Friday, June 11, 2010

Square Peg in a Round Hole

I am an only child. Growing up, I was very independent and did a lot of keeping to myself mostly. I didn't have many friends growing up. But it didn't really bother me back then. I had my own group that I hung out with. I liked to go out and do things and have fun just as much as anyone else. (I avoided that whole party and get drunk on the weekends thing in HS though; It just wasn't really my thing.) My parents didn't have any friends, and they seemed fine. I never really thought it was strange that they didn't socialize with other Adults or my friends' parents or anything like that. And so, I didn't really think it was a problem. Until I got to College.

College is a time where you are supposed to make friends and branch out and explore the world outside the Parental bubble that has been built around you for the past 17 years of your life. Yeah, that didn't really work out so well for me. My college made us fill out surveys to determine our living and roommate situations. I said that I like things quiet and calm and neat, mostly because I didn't want some crazy party girl slut roommate always coming in at 3 am waking me up. The people over in Residence Life apparently took this as me basically being a nerdy shut-in and so I got placed in a dorm that the year before had been the "Quiet Dorm". It was all the way on the back end of campus. Most people I met had never even heard of it and asked if it was a real dorm. The building was an old house with U-shaped floors, separated single sex with girls on floors 1, 2 & 4 and guys on 3 & 5.

Half the people in my building went home on the weekends, so it was hard to mingle. This left me with little options other than the handful of people I had met at Orientation. Which meant that it was hard to make friends with people who were barely ever around, or to make new friends with people who weren't even sure you actually lived on campus. I started to notice that it was really hard for me to approach people. I guess I was always kind of shy growing up, until people really tried to get to know me. I didn't understand why I couldn't just go up and say "Hey, what's up?" and BOOM! Insta-Friend! I thought I was a pretty cool chick. I was definitely a nice person. And I liked to go out and have fun just like everyone else. So why couldn't I make friends?

I would get kind of a tingle in my nose thinking about social interaction. My heart would start to race a little. And I would feel like I was about to cry. I had social anxiety disorder. When I transferred schools and moved back home, I started to have increased anxiety and panicky episodes. I went to the doctor and she prescribed me Paroxetine (Paxil) and that began to help me a little bit. But I had already formed a big social group by becoming part of a big subculture: Raves. Raves were fun, giant parties with loud music and lots of people under the influence so it was easy to talk to people and make friends. (Especially if you were under the influence yourself sometimes as well.) I joined an internet forum for Ravers as well and began to meet many "friends" that way as well. I also enjoyed moderate Celebrity status as at every party, I wore a pair of Bunny ears and was instantly recognizable and lovable.

The Paxil worked pretty good for a while. I felt more confident. I was making friends. I was being more assertive. I had a good relationship and a good job. I wasn't feeling anymore anxiety. So I decided I didn't need to take it anymore. The medication had worked, right?

Cut to a few years later. I began dating a guy who treated me like shit. He caused me a great deal of stress and duress through his mannerisms, both towards me and in his everyday life. I started cutting myself off from these new friends I had made because I put myself in this bubble where it was just him. I was afraid of him and what he would do to me, and the hatred he had for my friends and family and the threats he would make against them. And the fool that I was, I loved him and didn't want to lose him. So I lost everyone else. And I lost myself in the process. I began having the anxiety attacks again. I was losing ground and didn't know how to fix it. I went back to the doctor again and she prescribed me Lexapro. The anxiety stopped, but the torture in my relationship continued.

I had burned so many bridges, it was hard to get my life back. I had been living with this animal and when we broke up, I had to move in with my parents who had moved almost an hour & 1/2 from where I grew up. It was the middle of nowhere and I was now 24 years old. It was going to be even harder to make friends. My mom suggested I get a part-time job. That worked for a bit. I stopped taking my medication again because I hated feeling mechanical and medicated. I made some friends and hung out a bit, but they weren't the kind of friends I was looking for. The area I was living in was very suburban and close knit, so it was very much like High School part 2. (Especially when you had 20 somethings hanging out with 16 year olds and drinking with them on the beach at night.) That just wasn't for me, so I cut them off too. Plus, I had finally found an out from this middle of nowhere place: a new job, a new city, a chance for a new life.

I moved to Philadelphia in the Summer of 2009. It was supposed to be my chance to start over. Make new friends, explore new places. (It was also supposed to be a chance for me to Love again, but that is a post to be saved for a later date.) Unfortunately, hanging out with Gay men (my best friend and his friends) didn't really give me much chance to explore my options. The one coworker close to my age in my office was married. Strike 2. And the fact that my love life imploded coupled with a depressingly long and blizzardy Philadelphia winter sunk me into a deep 5 month long depression.

With the warm weather here now, it should have put me in a better mood, but the fact remains: I am 26 years old and I don't know how to make friends. Everyone I meet is married, divorced, engaged, gay or in a relationship. I am afraid of marriage. I am wary of dating. I am afraid to trust and let people get close to me because I have been burned a lot recently. Where do you go to meet people and make friends when you are 20-something? And how do you go up to random strangers and make conversation without seeming like a complete Asperger's/Socially awkward weirdo?

As much of a nice and fun person I (like to think I) am, I wonder - Why would anyone want to be my friend? I don't really bring much to the table. My life is not exciting. I don't have a boyfriend. No siblings. I am not close with my family. And so I try to avoid social situations in which I have to talk about myself or my personal life. I don't really interact with others at my office because I hate small talk and don't really care about asking people how their weekends were or about their families because those are not people I'm interested in being friends with and do not like being friendly for the sake of being friendly. (Even though that is probably something I should be doing to develop my social skills to begin with, and maybe that is the problem.)

Should I blame my parents for never fostering these types of social skills in me? Maybe. Should I blame my ex for ruining my ability to trust and interact with other human beings? More than likely. My anxiety is slowly creeping back. Thinking about even being in a situation to meet people makes me uncomfortable and causes me stress and makes me cry. I do not want to medicate myself anymore. I want to be free of this. To be normal. To have fun and be social and to not have to use the Internet to make friends. (Even though some of the most interesting and awesome people I have met as of late have been from the Internet, and are even cooler in person, but unfortunately live 9000 miles away.)

I live alone in a strange city and have no friends close by or siblings or pets.

I am an only child.


  1. The Internet isn't such an evil place anymore. When you're not at school and you don't have much in common with your coworkers, it's incredibly difficult to meet people!

    Craigslist, read the thousands of "strictly platonic" posts of people looking for a good friend. It's not just you.

    I've found the easiest way to meet people/make friends is to single out an interesting person and pursue them individually, as groups of people are kind of overwhelming and don't necessarily lead to connections. No one has to know about this part of your life, "I'm new in town and haven't met many people I've meshed well with" is a great excuse. Shit I plan on doing that when I get back, since my "bosom friends" I've had since childhood are growing rapidly less appealing.

    Also not like it means anything but I want to be your "in person" friend when I get back from Japan!

  2. Yeah, I think my parents are starting to realize that a little bit more now and weren't SO petrified when I told them I hung out in Japan with a bunch of people I met off the internet. I tried trolling through CL last night actually and mostly it just seems like guys who SAY they're looking for something platonic, but probably just trying to get in chicks' pants. I had put an ad up on there when I first moved, got a few responses, a few back & forth emails, but nothing panned out (except I did acquire my current cuddle stalker - who is going to be featured in my next blog post.)

    I guess it kind of makes it worse that I don't really have any roots here in Philly and I'm not really trying to put any down. I do inevitably see myself moving back to NY though, so you are definitely welcome to be my "in person" friend! :)

    Hopefully now that summer is here though, I'll make it a point to go out and explore things a bit more and maybe even meet some interesting, random people in the process!