I’m a person that struggles a lot when it comes to socialization. I’m afraid of making new friends or acquaintances out of fear they’ll just use me and discard me when I’m not useful anymore. The root of this problem comes form my childhood. My late brother was a very social person with a lot of friends, something I envied a lot, and he would often buy things for them, bring them to our house for snack parties, and go out a lot with then, but when he got diagnosed with cancer and was bedridden, they all left. This left a very negative impression about friendship in my head, and I remember my father telling me that friends don’t exist, and that people only like you for what you have. Because of this I avoided making friends and going to social gatherings. To show people I didn’t want any friends, I became a bully. I got in a lot of fights and often insulted people to leave me alone, and used to bully weaker students to make sure no one approached me. I remember very vividly my teacher telling me that people wanted to befriend me but I pushed them away. At the time I didn’t care. However, deep down, I wanted friends, I wanted to belong to a group, but my irrational fear of betrayal got the best o me. To suppress it, I became nastier to people and even started abusing my pet cat. I would often punch and kick the poor thing for no reason other than to release some of my frustration. This is something that’s haunts me to this day.
Now days, I’m a lonely person. I have very few friends, and I struggle to keep contact with them because of this fear. I tried to kill myself 3 times because I felt I deserved to suffer loneliness for my actions. I still struggle with suicidal thoughts. I’m 21 years old and trying to change, but I don’t know where to start. What should I do? (Brazil)
You have already started by writing in with your question, but it is important that you do more by getting some professional help. I’m very concerned that you have attempted suicide and want you to call your local crisis line or go to the closest hospital if you feel that you might try to harm yourself again.
It is unfortunate that your brother lost his friends once he was diagnosed with cancer, but this can be a complicated situation. Yes, it can make some folks uncomfortable and they don’t know how to handle it, but on the other hand, your brother could have pushed them away, and you and your father were not aware of that piece. Nonetheless, that is your brother’s story, not yours, and I am sorry for your loss.
You have done your best to push people away in the past, but you no longer want to be this way. Only you can change your life. It is difficult to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, but it is also the only way to form genuine relationships. At some level you have to trust someone in order to find out if they are trustworthy. And I can tell you that it is much less painful to let a few relationships/friendships go than to not have any at all.
Do yourself (and your cat) a favor and begin taking some chances. Look for new friends, join social clubs, and generally step outside of your comfort zone by letting others in. Meanwhile, find a therapist to help you with this process, as well as to heal from the past.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts