Shared Experience?

I often find myself feeling closer to people who have had similar experiences as I have.  To be sure, some of that is simple human nature: People tend to like others who are similar to themselves, and when we’re talking about things that are a large part of who we are–whether we would like them to be or not–that emotion is strengthened.

But for me, I think it is more.  I was musing about it the other day when I realized that part of me is looking for understanding.  I have been depressed, chronically and acutely.  I have been, and am, socially isolated.  I am not comfortable around people I don’t know and I avoid those kinds of interactions–which is an interesting Catch-22 (how do you get to know people you avoid because you’re uncomfortable about not knowing them?).  

In turn, my social skills are essentially nonexistent.  I can communicate well, especially in writing and especially anonymously (hi Internet!), but I avoid the interactions.  I don’t do the things normal people do.  The Friday before Memorial Day, we were debating closing the office early.  One of my co-workers asked if I was going to come with if they went out for drinks, something I had turned down two or three times before.  “You don’t have to drink,” she said, “just socialize.”  But I still turned it down.  If I got off early I was going to go home and… I don’t know, be alone I guess.  

That’s not who I want to be, but it’s who I am.  And so something I think I need in a friend, a reason I am so attracted to people who have had similar experiences, is understanding.  Understanding why I am who I am and how I am, naturally, but also understanding when to push and try to get me outside my comfort zone, yet also understanding when to back off and they’re pushing for something I am not in a position emotionally to give.  

It’s a tough balancing act and a lot to ask.  Why would any friend want to deal with my shit?  Why would anybody want that responsibility and that burden?  For somebody like me, who has no particular self esteem, it’s an even tougher question than it would be under otherwise identical circumstances.  But then again that’s not the point of this post, is it?

Perhaps this is part of the reason I find making friends to be so hard: I need too much.  I’m not sure it even enters my head to reach out to people who don’t fit that criteria, and I honestly don’t even know if that is a good thing or a bad thing; the last thing I need in my life is to open up to another friend who realizes later that I am more headache than I am worth, so perhaps this kind of “pre-screening” might be appropriate.  

Who knows.  If I had answers this blog probably wouldn’t exist.  I’m just a guy struggling with a lot of questions and self-analysis and trying to muddle through them out loud.

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2 thoughts on “Shared Experience?

  1. I understand what you are having the blessing of experiencing, I was diagnosed with dysthymia less than a month ago that’s been perpetuated for the last three years now. Every day is a fight, to get out of bed, to interact with people in the way that you want to, and to be happy just in general. I’ve been depressed from an early age because of genetics and a lot of bullying from different people, and I believe that it’s longevity has caused me to develop some asperger-like symptoms, as far as interacting with most people goes. I just don’t have the energy all of the time to put into being “normal,” and keeping up with it, because for the longest time in my adolescence I believed that no one would really want to be friends with a kid like me, because I knew I was different from most people. And I felt that because I would not be acknowledged for who I am, but what people want to see, I made for myself a very removed persona for the kids I went to school to interact with; I was a very sarcastic and ignorant person towards some, and in general as well. So now that I want to take the world around me seriously, it’s becoming very hard to get a decent foothold in it, being that I’ve been stuck in a different way for a longass time. And the dysthymia doesn’t help because people can see the depression in you, in some way or another, with what you say, the way you say it, or the way you carry yourself. It makes it harder to change when your friends still see you as a “depressed person,” and the fact that depression is irritating for the most part will never stop me from shaking my head, mostly because I’m never on the other side, but also because people with something like what we have can’t really do much on our own. We need to see that the world around us sees us as normal before we can really feel it, and start to appreciate ourselves again. It’s hard man, but you’ve got to learn how to focus on pulling yourself above what you’re used to feeling, and focus on how you want to feel. Stop yourself when your mind starts to wander into the darker corners of your mind, that’s the first step. I’d offer more advice, but I’m figuring this out on my own, and it’s the farthest I’ve gotten so far. Good luck with your mark, and I hope it fades quickly.

    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your reply. I’m surprised that anybody has found this blog, to be honest; it’s not something I was expecting.

      I certainly know what you mean about struggling to get out of bed. It’s a strange situation to feel like you’re only living to go to work so that you have money to live, but that’s where I find myself. There has to be something more, I am simply lacking it.

      I’d say my childhood went roughly like yours did. I was kind of reclusive. Talking to people I don’t know has never been easy for me; I’m shy and I have absolutely no idea what “self confidence” even is. I guess that uncomfortableness broadcasts itself more than I could understand it did, because people seemed to quickly get the idea that I didn’t want to talk to them. Maybe they were right in a sense. It’s uncomfortable and it’s just so much easier for me to avoid uncomfortable things than confront them. What it also did, though, was remove the ability to make a different choice. In hindsight, I can see that people were trying to be friendly back then and I kind of blew them off. If I lacked the ability to accept an overture there’s certainly no chance I would ever initiate one!

      I completely agree with you that we need to feel like other people see us as normal, or at least acceptable (we’re not really normal exactly, are we?), but at the same time my mind doesn’t allow that. I’m not sure how it goes for you, I suspect these things don’t play out exactly the same for everybody. For me, the one friend I have, I honestly don’t understand why he likes me. If I like somebody, I literally have no capacity to understand why they like me too. The better I think somebody is, the less I can accept that they might see me that way. It’s insidious.

      For the longest time, I had no idea that dysthymia existed. If I had to describe my feelings to somebody else I’d just call it a “mild depression” that has lasted, well, seventeen years and counting I guess. Probably longer, honestly, but I can remember it distinctly as far back as sixth grade, so it has been at least that long. In any event, I considered a lot of the negative things about myself–the lack of self-confidence, the insecurity and inability to accept nice things said about me, the way I avoided uncomfortable situations, and on and on–to be personal failures. I thought of them as negative personality traits that I lacked the strength to change. I still do, in many cases; I am extremely hard on myself over things that most people wouldn’t even give a second thought. But for the first time, I also find myself pausing and reminding myself that there are other factors at play. That can only be helpful in the long run.

      In fact, I think one of the major first hurdles I have to overcome is to let go of this idea that I am somehow a failure or defective and don’t deserve good things to happen. I know this logically — I just need to figure out a way to BELIEVE it. I wish I could take your advice about not letting my mind wander down the dark paths too; it’s another thing I know but can’t manage to accomplish. Not yet anyway. As you say, it’s all a work in progress.

      In any event, good luck. Hopefully we will both come out the other end of this better off.

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