Dear Amy: I’m struggling. We started a business and had a baby during the pandemic. My wife and I have become reclusive (especially me).
The isolation has caused me to lose my social graces.
Basically, I just feel annoyed by everyone.
I don’t want to get together with people.
My increased presence on social media has shown me how crazy some of these friends’ ideas are.
I liked them better when I knew less. I could just focus on what we have in common. I’ve discovered some very unattractive traits about a lot of the people I interact with.
I’d like to ask how to return to previous ways, but I don’t know if I even want to.
I still do some things: I play sports and coach, but I don’t really socialize much.
I used to go to parties, bars, golf outings, etc.
I just don’t feel like doing these things anymore, and I’m turned off by people.
Maybe I’ve just become super judgmental. I’m letting these friendships and relationships go because I feel like I can’t deal with them — or don’t want to be bothered.
It’s to the point where any little thing can get you on my no-friend list now.
I suppose it is neurotic, but I’m just not sure how to turn the tiller.
It’s even affecting my family.
Obviously, I suffer from some anxiety and depression, but I don’t feel like they’ve taken over my life.
I just don’t want to hang out anymore. I feel like I should want to, but I just don’t.
– Struggling Dude in the Midwest
Struggling Dude in the Midwest: First, take a very deep breath. You have experienced extremely stressful life changes during the past year. Starting a business and having a baby are two events that are bound to profoundly affect how you spend your time.
However, based on what you report, I would say that your anxiety and depression are dominating your life.
Your hair-trigger anger is alarming, and you are perceptive to see this change in your temperament as a definite cause for concern. It’s time to take this seriously; start with a visit to your primary care physician; seek a referral to a therapist.
Your experience of the pandemic has amplified everything for you, and like many people (myself included), you are resisting “getting back out there.”
Please, detach from whatever social media is triggering you. (I’ve done this, and it has helped.) You could preserve some of your real-world relationships with people who are good at life but awful on social media.
You and your wife should make a date to take your baby to a park, cafe, or playground. Sit together and enjoy your child. Tiptoe out into the world in stages, and you’ll encounter parents of young children and other people (like me) who are also fumbling, blinking and gingerly emerging. (c) Ask Amy
Huh. I have no idea if mental illness is coloring his perception or not. No clue. I can’t even offer a guess, but he ought to look into it and get it checked. But what interests me is that he’s gained increased awareness, and it’s upsetting for him. That happens. Sometimes you learn more about human nature, or more about how life works, and it hurts like hell. You long for your past naïvete to return.
He sounds disillusioned. Unfortunately, the only way past it is through it. Whatever his friends are posting on social media can’t be unlearnt, so the letter writer’s going to have to acknowledge that his friends aren’t all that great (assuming they’re posting offensive stuff at regular intervals, for example). (If what they’re posting is weird and hard to relate to, then I’d unfollow them but I wouldn’t unfriend them. And I do have some social media friends who this applies to.)
You could preserve some of your real-world relationships with people who are good at life but awful on social media.
I don’t know. I mean, is their content boring, or is it unforgivably offensive? This really matters! If someone’s that offensive on social media, then you shouldn’t want to hang out with them in any context.
I experienced a similar thing when I became paranoid. For years, I couldn’t connect with anyone. If someone on the sidewalk smiled at me, I wondered what their motives were. I saw darkness in everyone.
The best way to overcome that, as far as I know (psychiatric treatment aside), is to start realizing that if everyone’s letting you down, it’s not you, it’s them. For years–YEARS!–all of my relationships went wrong or died tragically or were pitiful. What I realize now is that I was unfortunate enough to never know any truly high-quality people. I’m not talking about perfect people, but people who care about others and never want to be accidentally hurtful. That sort of thing.
There are exceptions everywhere, though, and you have to look for them. If you’re disillusioned by everyone around you, then seek out the exceptions. For example, when I was bullied in Georgia by all of my coworkers, there was one person in my corner. And that person was my supervisor. He and I cared about each other and had each other’s backs, but we weren’t open about it. It was rather hush-hush for several reasons. But now that I look back, instead of focusing on all the evil coworkers I had, I focus on how he was there trying to fix it all behind the scenes, even though I only sensed it and didn’t know it for sure.
I even sent him angry letters several years after leaving, blaming him for not being more on top of things. I was in a dark place. Fortunately, he has a forgiving nature (or he never got the letters). I reconnected with him in the past year, and he was glad to hear from me. He said he quit his job there, and it saved his life. He’s married now. I’m happy for him. If I ever become engaged, I’ll reach out to him and let him know. I guess he and I have the sort of connection where we rarely interact but would always be there for each other to celebrate major blessings.
So what the letter writer needs to do is look for the hidden blessings in a sea of people who aren’t true blue. If he could focus on his gratitude for his wife, for example, that would be a great start. And he should also focus on being the best dad ever, which he can totally accomplish. Also, there’s nothing wrong with reprioritizing how you spend your time and who you spend it with. Imagine if we went through our whole lives without ever doing that! I guess we’d all still be playing in the sandbox. (Oh my gosh! Does anyone else out there remember sandboxes?! They were so messy when it rained.)
He also needs to unfriend or unfollow the offenders on social media. One way facebook works for me at long last is that I don’t follow anyone whose posts upset me. Facebook is one place where you want it to be all cute cat videos. Nothing wrong with that.
In other news, my evil sister is scheduled to get married in two or three weeks, but her intended, Mr. Perfect, has been stricken down in his prime by a bizarre health issue. I don’t want to say what he got sick with lest I would be violating his privacy, so I’m just going to say that he has mad cow disease. (He doesn’t have mad cow disease.)
I’m praying for him because he’s a good person, and I don’t even want to imagine how my life would change if he were no longer around to keep my sister away from me. (I’m not trying to make it about me, but my sister’s a genuine threat.) I’m going to get him a get-well-soon card from me and my dad, I hope. There’s been a lot of family drama with everyone concerned the wedding won’t happen if he doesn’t recover. I’ll keep you all posted!