and entertaining, a certain sense of confidence. I do all those things as well, and are a part of who I am, yet I don't yield the same results. Some people have something that's generally attractive to others, and I have no idea what that is. Social butterflies & people magnets. Some people just are lucky with that. I've found the times I really have had that vibe myself is when I'm completely enjoying my surroundings and feel almost like I have some special superpower or confidence going on under me, like everything is in it's right and I could do no wrong. I find that people are more receptive to me when I feel this feeling, but as far as maintaining it I don't think I'd have the energy. A lot of those friends my social butterfly friends have had though, I wouldn't necessarily want to be their friend in the first place. I didn't have anything in common with them.

A good amount of self worth does come from your relation and interacting with other people. We are social animals by nature, if you leave a baby without emotional support but feed and shelter it otherwise, the child develops a whole inside that will take it's life on a very different path, than someone who is nurtured and given emotional support and love. We all need it. Your depression stems from not having this- I think it's a reaction to your "cause" of feeling isolated. We need other people to make us feel worthy and loved. Most healthy people feel healthy because they have friends who support them and mutually enjoy their company. They are important to their significant other, and feel loved. Talents and skills are validated by people who are important to them. Think of a child who excels at something, but their parents could care less or show any interest in what they do (chapter out of my life, regrettably). Without some sort of external validation, how do we know where doing something right, or feel that what we do is important and matters to the ones who matter most to us? I think that is really important, and a point that I think is missing. We all need external validation to some point, and the OP is not getting it, anywhere. Maybe has never gotten it, therefore compounding these interactions with people who the Op wants to connect with (if even superficially), seem much more devastating and proving that she's left out of the social norm, for some reason unbeknownst to her. This can be deep sore blow to a well meaning person who just wants to feel a bit like they matter to someone.

Maybe there are things that the OP is doing to push people away. No one can know, only someone who is there with her as she interacts. I think the suggestion upthread of a mefite gathering that could possibly see how she interacts and observe if there really is anything wrong. More deodorant? Less deodorant? :) i'm sure that's not the problem :/

I treat people the way I want to be treated, I am a good friend, inviting, humorous, and very caring. Though I have a lot of the same problem still that the OP experiences. You can give and be the kind of friend you would want yourself, and still not get the same back.

As far as the work friends go, if they're befriending people who appear to be real jerks, why would you want to be friends with people who have such low standards for friends? I know you're comparing the fact that "they would be friends with these low lifes, but wouldn't even consider it with me?". Well, that's mostly their problem, and not a reflection on you. If anything, you should feel better about yourself, because they associate with jerks and clearly you're not one of them because they don't want to be friends with you. That's a good thing. It shows what they value. You wouldn't want them as friends anyway.

Aside from being social animals, it is completely possible (and normal) to develop your own self esteem. You can't rely totally on others for it, but an almost complete lack of it from people other than yourself can surely be damaging. Developing it on your own is being kinder to yourself- the first thing I learned to do was shut off the negative feedback tape I had playing in my head 24/7. I realized they were lies that I was told as a child, that I wasn't good enough, smart enough, even worthy enough just as a human being, to be loved. That is all untrue. I've done things that I've wanted to accomplish, lived abroad for a period of time (that totally scared the hell out of me to even attempt to do, but ended up having a great time!), worked on my weaknesses and generally worked on things "I" find important to me, and of value, and now I have found that there are people out there that I do attract to myself that value these things too, and find them important, and are amazed by my abilities. This is a revelation, even if it's not a huge crowd of followers who are noticing (I too wonder and would like that fantasy of a bunch of friends around, tons of inside jokes and sharing ice cream after a breakup- but the more I read that, the more that sounds like relationships I had in high school. The ones you're probably seeing are indeed extensions of high school- these girls at the bar have grown up together. These are relationships you make because you're so young and don't have much independence and therefore lean on each other, so much more. Outside of the 20's, those types of relationships fade or don't happen because there's really no need for them. People have found out what they like and have no problem going out and experiencing what they might be interested in. Maybe that's studying abroad, or learning a new language/instrument, reading and becoming knowledgeable on a new subject. Any of these things that you do for you, because you're interested in them, could only lead to potentially connecting to someone who's into the same stuff you're into. And down the road, you go).

People can't be changed, harnessed, or conjured up. You might only find one person who you connect with in years, but that one person will be special when you find them. I guess the main point is focus on how you can make your life more enjoyable, and really tend to that. Tend to your self esteem, and erase the tape from childhood that says you're not worthy of love, and start doing things that "you're" proud of, and that disprove those old invalid thoughts. Whatever that is, a college degree to help validate you're intelligence with that piece of paper, a dog that seems to love you no matter what you do. These are all helpful validations to turn that tape into a positive one.

As far as friends the one thing I've noticed is showing up somewhere regularly. People like familiarity. It's all about proximity and familiarity. That's why people have suggested going to the gym regularly, because it makes you feel good to see you're body change and to feel healthy inside, this in turn can help your mood. Being in a social environment where there's little pressure to communicate but are still apart of the group, I find to be helpful. Try the group exercise classes.

Get out and do what you want. Don't limit yourself, or your thinking. Even though you've felt beat down, try to be open. There are plenty of new people you haven't met, forget about the one who didn't seem to care about getting to know you. Try to be kind to yourself, and know you deserve love. You deserve it from other people, and from yourself.

I extend the hand of friendship to you as well. Feel free to memail me, and grant me permission to send you funny/weird videos to possibly brighten your day :)
Everyone needs that. I think that's what your whole post was about.

You're not disposable, or a castaway. I hope no one else ever feels that way :/ Everyone has value, just the way they are.
posted by readygo at 4:23 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with others, that you are not 100 per cent correct that you are doomed to be forever friendless, or that it is absolutely true that no one ever could relate to you. These are classic cognitive distortions and your resistance to examining these is a classic sign of major depression.

However, I have two small practical suggestions about what you could do right now on a limited budget: First do you think you could visit a library? I ask because when I was going through a period when I suffered terrible social anxiety was solidly convinced I would never have friends (despite the inconvenient fact of my ACTUAL FRIENDS, which I mention to illustrate how powerfully distorted my thinking was on this) David Burns 'Intimate Connections' book really helped me. Ignore the 'intimate' bit and the stupid looking love heart on the cover - it's about relating to people and making friends, not necessarily romantic partners. Why not start there? What have you got to lose? Caveat: reading the book was helpful, doing the exercises was more helpful. You don't get anything for nothing, and the cost of breaking out of the friendless thing with these exercises was, for me, discomfort until, well, I got comfortable with talking to strangers.

Second: meditation has really helped me with social anxiety and depression. Why not give it a go? Worst case scenario, you're in a quiet room for half an hour listening to your thoughts. So no different from being miserable at home. Best case scenario, after practice, you discover a quiet still place inside yourself that is a sanctuary from all the crap around you. You learn to sit with the feelings of sadness, rejection, whatever. They still hurt, but you can endure the pain, recognising that it, like everything, passes. You care less that you don't have friends because, hey, you have you and that's OK. Possibly, you are nicer to be around have eventually do have more friends. Caveat: I am the exact opposite of a huge hippie and I cannot freakin' rave about meditation enough, BUT it is not a quick process. I am however, pretty sure you can find somewhere to do it for free. Google 'free meditation classes' + your area.

Good luck, good luck.
posted by t0astie at 7:31 PM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I keep coming back to this thread to check in on it. My other two comments sounded more like pep talks. But maybe I should give you some tangible advice in the form of tasks:

o Stop drinking. You know drinking is the cause of a lot of your problems. So just stop. I am not calling you an alcoholic or saying "you have a problem." I am saying you need to find some emotional/social crutch other than alcohol. From now on, you're not the girl ordering cosmos or splitting a bottle of wine on a Friday night with your bestie. From now on you're like the MIT gamblers in the movie 21 or Michael Corleone in Godfather II-- club soda with lemon. Instead of having a bottle of wine at home, from now on you stock bottles of San Pelligrino.

o Exercise. All the kids today are talking about couchTo5k. But a vigorous walk is also acceptable. It will give you something to do, get you out of the house, and is good for you. Keep up a routine doing it at the same time every day, and it will help you get familiar with the rhythms of life around your neighborhood.

o Get better at emotional self-regulation. Everyone will suggest therapy for this, but it isn't strictly necessary. It's more about maturity. In conversations, be more willing to observe and listen rather than let loose with what you are thinking and feeling. No one needs to hear about your needs or your opinion, unless asked. If you need to "share", learn to talk more about what you do rather than what you feel.

o This is hard, but lay off freelancing for a while, at least as your primary job. You're too young and inexperienced to freelance as anything other than a sideline. Look at this thread to get ideas about temp agencies to sign up for to give you some steady work. This will give you something to "do", it will get you out of the house, and it will give you experience dealing with people as colleagues and fellow adults rather than "besties."

o Once or twice a week, attend a concert at an under-$20 venue or a street fair/market/festival. Doesn't matter what it is, as long as it sounds vaguely interesting. Once again, it will get you out of the house and give you something to do and experience. Remember, no drinking. Take a few pictures and post one of them on Facebook, each time you go out.
posted by deanc at 6:49 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

This post has been upsetting me since it went up, and I have realized that it was designed to do just that. Your question, like some of your others, is disingenuous. I don't think you necessarily have that insight, so I'm not blaming you exactly. I just feel like what you do is reject love and care. In social life, here, in therapy, it just seems to be your thing. And I feel like when you don't have love and care IRL to reject, you come to the green and ask a pathos filled question of intelligent, good hearted people who want so badly to help you. But you're not asking in order to get help, you're asking so you can get some love and care to reject. It's really mean. The people who are answering you are real human beings, and you're really putting them through something upsetting in order to maintain your equilibrium.

That is the reaction your question and follow up comments are eliciting in me, and I really suspect that's the answer to both your stated and implied questions.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [54 favorites]

There's a lot I want to write here. Some of it's going to be pretty blunt, and I'm genuinely sorry if it hurts your feelings or feeds your demons.

I spent most of my adult life suicidally depressed, buried in self-loathing. And, the entire time, my one assumption was that I knew myself inside and out, and that no external person could help me, because they just didn't get it.

Here's the problem with that: I didn't know myself at all.

I thought I did, but what I "knew" was a collection of distortions and untruths that I had assembled over a lifetime of depression. Everything I "knew" about myself was wrong, whether it was wrong in just being overly unkind or flat-out, anti-factual, no, really, the sky is blue, not orange, wrong.

From the tone and tenor of your responses, you are wedded to the idea that you know yourself, and you know the Real Truth about yourself. That kind of defense can never be breached, so, if you're hoping someone will break though it somehow, give up that hope right now. They can't.

The only person who can open those gates is you, and it has to be a deliberate decision to open the gates to the possibility that what other people tell you they see is the reality. That, when someone tells you they see a good person, that they enjoy your company, that they're having fun with you, that you believe it as much as you believe that, no, they're lying to you, they're not telling the truth, they're just feeling sorry for you.

You think you're special, because the depth of your trauma or whatever is unique. You're not special or unique. You have a serious medical problem, and you're not treating it, and that's about the long and the short of it. You can do all the complaining you want about everything but the reality, and I'm sure at least some of us will go along with it and agree that, yes, things really are horrible.


You are living a self-inflicted wound, bucko, and you need to decide whether you're going to live or die. You have a chemical imbalance that literally affects your entire sensorium. It's not just that you can't think clearly: you can't even see, hear, taste or smell clearly. Your brain is fucked up chemically, and it's entire possible that by this point it's fucked up physically as well.

You need to seriously question every single assumption you make about reality, because the fact is that you do not see reality. You see reality mediated by uncontrolled, deep, deep depression. And you are not the best person to treat that. You're not objective, you don't know yourself better than anyone else, you're not capable of thinking your way out of this.

You are extremely unwell, and it's time to put your life into someone else's hands until you can handle it better.

This is a sickness. It is not a thought pattern, it is not a behavioral pattern, it is not some mysterious burden you are doomed to carry. It's a chemical imbalance and a matter of brain patterning.

Right now, you think I'm full of shit. That's your option, and you're welcome to it, and chances are that you're going to come back and tell me I'm wrong, that I just don't get it, that I don't understand.

I'm 41 years old, and from the age of 17 until the age of 35 I spent every day of my life loathing myself. 18 years. I drove my family and my friends away from me. I tried to kill myself multiple times. I was a miserable son of a bitch on an hourly basis.

And someone finally got through to me, and they said "hey, what you're doing isn't working, might as well try something else". So I did.

That guy I was, he was convinced he knew himself inside and out. He didn't know shit about me. He was wrong about everything important, and he was a pretty gigantic asshole about it. If I'd kept listening to him, I'd be dead by now.

Jessamyn's met me and my older kid. She seemed to have a pretty good time hanging out with us. That guy I used to be would say she was a liar, and that she just didn't want me to feel bad, and he'd know the REAL story. He'd be totally wrong.

Cortex has hung out with me and my kid. He also seemed to have a pretty good time. Is he a liar? The people who've told me I made their lives more enjoyable? Are they all liars?

No. They're not. They're not liars, or deluded, or acting out of pity. They're right. And I was the liar. And you need to be open to the possibility that the person you are right now is a liar who wants you dead, not your friend.

Good luck. Memail me any time you want.
posted by scrump at 11:34 AM on August 26, 2013 [24 favorites]

> The thing about "look, people are friends here!" is that it's hollow. It is to friendship what slacktivism is to actually helping people. When it counts, nobody is there. It's quite common.

There are individual people who have responded in this thread to reach out and offer their friendship to you.

It's not very nice to write that off as hollow and shallow.
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on August 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

I sometimes tell a metaphor. Ever been water skiing? You strap on these big wooden slats and grab a handle towed by a boat going crazy fast. You hang onto this handle for dear life. Sometimes, we clutch this handle because we believe it gives us control. As long as we have this handle, we have some sort of pretense at being in control, winning, guiding our own destiny, some sort of security or meaning. However, in reality, the guy driving the boat has a lot more control. Where are they going? I don't know. You don't know. Where did they learn to drive a boat? What are their views on smashing water skiers onto rocks? You have an option. Hang on, or... let go. *

You're wearing a life jacket, cause that is the smart thing to do while water skiing. Sure, letting go of the handle going 50 mph means you're going to bounce, off of pretty hard water. BUT, then, you settle down. Things are calm, peaceful. Your life jacket keeps you afloat. The lake is pretty. The day is nice. You can chose to swim in X direction, or not.

What is your handle, and why do you keep clutching it? Where is it taking you?

*(Not suicide, not suicide, NOT suicide, not suicide, that NEVER is the answer.)
posted by Jacen at 9:06 PM on August 26, 2013

Just came back to add something that someone else mentioned earlier: perhaps you might consider visiting a church. I don't mean this in a "Have you found Jay-sus? Jay-sus will be your friend! Come into the LIGHT!" kind of way. I mean it in the sense that a religious community whose values you share will, at least in theory, welcome and accept you and give you a place to be around other people with good intentions and compassion.

When my husband and I moved to Chicago just after we got married, I decided to attend the Unitarian church in Hyde Park with him (he's an atheist, but he has also been a lifelong UU). It was January in Chicago. He had just started grad school the quarter before and was under a lot of stress, and I felt depressed and lonely and lost and homesick. But the people at that church made me feel welcome. I sing, so I joined the choir and got involved in other activities, and I have to say that just attending the services and being with other people--passing the peace during the service and having coffee with them afterwards--always made me feel better afterwards. And if you know anything about Unitarian-Universalists, they are very accepting of a huge variety of religious beliefs, and they are also very active in fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia. That doesn't make them or their churches perfect by any means, but those churches are places where you might feel comfortable--they also tend to attract a lot of intelligent oddballs who feel that they don't fit anywhere else but who find a spiritual home and community there.

There are other religious groups that might be good places to find peace, acceptance, and a sense of not being alone, and if you're in NYC there is probably a huge variety, all with congregations much more diverse than they would normally be in suburban or rural areas: Quaker meetings, Baha'i temples, perhaps Buddhist meditation centers (they often provide free classes in meditation, which might help you feel more at peace with yourself, which in turn might help you be less anxious and tense in your interactions with other people). If you're a non-theist, you might find kindred spirits in a secular humanist or atheist group, where (in my limited experience, anyways) intellectual engagement always seems to be prioritized over social chitchat. Or if you do lean Christian, try a United Church of Christ (the denomination in which I was raised)--they are also very welcoming and warm and socially progressive.

Just think about it. What's the worst that can happen?
posted by tully_monster at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also consider support groups or meetup groups for people on the autism spectrum.

Many people on the autism spectrum do not have friends. Perhaps you could learn from each other.

Also it's an affordable way to examine whether one has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and to get guidance in doing so.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:56 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing I struggle with is internalization. I have internalized a lot of crap from my family and the media. Things such as "Not successful? I must be a loser." "Not thin? I must be a greedy eater who can't stop stuffing her mouth." Not an A type personality? I must be lazy." Those internalizations have done me a lot of damage. They really have their grip on me when I am depressed. But, after years, nay decades, and a few bouts of therapy and reading lots of books, and wanting to be happy and loved some of them are losing their foothold.

I wonder if you have internalized a lot of negativity from your immediate surrounds. It sounds like you may have. You think that because you don't have friends like your co-workers do, you must be unlovable. Maybe you think therapy is for losers. Maybe you think that everybody would live in NYC if they could. Maybe you think that the only way to be happy is to be seen to be cool. These are internalizations that have no truth to them. They are other people's expressed perceptions that you may have taken on board as your own truth.

Letting go of these things can be really hard because we often don't know how and where they have their grip on us. We may think internalizations are part of who we are, but again they are not, or they don't have to be if they make us unhappy.

If you could stop still for a day, turn off the tv and the internet, sit by a window with a pen and paper and write down everything you think is a personal truth, and then challenge yourself to be a devil's advocate and find the falsehoods, if possible, in those 'truths', you may find some openings for yourself towards another way forward. Don't worry if you break down in tears, that's par for the course, just keep at it.

Anyone, anyone at all, who can be honest with themselves, truly honest, can have love and friends if they want them. Honesty attracts humans.
posted by Kerasia at 4:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]

I just had a random comment; your grammar is better than the vast majority of the internet, and for at least that tiny reason, I liked your post - and thus you - from the get-go.

Hang in there. Change some stuff up slowly over time. It gets better.
posted by talldean at 5:05 PM on August 29, 2013

You do live in a culture of isolation (US) where people do not even know their neighbor's names. That is normal. Contrary to popular belief you do not need tons of friends to be normal. One or two are just fine. Then there are the acquaintances. Presuming you have a job you must meet people and have some interaction with them.

The mind is a weird thing, the more idle it is, the worst scenarios it creates. Get off your butt and go get a hobby or something to do. Utilize your Human life and help others-animals, poor, old, you get the idea. Right now you are only dwelling on things and want them to come right up to you on your doorstep. Aint' gonna happen.
posted by ladoo at 10:31 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

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