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25M, Extreme Loneliness


JOHNSON CAMPBELL
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Dear members of the Mental Support Community,

I'm a 25 year old male. I have always been alone. My family and I have a very emotionally detached relationship (though they aren't really aware of this). I have been living far away from them for the last 9 years. I have no one in my current city that I can talk to and hang out with. Whenever I go out, I go out alone. I read books at coffee shops, go to bookshops, and sometimes go to bars. I am highly educated (I have never been outside of academia and I'm on my way to a PhD program next year). I have never dated anyone in my life. I had kissed some girls (the last one was about 2 years ago). I have never engaged in sexual intercourse (SPS might be responsible for this; but I must say, I don't feel like I have SPS).

No one has ever wanted to be my long-term friend. No one, except my family, calls me on a regular basis. No one initiates a get together (except me). I always try very hard to coordinate with people to meet up with them. And whenever I do meet up with them, I am always let down because I can sense that they don't really want to establish a long-term relationship (friendship, romantic relationship etc.).

I had tried several dating apps before (though I never spent any money on them). I had never been successful any dating apps (I am no longer using such apps). I also had never been successful with people whom I met through my other friends (which I have none now). In short, I tried my best in going out there (even if it means a terrible lonely night). I gave up, seriously... I think I accepted the fact that I'll be alone. There may be deep psychological reasons for why I am always alone. I did not seek out professional help for this because I am skeptical that any therapy will help me. I am saying this because I researched the therapy services provided by my university and they seem to specialize in short-term mental health problems rather than long-term (and perhaps deeper) problems. 

No one asks how I am doing (except my family). No one calls me or texts me to invite me somewhere. No one even returns my texts: I texted two of my (so-called) friends, they haven't even returned my text (it has been over a week). I have decided that I won't talk to them anymore (even if they are my only potential friends). I am not saying that people need to ask how I am doing or invite me somewhere. The world or people that inhabit the world don't owe me anything and I am fully aware of this fact. However, as I age, I feel worse about the persistent lack of social interaction.

I'll tell you something worse. I have been living with someone for over 6 months and if you were to time the amount of talking we have done so far, it wouldn't amount to more than 2 hours. Even my roommate doesn't want to talk to me or ask me how I am doing (despite the fact that I would love to chat about what's going on in his life).

I have introspected a lot, in the pursuit of finding the culprit for my current situation, but I cannot find the reason why I am always alone. I always want to make people feel good when they are around me. I value their opinions, respect who they are. I am always open to novel experiences. I am an educated and calm person. I have money (not too much but surely enough for socializing). I am kind of funny too (which has been pointed out to me by my older friends). I am a decent-looking guy. I don't groom stylistically but I am a clean guy. 

I actually have no idea on what I should do. As my loneliness continues, it gets deeper and more insolvable. I have tried many things and none have worked out for me. I wonder: how on earth I cannot seem to find one good friend (or girlfriend)? How on earth I am always alone on this earth when everybody else has people caring about them and hanging out with them? How on earth I cannot reach out to anyone? It is crazy how I am so hopeless that I seek some interaction digitally. For me, this is what human relationship has come down to: digital interaction with people who I don't know (nor have any possibility in actually meeting non-digitally). I feel sad about my situation, obviously. Fortunately, I have developed a very high threshold for loneliness. Two years ago, I had not talked or met anyone for 3 months (except my family) --- that was the craziest and deepest loneliness I had endured. 3 months, can you imagine?

I don't block myself out to the external world (a point I tried to make earlier). I act on advices from others on how I can improve my chances of leaving loneliness. This being said, I am probably deeply broken and people can see that in my eyes. I think I am deeply broken about life. I have always wanted to live a communal life with caring people who devote themselves to each other. Unfortunately, I have always lived in an individualistic community. Life sucks for me, except for my intellectual interests. Even then, it sometimes becomes hard to give a shit about my intellectual interests because I am always alone.

To sum up: I don't know what to do. I definitely should seek out professional help but I can't find long-term therapy in my city (I am an international student so I cannot take full advantage of health care services). To be honest, I am stuck. I will either close myself to the external world even more than it is now or I will somehow find the professional help I desperately need. Like I said, I am sick and tired of running after people for mediocre socialization. I am done with investing too much time and effort, only to be let down later. I am tired, period.

 

Cheers,

J.C.

 

 

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@JOHNSON CAMPBELL - I took a programming course w this guy named Fred and this cat was way over on the spectrum.  He was smart enough to realize he had a problem w loneliness & what he did was join groups that had a specific purpose. That eased interaction by directing attention to the subject of the group. For example he was fascinated w trains and ships. He would join groups that would share pictures, stories, news, and would (I kid you not) go watch trains at various locations. As you can imagine it was a major sausage fest but it was fun and he did make friends.  
 

I am much older than you and I don’t even have family checking up on me.  I only have 2 friends that I actually see, and handful of others that I keep in touch w on line but rarely see in real life. The difference w me is that I grew up an only child and am comfortable w my own company.  But like you I would like to have more friends.  Good luck!  

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Hiya JC, what a difficult situation and getting more common with loads of people, very easy to get isolated. I do agree with Vic, it is worth trying an interest group with a purpose where there is an activity - could be anything. 

I like crafts and this week spent the day making beautiful scented candles with about ten other people, knew none of them but it was fun and a good situation to make friends because there is a lot of talking - I'm guessing you don't want to do that kind of thing but if you choose the hobby wisely there is potential.

Why not start you own group? I know someone who did that, it worked.

Really great reliable friends are like gold dust and my sister often says how keeping up friendships once you have them is an art in itself as well. So don't be too harsh on yourself.

 

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Hello, JC. It sounds as though you are seeking a connection that can be difficult to find these days in our fast paced, high tech society. Some (or many) people have no interest or need for intimate friendships and instead have a circle of acquaintances. I see that too. I also agree with Jazz, that these types of relationships with others can be rare and challenging to maintain throughout our lifetimes. That being said I think that these wonderful friendships can still be possible. I think the key is to keep putting oneself out there. Also, I think it's important to know the other person's expectations in a relationship and to know they closely match with yours.

Joining different groups is a great idea. Shared interests can be a place to begin communication and make connections.

Best wishes.

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Hi, J. C.,

I agree with all previous suggestions.

But I wonder about the advises you've already got from others:

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

 I act on advices from others on how I can improve my chances of leaving loneliness. [...] I have tried many things and none have worked out for me.

Could you, please, mention what you've tried (except the things you already mention in your post), so that we can come up with some new ideas?

As for groups based on interests; do you already know this website? https://www.meetup.com

Also, here you can find podcasts about overcoming loneliness (on this page, and some are on the page 1, too) :

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qxx9/episodes/downloads?page=2

About your roommate:

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

I have been living with someone for over 6 months and if you were to time the amount of talking we have done so far, it wouldn't amount to more than 2 hours. Even my roommate doesn't want to talk to me or ask me how I am doing (despite the fact that I would love to chat about what's going on in his life).

If you tried to have conversations with him, showing your interest in him (instead of only talking about yourself, as some people do), it's very probable that he is "the problem". You're not "a good match" for sure, so I wouldn't see that 'relationship' as 'telling'. 

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

How on earth I am always alone on this earth when everybody else has people caring about them and hanging out with them? How on earth I cannot reach out to anyone?

As others (in previous posts) also 'insinuated', this is an illusion: Too many people are lonely, too. You can find countless articles and videos about it, for instance:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#5d8b898e7676

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201807/what-you-need-know-about-the-loneliness-epidemic

Quote

In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States. In a survey of over 20,000 American adults, it was found that almost half of respondents reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated.

[...] about one in five Americans reports rarely or never feeling close to others. Further, two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful. Hence, the lack of quality relationships may be a large factor in loneliness. 

I'm not suggesting at all that because it's so widespread, it's not a problem and you should just accept it. I just want you to know that being alone, not finding "the one" (for friendship or another kind of relationship), not having got success in socialising doesn't tell (almost?) anything about you; it certainly doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you that prevents you from having a good friend. Yes, some of the people who are lonely surely are jerks or too socially awkward. But there's no equivalence / implication: Not having friends doesn't imply being 'inapt / unfit' in this regard! Moreover, even based on your post, you do seem like a kind, decent, friendly, intelligent guy, not only because of this part:

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

I always want to make people feel good when they are around me. I value their opinions, respect who they are. I am always open to novel experiences. I am an educated and calm person. I have money (not too much but surely enough for socializing). I am kind of funny too (which has been pointed out to me by my older friends). I am a decent-looking guy. I don't groom stylistically but I am a clean guy. 

Also:

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

It is crazy how I am so hopeless that I seek some interaction digitally. For me, this is what human relationship has come down to: digital interaction with people who I don't know (nor have any possibility in actually meeting non-digitally).

It's not crazy at all and many people have mainly / only on-line interactions, nowadays. :( And these interactions are important and can be deep and beneficial, so I wouldn't underestimate their importance in your life. 

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

I feel sad about my situation, obviously.

As Vic's post already showed, it's not so obvious that you're sad about it. (Well, it's obvious from what you wrote that you are suffering from loneliness and it worries you.) There are some people who are OK with being so alone. But it's a matter of personality, predispositions... so, please, don't see this as a reason to try to renounce the efforts to find a friend! You're evidently a person who needs social interactions and a good, deep friendship, so don't give up and don't force yourself to just accept it forever.

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

I researched the therapy services provided by my university and they seem to specialize in short-term mental health problems rather than long-term (and perhaps deeper) problems. 

I see why you'd like a deep, long psychotherapy. It can be a very good thing, undoubtedly. But I wouldn't refuse the kind of help that's available to you now! It could still do you some good. It feels even better talking about most issues to a professional than 'just' writing about them on a forum. What about giving it a try? ;)

On 2/19/2020 at 4:15 AM, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

it sometimes becomes hard to give a shit about my intellectual interests because I am always alone.

It's understandable; when something is bothering or hurting us, it's not often easy to focus on what we like. Perhaps even starting that therapy / counseling would alleviate that burden and make you feel better enough to be able to focus on your interests.

Also, I would recommend these articles about the subject:

https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/category/sociability/friendship/

(for instance: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/why-men-are-so-bad-at-friendship/ - this may well be true about all the men you tried to befriend!)

It's true that they describe (also) ideals that are hard to find :( . My own experience shows that "applying the rules" (mainly about being open about one's failures and dark sides etc.) doesn't always work - not many people are prepared to be close friends and they may 'freak out' / be repelled if someone starts 'oversharing', for instance. (Even I don't like people who overshare in a relationship that isn't close, BTW. And my experiences say that most / many people hate it, mainly if someone overshares their problems. So... no wonder it's so hard to find a good friend. :( )

I'm looking forward to your answers!

Take care and good luck!

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Dear Victimorthecrime, Jazz, IrmaJean, and LaLa,

I want to thank you all for your responses.

17 hours ago, LaLa said:

Could you, please, mention what you've tried (except the things you already mention in your post), so that we can come up with some new ideas?

As for groups based on interests; do you already know this website? https://www.meetup.com

I have already tried Meetup. There aren't many good groups in my city. I can always create my own group though. I might give this another shot.

2 years ago, I joined a soccer team. We had a good league but I wasn't able to meet with anyone in that year.

I went to the events hosted by the Graduate Student Association of my university. I couldn't meet with anyone at those events either.

I tried to join all of the parties that people hosted at my department; I couldn't meet with anyone at those parties either [As a side note: I actually "met" a lot of people at those parties but I couldn't become friends with any of them].

I tried talking to random people at coffee shops [This did not work either].

Now, I am actually thinking of joining an improvisation class. This is something I haven't tried and I hope it can help me with my loneliness.

17 hours ago, LaLa said:

If you tried to have conversations with him, showing your interest in him (instead of only talking about yourself, as some people do), it's very probable that he is "the problem". You're not "a good match" for sure, so I wouldn't see that 'relationship' as 'telling'.

I could be perceived as a someone who only talks about himself. However, I never really talk about myself. I always talk about abstract ideas rather than anything (or anyone) in particular. As for my roommate: I agree that I shouldn't view my relationship (or lack thereof) with him as "telling" in any way. The biggest problem there is that we share no common interests.

17 hours ago, LaLa said:

As others (in previous posts) also 'insinuated', this is an illusion: Too many people are lonely, too. You can find countless articles and videos about it, for instance:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#5d8b898e7676

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201807/what-you-need-know-about-the-loneliness-epidemic

I am totally aware of loneliness being a more common problem than I made it out to be in my post. I probably felt too emotional while writing it.

I accept that online interactions can be deep and fulfilling. I also believe that online interactions (especially with random people) is mostly a hit-or-miss. 

I want to clarify a point I made in my post. All of you are correct in saying that it is not obvious at all that I feel sad about my situation. I definitely feel bad about my situation but not sad. This is because there is nothing to be sad about. Being alone does not take so much away from my happiness. I see it as a problem to be solved. Sure, it sometimes puts me in a depressed state but I am able to find other things to pass the time. 

But I am not too sold on the idea that "I am not the problem." I may be the problem, who knows? Being a 25 year old male with no history of dating, friendship, and other close contact is something out of the ordinary. Even if I am the problem, this does not mean that I am a bad person. At most it just shows that I don't have the right personality profile that makes friends and girlfriends.

What I may be sad about is this: life gets lonelier as we age. Usually, the circle of friends you have gets narrower as you age. My circle is already non-existent. And I am probably at the best time of my life in terms of going through relationships (while I am healthy etc.). So, I will look back to these days 10 years later, and I will feel sad that I didn't have any interpersonal fun. Going to dinners together, movies together, reading together, having sex together, and etc. These are the things an average high-schooler has done already, none of which I had done. 

I don't know... I really need a therapy and I will give it a shot even if it is short-term.

J.C.

 

 

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From what you are describing, I think you should assume "you are the problem," not in a judgmental way, but just as a consideration of cause and effect.

Self analysis is difficult however because of the tendency to maintain your ego during the process.  That tends to blind you.

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22 hours ago, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

I could be perceived as a someone who only talks about himself. However, I never really talk about myself. I always talk about abstract ideas rather than anything (or anyone) in particular. As for my roommate: I agree that I shouldn't view my relationship (or lack thereof) with him as "telling" in any way. The biggest problem there is that we share no common interests.

I was like that.  Abstract ideas can be a defense against the personal.

However, I got involved with people who shared my abstract ideas and evolved toward the personal.

Why doesn't that work in your case?

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3 hours ago, uptight outasight said:

I was like that.  Abstract ideas can be a defense against the personal.

However, I got involved with people who shared my abstract ideas and evolved toward the personal.

Why doesn't that work in your case?

Good question. The short answer is: I don't know. I guess I never really had a friend for long enough. I think that the long answer is complicated and it requires a similarly long therapy with a professional. People usually tend to avoid talking about their personal lives with me. One reason for this might be their assumption that I won't understand (or appreciate) their personal lives. I simply don't know. I could be seen as emotionally immature to others, which could lead them to form the view that there is really no point in opening up to me about their personal lives. I speculate that people who don't open up to me have good reasons for their behaviours. I am not declaring myself as the locus of problem but that is quite conceivable.

J.C.

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38 minutes ago, Victimorthecrime said:

I could be way off but I get the impression you are somewhat ambivalent about having friends.  

Well. I definitely want to have friends but it isn't the end of the world if I don't have any. It is hard to be alone all the time, that's for sure.

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12 hours ago, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

. It is hard to be alone all the time, that's for sure.

I agree. I spend too much time alone also. 
Maybe be analytical about it and start small. Find a reason to talk w someone over a common interest like studying for a class or catching a band you both like just as examples. It could be anything. 
 

There are good things about being able to spend time alone so we don’t have to feel completely bad about it.

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JC, was just looking around the forum and noted some advice given by one person which was 'try consulting a stylist' (or maybe a coach on interpersonal skills) - may be a quick way to assess how you come across to people from an independent perspective - could be quicker than therapy too, though they are quite different avenues.

Thanks to @TooOld4This for that tip.

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On 2/23/2020 at 7:34 AM, Victimorthecrime said:

I agree. I spend too much time alone also. 
Maybe be analytical about it and start small. Find a reason to talk w someone over a common interest like studying for a class or catching a band you both like just as examples. It could be anything. 
 

There are good things about being able to spend time alone so we don’t have to feel completely bad about it.

I tried that analytical route. It works to an extent. For instance, I can become short-term friends with a lot of people. But it is hard to keep any common interest these days. I want friends that I want to get to know for years, not months. I want to get to know them deeply. I want to understand them.

20 hours ago, jazz said:

JC, was just looking around the forum and noted some advice given by one person which was 'try consulting a stylist' (or maybe a coach on interpersonal skills) - may be a quick way to assess how you come across to people from an independent perspective - could be quicker than therapy too, though they are quite different avenues.

Thanks to @TooOld4This for that tip.

I appreciate the tip, @TooOld4This . I have been very skeptical about those self-professed "coaches". Also, I don't want to be trained or instructed. It is for that reason I would need a long-term therapy. Again, thank you @jazz.

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18 hours ago, JOHNSON CAMPBELL said:

I tried that analytical route. It works to an extent. For instance, I can become short-term friends with a lot of people. But it is hard to keep any common interest these days. I want friends that I want to get to know for years, not months. I want to get to know them deeply. I want to understand them.

Most people resist that sort of friendship because they don't and don't want to understand themselves, either.  Most people want you to support their fantasy view of themselves, their ego defending persona.

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I'm inclined to agree with you @uptight outasight - how many people are that 'deep' and willing to ignore all the distractions around, especially these days? Takes a while to assess what people are like in different situations.

Sometimes it's easy to just get 'lazy' about friendship too, often it is nothing personal, it's just how people can be.

On the other hand people can be thinking about you and just too busy to call.

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5 hours ago, uptight outasight said:

Most people resist that sort of friendship because they don't and don't want to understand themselves, either.  Most people want you to support their fantasy view of themselves, their ego defending persona.

 

4 hours ago, jazz said:

I'm inclined to agree with you @uptight outasight - how many people are that 'deep' and willing to ignore all the distractions around, especially these days? Takes a while to assess what people are like in different situations.

Sometimes it's easy to just get 'lazy' about friendship too, often it is nothing personal, it's just how people can be.

On the other hand people can be thinking about you and just too busy to call.

 

I agree with both of you. Your comments bode well with my own experience in interpersonal relationships. I am sure people want to understand themselves but it is hard to get people into the process of understanding themselves (I am not saying I understood myself, let alone anything for that matter -- but this is what being a human is like). Daily requirements of our modern life (in the developed Western countries at least) concocted the modern human being. I totally agree that people can sometimes simply be lazy about friendship for purely personal reasons. The modern solution to this problem is the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (a.k.a marriage). This being said, we have known for a long time that marriage does not necessarily generate deep interpersonal interactions. Some people get married for strictly financial or socioeconomic reasons. Some people get married because their family wants them to. Some others get married because they feel emotionally connected (this is usually referred to as "love" by the folk). Yet others get married because they are sick and tired of being alone.

Despite all this, I think that anyone can create deep and meaningful relationships by assessing themselves (what they want, where they want to be, what they enjoy, what they care about, what they hate, what they fear and so on). What I find, especially in my age cohort (age 25), is that most of us did not really get the chance to assess ourselves. We have been bombarded with education, certificates, money, jobs, cities, and so on. I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing or that the modern life is wholly responsible for our inability to assess ourselves. What I am saying is that it is somehow harder to introspect given the "busy culture" we live in.

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