Posts Tagged ‘social anxiety

11
Apr
18

Like a Sad Puppy Looking Out the Window

***

No.  You’re not going to find any sad but cute puppy pictures here.  Go clog your storage drives elsewhere.

I’m just expressing how I feel at the moment…at this stage in my life.  And, just to let you know, I’m going to get a bit long-winded; so get comfy and prepare yourself for some heavy paragraphs if you care to read.  But, if you want a more intimate look at the real me, this is about as close as you get without making the effort to reach out and connect via the pathways I provide.  I may repeat a few things from previous posts.

I feel like time is slipping away while I struggle to stand and get moving.  I hear about neighbors I don’t socialize with regularly, finding out their kids have already married and bought houses when it seems like only a few years ago they were kids playing in the backyard.  Have I actually reached THAT age?  Am I already the gray-haired elder who talks about the little ones being taller than I remember?

I’m not particularly physically handicapped.  But, I feel emotionally and mentally challenged…crippled.  I feel starved and deprived of good energies that I’d assume propel other people into action.

If someone says I just lack motivation, what does that mean?  I should be whipped like a slave?  I should throw myself in front of a bus or hit my head against a wall til I get the picture?  I just need to take more risks, more chances?  I’m not charitable enough?  I’m not “hungry” enough?  Exactly what direction should I move in to be doing this life right?  [No.  Don’t answer that one.  There are way too many people doling out answers they think are right, already.]

It’s sad to say, too, but I look forward to and sometimes rely upon emails to communicate.  I used to turn to the landline telephone.  But, reaching people isn’t always as easy, anymore, now that there are “options” and more things to distract people (rather than connect them).  I don’t mind leaving a message if I know I’ll get a response.  But, I don’t want to be the guy calling at “a bad time” and feeling like I am expecting the person to be my therapist while they are wondering when I’ll stop gabbing because they have “more important” things to do (that I could/should be doing myself).  Often enough, talking on the phone makes me feel worse, later, than I do composing a letter or email (which, for me, often turns out as long or longer than some letters I used to write).

So, when I finally do get an email or offer to email, I perk my head up a little and might even pant before responding as soon as possible.  Sometimes, I go out of my way, give it more time than most would, really try to make it into something special, something personal and considerate.  Over the years, I’ve realized that usually smells of desperation and is not–as often as I’d like–appreciated.

I try to be patient with others, particularly when they say they are sorry they cannot respond sooner/more often.  I say, “Oh, that’s okay.  You’re busy.  Take your time.”  And, then what happens?  I don’t hear from these people for weeks, months…  And, well, if it goes past a year, I pretty much assume our connection is dead.   [One sad, lonely dog, looking too hard for attention over here.]

“Back in the day,” (heh) you might write to a pen pal and wait a year for a response.  But, you were not considering that pen pal anything more than a seasonal visitor like the Easter Bunny or Kris Kringle.  You didn’t expect much from a pen pal and were grateful, hopefully, when they felt thoughtful enough to send a treat or souvenir.

I don’t look for pen pals at this stage of my life.  If my “circle” was that fulfilling but too local to satisfy my explorative interests, I might look for a stranger overseas to tell me tales.  But, these days, you don’t need a pen pal for that.  You can find people like that online!…in places like this one!  And, if they are friendly enough, you can exchange dialogue!  Isn’t that nice?  [Not that there’s much dialogue going around from what I can see.  More often, I see “award” notices, strangely worded/ignored comments from faceless strangers, brief words of vague sympathy and plenty of “snapshot” responses (the LIKES and the FOLLOWS) which are void of warmth.]

My timing and my low level of comfort with mingling are also terrible.  It seems I am always inside when others are taking walks outside.  [Again, the sad puppy looking out the windows.]  And, even if I cross paths with someone while walking, I’m in no way comfortable striking up a conversation.

For one, I don’t want to come off like an intrusion or misunderstood threat.  I don’t want to take away from the exercise or interaction someone else may be having with their exercise group/companion(s) (while I am almost always alone).  If they only have so much time to exercise, why try to or expect them to stop and gab as long as I may?

Secondly, or rather, additionally in regards to general discomfort, I am not comfortable talking on a walk or in public for more than a minute or two because I know my skin is thin and that I will break the dam wide open if given a chance.  And, the last thing I want is to get loud or breakdown among passersby who are likely to turn their heads and very quickly add to my discomfort.  What’s wrong with him?  Do you really want to know?  [Not to mention all the concerns I’d have of being rejected or “judged” for expressing or hearing something that disturbs one of us.]

What I really would like is to meet someone on a walk or online (or somewhere far more comfortable, wherever that is) and spark a conversation but take it somewhere more private so I don’t expose my “ills,” my concerns, my woes, my heavier thoughts to more people than necessary, especially to people you don’t know who are capable of doing things with your output that might shock and/or upset you.

And, I think that’s what I’ve been doing and striving to do since the internet began.  [I am pretty sure I’ve discussed my experiences with making contacts online elsewhere in my posts.  I just don’t feel like linking or repeating.  And, hey, if you really need to know, you just ask.]

I don’t or can’t expect someone I just met to welcome me into their home or car (and that doesn’t sound too smart to begin with, anyway). I really don’t know where to go to make this happen.  Nor do I have any bright idea or motivation to make myself more comfortable.  It’s one thing when you have a friend or “wingman” with you.  It’s a whole other to feel as fragile as I do and try to go it alone.  I mean, I am sure people do it and have done it.  And, if it comes down to it, I’ll figure out a way.  But, time is passing by so quickly, and I am still spinning my tires.

It sure would be nice if more people reached out to me, too.  Ya know?  I feel worse thinking the world is only going to get better if I make it better for myself (and others).  For all the stories I read of people making things happen, starting businesses and such, I don’t see people reaching out to me.  I keep getting the feeling like I’m different and have to do the leg work for others.  They might have tons of offers or be going through applications/resumes like some location seeking employees.  But, I remain the lone applicant just hoping to make a dent, to get my foot in a door.  [Stop looking like that, sad puppy man!]

Am I just living in some TV show or video game?  Is this just a 4D world in which I have the controller to make things happen?  Have I been so bewildered by the simulations that I forgot I am Player One?

Some would say I just need to get busy or be busier with my life.  When you’re busy, you don’t think as much (about these things).  And, while that may be true, do I want to busy myself with work that does nothing other than feed the careless, wasteful impulses of others (just because someone chooses to make a business of that, because someone convinced them this was profitable) or work for someone who sells a lie built around fear/doubt?

Oh, sure, I could get very busy.  I could not make any money and devote my life to charity because the world sure needs plenty of help.  But, I am terribly afraid of my social and general anxieties getting in the way, of ending up penniless and dependent upon some system I don’t necessarily understand or like.  It’s not like I would be good at balancing charity with doing everything I need to support myself.  I’d more likely give my all and wind up with nothing…or give so little that I feel like a cheapskate/miser.  It is all a bit too risky for me.  [Yet, charity sounds better than some alternatives.]

Sigh.  Woof!

 

 

 

 

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02
Mar
18

A Family Imbalanced

****

I am, once again, working through some deep-seeded feelings and–if you the reader so decide to give it–get some input.  In this age of short attention spans, I consider it amazing if the average reader can digest all I have to say.  [So, pat yourself on the back if you do.  And, if you’ve read similar thoughts in previous posts of mine, bare with me; it wouldn’t surprise me if I repeated.

NOTE:  If all you do is click LIKE on this post, I will be annoyed because I don’t know what you hope to achieve by doing that.  And, I will feel like a spectacle, standing in public in my underwear.

What inspired this purging of the soul?  Recent events in which I have been giving much of my time and energy to my family and seen little in return.  Sometimes my offers of assistance and input are rejected, with or without mention of how I should live my life differently.  That reaction seems to run in the family (myself included, under certain circumstances).  I just wish someone would step up and say, “Now, what can I do to help YOU?” Or, “How are you coming with ___?  Need any help?”

I seem to be more willing to help my family (and anyone who triggers sympathy in me) than they are willing (and/or able) to help me.  Granted, they have loaded their hands with fairly full lives of their own while I struggle to “get myself together.”  I cannot offer much more than my helping hands, remaining mobility, “over-thinking” and sympathetic brain (for working out all of those little mental wrinkles that plague those with failing memories or certain problems that need solving)…and patience.  And, if a member of my family did anything that shocked or upset my “code,” I might be less willing to offer help.

[IE If someone chose to get drunk and go broke, I might have a hard time offering financial or even emotional support.  That is, in part, because I’ve never let myself be so careless and cannot relate; I don’t feel like I have the “coping skills” to deal with that situation.  I could easily hand over money and risk leaving myself in financial danger, but I am resistant–for whatever reason–to do so.  And, I’ll get more into that sort of situation in a moment.]

It’s actually somewhat amazing I am willing to help my family, at all, when, some years ago, I was at a serious crossroads with the core of my being, and my family essentially looked the other way, treating me like a misfit of society who didn’t want to “go with the flow.”  [Which is ironic after years of chasing fads only to be told this behavior was costly and pointless.]  I realize solitude and defending myself so long has depleted my resistance and left me more in need of human contact and cooperation.

Long ago, in my late teens, I wanted a fresh start, a makeover of sorts.  And, if anyone supported the entities that rubbed me the wrong way, I withdrew from those supporters to defend myself, rather than accept people simply telling me I am crazy for being so troubled by something they saw as harmless.  [This came with trusting professionals with my life and feeling my life was threatened by those professionals.]  All I knew at the time was I needed to purge my being of what felt like a serious mistake, similar to atoning for a sin.  And, my family, my foundation, my roots, stood in the way.

[You might hear or read sources that say you should “be” and “love” yourself.  I have felt unable to do that thoroughly because I continually run into opposition, including family.  If you like metaphors, it’s sort of like being a young bird wanting to fly and having your wings either torn to shreds or weakened by lack of proper nutrition.]

Now, this endured for many years, me unable to trust my family with just about anything and feeling misunderstood.  I had no privacy, no freedom to maintain a room of my own (design) as I saw fit.  [If I left the house, I’d return home many days to find my possessions rearranged, altered or missing.  Thus, each time I wanted to leave home, I couldn’t help being concerned and was denied the option to use locks to secure my space.]  I survived by doing what I had been told to do since I was little…keep myself busy.  But, this wasn’t advancing my life in any good way I could see.  When I wanted to have “adult” discussions, no one could cope with my rapid-firing concerns/hesitation.  And, if they felt like bringing up old news–like that time I was trying to put behind me–any chance of cooperation went down in emotional flames rather quickly.

[Again, ironic, considering another member of the immediate family has had several makeovers and never once had to worry about his own room being invaded/rearranged.]

A bothersome pattern involves me buckling whenever I hesitate to try/do something and seek input from family.  I’m reluctant to ask, worrying about the response I may get.  And, if the response comes with some measure of judgment, objection, insult/offense or resistance, I give up the quest for assistance/input and recoil into a troubling state of helplessness.

Add to this my inability to do just about anything for myself, including stepping outside my comfort zone (if you can even call what I had comforting) to meet new people, to socialize, and I am a rather handicapped individual going nowhere.  Before I stopped going (and began fighting to defend my decision), I couldn’t even go to mass/church with family without feeling lacking in their acceptance, feeling a bit like a reject and enemy.  The church was supposed to be my sanctuary, and it couldn’t be; not with my family and social anxieties.

This is just the tip of the emotional iceberg.  And, after giving these thoughts a few hours of my time, I am feeling lost in thought and depleted.  So, without knowing what else to say, I will stop here.  If I feel up to it, later, I will revise/add to these thoughts.

* I am writing this in addition to a previous post about lacking love and friendship. *

 

08
Feb
18

The Impact of (Lacking) Friendship

****

I’m going to start of this thought train with a very vital question.  Does anyone else know what it is like to go 30+ years without a solid, reliable, comforting friendship in one’s life?  Does anyone have any idea…if you have a circle or even just two good friends…can you imagine the impact on a life of not having a reassuring friendship for 30+ years?

If I was someone who had at least two friends upon which I could go to with anything and actually hang out on a regular basis, feel like there was nothing taboo or that would earn me some measure of rejection, I would probably be speechless to find someone who had no good friends for that long.

Obviously, I am having a personal crisis moment.  I have these now and then about friendship.  The last time I felt I had a solid friendship, I was 13; and that friend decided to date a “frenemy” (friend who became a sort of enemy/indifferent classmate) and say we’d never be more than friends though I was hoping she and I would be more than friends, after knowing each other so long and growing together and after having feelings I didn’t even understand long before they were a topic in sex education.  I was roughly 7 years old when I knew I felt something for this girl who became a good friend.

I had male friends, too.  But, usually, one at a time, and they were not the best friendships because most of my focus was on what we had to share, video games, trading cards, whatever.  Sure, we could joke and hang out together, but not as often as I would have liked.  [And, there’s another reason behind that I won’t go into, today.  One that was not of my control/choice.]  For some reason, I couldn’t have more than one male friend at a time.  It was like one would rub me the wrong way or he’d get tired of my cautiousness and find someone more fun to visit.  So, out the door one would go, and, somehow, another slipped into place.  I don’t even know how I made these friends.  I think we just sat together at lunchtime and, while talking about video games or some kind of toys, decided we should consult our parents about getting together.

As for my best female friend, we met through a summer group and stuck together through school.  It was almost like we were two trees growing side-by-side.  And, I remember the distinct difference between the guy friends and the girl friend.  The girl friend was more sympathetic on her own while the guy friends found discussing feelings a bit uncomfortable.

I regularly had to curb what I said with the guys whenever they turned stone-silent and looked away.  Even as a kid, I had too much to think about or say, not necessarily being chatty at the time…because I was still one of the “quiet ones” back then.  I didn’t get chatty til my teens when I had to fight for my life, different from the days with bullies when I sometimes settled things with my fist or foot.  [The cornered cat scratched back, back then.]

As I got older, friends became even harder to find and keep.  In high school, I was under a ton of internal turmoil for a handful of reasons.  And, if the guys didn’t know how to deal with that when I was little, they were not much if any better as teenagers.  And, the girls were suddenly like deer in the eyes of wildcats.  The laws of the jungle were taking hold of my peers, and here I was contemplating the meaning of life and where my future was headed.  I might as well have been a lamppost in the forest.  The friendships I managed to make with the old system of common interests fizzled as soon as I became emotional or found my “friend” was supporting a cause or theology I did not respect.  I had to make moral choices, and that left me out in the cold, time and time, again.  No one came to my aid.  Peers didn’t reach out any better than I did.  [I probably would have been more social if I wasn’t consumed with anxiety and depression.]

Even professionals could only do so much; they didn’t understand.  A pill was not the answer; it might mess with my head and distract some part of me from functioning, but I cannot live the rest of my life like that and still feel human or true to my faith.  And, a pill is not the answer to a family situation that’s problematic.

[You can’t make everything better just by twisting my brain into some alien configuration that gets “better channels.”  My family did not have the answer nor accept me as I was.   A pill is not going to change that; talking just to me isn’t going to change that. And, distancing myself from family is only going to make me feel more alone and inadequate without a friendship to fill the gaps.

If people cannot cope with my intense persona, do I honestly think a pill that shuts me up is going to make that all better or allow me to see and use the “tools” someone thinks are the answer?  Some might say, “You don’t know until you try.”  Wanna be a guinea pig and deal with all the hazardous side-effects while trying to find the “right pill for you?”  Be my guest.  I hope you live long enough to toss the pill bottle when you finally feel better before you have other medical issues, possibly from liver or kidney sediment.  I hope the pill spares you from dealing with real emotional matters and when whoever upsets you gets on your nerves, again.  Or, if you’re one of those real lucky ones who DO “level out” just right…well, I’ve got nothing to say about that.]

So began the age of “no one understands.”

Then we get to adulthood and the workforce and how people don’t really mature much, even if they sound and look more mature.  Or, if there were more mature people, I had lost comprehension of maturity and was not seeing them beyond the trees of the forest I occupied.  I might read about someone with a “better” life without knowing all the facts and listen when others point to those people and say, “Look; they can do it.  Why can’t you?”

I manage to get along with coworkers.  I even get brave enough to put offers on the table.  And, on a rare occasion, someone makes me an offer.   But, what happens to those offers?  Not much.  If I get my hopes up, they seem to disappear or go south.  If I hesitate or brush it off, I hear, “Why didn’t you take me up on my offer?”  Um, maybe because I didn’t want to get my hopes up for the first result I mentioned?  Or, maybe you didn’t bring it up twice even though I can mention the same desire/wish a dozen times just to get a faint chuckle and/or a “yea” before it gets ignored.

Have I made any solid friendship with coworkers?  Not really.  I mean, sure, we got along and talked off and on at work for over 10 years.  I can email and call a few just to say hi and “catch up.”  And, no doubt, we’re all good at telling each other what they should do.

But, do we hang out or do anything outside of work?  Oh, no, because there was something wrong with me or my abilities.  Or, as unfortunate as it might be, we both have limitations that get in the way.  And, maybe, I don’t want to be the single, lonely guy poking his nose into a family or married situation when I am unsure of what is good timing or proper to suggest without offense.  [And, I don’t mean I was ogling someone’s wife, either.  But, if I was befriending a guy with an attractive wife, sure, I may feel attracted and then have to watch myself, which does add pressure to the situation.]  I don’t want to be the guy who “has too much time on his hands” and gets plenty of suggestions what to do with myself when I want to spend time with or have someone go over something important with me, who happens to have their hands full with family or their own social life, as if I would be a bother.

So, I am supposed to be a fully functional, professional and well-adjusted adult on his own, not letting what others say or do get to me, doing everything on my own as if I don’t have to interact with anyone yet somehow do whatever is “normal” to avoid being an outsider.  It’s like no one can explain how good friendship works….it just does.  It’s just like Life cereal.  Why does Mikey like it?  He just does.  And, Nike just does it.  So, why can’t I?

Well, if anyone wonders why I am progressing so slowly in terms of a “normal adult life” yet sitting with this “amazing brain” of mine, hopefully this current rant will shed some light on the matter and not drive potential friends further away.

 

16
May
17

My Response to “Self-Esteem Issues in Ohio” (Dear Abby)

*****
[Letter titled “Being Lifelong Target of Ridicule Eats at Self-Esteem.]

“Self-Esteem…in Ohio” is in their 30s and coming to terms with social/dating difficulties stemming from a lifetime of ridicule and, quite likely, manipulation, claiming to be more comfortable putting him/her self down than doing what makes him/her happy.

I’d say he/she is in an emotional rut, passing through a sad storm.  Sometimes we write things in the moment we are most emotional and it passes.  Sometimes the problem/feeling lingers.

Dear Abby suggests professional therapy.  I feel this is too easy to recommend without a sound system of assuring the doctor-patient relationship will work.  In a way, finding a good therapist is like dating except more expensive.  Heck, even online dating sites charge less per month to gamble with them.   So, isn’t a therapist asking more than a hundred bucks an hour for you to repeat your life history, before they remotely understand your problems, compounding the problem?

*****

Well, before I get started, I had a flashback to a time not too long ago when I found and visited the Dear Abby archives/website. I found the digital copy of the letter and a loooooooooooooooong line of responses from other people, reminding me of the old chatroom and message board days. There are many who have the same responses and a handful claiming to be in similar shoes. So, anything I could say wouldn’t be much different. And, I am not sure the “discussion” is any better than comments on YouTube, as they may be hard to read/filter.

On that note, I WILL still offer some thoughts and personal experience. After all, I am not a man of few words, usually. And, if I get carried away, it might be too much for the comment trail space. I might get more attention at the source. Yet, this is just as good, writing out my thoughts, self therapy, if nothing else.

If you can handle it, please take the time to read my “radically reduced” response (which, after two drafts, is still quite long). [I am slowly learning to curb myself and save some information for more appropriate, more fruitful settings. The general public viewing space is not the same as controlled group therapy.]

But, if you reader(s) care to sift through the website comments, go HERE.

*****

First off, I was surprised I didn’t think to ask it myself. Are you a man or woman suffering from this? I presumed you were a man like me which prompted me to respond. Some of what you said struck such a resounding tone with my own troubles.

Secondly, as I know I can say more than can fit in a few lines, if you read what I have to say and want to discuss these matters (perhaps more privately), my mailbox is open.

I’ll try to group my thoughts to address various topics…and keep the details brief.

LABELS

I don’t like to say I have a condition or disease as this only makes matters worse than if I simply think of my troubles as clouds overhead which can be diminished or replaced with sun, now and then. Better to think of the bad times as foul weather that will pass, I say.

ESTEEM AND/OR ANXIETY

I don’t consider what I suffer from as low self-esteem but, rather, social anxiety, a fear to engage people beyond a certain trust level. It’s not as bad as a gal I know who freaks out if a guy approaches her to be more than a friend. I can mingle with certain people if the “water” is inviting enough. I typically have little to no trouble talking to people who I don’t consider relationship prospects, but I cannot seem to approach any woman I find attractive. And, if I do begin talking with one who then turns out to be more than I can handle (or fear she will find fault with me), it becomes a real dire situation to get out of the mess. So, I tend to run through the scenario beforehand and avoid even a kind greeting or more than “Hi.” [I set myself up to fail before trying.]

I’ve tried various methods of countering my anxieties. One, which has yet to work well though I love the idea, is delivering thoughts on paper. Rather than speaking with the person directly or trying to get an email address/phone number (as some seem to make appear so easy), I would write my thoughts in a note and pass it to the person or get someone to pass it to the person. I never passed notes in school, ironically. But, I’ve done it on the job (hoping to avoid a boss telling me not to socialize on the job by inviting the person I wanted to speak with to find me after work).

You’ve probably heard the bits about loving yourself before you love another and being comfortable alone, too. I don’t know what to think of these philosophies, but they give me a headache.

I was a kid who spend adequate time alone because Mom and Dad were not available or interested in what I liked to do, other than art, and I couldn’t do art all of the time. [That’s a whole other ball of wax, source of childhood trauma.] I could occupy myself and say I was okay. But, as I matured, I needed some social connection. I had heard “no man is an island” and took it to heart. I just wasn’t very good at getting off my island and joining the natives of another. And, no one was going to show me the ropes without sounding suspicious.

We’ve likely both been “okay” on our own long enough. How long do we have to go alone before we connect with someone? Right? And, how do we define loving ourselves? How do we know we pass the test and can move on to the next step, loving someone else? Who verifies our abilities?

TALKING DOWN ABOUT ONESELF

I don’t recall doing this in my youth. What I do recall wasn’t so much me talking about myself as it was conveying what others had said/done about me. I guess it was my way of taking a punch instead of fighting back. I’m not exactly a fighter, but as the saying goes, “corner a cat and get scratched.” [I’ve had my moments when I lashed back at those who went too far.]

However, as I entered my teens, I started to seriously wonder what was wrong with me. I can relate to what you say about not making yourself happy. For the longest time, I have put up with crap, figuring I could do no better. I would not say I have low standards by any stretch, but I have taken chances without making sure the decision was right in my gut. And, usually, when I don’t follow my desires, I run into trouble. Yet, if I only listened to my inner voice, I’d probably be more anti-social than I already am, because, I suspect, some of the voices inside me have been shoved in there by my family and peers. And, why do I want to listen to them?

THERAPY AND SELF-HELP BOOKS/EXPERTS

Whenever someone has no better advice or assistance to offer, I see this often. “Get professional help.” As if it were so simple. If you’re lucky, insurance may cover some or all of it. But, I doubt it. And, from my experience, it was more harm than help, especially when my family did whatever the professionals prescribed without considering its impact on me. As a minor, I was not to be trusted; I might as well have had rabies or be told I was due to be “put down.” In short, my trust in therapy ended when the last pill I was convinced to take nearly ended my life. When professional help goes that far the wrong way, you either get mad or you die obeying strangers.

I’ve encountered many “self-help” books, too, by self-proclaimed life-experts. I would snort at these quite hastily, wondering what makes anyone an expert on life when they are still living and learning as I am. Especially, if that life expert is younger than me. After all, what is the sense of life experience if someone can live it all before another? Just because one tree figures out how to produce apples faster than another does not make it wiser or all-knowing about fruit production. [This logic might also be applied to the medicine field and how pill manufacturers fail to grasp the concept of every body being potentially different; we can’t all be lab rats just to satisfy someone’s curiosity.]

Maybe I am not being fair. Maybe there are still good therapists in this world. But, I have yet to meet one. And, after my horrible experience, I am inclined to reject the idea.

If you DO consider professional help (in other words, advice and/or assistance from someone outside the circle that knows you already), I hope you can do as much research as possible and defer the expense.

I think therapy works when we accept someone’s way of thinking into our own. I’ve read some self-help books that have fairly good ideas. I just have a hard time trusting my soul to a book instead of someone I can see with my own eyes and hold with my hands. [I suppose this could have people questioning my ability to believe in a god, my religion. After all, what is faith in a god other than trusting stories passed down about someone I cannot see or hold?] So, if you tell yourself to have faith in the words of another, it’s likely you’ll adapt and do your best to make that work.

I guess, because I’ve “been there, done that,” it’s hard for me to trust, again.

Suggestions for countering these problems:

1) Well, I already gave one about labeling conditions/difficulties.

2) As for the lack of confidence to engage others or feel better about ourselves, I wish I could find a good therapy group, if I cannot do better at making friends on my own. I’m not likely to seek such a group out, sadly. I have doubts about therapy and professionals but DO think a group is better than one-on-one.

I had brief experience with group therapy and campfire discussions. But, I could feel, rather quickly, a sense of community. When everyone in the group contributes, there is less likelihood of distrust. You slowly let your guard down and accept not being alone with the problem. I had a good time with my senior (high school) retreat when the group was able to divulge personal trials. Suddenly, those who appeared flawless were just as fragile as I, and I wanted to reach out to them, to hug them. [Sadly, the trip did not end as well as it started.]

HOWEVER, be sure you are in the right group and gauge your experience day-by-day. Because, I was placed with one group who had different problems than my own, and it made no sense for me to spill my emotions to people who could barely speak for themselves and/or comprehend my woes.

3) I have repeatedly tried something over my lifetime which doesn’t exactly accomplish much other than shaking an emotional load off my shoulders. Whenever someone made me feel “less than” or hounded me (like a bully), I would concoct a tall tale. [This probably contributed to some calling me a liar at the wrong time, like the “boy who cried wolf.”] It’s sort of like the advice some give about wild animal encounters; you make yourself look big. That’s what I did without attempting to be cooler or dress differently (as many would do). I talked big and fabricated details, hoping to steer away whatever was looming over me like a plague. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about myself, but it helps to steer the threats away.

Consider this a last resort strategy. Some days, I’d just want to get home and unwind. And, I’d tell myself this strategy accomplished the bottom line. It got me out of the line of fire. But, if the problem didn’t stop

4) I like how people describe Conan O’Brien as having “self-deprecating humor.” People like him are able to stay modest and have a sense of humor about themselves, so it’s less likely to get or feel hurt. In some foreign films, you might hear “fight fire with fire” or “counter poison with poison.” Even in common medicine, a vaccine is often a re-built virus used to counter another.

So, rather than simply shoot yourself down, have a sense of humor about your shortcomings. Find a way to turn a negative into a joke. So, at least, if you DO find yourself in an awkward situation, you can make light of it. And, try not to let yourself wonder if your date thinks you suffer from anything just because you make jokes or put yourself down. Don’t double the weight already on your mind.

5) Think outside the dating box. If you view a date in any particular way and figure it’s a hopeless case, try designing a different date (like drawing a new map for how to walk through a park or a new menu for your favorite restaurant). [IE Some expect sex on a third date. I don’t care for this “rule.” I must assure myself I don’t have to follow it and set my own rules. And, if my date doesn’t agree, I don’t have to continue dating that person.  Of course, I may be good at designing, but I lack the drive or self-assurance to put my designs into reality/action.  Which is why I see myself as a good interior decorator.  hehe  I design the room but don’t necessarily have to do all the remodeling.]

I’ll take a chance in saying something about my dating history.  I’ve probably gone on a handful of dates, altogether.  My first date was as much a disaster as it was a relief.  I was once accused of standing someone up and ran into an emotional dispute IN PUBLIC (which I dread) as a result of me pursuing the relationship that, apparently, wasn’t to be.

I do better befriending a person and then trying to arrange times we can hang out together casually, instead of trying to follow some schedule every few days, weeks or months.  [And, the people I usually befriend come from my workplace.  I don’t go to “normal” hangouts to meet people because I don’t have a group of friends to join me.]  I’ve “dated” people through emails and chat rooms before meeting them in person.  I can’t say I’ve had much success, but it certainly feels better getting what you can for free or little money than paying some agency of faceless strangers to hopefully find you a match.  My methods are not conventional.  But, I’m not sending disturbing nude images to people just to get a rise out of them, either (like some who deter people from trying anything online).

6) Exercise is good. I agree with those who recommend exercise for improving psychology and the mood. [Posture and what we do with our hands also play a part.]  I didn’t get it until my twenties. In school, I wasn’t exactly lazy, but I didn’t do anything to “work out” other than play video games and the occasional sport practice by my own rules. I never lifted a weight or ran a mile (which proved to be a cause of great distress and embarrassment). But, once I started walking to get groceries, etc., I found myself melting pounds and stress away. I recommend bringing a headset radio/MP3 player to give yourself something to “suck” on and tune out the traffic. But, if you like walking among nature and listening to every little sound, have at it. I tend to dwell on negative thoughts without my music.

7) Diet may be a factor.  Consider what you eat regularly but don’t guilt yourself for enjoying the occasional comfort food.  A few tips in this area:

a) Moderation is a very important word.  If you find yourself eating a whole bag of chips or candy, stop.  Nor do you need to eat a whole head of lettuce in a day to say you’ve had your veggies.  Have a little of every food group or flavor type, and your taste buds will feel fuller sooner.

b) There are self-help books that talk about how what we eat impacts both physical and mental health.  Look into Ayurvedic medicine, the use of herbs and various food groups to address internal issues like nerves.  I’ve heard pumpkin seeds and shrimp are good for countering nerves, but I’ve seen minor results, at best.

c) Know your body type.  Some people are just genetically built to change weight/shape as the seasons shift.  Some, like me, don’t gain weight much because of a hyper metabolism.  Others are designed to be stout.  Once you know your type, accept it.  [I would presume this is a step to that “self love” requirement, but it’s not often someone will address it this way.]

8) If you haven’t already, consider looking into astrology and figuring out who to avoid, who to approach and what you can do to appeal to those you do approach.  You might be surprised by what clicks with another person, finding new connections/commonalities.  I personally find the subject full of possibilities and creatively inspiring.  But, that may just be because of my “sign.” 🙂

9) When all else fails or seems too complicated, don’t forget to take deep breaths and blow the negative thoughts and clutter from your mind.  I’ve had many bouts with panic attacks.  [Another topic for another time.]  Some nights, I’d go to bed worried I’ll forget something important that just crossed my mind.  I need to have faith and tell myself what matters will be there when I wake.

10) Art is often my therapy.  I can craft in many forms.  There is no specific yoga pose or martial art I have to follow.  I just have to pray for creative inspiration and appreciate it when it comes.  There’s a whole study on the use of mandalas and adult coloring books you might investigate.  Or, try what my family call “doodle challenges” in which one person draws a line or shape, and another (or yourself if you really must do this alone) turns that shape or line into something.  It’s sort of like finding shapes in the clouds.  [This is not directly helpful to dating, but it may be good for clearing the distressful clutter from your mind/heart.]

[I’m sure I’ll think of more and reconsider some of my verbiage in good time.  🙂  Again, if interested, I’m willing to compare notes via email and, eventually, other means.]

 

I normally copy this to a special blog page I created as an archive.  But, it doesn’t seem to be working, today, in case anyone wonders why the response isn’t there (or the link here).]

28
Feb
17

My Response to “Bored Life in Wisconsin” (Dear Abby)

*****
You can find my response to this and other letters on the designated page. But, while you’re here, have a read.

Bored Life is a fifteen year-old teenager suffering from a mix of social anxiety and depression. It’s uncertain if this person is a boy or girl. But, they are clearly at a crossroad in life, lacking friendship and comfortable chats with peers, questioning acceptance of their chosen hobbies, wanting desperately to improve their situation. [I didn’t know kids (or “young adults”) still play Dungeons and Dragons.]

Abby suggests joining some groups to stimulate social activity. And, that’s sound advice (even I have yet to follow). But, I suspect this teen is resistant to joining (as I was/am). And, that may be why he/she is having such difficulty. I will speak from experience and, hopefully, provide some reassurance. But, considering my ongoing struggles, I can’t promise much. Still, it may shed some light on the paid advisor for future cases.

————–

Bored Life? I’m going to give you more than something or “anything.” Not just advice but also some of my own experience with what you are facing.

Lesson number one. Don’t ever say you’re bored or boring. Because, to the people that matter in your life, you’re not.

As I read your letter, I am checking off all the points that may match not just my teenage years but also my adult life. Repetitive schedule (including the details you gave)? Check. Depressed? Check. Inability to drive? Check. Trouble talking to others–aka social anxiety–double check. Parents that don’t go anywhere/do anything to stimulate your mind…nor, apparently, your bond/relationship with them? [Which may be something we want to discuss, later.] Double check. No friends with whom you can hang out/feel at ease with in person? Double check and an exclamation point!

Right now–and for who knows how long–you don’t have a “crowd.” You don’t have your niche. You’re a rare purple song bird in a forest full of blue and pink ones. You could perch next to a group and give your two cents. But, that would leave your comfort zone. And, once out of that comfort zone, you fear you’ll get hurt. Right? Who or what will protect you when you are completely exposed to the public and responsible for your words/actions.

Let’s tackle those key notes separately.

1) Your comfort zone/crowd.
This is what suits your desires/interests. It’s what you feel most at ease doing. This includes those “boring” activities you indulge, homework and drawing. When you get older, people start associating this with a career and raising children. Those become zones into which people lock themselves and struggle to escape. Some run away, producing single parents and questionable resumes.

Here’s the first ray of light I’d like to shed your way. What may seem boring today could be seen as a sign of dedicated study and achievement, later. And, perhaps, in the future, your work will pay off with attracting the niche crowd you’ve wanted, allowing you to filter out those who are not what they appear. [And, there will be your share of those, as well.]

Surely, you are not the only person in your world who is focused on homework, drawing and video games. Quite likely, there are others who are just about as secluded as you. And, that is why you don’t see each other or pair up. You are in your own corners, feeling similar doubts and concerns. Yet, even though you may have the same interests, there’s also the matter of personality differences.

2) Fear of painful exposure.
When we aren’t naturally adept to or taught at an early age to socialize, it becomes more and more like a stiff joint we haven’t moved in a while. It’s painful and/or difficult to stretch. It feels alien and uncertain, scary, even. What if we make the wrong move and do more harm? Leaving one’s comfort zone, trying new things…these can become painful to imagine. And, who doesn’t want to avoid pain?…except maybe those who preach “No pain, no gain.”

There are those that seem to make life appear easy. Jocks flock with jocks and hide any emotional responses they may have. Glam queens gab with other glam queens, and one is usually prettier than the rest for a reason. But, just because these people hang out and/or play together doesn’t mean they’re good friends. They may be avoiding your discomfort simply by staying busy. When they go home, life may not be as fun as they appear in school. School becomes their escape from solitude, family troubles and responsibility. It’s a different sort of comfort zone that seems high risk to people like you and me. It’s the fast lane while we coast in the slow lane.

3) Responsibility and taking chances.
Even I will admit (though I’m genetically inclined to deny) I have moments when I don’t want to be responsible for what happens. Companies satisfy this fear by posting “disclaimers” and “warnings,” all manners of fine print to ward off punishment should their business fail to satisfy the consumer and/or do greater harm. There may be something in the human genetic matrix that detests responsibility. But, if you know anything about Spider-Man, you likely know what Uncle Ben taught him.

Our great power is being the dominant species of this planet. Our responsibility is how we wield that power. We cannot be entirely careless with our actions. What we say and do impacts others.

Yet, we cannot take NO action or risk, either. If we try nothing, we achieve nothing. [But, don’t be so quick to dismiss what you DO try. Sometimes and some people will think you do nothing when, in fact, you ARE doing something that just isn’t apparent.]

One of the hard lessons of adulthood is taking steps to make progress (or even maintain what already exists) and being responsible for what results. If something goes wrong and it’s genuinely our fault, we need to take what comes with this negative result or defend ourselves if the punishment seems unjust. There will be other times when what occurs is just coincidence or cosmic fate, an “accident” we may not have been able to prevent. And, we need to learn to “roll with the punches;” accept failure or lesser achievement, regroup and try, again.

As I say, I am in a similar rut as you and not adept to making improvements/changes. But, many years after being in your shoes, I’ve gathered various tidbits of insight, therapy and wisdom from various sources. Right now, you’re at the start space on the board game of adulthood. Or, maybe, three steps from the start. I took a bit of a detour along one of those chutes or ladders and am not much closer to the finish line. But, I feel “wiser” for the experience. And, every step outside my comfort zone I am able to make, I get a tiny bit less afraid…even if I sometimes meet with what might be seen as disaster.

If I may, I have a few questions I hope aren’t too bothersome.

1) Who got you interested in Dungeons and Dragons? As I said earlier, I didn’t think anyone (especially your age) still played such games. I thought that was reserved for people from my and older generations.

I myself never played but have studied maps and guides. They were sources of artistic inspiration in my youth. I can remember being about seven or eight when I drew a picture of a warrior fending off “yellow mold” (and “black pudding” in another drawing) with a spear or sword.

2) You’ve NEVER had a crush on anyone? I could see not kissing or dating. But, not even a strong feeling about another person?

I had those feelings as early as four years old. I was given some unpleasant labels in my youth and in my teens which did not help me make friends and made approaching the concept of a romantic relationship almost impossible. I knew I wanted more than friendship with at least one girl. But, neither my parents nor my peers were any help in making my wishes come true. Instead, they made life more difficult and made me curl up in my “corner.”

Granted, there was one kid in my class who seemed the sort you claim to be. He had no interest in girls. Nor was he admittedly gay. I’d call him asexual because he was obsessed with annoying details in everything and never once said anything flattering about a boy/man or girl/woman, never showed any interest. If you asked him about such feelings, he’d pick a verbal fight and insult you.

There may be a strange blessing in this absence of “passion.” You could be spared the trials others face because they cannot control their “lust.” You could avoid the distractions and penalties (unplanned parenthood, for one) and get ahead in other areas of living. Then, down the road, those feelings you’ve been without might surface (at “the right time”). Yet, you are feeling discomfort because this difference makes relating to others less likely.

You make a point of mentioning how having feelings for someone can be a big part of interacting/talking with peers. [Can I just say I have not known any teen your age to even use the word “peers” in a sentence? That strikes me as unusual, too. I’d say “classmates,” “fellow students” or “other kids in my school.” But, peers?]

And, I can relate to that, too. I am pretty sure that’s why I was given the labels I received; I didn’t feel comfortable talking about “banging” that girl/guy or how much I wanted to grab some girl’s breasts. [Nor could I gossip about past relationships I didn’t have.] I felt guys who did this were juvenile. I didn’t necessarily say or think I was better than them–as many would argue against me–but I didn’t want to be like them. I chose a different path and was humiliated for it.

My struggles were amplified by factors I never saw coming. I was outnumbered and overwhelmed. I was at war with family. And, all of that slowed down any progress I could make so badly that I could see everyone else walking away and getting ahead in life. I continue to question my decisions and why I had to fight those battles. Could I have avoided the conflicts somehow? Could I have ignored the “jerks” and focused better on those who mattered? Why did I make the decisions I made?

I seem to recall writing a letter like yours back when I was your age (except I made it clear I had feelings for a number of girls and was distraught for losing contact with at least one). I did not find or receive any response. Hopefully, you’ll find my words and get some good out of them.

06
Feb
17

My Response to “Teen in Ogden, Utah” (Dear Abby)

*****

You can find my response to this and other letters, now available for your viewing and opinion, on the designated page

But, while you’re here, have a read.

“Teen” is fifteen years old and entering a Crusade, a religion-fueled war, with his divided parents. How the parents even managed to get married and have a kid is a mystery, considering one believes in God and the other sounds like an atheist. What is not a mystery is why “Teen” is distancing himself from the parents and feeling uncomfortable when church-related topics arise.

I might have left this one alone had I not been bothered by Abby’s last “sage advice” from a “wise clergyman.”

———

The opposite of faith is certainty? What is that supposed to mean, Abby? And, what do you expect this young man to do with that? I’d expect him to emulate his father. I do not think such “wise” words would inspire him to remain true to any religion/faith.

“Teen,” there is only one thing I am certain of: you will learn a great deal about how impulses of your parents dwell inside you in the coming years if not decades. And, you will do battle with those facets until you can rest assured in your choices. Knowing this, you can either accept the stress you feel as part of the life you’ve been given or seek out activities and groups that relieve this stress. Hopefully, ones that don’t involve “recreational drugs” and/or violence other than martial arts practice. A club or class/group that eases your mind will be far less costly than a therapist and could result in making some valuable connections.

If I may ask a few questions…

Exactly how does your belief in God vary so greatly from your mother’s that there is this problem? And, why does it seem like your non-believing father has no interest in involving himself in this struggle of yours? I picture him hiding his face behind a newspaper or cellphone while your mother “encourages” you to participate in a religious community. Apparently, you have no concern for hurting HIS feelings because he has offered none; he simply lets you do what you like until it affects his wallet or some other non-religious aspect of his life. [Or, is it possible your parents are on the verge of divorce and you simply opt to support your mother while opposing your father? Is it possible your mother married your father with aspirations of changing his ways and making him a part of her chosen faith?]

I may be off-base. But, I hear these other voices in response to your comments.

You say: It’s really uncomfortable when people ask why I haven’t been in church.
I hear/think: Church bothers me because it’s too formal. [Or maybe] Church bothers me because I’m asked to give money. [Or] Church bothers me because it interferes with my free/fun time. [Or] Church bothers me because my parents don’t go there together; it does not hold us together as a family.

You say: Mom signs me up for church activities, and I don’t like going.
I hear/think: I struggle with socializing/participating. [Or] I’m anti-social. [Or] I suffer from social anxiety.

Abby suggests telling your mother how much you love her and hope she will continue loving you as you explore your life/religious options. I would guess none of that sounds easy or comfortable for you. Am I right?

If I was you, I’d have a hard time saying I love my mother, too. At your age, I was entering a similar battle and just starting to distance myself from my parents who seemed unable to respect my decisions and even my personal space. Pressure to change one’s ways or attend certain activities could be a sign of lacking trust in you to make your own decisions and come to your parents for advice when you need it.

I cannot tell you which faith is right or wrong. But, if you can better understand or see what motivates the feelings you have, you can answer your own questions. If your mother is so bent on getting you involved in the activities of her church community, hurting her feelings may be inevitable. Yet, if her faith and love for you is strong, she will recover from the bruises. [Just don’t cut ties with her completely unless that is what you truly want. What you want today may differ from what you decide to have in your life years from now.]

08
Nov
16

At the Relationship Crossroads

*****
I’ve come to the realization, more than once, that when I hesitate to move forward with a woman that sparks my interest, someone is lurking in my blind spot just waiting to beat me to the punch, spoil all my effort and claim the most costly of prizes (or cheapest, depending upon your perspective) as if it was always within reach. The long drive may be the promise of the sweetest things, but that doesn’t stop the fast and furious. And, at the same time, haste makes waste. Too many race to get the cup without checking under the hood and pacing themselves. This often results in devastating crashes and other crimes of the heart.

You may have seen it in a movie or one of the lewd cartoons polluting the airwaves these days. The “good” guy goes through the trouble of getting to know the woman, picking out just the right flowers and gift for a special day. Then, along comes Captain Jack Killjoy with one slick line and that irrestistable musk that drops Beauty faster than a Bela Legosi can raise an eyebrow, even though she tells you she’s not the type to fall for that crap. The “good” guy gets wind of what just happened, watches his flowers wilt and walks away with nothing (maybe a lesson learned if you’re that glass-half-full type). Some may crack their routine and join the rat race. The rest patch their tires and hit the same, old road one more time, looking for Lovers’ Lane, the best bed and breakfast in a serene neighborhood.

If you ever find yourself in a position where the one you want to spend your life with is heading far away for some time, don’t make any promises. It may be an epic romantic fantasy to receive love letters and reunite years later, but you could just as likely be the focus of a ghost story, waiting on some cliff for your love to return until you die of misery.

Maybe some day, I’ll be remembered as the genuine “road warrior.” Like the movies, that may be all that is remembered about me. All the sweat and tears I went through, avoiding car-wrecks and striving to stay in the right lane, may just be dust in the wind, along with all the rules and road signs the system tries to stick in our faces.

In the end, you go with your gut when you reach that same intersection that stopped me in my tracks. So, let me ask you. If you’re pursuing or riding with a love interest, are you coasting along Learnmore Road or racing down Efher Avenue?

relationshipcrossroads-decision-making-map_tilted-view-2016-ap-2j

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