Coping like a pro.
December 11, 2017 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Apologies for the weedy, stream of consciousness question but it's been a hard day. I used to think my coping skills are quite good, but clearly not. All details after the jump.

(1)I'm at an age where all my contemporaries are getting engaged/married, and my parents' not-so-covert anxiety about my single status amplifies my own.
(2)Add to my own deep, deep sadness about being single, which is helped in no small measure by social media. I want so very much to be able to celebrate with my friends and their happiness, but a fleeting, panic stricken voice inside my head saying over and over again that I'll never get that for myself is exhausting.
(3)My siblings, who I have been very close to, are too busy currently with their own lives (they have families of their own). One of them who I was closest to in my entire family has been generally incommunicado for months now. Texts and calls go mostly unresponded to, while they insist to my parents that everything is fine. I do not want to worry my parents, but this is breaking my heart in a way that is wholly new in my experience (I've tried asking, I've tried visiting. Neither worked.)
(4) I've somehow gotten into the role of generally available confidant for everyone. It's good to know that people trust me with their problems, but trying to deal with them and my own stuff (I'm also' easygoing' in the sense that I am utterly unable to talk abt my issues with the same people who are talking to me. So the emotional labor is entirely unidirectional, and this may be partly my fault.) is not, shall we say, always possible.
(5) I'm lonely. I'm an introvert with fairly bad social anxiety. It's a bad combination.
Today, manifestations of all the above issues happened in quick succession and has left me feeling...unraveled. If you can think of a way just to make myself feel a better, just a bit better, as opposed to a big blank non-entity that just exists when people need me to, I'll be very, very grateful.
posted by Nieshka to Human Relations (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if I have anything to offer more than empathy and that you are not alone, really really not alone.

(1) Same, I am divorced and a bit older than you but so much the same.
(2) I have had to learn that the voice saying that is not mutually exclusive with feeling happy for your friends, you can do both.
(3) If you feel you have fully attempted communication with your siblings, including telling them how their actions make you feel than you are going to have to put this avenue aside, at least for now.
(4) Same, same to a frightening degree. I cannot handle all the shit I know about friends anymore, shit that no one else can know from each of them. It's your fault, it really is. You MUST speak up, you MUST be heard, if you are to listen to them then they MUST listen to you, force it in yourself and them if you have to, doing so will do more good, I think, than anything else you can do.
(5) Same, I'm lonely despite a large social circle. I am a natural introvert with serious social anxiety as well, however, believe it or not, after the past couple years of forcing myself to be much more social, a ton, a huge amount, it's gotten better and easier and I now think of social abilities like any other muscle, you work it out and it gets stronger.

I guess I am saying I am like you, you are not alone, effort brings results.
posted by Twinge at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

You are insightful enough to have figured out the root of many of the stressors you are feeling.

1) So what? This occurs at varying ages in varying societies (none of my friends got married until our late twenties/early thirties, and no one started having babies until their 30s, but I have many friends from the South who felt the way you do now when they were in their *early twenties*!). It doesn't matter what the mean is--it matters what you want (not social media, not your parents). If you are personally worried about your single status then go do something about it. It will be harder for you as an introvert, but introverts have been finding each other, marrying, and having families (if wanted) for generations.

2) Turn off your social media. Really. Either go cold turkey and have a trusted friend change your password so you can't backside, or ease into it by deleting all your feeds and slowly re-adding only cat pictures to insta. If you insist on continuing to interact with social media, then turn the algorithms to your advantage. Use this found time to workout regularly, eat healthfully, and research activities you could see yourself doing IRL.

3) Your siblings are important, but if they are blowing you off, then you have the permission of an internet stranger to let it go for now and go find some other friends. Your siblings will always be there, and just like in any other long term relationship there will be ebbs and flows.

4) If you feel like all your friends dump on you and you don't feel comfortable opening up to them, then they aren't your friends. They are acquaintances, and ones (likely unwittingly) taking advantage of your finite ability to tolerate other people as an introvert. Pick one or two of the closest ones and have a heart-to-heart where you reveal the problems you've been having. You will likely be surprised how supportive they are, and this will deepen your friendships. (If not, then try with one or two others until you find some friends willing to strengthen a real relationship).

5) Book clubs were made for people who are lonely with bad social anxiety. As is any flavour of organized religion. Look into classes at local universities or dance studios. The beauty of adult classes is that the expectation is that you have never been exposed to the activity at hand and since you are paying the teachers want to make you have a good experience. The only expectation of situations like these is that you show up (not even necessarily participate!). And they will get you out into the world where you might meet that special someone other.
posted by eglenner at 11:33 AM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm going to offer a dissent on this:

3) Your siblings are important, but if they are blowing you off, then you have the permission of an internet stranger to let it go for now and go find some other friends. Your siblings will always be there, and just like in any other long term relationship there will be ebbs and flows.

I would actually preface this with one instance of reaching out to one of your siblings with a "hey, I lately feel like you have been blowing me off and it hurts - you don't have to TOTALLy drop everything, but I would at least like my communication acknowledged" message. I went through a period of feeling like my friends were blowing me off, and finally actually called them on it after a while, instead of sending yet another "hey, just checking in, how are You" message and it really helped. It was definitely a "lately I have been feeling like X when you do Y because Z" kind of thing. Half of them apologized and said "you're right, let's do something soon" and the other half apologized and explained all the crazy crap they had going on that had them frazzled. but they all apologized.

If your siblings don't even respond to that - and I would just do one message - then I would blow them off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on December 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

You don't mention therapy. And I understand that there's no one cure for social anxiety or anxiety but there are multifaceted treatments, and those treatments ALSO improve the kind of internal narratives that are making you unhappy. They also help you create big firm healthy boundaries so you are only giving as much emotional labor as is safe and good for you, and so you don't get dragged down with another person when they are having their own whatever to deal with and aren't invested in making you feel better about it. There's a bunch of stuff there that you do not have to live with and likely can improve simply by learning better tools.

(Also, a horrible truth: social anxiety gets exponentially worse as it continues untreated, it feeds on itself. You have to treat it to treat it, you know? You can't wait until a magical day you feel like treating it.)

And a lot of this is totally doable, or at least startable, with workbooks - usually Cognitive Behavioral Therapy mixed with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy - like The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety or even The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook for Teens for a very gentle start. You could get started on this by the end of the week, if not tomorrow.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:26 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I hope this perspective is helpful from down the road...

(1) In a few years, some of your friends will be working hard on their marriages that may not be great, and some will be announcing divorces. So if you hang in there long enough you'll discover that what seems like happy happy joy joy now is actually often just a different set of problems. That doesn't negate...

(2) That is an exhausting voice. I have one of my own, although I have been married years and years, which says that I will never be good enough at [whatever jerkbrain can latch onto]. I guess my point here is that I think it is just fine for you to go out and look for a partner, because that can be amazing, but do not mistake the quest for a partner with your jerkbrain. Your jerkbrain will find something to jerkbrain about. This is where therapy can really help.

(3) I got nothing here, I have never had that close a relationship with my sibling although I love them.

(4) Start sharing your struggles like this. "Can I share something with you? Lately I've felt..." and see what happens.

(5) For me the best cure for this is to go do something, with people, that I love to do like in the past...slam poetry, or a yoga class, or a book club, or a cooking class.

Finally - to feel better right now, what's something you love to do? Do it!! Go see an art exhibit or a band or get tickets for a show or order your favourite takeout. I broke my leg last week and am wishing I had not put off some things because now I can't do a number of them for eight weeks.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:58 PM on December 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

n a few years, some of your friends will be working hard on their marriages that may not be great, and some will be announcing divorces.

Came in here to say this. A lot of my friends who married young/early are now getting divorced. It's a real thing.

Mainly, though, I want to talk about this:

I'm an introvert with fairly bad social anxiety. It's a bad combination.

This formulation strikes me as really insidious and potentially harmful, because it lumps together two things as though they were equal or related. One, being an introvert, is a perfectly fine feature of your personality that you don't need to change, and probably couldn't if you wanted to - it's a part of who your are. The other, social anxiety, is a thing that's happening to you. It can, and should, be dealt with by therapy, or medication, or both. If you're lonely, that's a good place to start.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:55 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I liked all the answers, because I took a little something from each of them. The sibling situation is making me overwrought so I'm stepping away from it for now. I booked tickets for a dance recital because I know it'll cheer me up, and I'm looking at starting to work on mindfulness/meditation. Thank you, all of you. And warriorqueen, I hope you feel better soon!
posted by Nieshka at 8:46 AM on December 13, 2017

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