How to be around people?
February 24, 2015 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Going through a rough patch. Where can I go to be in the company of other people without feeling like I have to be outgoing?

I'm going through what will hopefully be (please let it be) the most painful breakup of my adult life. I also just recently moved to a new town, with my ex, who then moved back home with the good cat. I have a few friends here but not many, but they are mostly new friends or work colleagues so it's hard to find a shoulder to cry on sometimes. I can't move closer to my old support networks without making a major career change.

I am pretty much devastated. I have a demanding job and so it is easy to spend all of my time on work, but I know this is unhealthy and I need to be in the company of human beings. I also need to start building the new support network that's going to sustain me going forward. The problem is that I am an emotional wreck, don't really feel like doing anything, and break into tears at random intervals.

So, what can I do? Online or offline activities would be fine. I'm not religious, and while I like outdoor activities I am disabled so it's difficult to participate in group sports, hiking, or dance. I've been trying to talk more with my friends online, and am going to see a therapist later this week. I think an online support group could be helpful for me but I don't even know where to start looking for those. Thank you so much for your help.
posted by shaun to Human Relations (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am sure there are other activities that are more social that you should try, but consider adding a few solo trips to the movie theater into your mix. You'll have a public, shared experience with other people, but you don't need to worry about interacting at all.
posted by juliplease at 6:08 PM on February 24, 2015 [10 favorites]

Plus, movies are good casual conversation fodder when you are in more social situations.
posted by juliplease at 6:10 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Open mic nights can be really good for this. There's a performance going on so you have something to concentrate on, there is usually food and drink, and the good ones have a great sense of community. Just a way to get away from your thoughts and participate in humanity for a while.
posted by capricorn at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

First of all, been there, done that. It's really hard, so I want to offer you some hugs.

Can you journal, 5-10 minutes a day? Just venting it out but with a limited time, has helped me in the past.

What about some sort of thing like bonsai or origami or something that will take up your focus? Those are just suggestions, but for instance, I get into cooking and collecting rocks and studying geology, and those sort of activities calm me down.

Are there Tweetups or Facebooks meetups in your area? Something that is once a month, that you could look forward to.

Also Trivia meetups. Again, maybe once a week or once a month.

It's really crappy, I agree, and you have to allow yourself time to get through it and process your emotions. I remember how sad and devastated I was -- it's really bad. And you have to almost force yourself into things. Baby steps, okay? Give yourself time, write down a list, and if you can get through 3 things, Hurrah! You did something, and you can pat yourself on the back for it.

Also get lots of blankets and snuggle yourself. It sounds weird, but when I was a kid, I used to push all of my blankets into a nest and pretend I was a baby bird. You can do that. Make your bed a nest and snuggle all the pillows and blankets. Leave the light on, low, and just nurture yourself. Read crappy books with the light on until you get sleepy. Make Earl Grey tea and pour sugar and milk into it, while reading Winnie the Pooh or something equally benign.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm glad you're seeing a therapist. My therapist really helped me get through some very difficult stuff. It can be incredibly helpful to have an objective person with whom you can really be honest. It's also good to have a therapist because it's a unique relationship - there's no give and take, only take; you get to put all the two-way-street stuff of a regular relationship aside and just focus on working on yourself in their company.

It may not actually be as unhealthy as you think to just put your head down and focus on work a bit. Having that kind of encompassing distraction can be incredible during really tough times. It might not be healthy to do for too long and it is really good to try to find other things to do but if you do end up getting really into your work don't beat yourself up about it. You can strike a better balance later, after this all has been processed.

Yes, I went to the movies a lot alone when I was going through my most painful breakup. It was amazing to be able to see a sad movie and be sitting alone far enough away from people that I could just cry (kickstarted by stuff in the movie) in public! It was really cathartic for me.

I actually think a breakup can be a really good time to get to know yourself better. Any interesting hobbies that you enjoy or want to pick up that involve making something or creating something? If you find something like that, the next thing to do is to log on to Meetup and see if there are any groups that engage with that hobby. Heck, Meetup is great even not for hobbies - check to see if there is a Meetup group that focuses on going out to eat, or a book club, or something that just sounds kind of interesting, and start going.

You might want to set up a group thing with your buddies from work that is casual and pretty professional - think weekly or bi-weekly trivia nights, for example. That is a good way to just get out in a social setting that won't give you a lot of opportunity for oversharing or anything.

Start volunteering. Again, make it something that is a regular thing that you go to - perhaps at the local animal shelter, or at the local food bank - something where you're spending time giving back to others in need. Volunteering got me through my darkest times of my breakup.

Good luck, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I wish you the best as you work though this incredibly difficult time.
posted by sockermom at 6:22 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Become a "regular" somewhere -- that may mean a bar or a coffeehouse, depending on your interests/budget. Is there a place that regularly hosts the kind of music you're into? Go there once a week on the same night every week. Don't feel pressure to talk to people at first or feel awkward you're alone -- no one is noticing. Once you're a regular somewhere, conversations just tend to happen with the others who are regulars there.

If there are book readings/events near you at bookstores, that can also be a nice, low-pressure way to get out of the house (and those are sometimes more suited to going by yourself). I also agree with open mic nights (music or poetry). If you like karaoke (I don't, really), that can also be fun to go watch. Other bars/etc. may have movie nights, too.

I've never had good luck with Meetup but I have had good luck with volunteering for things I'm interested in, because hey! it's an easy way to meet other people who are interested in the same thing.

But yes! Also develop hobbies when you're on you're own. Do you want to paint? Do it! Do you want to start sewing? Do it! Cooking? Yes! Or anything else. Even if it's like "I am going to watch every movie by [insert director/actor/etc.]" and you watch one a week/a night/whatever, it feels like you're doing something (I do Documentary Wednesdays. Totally made up thing! But I watch a documentary on Wednesday nights. Even when it's just me, it makes me feel like I'm doing something.)

Winter is hard for leaving the house and making friends. But if you do have local online friends, it's cool to try to gather. But don't put too much pressure on yourself. This is all hard. But you'll get through it and be better for it.
posted by darksong at 6:23 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, now is also a great time to get into exercise. I know you say that you have a disability so sports are hard, but there are likely some things you can do to work out some of your emotions physically.
posted by sockermom at 6:24 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Might sounds wacky but spiritual centers, such as churches or buddhist meditation halls, might be a great place to sit quietly around others without the obligation to socialize.
posted by grassbottles at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Been there.

Working on your computer or reading in public places like libraries, coffee shops, bookstores
Walking in the park, beach, outdoor space
Going to the gym (you could work out or take one of those classes. Lots of time,s those lasses are come and go as you please. You are working out, so little time to chat)
Volunteer- I think this is the best one, actually. There are so--many--choices--. Soup kitchen? Hospital, Boys and Girls Club. All of these have behind the scenes stuff where you don't have to interact with the public if you don't want to.
Not sure if this breaks the rules, but I'm going to do Big Brothers Big Sisters. I think it's awesome to talk to a kid on a regular basis. It really helps sometimes to see the world through a kid's eyes for some persepective. Plus- you are getting out of you head by talking to someone else who really needs it. Whatever route you take, volunteering is awesome because you get out of your head and help someone else. This is so very important to stop the ruminating.
Explore parts of your city! Museums, art fairs, cultural events. There have to be some in your new town! You can go alone, why not? Get to know your new city! It's an adventure! Build some positive memories of this new city that are all your own!
posted by eq21 at 7:13 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

N'thing public libraries. Totally normal to sit alone and read for hours but be able to look around and people-watch a bit. If you feel like human interaction you can ask the friendliest librarian for a book recommendation (ie: " I really enjoyed reading _____, can you suggest anything similar?") or look to see if there are any activities happening (we do book clubs, tech talks, 3-d printing instruction etc.). Cost: free
posted by saucysault at 6:02 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Coffee shop.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:23 AM on February 25, 2015

Karaoke nights (not necessary to participate to have fun).
Library (join a book club?).
Trivia (or other game) nights.
Volunteer somewhere? (has both social and perspective benefits).

When I moved to a new town I googled its name and various combinations of "community" and "meeting" and "nonprofit" and "social" and assembled a sizable list of groups that sounded worth visiting at least once. Helping to build that list were also, facebook and the calendar in the local paper. Best of luck to you.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 4:27 PM on February 25, 2015

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