I’ve had an occasional history of depression and anxiety, and in the last few weeks, these feelings have become a lot more common. I’m a 26 year old virgin who’s never had a girlfriend, so I want to improve socially to the point where I can eventually get married. However, I’m a college student who works two part time jobs, and much of my time will be devoted to this, as well as preparing myself for a future career. I did read New Game +, which has lots of information, and while I want to improve socially, I’ve got a very busy schedule.
The problem is, however, outside of my family, I don’t have much of a support network of friends. I moved to where I live three years ago, and I’ve met people here and there, but we’ve largely lost contact. Part of it’s because I’ve been busy with college and work, part is because they’re not as much my personality type, and I live about half an hour away from most of them. I will start seeing a therapist soon, and plan on joining a few Meetup groups. However, when seeing people around my age who are in a relationship, I get nervous and jealous, and it negatively affects my mood, reminding me of what I don’t have. There are young couples in quite a few of these Meetup groups, and I don’t want this to affect me from going out.
I’m also worried about even after I get help, my depression and anxiety will flare up at the worst possible time, thus negatively affecting my social life and potential romantic prospects. I’ve had things like this happen in the past, which has, needless to say, led to some very awkward moments.
I’ve just got so much on my plate and on my mind, and any help would be appreciated.
First of all, Overwhelmed, I’m proud of you for the steps you’ve been taking. You’re doing everything right – both to improve your social life and also to address your anxiety and depression. One thing I want you to keep in mind: there are many ways to treat anxiety and depression, and some will work better for you than others will. The thing to keep in mind is that the ones that work for you are the ones that work for you. If your therapist recommends any medication, this isn’t a sign that you’re a failure or someone who couldn’t muscle their way through it. All it means is that this is a therapy they think may work best for you. Many forms of chronic depression and anxiety are chemical in origin; the right medication can help correct this. As someone who’s been on Zoloft, I can tell you: it can absolutely make a difference for you.
And while it’s no substitute for working with a trained therapist, I’m also a fan of learning how to control your own mind as a supplement to whatever else you do. Yoga and meditation may sound crunchy and newage1 -y, they really can be a great way of taking control of your brain when it tries to gallop out of control.
But don’t forget: while many can take time to take effect, don’t ever be afraid to advocate for your own needs while you’re working with your therapist. If they recommend medication and you have side-effects that make things harder, you have the right to tell them you’d rather try something else.
Now let’s talk a little about managing those anxieties while you’re building your new social life. The envy you feel around happy couples is understandable; they have something you wish you had after all. However, the mistake is letting that sense of “but why not me?” take over and leave you feeling bitter and resentful. That’s a mindset that can leave you even more lonely than before – and end up cutting you off from potential friends and potential lovers in turn. After all, while they may have something that you wish you did, new friends may well be the people to introduce you to single people who want to date you.
So how do you get around this? Start with noting and naming your feelings. Words have power after all, and the stories you tell yourself become part of how you actually feel. So rather than describing yourself as being envious, observe your feelings. “Huh… I guess I feel envious of that couple over there.”
Notice very carefully that I phrased that as “I feel envious”, not “I am envious”. The latter defines envy as an integral part of who you are – envy is a core to your identity. The other describes a feeling, and one that’s temporary at that. Not only does this create a layer of abstraction between you and those negative feelings, but it reinforces your control over them. You’re reminding yourself that feeling a particular way is an option, not destiny.
Once you’ve noted and named those feelings, then reframe them. The fact that there are young couples out there doesn’t take anything away from you; neither of them represents a loss to you. What they do represent is that love is real and out there, and if they can find it, then so can you. In a very real way, that love means “hope”2 .
As weird as it may sound, telling yourself that you’re actually happy for them helps you on the rebound. In a very real way, attitude is destiny; a positive outlook on life makes you more successful in everything that you do. Having a positive attitude and outlook makes you more emotionally resilient. You may fail at times – and that’s fine – those failures are something that you can learn from. They’re something you can bounce back from and – importantly – overcome. And having a positive outlook, particularly when it comes to socializing, makes you more popular. People don’t like spending time around negative people. But the guy who’s generally cheerful and upbeat, even if he’s still striving for the things he wants? That guy is going to be pretty popular. Attitudes are contagious, after all and people feel better around positive folks. That, in turn, makes them want to spend more time with those same people.
So yeah, you may feel a little weird and uncomfortable around them at first. But the more you reframe the situation – that they’re proof that what you want is out there and attainable – then they go from being a negative to a positive. They’re not your opponents, as it were, but aspirational figures. Relationship goals, as it were.
Plus, as an added bonus: seeing couples in happy and successful relationships also provide role models for how relationships can work. Obviously not every relationship style is going to work for you, and every relationship is going to have it’s quirks. But being able to look around and see how other people make it work can give you an idea of how things can work for you, too.
Oh, and one more thing: even under treatment, you can have flare-ups of anxiety and depression. I still have times when my depression weighs pretty heavily on me. But having worked with therapists and learned my own triggers, I know how to handle them. As you work through your own treatments, you’ll find the things that work for you too. And while you may have those moments when everything is dark, poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake, you’ll be able to look it square in the eye and say “Bring it on. I can take it.”
It seems like a lot, but you’re strong and you’re on the right path. You’ve got this, Overwhelmed.
All will be well.
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I really like your blog and think your advice is spot on. And even though I might fall outside of the usual demographic of who you usually give advice to I’m hoping you will answer my question. I’m a 44 year old woman 2 years post divorce trying to navigate the dating world. I was married for 12 years. As you can imagine what we know as ghosting in 2018 did not really exist back when I was dating before I got married.
So yes, I know what ghosting is. I can somewhat understand and maybe even condone it. But only to an extent. Just recently I have been ghosted in such a horrible way (at least to me) that I wanted to get your opinion on it.
I matched with a man on Tinder and we started chatting. Pretty quickly it escalated into a lot of chatting and also phone calls. We seemed to have a lot in common and just seemed to click. He started sending me messages first thing in the morning when he woke up. We talked as much as we could all day long. This went on for a week until we met out for a date. I thought the date went great. And he told me he thought it was amazing too. We kept talking and hung out again in real life a few days later. A few more days pass and we keep talking like normal. He keeps texting me first thing in the morning, which I came to expect and really like. After a few more days I surprised him at work. He works in a public place so its not like I showed up at a private office building or something. He seemed happy to see me.
So starting from the evening of when I saw him where he works I stopped hearing from him. That evening I just thought he might be tired. But then the next morning came and I had no good morning text from him. Just nothing. No responses to my messages. They weren’t even shown as “Read”. By this time we were friends on Facebook so I tried contacting him that way and got nothing. And he didn’t answer when I called him. I was really worried about him because this was so unlike the communication with him I was used to. Finally, later that day he sent me one message just saying he was in a bad mood. And I have not heard from him since – a couple of weeks now.
Ok I get it. Obviously he doesn’t want to see me anymore. And it probably didn’t click for him like it had clicked for me. Maybe I crossed some unspoken line when I showed up where he works. I have no idea. What is really making me angry is the thought that I just have to sit here and take it. If I send him a ton of messages asking what happened then I’m the crazy one, right? I can’t dare go see him at work again to ask because then I’m a stalker. It seems so unfair. I thought once people were older then I could expect a certain level of maturity. If it wasn’t working for him all he had to do was tell me. The not knowing part is what gets me.
And I know you’re probably going to say that I dodged a bullet with this guy. Better to get this pain and anger out of the way sooner instead of later. I agree. It just seems like there is no recourse for the ghosted in this type of situation unless you want to be labeled as a crazy stalker. So I guess my question to you is, in this situation, do I have to just take this? Yes, I know I need to get over it and move on. But I also feel like I wish I had one more opportunity to talk to this guy and give him a piece of my mind. Or else since I’m older I’m just out of touch with ghosting etiquette?
Thank you so much
Getting Ghosted Sucks
Alright GGS, there’re two things to cover here: why he ghosted you and what you can do about it.
For the former… well, honestly, I suspect it was showing up unannounced at work. Considering how solid of a turn-around seems to be, I think that pretty clearly crossed a line for him. Now why that crossed the line… that is pretty much impossible to know. It could be that he really likes keeping his personal life separate from his work life. He may not have told anyone that he was dating someone and having you show up may have introduced a lot of questions he didn’t want to answer. Hell, for all either of us know, he may have had a girlfriend or wife, and your showing up at work may have let people know that he was stepping out.
Or it could just be he really doesn’t like surprises and your showing up out of the blue was an indicator that you and he were really not going to work out.
I have no clue and, honestly, there’s not much profit to be had in speculating. The only lesson here is “don’t just show up at work, at least in the early days. And make sure you both know where your boundaries and hidden triggers are.”
So. That having been done, what do you do about it?
And the answer there is… well… nothing. I mean, let’s game things out here. You want a way to let him know that just cutting all contact is rude, and maybe feel bad about having done so. That’s totally understandable. Being ghosted is rude3 , but the odds that he doesn’t know that are so small that I’m not sure it can be rendered out in actual numbers. Plus, in order to really drive home that he was a dick about things, he’d have to be in a position where he would feel bad about being rude to you. Which, presumably, would’ve precluded his ghosting you in the first place.
Honestly, the biggest takeaway here is that if someone’s going to ghost you, they’re not overly concerned about how you feel about it and are unlikely to change on that score. Trying to make him see that he’s the one in the wrong is more likely to fail at best and backfire at worst. The only real thing you can do about it is just accept that things fell apart and move on from there. And yeah, that blows. I’ve been ghosted and flaked on and I’d love to try to get the people who did that to me to admit they were wrong to do so. But, like my owning the Mustang from Bullitt, that ain’t gonna happen. So, the best thing to do is learn what you can from things, brush the dirt off your shoulder and move on.
As much as I dislike it in concept and practice, ghosting is part of dating, especially in the 21st century. It’s part of the climate; you can’t stop it from raining, but you can try to avoid getting rained on as best you can.
So go ahead, delete his number, unfollow him on social media and just keep moving forward. It’s the best thing you can do.