Where to find the specific type of socialising this introvert needs?
February 21, 2020 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I am a quite an introverted person and like being by myself listening to music or audiobooks, or reading psychology articles online. However I don't work through disability and am really very socially isolated - it's started to get me down. I have social anxiety so Meetup has been a mixed bag for me. I think I am getting clear about what I need (explained below) - what sort of environment could I find it in?

I am just coming out an extended period of winter depression, or maybe it was just a low phase of my bipolar disorder. I've had a few months of staying in bed a lot, listening to music or audiobooks, and reading things on my smartphone. Not many hours a day out of bed at all. My Occupational Therapist thought my living environment might be contributing to my low mood, so I was given access to a couple of hours a week of help decluttering which has both brightened the place and also been a welcome source of intelligent chat while we work away. Unfortunately I don't think my real issue is living in a messy "bachelor pad", I think it's that I'm so isolated socially. My bipolar is always there but more a common grey flat mood and thankfully not the manic highs. I guess I am doing OK-ish in that regard as my OT has moved to a new job recently and I was assessed as not needing a replacement.

I haven't been able to work for quite a long time due to the bipolar - in the US I think I would be on SSDI but here it's reviewed periodically but basically long term disabled. On the down side I don't have social contact with colleagues, on the plus side after the difficult assessment process I actually have a reasonable amount of disposable income where I could go low cost places and activities. Meetup.com is the obvious one and I did try a concerts group that was OK but the others were quite extroverted people - the kind you would enjoy sharing a drink in a bar with, but I am more an introvert who would be at home having a cup of tea. I * really * loved a group that went around trying different cafes and tearooms but, sadly for me and great for her, the organiser and her French boyfriend moved to Paris. The only group I am in at the moment is a mental health support group that meets in a cafe. It's mostly great and a couple of people have become something in between acquaintances and friends, but we are quite a big group and if I end up sitting with people I don't know I can spent the whole meet very quiet. I also go to an exercise class at the wellbeing centre which uses the facilities of a local church. Sometimes one or two have a cuppa and chat after - again, I made two friends and enjoyed talking to them, but haven't seen them there in some time. So now I am finally realising that because of my social anxiety it's not enough for there to be a group and me to just go along and be left to my own devices. I really need to find a group or groups that is small enough to where the host has time to spend with people one on one, or where there is a facilitator encouraging or prompting to help me to participate. In England there is a mental health charity called MIND which has drop-in groups in quite a few areas, kind of like support groups where people talk about how their week is going but with more facilitation than the informal group I go to on Meetup. Unfortunately MIND doesn't cover Scotland. I live in Glasgow which is pretty big, maybe half a million people. I am sure what I need is somewhere in the city. Am really just looking for ideas of what has helped any introverts like me which I can then Google to see if it is available locally. (As a partial clue, for a while I attended a decluttering support group run by a lovely Quaker woman. I enjoyed the chat and the discussion of ideas from decluttering books very much, but didn't do so well when alone in my flat and faced with the actual chore of decluttering).
posted by AuroraSky to Human Relations (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
One option would be to try board gaming meetups. Because everyone is playing a game in a small group, there's a subset of people you have to talk to at least a bit, and that can be easier than just making casual conversation with random strangers. Most gaming meetups have had someone sort of watching over things to make sure that no one is left without a game too long, so that should help with the initial hurdle of getting into a game and having an initial chance to meet people.

One seemingly extroverted thing that can actually work quite well for introverts is Toastmasters. You have to get out there and speak to people, even speak in front of people, which might be terrifying depending on the kind of introvert you are, but it all happens in a very structured environment and you generally know in advance exactly what you will have to do in a given meeting -- are you giving a speech that week? are you presenting table topics? evaluating someone else's speech? etc. -- so there are few surprises.

Also, are there classes you could take? Maybe a language class or similar that meets over a long time? A creative writing class? Those usually have a certain amount of forced interaction in them.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:53 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]

Is there maybe something where you could volunteer in a way that you can be around other people, but not be forced into close work with people you don't know? I'm thinking something like an animal shelter or cat cafe. That way you can all be doing tasks, so there's less pressure to interact, but the opportunity is there. Plus, volunteering might help you feel better about yourself.

I'm bipolar too. Are you on medication? If you are, has that been looked at with an eye to adjustment?

It really sounds like you're actually doing quite well socially -- give yourself a pat on the back for what you're already doing!
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:56 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]

I find that just walking around is good. You run into other walkers and smile and say "good morning" to each other or just nod, and it can brisk up the day pleasantly. You could just walk to a library or a park a couple of times a week and make a practice of greeting a few people on your way. Then walk back and greet a few people. It's not skydiving-level social interaction, but it's also not nothing, and it is a mood shifter.

It's easier when you're walking because you're not having to come up with and sustain conversation: you just nod and move along. Social interactions more complicated than smiling and nodding are much tougher, especially in groups because of the insurmountable-seeming barriers to entering conversations in progress. So I know what you mean about group meetings with formalized structures and facilitators (like AA meetings--do you happen to have any addictions? Or know any addicts, in which case you could do Al-Anon?) being easier.

Next time you make friends in one of your existing groups--like those two you made but haven't seen in a while--steel yourself and push a little tiny bit and exchange numbers so that you can text back and forth (sooo much easier than calling) and eventually maybe even arrange to meet and hang out outside the group. But just having made friends is impressive, and I agree with fiercecupcake that you're already doing quite well.

PS: If you really like walking, there's this: https://www.glasgowramblers.org.uk/ or this: https://www.meetup.com/The-Glasgow-Walking-and-Hillwalking-Club/
posted by Don Pepino at 9:38 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Introvert with minimal social needs here. I do a four hour volunteer shift at the front desk of the local library every week. I have brief interactions with all sorts of people, I get to be helpful, and having an official role calms my social anxiety a lot.

I realize this isn’t the sort of group situation you’re focusing on, but it is something that can regularly get you out of the house and interacting with people with minimal social anxiety.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:48 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]

Have you tried taking a language class, or the kind of class that a local FE College would have? (Not sure if FE Colleges are an England only thing or not.) My language class is less than 15 people, but we sit in small tables, so it's not overwhelming. They're also pretty low cost.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:07 AM on February 21

If you're comfortable with meditation, maybe a meditation group would be good - share energy and kindness with other folks, but not have to talk much. If you don't want too much Buddhism or other religious trappings, search for "Insight" in your keywords. "Meditation based stress relief/MBSR" is another keyword to use to find completely secular meditation groups.
posted by matildaben at 11:27 AM on February 21

Thanks for all the ideas, would welcome any more, and for the encouragement that I am already doing quite well considering. Of the suggestions so far the language class seems especially good as I would find it fun and the teacher would structure it. I did Spanish but am thinking of doing French as I like French films. Bearing in mind group size, I might try local Alliance Francaise as they keep the student: teacher ratio low.
posted by AuroraSky at 1:07 PM on February 21

I’ve found pottery a very introvert-friendly art form, if taking a class like that would be interesting to you. It’s a good way to have positive social contact, with as much or as little interaction as you want. And if you get extra studio time, it’s a good calm place to go that isn’t your home.
posted by centrifugal at 2:02 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Consider volunteering with community radio. You can get your own show which you do alone but meet other like minded people when you like. Volunteering at fund raising events or just helping out around the place. It's not physical, it's low key, provides a great sense of community, and finds you eclectic people just like you.
Happy to chat more about it if you like.
posted by merocet at 9:18 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

I * really * loved a group that went around trying different cafes and tearooms but, sadly for me and great for her, the organiser and her French boyfriend moved to Paris.

Can you afford the time and energy and money to become the leader of that group since you loved it? Or perhaps look for someone to become a co-leader with you?

a couple of people have become something in between acquaintances and friends

Then this is a great time to take the next step to deepen your relationships with those two people. Invite them over (individually) for a cup of tea, or a walk, or whatever. By all means take a language course or volunteer. But don’t miss your opportunity to develop deeper bonds with these acquaintances or friends. If y’all are compatible, all that is needed is spending more time together periodically. Keep at it and eventually you will have meaningful friendships and a social network.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:35 AM on February 22 [3 favorites]

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