Saturday, 23 July 2016

Why do I seem invisible to people?

Dear Aunty Susan, I am a 23-year-old lady with an issue that bothers me a lot. I feel invisible to most people and it has made me really suicidal and depressed. I feel that no one really wants to be friends with me and no one cares about me.

Recently, I went out with my friends and we took pictures but when I checked Instagram , I realized that they have posted the pictures of three of them without me! It made me question our friendship in my mind. But I also feel like no one else cares either. It is always me who texts/call people for special occasions and when I don’t do it, people forget about me! It made me think that I might have some mental problem, like social anxiety, depression, or something else! I’m really shy and get anxious in most social situations. To the point that I lose my energy so fast. So I sometimes avoid social situations. I was much better as a kid. I was still shy around some not-so-close relatives. But I was okay in most other places and sometimes, I was shy at first, but not so shy when people started to know me. I think it started getting worse after secondary school to the point that I can’t even look into people’s eyes when talking to them. I’m painfully shy and socially anxious, even around old friends that I sometimes meet on the street and usually, I don’t know how to start conversations, how to hold a conversation and what to talk about. I really feel jealous of loud and popular people who have lots of friends who care about them. But when I go to a social situation, I can’t be the real me. I can’t emotionally open up to people , I can’t be loud. Also, I’m really afraid of conflict, and I always try to be careful and not to do things that “might” bother people or make them uncomfortable. What should I do about this? Nneoma, JosDear Nneoma, There is nothing “wrong” with you! When we are feeling depressed or anxious, we tend to spend a lot of time caught up in negative thoughts. Our brains tend to latch onto the negative and sometimes we misinterpret different things that people do and say. When you have the thought that “no one cares” or “other people are better than me,” try to catch these thoughts and ask yourself if they are true and helpful. If you do some detective thinking, you may find that the thoughts that go around in your head aren’t actually completely correct. You said that you went out with friends and took photos but they didn’t post the photo with you in it. There could be many reasons why – maybe they didn’t like how they looked in the photo with you, maybe they didn’t even realise that you would feel left out by that! Our negative brain can be quick to jump to conclusions, which aren’t actually true at all. You are very shy and so you aren’t spending a lot time talking to others, which then “confirms” the negative thought that you don’t have friends and no one likes you. Therefore, you continue to be shy and avoid talking to others. But the good news is that once you realise you are in this cycle, you can start to make a few changes that will help you get out of it. Learn forcing yourself to smile at someone or ask a question to someone sitting next to you in a bus or public places. It might not be instant, but keep persisting as you’ll start to notice people positively responding to you. This will increase your confidence in talking to others and hopefully, will help form stronger friendships. Don’t pressure yourself to jump straight into long conversations, a smile is a good start! Also, try to keep yourself busy with things you enjoy . Staying at home not doing anything can lead to getting caught up in all the negative thoughts and feeling more and more helpless. The important thing to know is that you are never alone and there are always people who care.