So I haven’t posted on here before, and I guess I’m just hoping for some ideas or thoughts on how to make friends when you have social anxiety. This is a bit long-winded, so please bear with me, but I wanted you to get a bit of an idea about my level of anxiety and loneliness and why I find it so hard to make friends.
Long story short, I’ve lost touch with all the friends I used to have in high school, university, the army etc, and I think it’s because of the fact that I often find it hard to leave the house unless I absolutely have to, like for work. I can’t relax in social situations, even going to the supermarket to get groceries, I feel tense. I get home and heave sigh of relief. People would invite me out and nine times out of ten, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. The rare occasion when I agreed to go out, I stayed for an hour or so and made excuses to leave. So anyway, I’m 36 now. I’m still single and I haven’t really dated in years, due to never meeting any new people (and the idea of potentially sharing a home with someone after all these years of being home alone doesn’t appeal to me. Home is where I’m comfortable and I can hide from the world, I don’t know if I can let someone else in, as much as I would dearly love to). My lack of friends never bothered me before, but now that I’m getting older, more stressed out and unhappier, it’s starting to bother me, because I wouldn’t mind someone to talk to once in a while, or just spend some time with. I don’t have friends at work either. I mean, I get along with a few people ok while we’re working, but for the most part, it is a VERY toxic environment. I think it’s because just about everybody hates the job – including me – so they take their misery out on each other. I’m a prison officer, and it gives me nothing but stress and makes me angry and cynical. Probably the worst job for someone with social anxiety, but I had lots of expenses and not many job offers when I got out of the army. But I struggle with it and I hate it every day. I’ve never experienced a work environment like it. And that’s the main reason I don’t socialise outside of work. I want to forget about work once I walk out the front gate. I NEED to forget about work once I walk out the front gate. I literally sigh and feel my whole body relax once I get in the car at the end of my shift. Why don’t you find another job, I hear you ask? Well, because I’m not qualified to do anything else. I live alone, so an unskilled job such as a retail assistant (which I’ve done before), or a cleaner or a factory worker would not cover my mortgage and bills. (I’ve enrolled in an online course for next year so that I can get another qualification eventually but in the meantime I’m sort of stuck). Then I get home from my toxic, miserable work environment and come home to a lonely, miserable house, debts and stressors. I’m not particularly close with the few family members I have and I don’t know any of my neighbours (there is no way I’m going to approach some random stranger and just introduce myself. I’d probably have a panic attack) and so I just usually sit and watch tv. I ignore the maintenance that needs doing around the house (my toilet and oven both need fixing but I have neither the funds to hire tradesmen, nor friends who could come and help), I try not to think about the mountain of debt I’m struggling with, I try not to think about going back to my toxic job the following day, and I must have been doing a lot of comfort eating because I gained around 20kgs over the past 12 months, I’ve developed muscle tics and blood pressure problems, probably due to stress. So I’m disgusted with myself and my life as it is. I’ve been kind of miserable, really. And that’s why I think that a friend or two would be wonderful right about now. Just someone to talk to, maybe have a drink with, and maybe help each other out. They say a problem shared is a problem halved. But the only time I leave the house is to go to work or to take the dogs to the park. I even try to do my grocery shopping online where possible, so I don’t have to go out. I have 2 dogs. And thank god for them. My dogs have been my saving grace. I’ve thought about self harm a few times over the past couple of years, but the thought of my precious babies ending up at the pound is what has stopped me from going through with it. They follow me around the house like little shadows, and I couldn’t bear them living with some random stranger who might not look after them properly. So they’ve saved me. But they don’t talk back. As much as I might talk to them (and I do, all the time), it’s just not the same as having a real, human friend. So – I guess I just wanted to share this with someone, seeing as I have no friends to talk to, and aren’t close enough with my family to be comfortable sharing my struggles with. I have made an effort to meet people. I’ve joined a local gym, but most of the time I just can’t go in. I start to feel panic rise in my chest and so I get back in the car and go home. I take the dogs to the dog park sometimes, which is a struggle for me, but like I said – they’re my babies – but I can’t bring myself to strike up a conversation any of the people there, even though many are regulars and I’ve seen them before. I usually stand to the side and watch, and I guess now I’ve got a reputation for being standoffish, because no-one bothers to say hello anymore. Sometimes it makes me want to cry when I see how easily some people make friends. How easily they fit in amongst people they’ve never met. How easily they can strike up a conversation with a random stranger. I feel tense and occasionally short of breath just being around groups of people, let alone talking to them… Now I don’t know if I want advice really, or if I just perhaps wanted to air my grievances to someone who is willing to listen. Perhaps both. Anyway, thanks for having a read. If you’ve read the whole thing, I thank you sincerely, because that must have been like a lot of mindless drivel. But it was important to me. I do feel marginally better for having told all of this to someone, even if it is with the anonymity of a computer screen. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I might consider going back to the army. I liked that, I worked in the warehouse with only one other person all day so I didn’t have to deal with many people, but there was still a sense of teamwork and “mateship.” But I don’t think I could take my dogs with me, so perhaps it’s not a realistic option. Maybe I’ll wait and see how I go as an online student. Maybe I’ll make a friend in an online student forum or something. I really don’t know. How do introverts and those living with social anxiety make friends? I have no idea, but I’m hoping someone out there has done it and has some tips or advice. Thanks again for reading.
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A female reader, mystiquek + ♥, writes (4 January 2019):
First of all OP, here a *HUG*. Its hard to just jump right in when you have social anxiety but if there is any way that you can make yourself go out besides of work, I would suggest that you volunteer somewhere. It will get you out, you will be around people that would have a common interest as you. I would first off suggest an animal shelter? It is such a rewarding job and you obviously love animals. I did it for years and it made me so happy being around animals and chatting with others that loved them as much as I do. I also suggest that you see a doctor? Have you? Lastly I would like to suggest this website: https://www.socialanxietysupport.com/groups/Its possible you can go online and perhaps chat with others that have the same kind of feelings that you have. Reach out sweetie..please try. Life is so very lonely when you don’t have someone to talk to and share things with. Is there any way you can reach out to your family? brother? sister? cousin? Do you go to church? Have you ever considered going? Many churches have programs and do things that would also involve you with others. Please do something to help yourself ok? Again *HUGS*
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