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Opposite of Lonely

I don’t often feel lonely, not the way I hear others describe it. I looked it up in a dictionary and thesaurus, and curiously, could not find an opposite for lonely that makes sense to me.

Lonely is defined as the one of the most terrible things in the world: Sad because one has no friends or company, isolated, alone, lonesome, friendless, with no one to turn to, forsaken, abandoned, rejected, unloved, unwanted, outcast, deserted, uninhabited, unfrequented, unpopulated, desolate, isolated, remote, out of the way, secluded, off the beaten track/path, in the back of beyond, godforsaken; in

the middle of nowhere.

Opposite? Populous. Crowded.

I do have a longing for meaningful connections in my life. Love and acceptance from people you can trust. I have a deep, dark, pain, an emptiness much greater than loneliness, because I know it will never be filled. I’ve looked into the depths of this chasm, and it is seemingly bottomless. It seems I’m safe as long as I only glance at it, no jumping in.

For me, acquaintance people are nearly always a nuisance, a stressor. Hell even the current people in my life that are supposed to be loving, supportive, combat loneliness, like my husband and in-laws cause stress and conflict. My kids are the only people I enjoy time with, and even then after a bit , I still feel crowded, smothered, like I can’t think or breathe. When I am alone, I feel peaceful. When I am with others, the tolerance clock starts clicking and I have limited time before I bolt, hide, isolate myself and recover from the constant scrutiny, questions, confusion, misunderstandings, obligations, words…so many endless words attacking my system.

It wears me out to nod, smile, be polite, figure out how to respond, sense danger, protect myself. Talking is my least favorite activity. I’d rather go to the dentist than have to chitchat with some random person. Is it my turn to talk? What did they just say? Are they lying right now? What time is it? Is that a TV show they’re talking about? Is this something I’m supposed to know snd recall or are they telling me something new? Ugh. Too stressful

Add multiple people and this feeling is exponentially heightened, to being the opposite of lonely, I get a strong need to be alone, to escape.

I’m not heartless. I do wish all these people well. I just don’t want to hear about it, sorry. Most things people tell me I can’t do anything about and I feel uncomfortable having to express sympathy or advice. Most people I start diagnosing their personality disorders, recognize cognitive distortions popping up, and of course I must remain silent. People don’t want to know this. They don’t actually want to change their own behavior or think about their thoughts. And they would be insulted or embarrassed, even though they are the one oversharing to me. It is only socially acceptable to offer support like, oh you poor thing that sounds difficult for you. They just want to hear it sucks, for validation.

I’ve found when I interact online, I can control the pace and intensity and don’t get overwhelmed. Each time I venture out to a real life Meetup, it is not a positive experience.

I’m not sure that’s bad or unhealthy. At this point in my life, if I feel satisfied by this level of connection, than maybe I need to stop trying to force myself into a more social, extroverted role just because I’m supposed to be lonely this way.

I’ve been reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain and embracing my introverted self. I don’t think I need fixed. When I socialize it is to complete a task, or because others want me there. I get nothing but stress from most gatherings otherwise.

I watched the Netflix series “Atypical” which was fantastic. I’m not an expert on autism to know if they portrayed this accurately at all. It was entertaining, but also I indentified strongly with his social struggles. I don’t think I’m autistic. But I do think I’m atypical and that my brain can’t be changed much at this point. I don’t connect and form bonds or relationships like most others do. I’m highly sensitive, tuned into emotions, which is the autistic difference. My hyperactive neurons though gives me high scores on tests for autism, overwhelmed by sensory input, can’t look people in the eye, don’t make friends, can’t work in groups, hate loud noises and bright lights, take things too literally at times, repetitive soothing behaviors, trouble following conversation, it goes on and on. Fascinating really. So it seems that autism may be caused by too many neural connections, a lack of pruning, is one theory. I’ve read similar theories for anxiety and PTSD, our connections stay strong reinforcing past memories to keep us vigilant and safe.

This is me rambling and I hope not being stupid or offensive with these curious thoughts. I only look for similarities to figure out the puzzle of me. I don’t claim to be right, ever.

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Social Seasons

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It is my social springtime. I know the world is still fully frozen outside here. We had another 8 inches of snow dumped on us last us. Another snow day with kids home from school. More days in brutal skin killing negative temps. But that doesn’t matter. It is my social springtime and time to come out of this self enforced cave.

I know myself well enough to know that I retreat into a deep dark winter of my soul each year. Winter is a perfect way to describe it, as I freeze up, and freeze everyone out. I hibernate. I withdraw so far inside myself that I can no longer be a social being. Not that I’m a party animal now…but this is extreme even for me. I slow down all emails and texting and blogging and chatting online in the fall, usually ceasing completely mid December. I rarely do phone calls anyway, but forget it during this time period, not going to happen. I look at a ringing phone like a torture device if I acknowledge it exists at all. Meetings at school? No. Talk to cashiers? No. Eye contact? No. Snuggle time? No. I shut down completely and become an empty shell going through the motions of life.

Somehow I survive this way. get through the holidays, and begin waking up around the end of January and start doing some clean up. Do I have any friends left? I start reading old unanswered texts and emails. I start replying and responding. Some people are angry. Some people don’t understand. Actually most don’t understand. I’ve lost many connections with otherwise good people that could not handle my radio silence. (It’s been a month girl and I’m supposed to just start talking to you again now? Its too weird, too rude, I thought you were angry with me, what did I do wrong…I’ve heard it all)

I’ve managed to find a few online friends that accept this quality in me. They are still there when I return, and I’m so relieved. The others…I add to my pile of casualties. It hurts, but I have to let them go.

I will never understand how a switch seems to flip deep inside me that I either need to speak to someone NOW or the loneliness will swallow me whole – or – I want nothing to do with humanity and I isolate myself as far away as possible with no feelings of loneliness, only relief when left alone. This is partially a form of seasonal depression, but more likely triggered by PTSD with too many emotions to handle regarding holidays and memories of that season. But If I can’t fully understand this switch, I certainly can’t expect others to understand it. I have accepted it though, and I am grateful for those in my life that have accepted it also.

Those friends have not my blog. I have chosen to keep the nitty gritty details private for my new friends. It is simply too much for anyone to handle. I do tell them vague bits, that I was abused and enough to be authentic, but not enough to overwhelm and frighten them away. I think I finally found the balance that works to form connections and start feeling human. So yay for that.

I’d still give my left kidney to have a real life friend to meet in person some day…but I’ll be patient. The universe will provide that once its ready I suppose. Or maybe I don’t get one in this lifetime. I’ve accepted, well come on, sorta accepted, that may be my truth.

Anyone else notice ebbs and flows where you can’t socialize at all or where you need people desperately? I’m curious

How to Socialize an Adult

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I’d go out much more often if the world was full of bubbles. Something to think about.

Okay but the world isn’t full of bubbles. And I’m not 4, so its not socially acceptable for me to blow bubbles everywhere I go. Socially acceptable – Yuck – I hate that.

See, I was not properly socialized when I was little. I was not exactly raised by wolves, no, I think wolves would have done a better job.

So what is an adult to do, when she finds herself in her forties, wow, yes, forties now, and completely alone? I have never learned to make friends, not really, not the kind that lasts or that will be helpful and supportive. I have only learned to blend in, hang out, be a part of a group. When I start actually getting to know people, or letting them know me…stuff goes all wonkers.

So a quick recap, thanks to neuropsych dude, I know I have never felt safe, and I have these rules and alarm bells for how I operate to keep myself safe. Even though I may not need to be so strict now, these rules and bells are hard wired, they formed in my brain to help me grow up. Am I doomed to always be alone because of them?

I have been taking first steps at genuine friendships. Face to face was way to scary, so I have been using a variety of online friendship apps. I find that behind the safety of my phone or computer, and the delay of texting, I can calm down those alarm bells and proceed further with people than I can in real life. In real life, I shut down or run away, not great friend making skills.

I’ve been using friendship apps that have a no flirting, no dating policy. I’m actually finding genuine people this way, instead of the multitude of creeps I was finding online at the other sites, even when I would say I’m not interested, BAM an unsavory pic sent to my text. No thanks, goodbye.

I’m starting to believe there are good people out there, but so far I have not found any near enough to me to meet for coffee or whatever. But I am patient, and building skills. And more important, people are reaching out to me with kindness, showering me with it. They check in on me, encourage me, and also get me to do some tough thinking to help me get unstuck. One is helping me to find my spark, my words, get me to start writing and painting again. They are becoming…true friends? wow.

I am so grateful.

Maybe I can do this

Isolation

I have been isolating myself again, or still. It seems to be getting worse, and I don’t care any more. Being social is no longer a goal, short term or long term. I am not going officially hermit…yet. Though I would if I could. The only thing stopping me from slipping away into my own world is my kids. 

As I near the end of my therapy program, I have done some even deeper thinking than usual if that might be possible. I am thinking I am done changing to be accepted or make others happy. (Except my kids, they are always the exception and I will endure whatever is needed for them) If others don’t find me acceptable I am finding I don’t care. I prefer to be alone and at peace. I have no need or desire for friends. I am done trying to force fit myself into some model that works for others. I am content being invisible. It is only when I try to fit in that it pains me when I cannot. I have never enjoyed what others enjoy, even when I am included. Shopping is a tortuous necessity. I know nothing of fashion and dress for comfort and function and value. I hate wasting money. I feel most things most people have is a waste of space and money. I admire beautiful things but feel content to visit them in nature or museums, no need to own them. I have no need for touch or affection. I would prefer no one ever touched me ever again. I continue to adapt, to try to be okay in a world that disagrees with me on nearly everything. Everything I am ‘supposed’ to be, I am not. I am done trying. I won’t run away or become the eccentric oddball everyone talks about. No, I choose door number 3. I shut up. Keep to myself. Try not to bother people and try not to let them bother me.

How do hermits make friends?

How to increase your support network?

How to come out of hiding?

How to find people to trust, people to like, people to talk to?

How to find people who care?

How to find people willing to help?

I have all of these questions lately. It has become painfully clear to me that one of my largest issues and reasons I continually slip down the rabbit hole of despair is that I have no one to talk to. That’s why I started this blog actually, so many years ago, and it has helped, but it isn’t the same as seeing and hearing people in real life, in real time.

This point was hammered home to me repeatedly in classes in the psych ward stay – they gave us worksheets to fill out with 10 blanks to list all the people in our lives we trust, talk to, interact with on a daily basis, that know us and could help us.

Mine was blank. I sat there staring at a blank paper and holding back tears as everyone else listed “my mother, my dad, my sister, my brother, my friend Joe, my neighbor Mary, my friend, my friend, my friend…..”

My world is so small and my isolation is enormous.

I had people that I went out with, that we performed together, laughed and had fun together, but we never talked. My family is so painfully dysfunctional I had given up on sharing anything or remotely relying on them. Hubby’s family is emotionally repressed or explosive and not people I can open up to. All my high school and college friends drifted away from me and it hurt too much to keep trying to find friends. I gave up decades ago.

So I’ve only had my counselor. That’s it. One trusted confidante that I have to pay and schedule a 1 hour visit.

All those online dating sites – are there any for friendships? Seeking intelligent, open minded women ready for deep philosophical discussions involving the latest neuroscience and psychology too. Seeking honest, yet gentle and non-judging, opinions and guidance. Seeking warm shoulders to cry on occasionally. Seeking happy voices to share funny stories. Seeking women who don’t mind that I only have 1 pair of sandals each summer, that my nails are never painted, that my house is a mess, that my garden is dead and full of weeds, that my tired eyes show a persistent sadness if you look too closely, but my soul shows a persistent humor and style if you don’t scare it into hiding.

Otherwise, I am seriously looking for suggestions on how to get back into the world and create authentic connections and start letting people know the real me. maybe.

Friends like broccoli

Five minutes of anxiety. Thats all I felt on the way to party. Getting ready I felt annoyed with myself because my favorite denim shirt was not where I thought it was and my flannels are way too casual and too warm for the evening.  And all of my other tops have become alarmingly tight around my middle – damn dryer. Hubby helped me look through the sorted but not yet put away laundry baskets.

He found the shirt!

He was my hero for a shiny yet brief moment of time until I noticed the time and felt the all too familiar tugs of guilt and shame as my inner voice whispered “you don’t deserve to go to a party if you can’t get there on time. Are you seriously late because you got so fat that you only fit into 1 decent top? You lazy pig, just stop eating already”.

I swallowed that message and headed out the door. We still needed to get something to take. Some drinks and maybe a dessert I was thinking.

My head was in full on assault now. “You’ve known about this party for weeks, how on earth is it that you are now 15 min after the party started and just now thinking of what to bring? Seriously, for shame, you don’t deserve to go to a party. How rude to be so late! What if the food is cold when you get there? What if they all wait on you, watching while the food gets cold? What if we all have to eat reheated food all because of you? You are so selfish. It’s no wonder you don’t really have friends. They only invited you to be polite and you can’t even be polite enough to get there on time.”

I knew enough to simply ignore my head at this point. Like a toddler in full on temper tantrum, I was spewing out irrationality left and right. I recognized this and grabbed the cookies and drinks and headed to the check out all while no one seemed to know there was a meltdown of epic toddler proportions beneath my calm looking smile.

Rush back to the car, and start driving. Drive for about 15 minutes when Hubby says “where does this friend live?” I look around and try to figure out where I am going. I had been so happy to start driving that I was on auto-pilot and not actually headed to a destination. oops. (yes I actually yelled fuck and rolled my eyes at myself in the mirror, but oops sounds so much cuter)

OK, a quick survey, we weren’t too far off course, only added about 5 minutes if I took the next exit. My head almost started in on me about being late and now being later because I’m too stupid to remember how to get from point A to point B and actually remember how to drive – but I squashed it again and turned on the radio. But I felt my heart racing and sweat  brewing.

We made it, and I actually laughed when I saw we were guest # 2, not even close to the latest. I stuck out my mental tongue at my inner toddler as I was greeted with warm hugs and smiles and directed towards the appetizer table. As I filled my plate and grabbed a beer – I felt happy. I did it. Again. I have found that getting through the pre-social anxiety is the worst part, surviving the evening is usually easy after that, just have to get out the door and into the next. We all laughed and ate and had a nice time telling stories, some new, some we’d heard a hundred times over but still laugh at the good parts.

And then a friend left early with her new partner. And all the good feelings were gone in a flash. the mood went from relaxed and joyful to dreadfully concerned and downright pissed. See, this friend is newly divorced, ending a 30 year marriage full of anger and control. 3 months ago she started dating, and 2 months ago she moved in with this new person. And this new person appears to be just as controlling as her ex. The inner circle is pissed. We all see the changes and have tried to warn this friend, but she says she is fine, we are over-reacting. It’s no big deal this person makes her sleep on the couch as punishment when she forgets to take out the trash. No big deal she gave up her puppy because this person doesn’t care for dogs. No big deal that this person makes her go home early every time now, even though she used to be a ‘last call’ kind of girl.

I nodded my head as my friends shared their concern and discussed ways to ‘save’ this friend. I learned the new person came from an abusive relationship and apparently my friend thinks she can counsel and make this person change – if she is patient. It isn’t this new person’s fault, been through so much. Our friend says she is fine. She wanted to go home early. She says she can’t hang out with us so much because this new person feels threatened by us. She says  she can’t call or text us so much because this new person gets angry and jealous and it’s just easier if she plays it cool. No big deal.

This was all way too triggering to think of someone in this relationship, and so deep in the muck that she can’t see the signs. And way too uncomfortable to learn all of this about someone I only see every few months. I wasn’t sure my opinion was worth much, but I could see our friends were truly concerned. I listened and gave my support as best I could, but stood up, getting ready to make my escape as soon as I thought I could.

And then, it got really awkward as I realized that I too must have been the topic of these heated conversations 2 years ago when I was miserable and thought I could hide it. These friends knew, and reached out to me, and pulled me in. A major turning point in my life was when they all ganged up on me, hugged me and said, “You know we love you right? We’re here for you. We mean it.” They offered couches, safe havens, drinks, hugs, and shoulders to cry on. I took them up on each one at some point as I figured out who I was and reformatted my marriage, rebooted my life. I had been stuck for so long, it took these amazing friends to see my sadness – and for them NOT to look away. They could not tolerate my suffering.

And that’s what it is for this other friend now, they can’t tolerate her pain. They know they can only do so much, but believe me, if something needs doing, they will all be there to get it done. and then, once the injured lamb is restored to the fold, we will all go back to talking about nothing and sharing silly stories. I guess maybe they understand that life is serious enough, so we should only be serious when we need to be. No one here talks about work and the boring suckiness that fills all of our lives – when we get together it is all about sharing the joy.

“You look tired – everything ok?” “Well I had a really bad day at work, and a tough week actually” “Yes me too” “Yup” “Me too” “Work sucks” “Fuck it” “Yup” “Yeah it sucked but we’re here now” “yes” “Alright” “Awesome” “who needs a drink?” “I love this song” “Remember when we heard this song and we were driving to . . .”

And that’s it, the work week melts away and the stories begin.

I don’t know. So I guess I had a good time, mostly. I definitely had a time. I experienced a bit of life that would have gone on without me, but since I got off my couch, it went on with me. My inner toddler felt dragged along and confused at times, but went home dazzled by the experience and slept soundly from all that excitement. Those tantrums passed and once I did what I thought I couldn’t or didn’t want to do, I found out it was good for me after all and no where near as bad as I expected. Like broccoli.

Dose of Social Life

I’m going to a dinner party tonight, at a friend’s house. She invited me and Hubby, and about 10 other people. Big enough to be fun, but not so big I drift off and get lost in the corner alone.

I just realized I am looking forward to this party.

I just realized I have no panic or anxiety related to this party.

I know it starts at 6pm but that no one would care if I showed up at 8pm, they’d be happy to see me no matter what.

I’m not going to spend much prep time on hair or clothes, it is just my friend’s house – come as you are.

I’m so happy hubby gets to come too, kids are at grandma’s. So if I need to drift away from the conversation with the group, I have him there to exchange glances and inside jokes. My friends are becoming his friends.

I am ready to laugh. I am prepared to have fun. I don’t how it will start, but someone will get us all laughing so hard it hurts.

I no longer feel like an outsider – but if I look closely, I do feel like I’m on the outside compared to the others in the group. Like a few key members make up the core and I orbit around the extremities. Why? why do I feel like this? Partly because I am invited to about 1/4 of their get togethers. It is apparent that they see and talk to each other daily. They all live within minutes of each other and text constantly. I live nearly 30 min from them, next city over. And I don’t want people calling and texting me nonstop. I’m sure if I were responsive when they do text that I could be in that inner circle. But I like it out here.

I like it a lot. In fact it is perfect. I get exactly the right dose of social life this way – not always alone at home, and not always in the middle of their business. I enjoy catching up with them and learning what I missed. They enjoy sharing stories with me that they can’t share with the inner group because they all already know them.

Such a transformation if you read my earliest blogs in here when I never to spoke to ANYONE. Wow. And how did this happen? I made it happen.

Even though it was terrifying – I put myself out there and made myself vulnerable, and made myself smile, and said ‘yes’ a few times. I searched out people with similar passions – artists, dancers, musicians – and struck gold. We work together to make the arts more accessible to the community, and when we’re done working, we play together too.