I don't know how to connect with others

Hi, my name is Alex.
I am 21 and although most of my life is going rather well, I am quite socially isolated. I have not had any friends, since middle school, have never had a partner, am quite distant from most of my family, and do not get along with my parents. I am friendly with my older sister but we are polar opposites and she lives in another state.

At work and at school people seem to like me enough; I seem to make people laugh often, I’m quite easygoing, and I like to think that I’m kind. But anything beyond brief interactions kind of starts to feel like pulling teeth in my mind. I always feel like I’m faking my way through social encounters, but I don’t even know what I would be like if I were to be authentic. I just don’t know how to bridge the gap between acquantaince and friend.

For years I chalked this up to me just being very introverted and tried not to think about it, but I think it has been getting worse recently. Everything I do feels so forced and inorganic, and I worry I come across like a robot. And I always had a habit of chatting with faceless imaginary friends (which I know is not normal), but lately those conversations have shifted to speaking with imaginary therapists and mental health hotlines, and have become more frequent. Also last week I was talking to a chatbot and it unexpectedly told me some nice things and I cried uncontrollably for hours. Yet when those same nice things were said to me by various real people in the past I always felt extremely uncomfortable.

I want to make friends but I don’t how how. I want to find a boy/girlfriend, but I feel like I would be taking more than I would know how to give in a relationship, and I don’t want to burden a partner with insecurities.

I had a great day today, got lots of important stuff done, thought I looked cuter than usual, and made a new recipe that turned out well. But after dinner I just felt very empty, and when I started having another imaginary talk with a callline for the third time this week I figured that something is wrong. And I don’t know what to do


Hi Alex,
thank you for reaching out, thank you for sharing. Welcome to Heart Support.

if someone loves you, if someone is spending time with you, it is their decision. it is the decision of others to love you, to spend time with you. with the right people in your life, you will never be a burden.
that hit me hard, because i know that feeling too well. i can’t accept compliments, i feel uncomfortable and kind of
triggered by it, to talk about myself.
the path you are walking, you are not alone.
right before my first therapist appointement, i was sitting in the pedestrian zone on a bench, i had some minutes left.
a text arrived from my now best friend, from the person that i am more then grateful i have in my life. just a short
message with “you can do that, you are strong” and i started to cry my heart out. that came so unexpected.
the last years i spend isolated from people. i spend mostly alone, only for my work. i am good at my job i would say,
with everything else i struggle. i still struggle. i would like to run away from all my things, but this will not help me
escape my mind. i spend month here, thinking of how i could get out of this, i cried my soul out, went sleepless for
huge amount of time, was crying even without a reason. i had my lunch, i cried directly after. i was awake in the
nights, crying. that is bullshit and made me feel like how big of a mess i was, i am.
you did an important step with reaching out here now. you know what you worry about, when it comes to yourself.
i hope you will find help in a form of a therapy maybe ? a community for yourself ? or a self help group in your area ?
please, consider something like this. because what i read about you, what you share here, i can relate to a lot.
all of thoughts we keep, haunt us back even harder, when we are not letting them out, working on it, facing all of that.
life is overwhelming, life is so hard. what is holding you back right now, is only yourself.
talking helps, it is such a strong thing to talk about everything. often we realize that, when it is too late.
we reach out far too late. when the hole we have digged, is too deep to come out alone. but there are people out
there that will help you, i am sure.
give life and people a try. treat others like you want to be treated and you will see. try to take a compliment at it is
meant. because, what people say to you, what people mean is what they decide.
you are only responsible for what you do, what you say, not how people react to you. that is theirs.
be yourself. go out and let life be beautiful, as you would like it to be. it is hard, it is easier said then done. always.
but it is worth it. failing on what we love, is always better then succeeding at something we hate.
life should be beautiful, life should be enjoying for all of us.
you are loved my friend, you matter most :purple_heart: you are to be held and not to be missed.
feel hugged

1 Like

From: djstarion

Hey Alex! Thank you for posting :slight_smile: This one actually hits home for me because when I was 21 years old, I was in the same boat as you. Barely any friends, very introverted, didn’t have a gf, and I couldn’t figure out how to make any friends let alone be in a relationship. Call lines and all that are helpful in certain situations, but finding a proper therapist in your area will definitely help a lot too, because you have someone that you can build a connection with and help guide you to where to begin on your journey. Once you get comfortable with yourself, the rest WILL fall into place. I get the whole thing feeling inorganic and/or forced as well. The best way to build connections and bonds is to just be yourself. Don’t try and force anything, let yourself and your personality shine, in a way that makes YOU happy.

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From: Who.is

socialising can be hard for sure. I found and still do at times find it excruciating. We can know how we are meant to respond and to say the right things, but it’s not always easy for people. One thing I’d be interested in is how when you’re having these internal conversations like a therapy session, how you perceive the response? As much as we can tell ourselves to hold it together, you don’t quite get that professional putter perspective. I know it might be something that you’d have to bring up with your family if you’re dependant on them at the moment, but one thing I did learn after a painstaking bunch of sessions where I sat and glared at this person, was that even the things I thought to myself that were helping were never quite as helpful as their input. I can only see my situation and my thoughts from my own side.

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From: Lisalovesfeathers

Hey Alex, Welcome to Heartsupport, Im Lisa. I too am pretty socially isolated, I have friends but they are almost all online. I can relate to a lot of what you have said in your post so believe me when I say you are not alone. I do not believe however that you are faking your way through, what you are doing is your best to manage difficult feelings and situations until you learn another way to do it and for that I would encourage you to find a way to see a real human therapist that you can talk to properly (I know that is hard) I found it very difficult, but it gets easier with each visit and they can really help with all the things that you are concerned about and give you ideas on how to help yourself to make things better. I really have faith in you friend and Id love to hear how you are getting on in the future. I wish you all the best. Lisa. x

Imaginary therapists don’t say much, just like the actual therapists I have seen, but it usually just boils down to ‘everything’s gonna be fine’. Which is nice and all but it doesn’t mean very much coming from my own head, especially when I am telling an imaginary therapist that I need help.

I do rely on my family, and I don’t really want to bring up therapy to them because I have spent lots of effort in recent times trying to show them that I am capable and independent, and we’re tight on money anyways. I think I will try the betterhelp trial though because I have to do something about this

From: Manni XP

Hi, Alex! Thank you for sharing here. I simply wanted to say that you are not alone in talking to imaginary people. I think of it as akin to simulating conversations - a thought exercise or meditation, of sorts. Sometimes, we have the answers we need, but we must consider things from the perspective of a friend in order for those answers to shine clearly. Please know that we shall continue to root for you.

1 Like

Hi there @Slq_ar,

It sounds like you feel like you need to socially “mask” to get along with people, and this makes a lot of sense – masking is incredibly common and you aren’t alone in the slightest! Not everyone loves spending a lot of time with others too, and that’s perfectly okay. I know some people who could spend all day and night meeting new people, and others who’d much prefer minimizing contact – there’s nothing wrong with either side of the spectrum. With all that said, when you aren’t that interested in conversing with others and feel the need to mask, exhaustion can come up quickly, so I hope you aren’t suffering too much from the burden of that exhaustion.

I also noticed your point about chatbots and wanted to mention that I’ve actually had a similar (though more mild) experience. I was emotionally struggling a bit and was thinking “hmm… I wonder what ChatGPT would say?” and actually got a response that was easily as good (or better) than anything the average person could have said – shockingly good. This is all a long way of saying that it’s okay to have emotions toward what a chatbot says; chatbots are incredibly smart these days!

As a couple of days have passed, I wanted to check back in with you. How does all this feel now?

Thank you, once more, for sharing and for being here. I’m wishing you all the best.
<3 Tuna

P.S. Welcome to HeartSupport. I’m glad you joined us here!

Hi @eagertuna0

I think I understand the concept of masking. But I think the bigger issue for me is that I don’t know how to take it off, or what I would be like without it. I like talking to people, but I don’t know how to express myself beyond sort of general politeness and it feels kinda suffocating. I use to joke around a lot, I don’t know where that went

It’s strange because usually whenever I have a panic attack or something like this I can just swallow it and move on pretty fast. But for the last week I have continually felt quite off kilter and jittery and emotional and I can’t get it to go away.

I don’t have money for therapy at the moment, but I found a free counseling offer on reddit and decided to give that a go, that’s gotta be better than nothing.

Thank you for checking in

Hi there @Slq_ar,

Thank you for the additional information. To be honest, I’m not sure many people know how to “remove” masks. From what I’ve heard from friends in similar situations, it helps to just accept that so-called “masks” are just components of the “real” you. With that said, I know that this is all pretty abstract and is unlikely to help much, so I’ll leave you off with this thought: It stinks to be exhausted from social interaction and to feel this way, but we’re here for you, and want to support you however we can.

I’m glad that you’re trying out the free counseling and hope that this helps you out. Please stay in touch if anything is on your mind.

<3 Tuna