Isolation and lack of social skills

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Wife#2

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Isolation and lack of social skills
« on: February 23, 2017, 07:52:47 PM »
I never understood how people could keep friends their whole lives. Even if one moved away, they could and would keep in touch. Family, too! How does that work? I really do not have any idea how that happens.

Because my life experience has been that out of sight is out of mind. Even when I was a child and tried to write or call to stay in touch. It felt like those people who had been my friends (or their parents, or both) were glad I was finally out of their hair. I am 49 years old and I have NEVER got back in touch with someone who knew be back when and acted glad about the reconnection. Or, if they were even willing to reconnect, kept it superficial.

This is hard on me for several reasons. First, I wonder what is so horrible about me that they are glad to be rid of me and hesitant when I don't stay gone. Second, I know I do the right steps - write letters, but don't make them too deep, call sometimes, don't make plans for visits if I'm not certain I can follow through, be good to my word when I say I will do something. OK - I don't always do that last one. I get that letting people down WILL convince them to distance themselves from me, but that's why I stopped making promises.

Still, at 49, I have nobody that I would be sure I could call at 2AM and say - I'm in trouble, I need your help - and believe that they wouldn't hang up on me. I do have a few friends who know they could call ME, but I would be ashamed to call them.

It hurts, knowing that everyone outside my FOC would either let voicemail get the call or hang up hearing my voice. And, even the adults, I believe, roll their eyes when they see my number come up on caller ID.

You want to hear the funny part? I used to be skilled socially. I used to have friends everywhere I went. I could drop by their house, they could drop by mine. We could hang out every day one week and be too busy the next and it was all good. We enjoyed sharing our lives without overwhelming each other. It wasn't a lot of friends, but I was much happier about quality of friendships over quantity anyway.

And my reputation among ALL who knew me was that I am a friendly, sociable person. So much so that my brother asked me to join his Amway business - knowing I had the skill to talk with strangers and make them feel comfortable. And, back then, I did! I did grow his business for him. When it wasn't fun, I quit, but it was fun for a while.

Still, even as a young adult, I heard so many people I'd met talk about their childhood friends. Then, I'd meet those friends and realized that the friendship hadn't ended when so-and-so moved away. And I had NO idea how that happened. I was in contact with ZERO childhood friends anymore. When I tried to find them - before Facebook was a thing - I couldn't. When I'd visit the old town/city/berg whatever, they'd moved or weren't home or were too busy to sit down and talk for a minute. ALL of them. Even if it had only been a year since being in touch.

Now, with Facebook, I've found a couple from high school. The thing is, only five mattered to me and none of them have I found. The ones I HAVE found were the jocks, socials and bandies - it's the ones who were actively mean to me or who treated me as invisible. So, they want to be Facebook friends now? Whatever.

For this reason, I don't consider friendships held together by Facebook connections and posts as real friends. They aren't! If they don't know or want to know my email, my phone number or my address, they are not trying to be friends. That may sound harsh, but I have enough superficial junk in my life, I don't need more. If I ask and they don't want to share theirs, they gave me their answer and I was right - we're social media associates, NOT friends.

Anyway, this post started because I'm mystified that there are people in this world who want to AND do stay in touch with real friends they've known their whole life. I can't even stay in regular touch with family with out feeling like I'm pushing myself on them when they'd really rather I left them alone.  I don't know how they do that. I don't know what lesson I missed. :: sigh :: My husband is right - how can you know what you don't know?

So, as my friends of my young 20's have drifted away, too busy with their own families and other friends to miss me, I've allowed myself to drift away. I decided I wasn't going to CHASE anyone and BEG for friendship. But, this is now a very lonely place. While I love my husband, I don't necessarily want to spend EVERY evening listening to his same stories OVER and OVER again. While I absolutely LOVE my child, I do need breaks from him and his chattering as well.

I have noticed that I talk a lot less then I used to. I really type here more than I talk anywhere with anyone. I think I've lost those social skills I used to have. And that's sad. And lonely. One good thing is coming out of all this, though. I AM a better listener than I ever used to be. :: shrug :: Hopefully, I will figure it out in time to have AND keep friends into my golden years. Hopefully. Yes, I do still hold out hope.

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woodsgnome

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 10:28:43 PM »
This is spot-on for me. Want, reach out in a nice way, same return message that indicates fine, but at a distance; if that.

Oh, I know--I set myself up for some parts of isolation--designed my life to lessen contact. The other aspect of this is that for years I still had contacts, was considered sociable/affable/cool/interesting and all the rest. Those vibes were tied to social contact jobs I'd had; and I didn't realize how I'd miss those until I retired from them. Still, I had a couple friends--until they died relatively young.

That happened just a couple of years ago, and now it's back to intense isolation. I'm hoping to join a 5-day intensive group soon (not a retreat--I LIVE that all the time). I want to do this for  lots of reasons, but making connections and sharing with like-minded folks is high on the list. The downside--I need help (limited walking ability), a place to stay, transportation to the city, and someone to watch my property and care for the pets while I'm gone. Lots of nods from those I've asked, but a quick retreat when it comes to commitment. Like, I have to know and the lukewarm response is "we'll see". Makes me wonder if I'm as amiable as they all insist I am. And/or I'm good at sticking myself out, just to be vulnerable and rejected.

So I don't know--I do read the odd book on 'aloneness/solitude' (vs. outright loneliness). One of a few years back was "Party of One: The Loner's Manifesto" by Anneli Rufus and a more recent one, "How to Be Alone," by Sara Maitland. At least their approach is that being or even wanting solitude isn't some evil or malevolent anti-social pursuit. Nor is it always even trauma-related; that people have lots of choices, and some of us, for whatever reason, are drawn to the solitary side.

Still, for me it's the disappointment of going from limited social but amiable contacts to none; then the trying doesn't seem to work either. Then it's more work, risking endless disappointment, to realize the okayness of this. Here's the weirdest for me--being alone seems to increase the cptsd effects; all I can figure is those social distractions--even limited as they were--are no longer there to mask the pain.

Thanks, Wife#2; I'm sure there are lots here who share in what you're feeling, and whose search for answers are elusive as ever.



addendum...after writing the above, I randomly opened the Maitland book mentioned and found this:

..."Solitude can happen to anyone. We are all at risk. There is no number of friends on Facebook, contacts, connections, or financial provision that can protect us."


 
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 10:52:51 PM by woodsgnome »

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hurtbeat

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2017, 05:18:05 AM »
I didn't read everything here but I recognize being very social at first and then just have friends disappear on me.
As a child I think it is partially up to the parents to help children stay in touch and I don't think that my mother was very good at that, she never liked it when I had friends over because we made too much noise.

Also life changes I guess, sometimes you just drift apart naturally but when I read:  "out of sight out of mind" it really struck a chord in me.
I wonder if that's how narcissists see their friends?
And because we live in narcissist families this becomes the norm, to only socialise with those who are within sight.

My mother seem like a person who can just leave everything behind and start a new life, which she did when I lived with her a few times.
Now I do the same thing and few people stick around.
It is so hard to get attached to anyone knowing they'll eventually disappear.

I can also feel socially awkward and a bit of social anxiety these days.
It just occurred to me that the way we are with our families greatly affect how we are with friends, if we don't have that stable core of people that we know are always there then it seems like everyone eventually goes away.
And this in turn leads to low self confidence when trying to connect with people again, it's a higher mountain to climb each time.

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radical

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 06:49:31 AM »
I don't think human connection is a distraction form the pain, but the lack of it a cause.

We are all vulnerable it's true, but when it comes to falling off the human world, never being firmly attached can be one part of the problem.  I have known people to get back on.  I tried very hard to when I joned a community, because I could see where things were headed if I didn't.  Trying too hard made me vulnerable in that situation.

Even though I like being alone, I know I need to find connection.  I feel like I don't know how and it's not about social skills or even the very real problem of stigma, it's mostly about being palpably lonely and different and that making people feel uncomfortable.  It seems it's confronting somehow, yet I don't mean it to be. 

The few remaining friends since this latest and most painful mess seem to feel guilty,  as though they imagine I want them to fill the gap, yet I don't want more of them.  I don't expect people to fill anything.  I'd like to be able to be real and for that to not be threatening or guilt-inducing.

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Wife#2

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2017, 01:39:12 PM »
Thank you everyone for posting! It did and does make me feel less alone at being alone.

I think it really struck me hard recently because my husband has reconnected with some high school friends. They're back to being a part of his life regularly. It's helping him be better centered in who he is and what he's about (he also has cPTSD - they knew the family members who caused it). He's going through one of the best seasons of his life, generally.

I listen him talking about what they've done together recently and then easily switch to stories of their shared youth. I've met these friends and they are really great people who genuinely care about hubby.

I think I'm jealous. NOBODY outside FOO has known me that long. And I can't 'happen' across them as he did, because we no longer live in the same state. My grown children are reconnecting with childhood friends and I'm glad for them, I really am! Yet, I'm also a little jealous. And, then I worry that there is something fundamentally wrong with me - that *I* am the problem. It really may be me.

I can point to specific incidents where I was an awful friend. One can't forgive me, the other has, but keeps a bit of a distance now. The third moved away and the contacts and visits just sort of diminished into nothing. And I don't know how to approach them to see if they're willing to re-deepen the friendships. I certainly don't want to even try until I can be sure I won't promise things that probably won't happen (like out of state visits). I think they're willing, honestly. The two who forgave me have reached out lately. I just don't know if I can hold up MY part of the friendship anymore. And that makes me unbelievably sad.

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sanmagic7

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2017, 04:47:15 AM »
small steps, wife2.  if they reached out, it sounds like they're willing to give it a go.  you can decide your own expectations for yourself and what kind of friend you want to be, how much you want to extend yourself, etc., without making promises you might not be able to keep. 

i used to be the total giver in my friendships, and so many times, as i set more realistic expectations on how much i wanted to give, the friendship just kind of went away.   i was the one doing all the giving, so when i pulled back, i realized that there wasn't much there if i wasn't putting it there.  some of these have been very long time friendships that had been dysfunctional from the get-go. 

as i've gotten older, my hub, daughter, and brother have become the center of my world as far as relationships go.   i've let the rest go.  maybe it's because i've been so sick that i don't miss the social aspect too much.  i do hope that you are able to stick a toe into the friendship waters, test them out, see how it feels if that's what you want.  it can be difficult watching someone close to you sharing that camaraderie when you don't have the same.   i hope you can get some of that back.  best, as always, dear friend.  saying that, you all are my friends now, and i'm glad and grateful.   big hug!

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Wife#2

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2017, 03:05:44 PM »
Big hugs back to you. I also consider you a very dear friend, though we've never met.

I just worry that my face-to-face skills are so lacking now.

I will reach back out to the two friends who've tried recently. You're right. Baby steps. I don't have to be perfect to be a good friend. I can be ok - just ok.

I've always considered myself a taker. And, there's a lot of evidence to support that. But, maybe it's a little more mutual than I've let myself understand. And, maybe they felt me pulling away and let me go, instead of abandoning me. While I hope they'll be kinder to me and my heart, I can open myself  enough to be kinder to them as well. :: Nods ::  Yes, I can do this for the sake of friendship. They're worth it and need to know it. Just like I let my friends ere at OOTS and over at OOTF know it.

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Candid

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2017, 12:38:45 PM »
for years I still had contacts, was considered sociable/affable/cool/interesting and all the rest. Those vibes were tied to social contact jobs I'd had; and I didn't realize how I'd miss those until I retired from them. Still, I had a couple friends--until they died relatively young.

Same here. My working years were mostly very stressful, but at least I had a sense of belonging to a team. It wasn't until my industry (print media) collapsed that I realised just how circumstantial most of my friendships were. I ignored the fact that I often went from Friday to Monday without speaking to a soul. What would I have done about it anyway?

I had an odd assortment of 'friends' because I didn't and still don't show an authentic self. I don't seem to have one. I couldn't imagine putting all my acquaintances into one room and have never thrown a party. All these co-workers, neighbours etc. were very different, and I adjusted myself to feign likeness to them, expressed opinions I didn't have, kept quiet when they deeply offended me, I ended some friendships but most just petered out. People liked me well enough on the job but very few made out-of-hours arrangements with me.

I've had friends die, too, including my bestie who hanged herself in a psychiatric hospital when we were both 19.

On this blessed forum I am aiming to express my real self, whoever she is. I think I'm starting to like her.  :cheer:

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Wife#2

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2017, 02:11:26 PM »
Candid - I think you struck the right chord - it's about trying to be our authentic selves when we don't really know who that is. That is so much what it is.

When working in the service industry it was easy to have friends and make acquaintances. Smile and people will talk, chat easily and people will smile back. Co-workers like you when you try to help them in their jobs. What's really odd to me personally is that I had those abilities once upon a time. I really did. I even knew who I was pretty well. Especially the years when I lived in a city away from all of my FOO. I was who *I* wanted to be. I was ok if people didn't like me - not great, but ok. I socialized with friends I'd made at work. We became REAL friends, not just friendly coworkers.

Still, when I moved away from that city, I lost touch with every one. Even the ones I tried to stay in touch with. Their lives moved on after I left and it was adios, have a good life.

Maybe it was because I was back living with my mother. Maybe I did change more than I realized during that time. But, my skills shrank. I wasn't in a business atmosphere that encouraged friendliness among staff anymore. I still made friends in college and at work, but they were fewer and most drifted away as class schedules changed and as jobs changed. Once the common contact was gone, so was the friend. Or, rather, acquaintance.

I know the fact that I was 'not from around here' put many people off. They didn't want to hear about other places, they wanted to tell me all about HERE. I was made to feel the outsider over and over again. Since feeling not a part of the 'real' family was a big part of my issues, I shut down. I did keep some friends from that era for a while. Eventually, though, they bolted or drifted away. Until I'm down to the few, and one won't talk to me, another is out of state and we don't talk anymore. The third I only see via Facebook though she still lives in town. My part in all that is large. I stopped reaching out. I talked about that earlier, and my willingness to now reach out.

It's time to acknowledge my part in why I'm alone now and decide what I'm willing to do about that. It's time to get proactive. If I'm rejected, ok. That's a real possibility. But, I don't need to sit here complaining. Better to be rejected and know where I stand than to keep wondering and worrying and being sad. If I'm rejected, that can free me up to spend energy making new friends. I'm beginning to rediscover the fun me. The friendly me. Maybe I haven't lost it, maybe it just got buried under a couple of bad decades.

You folks here are such a wonderful encouragement. I thank all of you. It's time to stop the poor me conversation inside my own head and move forward. Slowly, because I don't have my heart-mom sister to fall back on and because I don't currently have a therapist. Still, I can't gain momentum if I keep sitting still! Onward!

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Candid

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2017, 02:35:24 PM »
I know the fact that I was 'not from around here' put many people off. They didn't want to hear about other places, they wanted to tell me all about HERE. I was made to feel the outsider over and over again.

I've always been the outsider, Wife#2. That started in FOO, where it was made clear to me I wasn't wanted, and I've made so many geographical moves that I suspect I will never feel part of a community or as if I belong anywhere... or with anyone.

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My part in all that is large. I stopped reaching out. I talked about that earlier, and my willingness to now reach out.

I'm not willing. Yet. I never initiate anything.

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If I'm rejected, ok. That's a real possibility. But, I don't need to sit here complaining. Better to be rejected and know where I stand...

Why should you be rejected? Why should I? Could it be because we learned very early to reject ourselves?

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I'm beginning to rediscover the fun me. The friendly me. Maybe I haven't lost it, maybe it just got buried under a couple of bad decades.

Yeah, it would take more than a couple (or several) decades of hard knocks to kill us off, right?

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It's time to stop the poor me conversation inside my own head and move forward. [...] Onward!

Onward and upward, my friend!

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Wife#2

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2017, 03:35:46 PM »
As to the rejected comment, I can answer that one. Normal, healthy people who've had their feelings hurt will stay away from the source of that hurt. I did contribute to the hurt of a friend by my carelessness at one point. So, if I reach out and am rejected, I understand that she may forgive the hurt, but she's also not going to subject herself to the source (me) anymore. That's a healthy response. I'm ok if that's what happens.

There is also the possibility that I can show her that I understand that I hurt her, apologize with sincerity of heart for the pain I caused her and to SHOW that I am better aware and will do all I am capable of to not hurt her again.

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Candid

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2017, 03:53:45 PM »
You are braver than I! Someone abandons me, for any reason, I stay away. I understand I have some 'funny little ways' and have made inappropriate remarks that I don't recognise as such until they're out of my mouth, leaving the distinct possibility that I'm unaware of some of them.

A friend (one of the many who decamped) once told me I always seemed to be apologising for myself. I took that as a criticism, realised the truth of it, and resolved to get on the 'never apologise, never explain' wagon. 

But this is a specific friendship and one you value highly. I hope it works out the way you want.

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sanmagic7

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2017, 07:54:34 PM »
o wife2, i've had the same experience with a very good friend.  i, too, was careless and uncaring at a time when she needed the most support.  i did reach out later and apologized, she acknowledged it, but we've never been in contact again.  she doesn't want to, and, as much as i'd like to give it another try, i've respected that.  it's a pain i'll always feel.

reading what you've written here, i had to read it twice that you're a 'taker' in your friendships (or have been).  i've only known you through this forum, but you're one of my nearest and dearest, always so very generous in so many ways!  it's just a little difficult to wrap my head around you saying that you're not like that with others in your life.

i've seen your sense of humor, your caring, your concern, your anger, - so many different parts of you.  you're great!  you've seemed authentic to me, and i love you for it.  i hope you find that authenticity with others in your life, are able to nurture and sustain it just like you do on this forum.  you're a great friend, a great person - i can't say enough good things about you! 

the bottom line is that i believe those social skills are still there because i've witnessed them.  maybe you need to dust them off a bit for a real life relationship, but you've done a bang-up job here.  hooray for being who we truly are.  it's grand.   big hug!

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Wife#2

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2017, 08:34:09 PM »
San, thank you again and as usual. You really are one of my sincere friends on this website as well. I'd like to think we are sitting on the porch (my neighborhood is quieter, I vote here), heels up on the handrail, chair backs resting against the bricks and the two of us shooting the breeze. Our virtual talks help me so much, the friendship that you offer and accept!

I've had to delete my post three times because it kept feeling like I was fishing for compliments. Maybe I have put my taker ways behind me. I have evidence lately that I've recognized the societal signs that gifts may be expected and prepared. I've kept stocks of things many people need and become the go-to with coworkers for minor things like cough drops. So, that's a very old IC trying to get revived. Thank you, friend, for the help shutting that particular IC up!

Let me go refresh our drinks. Then, we can sit and talk some more.

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Boatsetsailrose

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Re: Isolation and lack of social skills
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2017, 08:21:08 PM »
Something really struck a cord with me of radicals reply
Quote 'it's mostly about being palpably lonely and different and that making people feel uncomfortable.  It seems it's confronting somehow, yet I don't mean it to be'

Yes I can really relate to this .. I'm lonely, so I generate an energy of I'm lonely and then others feel that and it creates a wide berth response ..
so ok that's the problem and now what's the solution ?
How does one 'pretend to not be lonely'
What's coming to me is that it's the development of the relationship with self and developing ones interests which then get to meet like minded people..
Being brave and asking someone if they want to do something together
Personally, I am not going to stop trying .. 
I'm going to say to myself 'I have the power to make friends and widen my social network