Overcoming loneliness...
October 1, 2013 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I've been dependent for most of my life, and I now find myself in a situation where I'm completely alone for huge spans of time. It's depressing. How can I overcome this? Any good resources, means to helping?

I broke up with my longtime girlfriend (5 years) about 3 months ago because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with someone who didn't support me or help in any way. It was a good decision, but it has been hard. I have since filled my time with activities, but they are beginning to dwindle as the winter months slowly approach. I've also filled a small amount of time going on dates with someone (Just met her). She has a busy schedule and we are taking everything very slowly. That's great! But habits from my past are beginning to creep up and cause spurts of depression.

One of my biggest issues is that I'm over thinking everything as one extreme or the other. It's putting me through a roller coaster of emotional distress. I could be happy for a day, then in a deep depression the next, and it all stems off the fact that I can't be alone. I can hardly remember a time where I was by myself (Maybe 2 years in college, but there were people around). Now, I have no immediate family in the area (Dad moved out of the area a few months back), and most of my friends are busy with their lives.

I imagine volunteering at places around town or doing something with my free time would help, so I've definitely tried to look at other avenues. I'm really looking for a means to digging into the root cause of my issues. Are there any resources to help guide my introspection? Anything that has helped people in the past?
posted by MMALR to Human Relations (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You're lonely but you're not alone on this one. Lots of people experience this.

Google "feeling empty all the time" and read what people say. There's lots of good info on where it can come from, and overcoming it.

You need to know who you are, on your own terms. So when you're feeling lonely/empty, just ask yourself: what do I feel right now? underneath this emptiness, what is really there? What happened to me recently? What do I need or want right now?

There's stuff under there, you just need to look at it.

As you learn to take care of yourself, others will naturally gravitate to you. It's one of those paradoxes of life.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:06 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

My combination of things: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (see the oft-recommended Feeling Good book), volunteering, a bunch of internet friends, and, to be honest, time. I'm, well, more than three months past a breakup from a similarly long-term relationship that still occasionally has me moody, but for the first three months it was awful. So, you have to make some allowances for recovery. You don't just get better all at once, even when you have the tools available.
posted by Sequence at 2:10 PM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get a couple of cats.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:52 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tanya Davis' How to Be Alone is oft-recommended on AskMe, and a good watch.
posted by penguin pie at 4:00 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Part of your plan could be to read some Sark!
posted by vitabellosi at 4:17 PM on October 1, 2013

I feel ya. Being alone can be really rough.

I think it's important to remember that your problem isn't just that you are alone: you're still in the aftermath of a breakup. That's likely magnifying the sense of loneliness.

Digging deep to find the roots of your loneliness is fine, but honestly it sounds like your loneliness is a perfectly natural response to your situation. Honor your need for connection. Make new friends, invite people over for dinner, go to church, check out meetups, host movie nights, volunteer, take classes, call your family.

It will get better.
posted by bunderful at 4:40 PM on October 1, 2013

Meetup.com meetups are good for just being around people and that helps somewhat. I've met some cool people through craigslist platonic (same sex), too.
posted by eq21 at 5:41 PM on October 1, 2013

There are an almost infinite number of distractions, from entertainment (books, films, TV, computer games, MetaFilter) to activities, social or solitary. But ultimately the only thing that will help you be better at being alone is to practice being alone.

Sit with the loneliness and just let it be. Don't feed it, don't let it get wrapped up with stories about how you are alone because no one loves you or you are unworthy or you don't deserve better. If you are bored, just be bored. It won't kill you. Just try to be present and aware and if thoughts come in, gently and patiently push them aside.

You can't do this all the time of course, so definitely pursue the kinds of things you've been doing and some of the other suggestions made above. But as long as you only distract yourself or numb yourself instead of feeling what you feel, it will never get easier and you will always have to come up with distractions or numbing strategies to avoid your feelings.

FWIW, in writing this, I have realised I need to take my own advice. So some further comfort, which I actually usually do find comforting: you are not alone. Whatever you're going through, there's someone else out there going through the exact same thing.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:45 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Everyone loves Feeling Good by David Burns because it was groundbreaking at the time it was published. And IS a great book but in my opinion encourages you to pick apart your thoughts a little too much. Sometimes ignoring your thoughts and just doing what you know is right saves you time and trouble and you disprove the thoughts through your actions and results! I think faking it till you make it is a faster and less upsetting way of getting from point A to point B than analyzing point A to the point of extinction and then slowly walking to point B.

Having read literally at least 30 self help books, my favourite is The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris. It has exercises and is all about finding out what you want and having the courage to do it. It sounds like you are feeling understandably loss, so maybe a direction is what you need, and having been through the crazy carwash that is lonely introspection myself, I wish I could have skipped past the detours and just worked things out directly.. Thinking in circles is unecessarily stressful and can be avoided! The tl;dr of that book is to figure out the outcome you want and work backwards so you know how to get there. Then it tells you to jump in.

Journalling/talking about my thoughts has also really helped me focus my thoughts into something that has direction and is fruitful. It's good to just get your thoughts in tangible form because just by writing or speaking the thoughts out loud you are filtering out the bogus negative micro-whisper thoughts that might otherwise cloud your judgment.
posted by dinosaurprincess at 8:31 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some people don't do well with living alone. You could look into cohousing or intentional communities.
posted by yohko at 7:37 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

First off, know that you don't have to be extroverted to be happy with your life. You're fine just the way you are.

Second, have you considered taking up an individual sport that might meet in a group setting? I'm highly, highly introverted and when I took up mountain biking in high school, I was surprised by the degree of camaraderie I began enjoying with post-race potlucks and bikers-only hangouts at the mall. All of my close friends have come from my involvements in athletics--I found my friends from activities like student government were mostly superficial--and I cannot tell you how nice it is to be a part of a community where you meet nice people and simultaneously get to get in great shape. If cycling and triathlons aren't your thing, consider meeting people around a common interest in the outdoors (REI Adventures and Free Demos, Sierra Club Singles, Sierra Club events), a common interest in running (Meetup), or a common interest in dancing and self-improvement (Ballroom, Swing, Salsa, etc.).

Third, join Toastmasters. For $60, you get a mentor, a bunch of books on competent communication and effective leadership, and automatic access to other introverts equally dedicated to self-improvement. At 21, I'm the youngest member in my Toastmasters club, and I ended up making friends with some of the nicest people in my community: my mentor is a 64-yo public speaking champion, my fellow group members are major financial leaders, and visiting other Toastmaster groups exposed me to like-minded girls who I now consider close friends.

Fourth, consider buying a puppy. Psychological and physiological studies have proven that dog ownership reduces symptoms of depression, increases heart health, and allows you a built-in mechanism to meet other dog-owners. I can't tell you how nice it is to go on a walk with my lovely pup and meet other girls, meet other guys, and meet other dogs!
posted by lotusmish at 11:00 PM on October 4, 2013

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