I just can't talk to people, and I'm so depressed.
April 27, 2014 4:16 PM   Subscribe

9.5/10 times, I struggle with talking to people, even my own friends and family. Even my own parents sometimes. As a result my life is a life of constant pain and loneliness, even when I am with my friends and family. I can't hold conversations because my mind is too blank to start one or add anything other than "yeah, uh-huh" to a preexisting conversation. Talking to people one on one is a constant nightmare because I am incapable of holding up my part of the conversation or starting one. As a result, I always feel very uncomfortable around one on one conversations and always fear being caught in one.

My blankness of anything to say extends beyond social situations however. I don't know what to do most of the time in my free time so I usually do something unproductive instead. I don't know how to make plans for the future because I have no clear desires other than to stop hurting and be able to make friends (and actually freaking connect with the ones I have) and be in a relationship with a woman. Everything else pales in urgency and doesn't at all pique my motivation enough to follow them.

I feel so passive and weak. I feel like I have no real agency in life. I feel like a guy who is in desperate need of testosterone replacement therapy. I feel like I just want to get under a blanket, cry, and go to sleep.

I am terrified that this is how I am going to be for the rest of my life. Because, I'm being honest here, this is not even close to a life worth living.

I just feel like I'm weighed down and my mind hurts. I'm just feeling gloomy. My life is not what I want it to be, and I don't know how to get to where I want to be. I don't know if I can. Sometimes, I just want it to end. I just want to tuck away and hide from the toxic world of pain. Sometimes, I even entertain the idea of death, if only for a fleeting moment before shaking it off.

I just want to be happy. I just want to be able to enjoy my life without the constant pain. I want to be rescued from this so bad, but I don't know if it's possible.

What is the best course of action for getting better? What is the best kind of therapy?
posted by ggp88 to Human Relations (31 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
No one agrees what therapy is best but in my opinion, you need group therapy.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:22 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you on any medication for depression? That may be something you want to consider; many people have seen a lot of improvement after finding a medication that works. Your GP may be willing to discuss options with you, or they might recommend a psychiatrist.
posted by punchtothehead at 4:25 PM on April 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Any therapy is probably better than no therapy, provided you know you can always stop if the person makes you feel worse/uncomfortable, but CBT is actually proven to help with depression/anxiety, so there's that. I've always had anxiety problems and depression on and off and I know that I wouldn't be very good with group, but some people do very well with it.

In the meantime, if you want to have more social contact but you feel bad in social situations, there's something to be said for hanging around on the internet. There are whole websites full of real human beings who like having conversations about things. (Some of them have blue backgrounds!) It can be a low-pressure way to just get a little bit involved, dip a toe in, feel slightly less isolated. Baby steps are an important step for getting back from this.

So is medication, but that can be a lot longer road as far as finding the thing that works right for you; even while you're messing with it, you can still make good inroads with a therapist and the aforementioned baby steps.
posted by Sequence at 4:25 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was similar to you 4 years ago and Zoloft changed my life. Talk to your GP and give it a try!

On preview: I agree with punchtothehead. :-)
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:26 PM on April 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Depression and anxiety love to hang out together, so as a first step, talk to your primary care person about getting evaluated for both of those. Medication may be in order; some kind of therapy - whether regular talk, or CBT, or some combination (or something totally different) will also help. Finding the right therapist can be a process, or you can get lucky and find the right one the first time. But start with your regular medical doc, since depending on your insurance situation (assuming you're in the US), you may need a referral anyway. You don't have to live like this; help is out there.
posted by rtha at 4:33 PM on April 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm familiar with a lot of the things you describe: the empty-minded feeling, the utter exhaustion with life, the helplessness. Antidepressants were a godsend for me. I'd recommend them together with therapy; in my personal experience, therapy didn't do much good for me while I was I unmedicated because I'd just sit there blankly depressed and unable to articulate why. Medication can help lift that foggy, heavy feeling from your brain so you can make better use of any type of therapy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:53 PM on April 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree that this sounds like depression, and only your therapist can suggest what to do about that.

On a more simplistic level regarding conversation, I have a friend who has told me he always keeps a couple of things to talk about "in his pocket" for conversation. Some of those things may change from day to day. One may be as lite as an unusual bird he saw walking home, another maybe something more profound/universal, maybe a question about a book or science or art he's exploring. Think of them as just conversation starters.
In other words, prepare for those awkward moments and you may not feel so anxious or blanked.
posted by artdrectr at 5:04 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the responses thus far. I am currently taking 60 milligrams of Cymbalta, and I've been taking this for about a month now. I don't know if that is enough time to see any changes or not, but most of the changes, if I can even call them that, have been minuscule.

I have no insurance whatsoever. I'm a college student looking for a summer job, and my parents are poor and have no insurance.

Is this not being able to talk, think, build hobbies and any sort of passion thing just my personality or is it depression? Because I don't care how much medicine I get, or how much therapy I get, if I still can't talk to people to save my life, yet I still feel lonely and want to be with people, I am still going to be very depressed.
posted by ggp88 at 5:06 PM on April 27, 2014

I'm a therapist who regularly treats depression and anxiety. I'd recommend finding a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, as mentioned above) and if you are interested in therapy, talk to your GP or get a referral to a psychiatrist. While I can't say anything for certain without meeting you, your description above sounds like somebody who is experiencing some serious struggles and I'm glad to hear you're interested in doing something about it. Your motivation will help a lot as you work towards recovery.

While you are waiting for an appointment, I would recommend you check out thisBehavioral Activation workbook and the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook I use both frequently in my work with depressed and anxious clients and there is a wealth of great information, which can be helpful in and of itself, as well as some basic steps you can take independently to start yourself on the path to feeling better. I don't recommend that people experiencing depression attempt to treat themselves, as a therapist can be a great guide and coach, but both books are great and worth checking out of the library.

Please remember that should you find yourself contemplating harming yourself or experiencing thoughts of suicide to go to the nearest ER, call a supportive friend, or 1-800-273-8255 (if you are in the US)
posted by gilsonal at 5:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just saw you have no insurance. Go to your university's counseling center. They often (nearly 100% of the time) see students for free. Also, Community Mental Health Centers are great resources.
posted by gilsonal at 5:11 PM on April 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

For me, yes, not wanting to do anything ever and not being able to relate with anyone were symptoms of depression for me. Once my brain was functioning in a more normal way, things got easier - which isn't to say that everything was fixed overnight and I was happy all the time - but I was able to do the work to get there. And now I'm a very happy, normal, lively person, one who still takes an antidepressant because there's a chemical imbalance in my brain otherwise.

FWIW, I had a great reaction to Cymbalta, but it did take I think between 6 or 8 weeks to get there, and my doctor upped my dosage a couple times (not after a month, but I think at six weeks and then at ten weeks.) Dosage is something that needs to be fine-tuned.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:22 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank all of you so much. I find comfort in reading that others have gone through this and have made it to the other side. You have all really helped me, and now that I have some hope, I won't think about ending it all. All I want is a future, some quality friends who I can actually connect with and not be super quiet and awkward, and a girlfriend and future wife so I can have a family. I want to love, I love my own family, and I would love to have a family of my own one day. It is a super important priority for me, and as I'm 25 and have never had a girlfriend (because I've always been shy, quiet, and unable to talk to anyone) this is a constant source of emotional pain.
posted by ggp88 at 5:30 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is this not being able to talk, think, build hobbies and any sort of passion thing just my personality or is it depression?

Depression. Keep in mind always that depression is a lying liar that lies. Depression will make you believe that this is just how you are, and there's no point in trying to not be like this because nothing will ever be better. That is a fucking lie.

I was horribly depressed and just...in a hole when I was around your age. I got treatment and got out of the hole. I didn't turn into a different person - I turned into me! It was pretty great, because the me that I am is interested in all kinds of stuff and can carry a conversation even though I'm shy sometimes and has friends and a partner and cats and stuff.

Google your state + affordable care act and look at your health insurance options. Definitely check with your university health services. Google your county or city name + free clinic. Don't believe the bullshit depression is trying to sell you.
posted by rtha at 6:03 PM on April 27, 2014 [15 favorites]

Just wanted to reiterate that it's totally common and normal to try a couple of antidepressants that don't work before you find the one that does. They all have different mechanisms of action, some work for some people, others for others. Make an appointment now for two to four weeks in the future with whoever prescribed you the Cymbalta, and if it's still not working by then, tell them so and ask to try something else. And while it won't happen immediately -- you'll need to give yourself some time to get used to the change -- if you're able to get your depression under control it's very likely that you'll discover a more active, more vivid version of yourself, plus you'll have more energy to put towards working on whatever social difficulties you still have. I believe in you.
posted by ostro at 6:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Is this not being able to talk, think, build hobbies and any sort of passion thing just my personality or is it depression?

It's depression, it's definitely depression. Depression can easily make your brain fuzzy and blank.

I'll be honest here, though: getting the depression successfully treated does not automatically make someone better at the areas in which they consider themselves lacking. When the medication started to kick in for me, I expected to become more organized, more ambitious, more productive, and I was disappointed that none of those things happened. But having the depression in remission has enabled me to work on all of those things, and I'm a lot better than I was before. And when I do fall short, I no longer view it as evidence that I'm a total failure at being human; instead, it's a shortcoming that I can either accept or work to overcome.

So don't be dismayed if you start feeling better but still struggle with conversation at first. Your social ability is not a fixed part of your personality; it's a skill that you can develop. The depression has been telling you otherwise - that it's something you just don't have and never will - so you've had no motivation to work on it. And so it may not get easier immediately, but you will be better able to put it into perspective and get better at it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:27 PM on April 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is this not being able to talk, think, build hobbies and any sort of passion thing just my personality or is it depression?

These are all symptoms of depression, yes.
posted by jaguar at 6:32 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just wanted to be another voice chiming in to say these issues are fixable and you are not doomed.

Not being able to talk with people is probably a result of a combination of problems. Depression, anxiety, and social self-consciousness are powerful states of mind that can mess with every aspect of your life. You will have a hard time being fully "in the moment" and connecting with people when you're battling various internal issues like this. You feel awful and that, understandably, distracts you.

I don't think your mind is blank, I think it's full of static (pain and fear).

When I'm having a tough time, sometimes it helps to remind myself "I'm not at my best right now." It can help me be easier on myself and forgive myself for not being a rock star in that moment. Maybe it would help to try and adjust your conversational expectations for yourself downward, until you have done some work on yourself and feel like you're in a stronger spot? You might get some mileage out of reminding yourself that although you are not good at xyz at the moment, you are committed to becoming better at xyz in the future, and these are equally true facts.

Does your university offer free counselling of any sort?

Also, it might help to find some strangers to practice chitchat on. You could take up some new social hobby where you'd be interacting with people. If that idea sounds terrible, consider something like volunteering. If the group focuses around a productive activity (Habitat for Humanity comes to mind), it wouldn't necessarily require conversation, but it might organically happen. If you had a few small-talk topics lined up in your mind (and listening to NPR every day will give you a surprising number of topics you're able to chime in on), you might find that it's not as hard as you think. Most strangers just want to exchange pleasantries, and when you are in a better spot, and less distracted, I hope you'll find it easier to come up with responses.

The thing about pleasantries is that they can be really pleasant. If you smiled at a nice grandma on the street and said something about the weather, technically that's a really shallow conversation, but it might leave both of you feeling like you'd had a nice interaction with a real human being, and that's a good feeling that would be good for you.

Quite seriously, if you want to practice small talk with a friendly stranger, please feel free to drop me a line. I can drop the bar real low and we can just exchange fart jokes.

You express yourself well in your posts here, and I think with practice and therapy, you can definitely get yourself into a much happier, more interactive life. Internet strangers are rooting for you! :)
posted by jessicapierce at 6:33 PM on April 27, 2014 [15 favorites]

Your social ability is not a fixed part of your personality; it's a skill that you can develop.

This! The thing about not being in the throes of depression is that you get options, which depression is telling you you don't have at all right now. When not depressed, you can decide which/all/in what order you want to: learn a new skill; join a group; organize your crap; build a thing; travel to a new place - whatever. Everything is not suddenly going to be awesome when you're not depressed - but you'll get to pick which things to start being awesome with!
posted by rtha at 7:14 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is this not being able to talk, think, build hobbies and any sort of passion thing just my personality or is it depression?

This is text-book depression, my friend.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:16 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm just amazed by the amount of helpful and caring strangers who have responded. I've never used ask.metafilter before, but I wanted something a little bit better than the typical yahoo answers, and I certainly found it. I wish I could give all of you a big individual hug.

I'm just thinking that I must have been depressed for a huge chunk of my life. I don't really remember what my non depression personality is like... I don't remember what it's really like to not be depressed. I wonder who I really am...
posted by ggp88 at 7:29 PM on April 27, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm still recovering from a horrible depression that was a lot like what you're experiencing. It's like my personality was swallowed by a black void. The good news is that through meds and therapy I've made really awesome progress and while I'm not totally out of the woods yet, I've got the real me back again, who is interesting and has hobbies and likes people.

So I encourage you to find a therapist you connect with, regardless of their treatment modality, give the meds a shot, and keep sticking with it even though it's hard. It does get better.
posted by zug at 7:42 PM on April 27, 2014

"I don't really remember what my non depression personality is like... I don't remember what it's really like to not be depressed." I feel you on this, and lately mine is pretty well managed, all things considered.

Please give meds a shot - knowing you might have to try different options or dosages until you find something that works for you. Try a bunch of therapists til you find one you connect with. The meds usually even things out a little and make the despair lessen a bit but you still have to do the work, talk it out. Even if this is something you will need to manage, it is one million percent worth it to accept you need to manage it and take the steps to do so. even if you have to do that all the time.

What you are feeling now is this illness, it's not the truth, it's not reality, it's not "who you are." As you improve and get treatment you will realize that. Millions of people have had this problem and come out of it into a better life, you can too.
posted by zdravo at 8:10 PM on April 27, 2014

I think depression is actually something that proves people put way too much stock in "who they are" as if it's some kind of permanent, immutable thing. If I can feel so little now like I felt five years ago, then why should I assume that once I'm feeling better, that five years in the future I should feel like the same person from five years in the past? We all have some constraints imposed by history--finances, prejudices, privileges or absences thereof--but right now, you're about as much as a blank slate as you're going to get as an adult, so if something seems appealing as a future direction, go with it--and don't feel bad about changing your mind if something that was interesting early in recovery seems less so later.
posted by Sequence at 8:50 PM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

A month might not be long enough to see the effects of the Cymbalta, but medication will definitely work best in combination with therapy. The advice for CBT is really good, and I also think that a group therapy session would be really good. There will definitely be other people there in the same boat as you, and the therapist will help you to join in the conversation.

Wishing you all the luck in the world with this, it isn't a permanent state of mind, and there is a non-depressed version of you underneath.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:30 PM on April 27, 2014

One of the nastiest tricks of depression is making temporary problems seem like unalterable aspects of your existence.

The best advice is stick with whatever you try for at minimum a month or so, although it might seem like nothing's happening. Your natural instinct will be to say "See? Not working. It's hopeless.". Feel that, and keep right on with whatever solution you're trying.

Steel yourself for a long hard journey, but remember that you're not alone on the road.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:16 AM on April 28, 2014

I have problems like this relating to my depression

I found keeping a diary really helped with allowing me access to my own thoughts and finding words to articulate things
posted by frequently at 4:30 AM on April 28, 2014

There is Outpatient Intesive Therapy for this sort of thing, also depression, substance abuse. I just finished a 6 week program Mon and Thursday 6 - 9pm, Saturday 10-1 pm. I have a 6 year old and a full time job, and with my husband there to support me with this, it was no trouble to go and in fact I really looked forward to it after about a week. I was very, very nervous the first couple of sessions and didn't talk, but that changed and then I felt very comfortable with it. I cannot tell you how great it was. It really helped me with social anxiety and relationship skills. I was skeptical at first and absolutely did not want to do group but just one-on-one--this is a very, very good adjunct to personal counciling. I was also desperate to do something. I would highly recommend it. My insurance paid for it.
posted by waving at 4:51 AM on April 28, 2014

fwiw, I struggled with severe depression (including daily suicidal ideation, agoraphobia, substance abuse, etc) from approx age 7 to approx age 49. My life now is better than it has ever been - I have a loving wife, great kid, decent employment, health, money. If I had ended it, none of this would have come to pass.

For me there was no magic bullet, just holding on to the glass wall and trying not to slide off the edge of the planet. I tried a few courses of meds, did an insane amount of therapy of various modalities. I still struggle many days.

Here is what helped/helps me

1) Exercising enough to get my heart rate up for at least 20 minutes a day
2) Group therapy in particular
3) Caring about something more than myself. I find depression to be a kind of dark narcissism. I need to focus outside of myself
4) Paying attention to beauty.
5) Participating in as much love as possible. If you have a family you love, start there.
6) Don't give up. Not ever. You don't know the outcome, no matter what your depression tells you.
7) Gratitude. One of the elements of depression is the ability to negate gratitude. This can be overcome.
8) CBT, or one of its variants like Acceptance Commitment therapy (ACT) help a lot of people. With our thoughts we make the world. Change the thoughts, change your subjective experience of the world. Dont mistake for a minute that your thoughts ARE reality. Your thoughts are just your brain operating on stimulus, and like everyone else on the planet you have jillions of cognitive distortions, many of which can and will change.

i have lots more to say about it, but have to rush, if you are interested memail me and we can discuss.
kind regards
posted by jcworth at 8:15 AM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another low-risk way of connecting with people I started out with is to talk to someone with a friendly-looking face on the bus or train or in line at the grocery store. You'll probably never see this person again, so it's easy to come out with a couple of pleasantries like talking about the weather, how long the train is delayed, etc.

Pro tip: Yak to older people -- I've always found them much easier to talk to, and you'll often find that they are more than willing to talk to a polite young man who seems to be listening to what they have to say. You can just nod and smile and say "Really! Oh my gosh!" at appropriate intervals, even if they are talking about something you're not particularly interested in.

Once you get some general social interaction going like that, it'll be much easier to talk to your friends and peers because you'll have a bit more awareness of how to do it.

And if you're looking for a summer job, anything that involves talking to the public (retail, bartending) will help you lose some shyness right quick, as well as introducing you to the world.

I was a painfully shy teen who would often sit with my head in my hands at social gatherings because I was terrified someone would talk to me and judge me. Working the register at Safeway for two years brought me out of my shell -- and I got to know regular staff and customers who became my friends for years afterward. (I got a big kick out of being "recognized" in other shops out of uniform.)

Very best of luck to you -- I know you're getting some great advice here.
posted by vickyverky at 9:21 AM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've battled depression on and off for most of my life. Even when I'm mostly okay, anxiety and negative thoughts still creep in. Do whatever you can to get therapy, and if a therapist is a bad fit or not helping, move on. Exercise, nature and sunshine are really helpful. Try hard to get some exercise and get outdoors every day.

It's hard to learn social confidence, but I can tell you that most people do not feel confident socially. People are self-conscious about their noses, or their accent, or whether or not you like them.

You deserve to feel better, to feel good, to have happy, wonderful relationships. Sending a big hug.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just saw your note and I'm at work, so this is going to be short....but... you are not alone in feeling this way. I am now 53 -- it is a long time since i have been your age -- but I had no friends in high school, felt so lonely, and was suicidally depressed.

Changing that took several years. Yes, therapy did help (one on one therapy). But, what helped me the most, and i realize this is kind of controversial because there is a lot of sleaze in the community, is NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming). It broke human communication down into little bits that I could understand, comprehend, and learn. Maybe some of the "social skills" kind of classes for people on the spectrum of Autism could have helped me -- I don't know (saw an interesting post about that on Metafilter last couple of weeks that such classes could be pretty hetero-sexist). I have recently read "The Charisma Myth" and found it to have some helpful suggestions about human relations (especially in business).

For me, I was able to learn some things (reading, math, science) very easily and other things (talking with people) were incredibly hard. I encourage you to keep hopeful. Things change -- just because life sucks right now, doesn't mean it always will. And, social skills can be learned.
posted by elmay at 2:03 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Unique Philadelphia area wedding venue ideas...   |   80s Music Videos with Communist References? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.