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crowdsourcing therapy

On 10/05/2014 at 04:52 PM by Julian Titus

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Let’s have some real talk, shall we?

For the past few years, I’ve been noticing some things about myself that have troubled me, and lately things have been getting worse. I’ve never been an outgoing person, and it’s always been difficult for me to make friends or get along with people in general, but now it’s really beginning to affect my personal and professional lives. I will be the first to admit that I probably need some extensive therapy sessions, but seeing as I’m not made of money I’ll do the next best thing: crowdsource my mental health.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this post, and had intended for it to go up a few days before episode 55 of Nerds Without Pants, but talking about this stuff is difficult, and even the little that I went into on the podcast put me in a really bad way afterwards. I’ve broken my perceived issues down as best I can, because I truly believe that what’s going on with me is due to a multitude of factors and not just one overarching problem. So let’s get to it.

Strict religious upbringing

I talked about this a bit on the Backloggers Anonymous for El Shaddai, but I was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness. Blake, AKA whatisacow has talked about his similar upbringing and has a much more negative take on it than I do, but I would be lying if I said that the way I was raised didn’t have a significant impact on the way I deal with people. While I derive my morals, honesty, and work ethic from my religious background, I feel that I was held back in terms of social interaction. See, Jehovah’s Witness kids are taught to only socialize with other Witnesses, and steer clear of “worldly people”.

That’s all well and good if you grow up with a lot of Witnesses to talk to and interact with; you will still develop socially and be able to deal with people in your daily life just fine. Problem is, I didn’t have any JW friends growing up, and there was a gap of about 6 years where we just didn’t attend any meetings (read: “church”), so I was by myself almost entirely. I had school friends that I couldn’t spend time with after school, and my cousin David (also a Witness) who was like my best friend, but lived far enough away that we only saw each other for summer vacation.

I don’t have any negative feelings regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses society, and if I wasn’t such a lazy person maybe I’d be more religious. But I’ve branched off from my religion, and looking back I think that by obeying my parent’s strict rules about socializing that I did myself some real damage in the long run.

My father is a monster

If you met my dad you’d love him. He’s smart, funny, outgoing, and always seems to draw the room around him at get togethers. If you were part of his family or close social circle however, you’d see a totally different man.

I don’t want to be as reductive as calling him a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde typer of person, but my father does have a temper that I could only describe as “explosive rage”. I have spent a lot of my life in fear of this man, and even though he only hit me a couple times, the unpredictable nature of his temper and the terrifying nature of it had me treading softly around him in all things. I’ve heard people who had alcoholic parents talk the same way, and while I’ve never experienced that, I see a lot of parallels. I guess the main difference was, unlike an alcoholic where there might be visual cues that drinking has been happening, I never knew when my dad was about to go off. He would fume about things and unleash on whoever was nearby, with no rhyme or reason to it. And the worst part is that I have inherited his rage.

So, at 15 I made a concerted effort to control my temper. Most people who know me today have never seen me in the grip of this blood-red anger that I fight against, but it’s there, always below the surface. In curtailing this aspect of my emotions I believe that I have also dampened my other feelings. You will never see me very excited or really happy about things, because everything has been evened out into a single tone. When I try to express myself more intensely it always feels hollow and artificial. I used to think that this was the entire crux on my inability to get along with people, but in recent years I have found other issues.

Oh, and if you are inclined to tell me that I’m not my dad or that I have nothing to worry about, I really don’t want to end up getting shot in the stomach after punching a woman in the face during a bout of road rage.

I’m an introvert

I guess I always knew this about myself, and it probably comes as no surprise if you’ve read up until now. But I’ve been doing more research into what being an introvert means, and I’ve come away from it feeling even more abnormal, awkward, and messed up in the head than I ever imagined.

I have an inability to deal with other people the way I perceive “normal” people do. Getting me to talk is like pulling teeth. I rarely speak unless spoken to, and it is incredibly difficult for me to keep a conversation going. There have been times—especially in dealing with the opposite sex—where my brain was aware of what I should say to move a conversation along, but I simply couldn’t. Or, (more often than not) I simply have no idea what I should say or do when dealing with other people.

Being around people is exhausting for me, and as you can imagine I don’t have very many friends. The ones I do have figured out a long time ago that I’m usually going to say “no” when invited to do things, and I feel like asking people to hang out is like begging for money so I don’t spend very much time with people. It makes for a lonely road, but I see no way off of it.

Social Anxiety

Now, I don’t know if I really have this. This may just be part of the introversion thing. But meeting new people or being thrown into social settings that I haven’t braced for freaks me the hell out. I first noticed this when my first girlfriend dragged me to a 4th of July party shortly after we started dating. I was miserable. My mind was racing, trying to figure out what was wrong. Why couldn’t I talk to anyone? Why was I uncomfortable 100% of the time? Why couldn’t I have fun? Everyone else was having fun, so why was I in this repeating loop of self-doubt in my head?

After many years (well, 4: I didn’t go on my first date until I was 30) I have come to the conclusion that I must have a form of social anxiety. Parties, get togethers, unannounced guests will all trigger a fight or flight response in me, where I will choose “flight” every damn time. The most recent example of this was when the Pathfinder group I was with for 2 years added 4 new people without telling me. I had missed two weeks and all of a sudden there were all these strangers intruding on what was a very important bit of socializing for me. I couldn’t take it. I bolted like a bat out of hell, and I never went back. Granted, I had never felt truly comfortable there, and  I have burned bridges with a few people there (see the next item), but it was one of the only times where I could be myself and enjoy the company of other geeks.

This is affecting my work, as well. I started a new job a little over a year ago, and quite frankly my coworkers don’t like me. I’d go as far as to say one of them hates me outright. I think it’s because I’m content to be quiet and do my work, and I feel uncomfortable small-talking. If I know we aren’t going to be friends (and I am not at work to make friends) why should I bother trying to engage in small talk? Sure, that’s what most people do, but I can’t. I’m worried that this will ultimately stymie any attempt to rise up to a management role, as it’s impossible for me to connect with people on that level, and eventually everyone is going to write me off as that weird guy that doesn’t talk.

I’m socially retarded

No, I’m not using that word to be provocative, hurtful, or insensitive. I’m using that word because I believe, deep down, that my social development has been slowed to a crawl. I deal with situations much in the way that a teenager would: by overreacting, throwing a temper tantrum, and looking at everything in absolutes. I’ve lost a lot of friends in recent years (like, most of them), and I know it’s my fault. I don’t know how to deal with people, especially when they let me down or hurt me. I spent the majority of my 20s trying desperately to get people to “like” me in order to make “friends”, but I lacked the maturity or the emotional stability to keep any of these relationships up.

 This is definitely the culmination of all the aspects listed above. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my Gamefellas coworkers because, even though I was 18, I was still under my mother’s roof and them’s was the rules. On the rare occasion that I did appear at a social function I was always awkward and out of place, desperately wanting to cling to the one person I knew who was invariably the host. In disagreements with friends I have opted for the “carpet bomb” approach: react in such a way that completely obliterates the relationship with no way to repair things. That’s most likely because:

I’m not a very good person

This isn’t me going on a compliment fishing trip. I think that, if we all take a good hard look at ourselves, we are probably not very good people deep down. I’m just willing to admit it. I’m selfish, self-absorbed (if this blog wasn’t proof), and so brooding as to be almost comical. There is a rapidly declining number of friends who can deal with me, and if I’m looking into the future and being honest with myself I feel like I will be all alone one day, having driven all the people I care about away. I love my girlfriend, and I hope to marry her someday, but if things don’t work out between us I can see that being it for me. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for me to open up to new people, and all of the things I wrote about above are getting worse as I get older. Sometimes I worry that I’m going to continue to retreat further and further into myself, until I cease to function on my own.

To tie this into video games (because I can tie anything into video games), I find myself as the odd man out as the notion of single player titles falls by the wayside. Everyone wants to “connect” and “share” and I just want to fall into a world where I can pretend to be someone else for a few hours. I reject the notion that all gamers are socially awkward, but I do believe that games attract socially awkward people, because it gives us a chance to feel “normal”, and in most cases, the “hero”. Multiplayer is nearly impossible for me, and even though I’m looking forward to going to PAX South, a large part of me is terrified at the notion of being around all those people.

Um…yeah. I don’t have a succinct conclusion for this. I rarely stick the landing, but if you read this far, thank you? I think if I was only dealing with a couple of the things indicated above I would be just fine, but the combination of all of these things leaves me feeling  completely out of sorts. I see other people as if they were aliens, and I’m a scientist trying to understand them. But if everyone else is an alien, at some point you have to wake up and realize that the reality is the reverse of your perception: that you are in fact the alien, and the rest of the world is trying to figure out why you don’t belong.  



Matt Snee Staff Writer

10/05/2014 at 05:35 PM

I suffer from severe social anxiety as well as other anxieties similar to what u describe.  I socialize on the internet, but real life socializing with people I don't know very well is very hard for me.  I usually don't go out much, and don't have many real life friends, especially since in the last seven or so years I have lost of them, both to them not being to deal with me, or just getting busy with children and having families.  Now I mostly focus on my family, which I know will stick with me.  

I'm in therapy but I don't what the value of it is.  What I do know, is if you suffer a lot of fear and oriented problems, the only real thing to do is to confront it.  I don't really do this much, as I've constructed a nice little bubble to live in, and I'm taking baby steps to get back into the world.  But someday I hope to live a normal life again  

But again like I said, the only thing you can really do is face your fears and try to do these things even if they make you uncomfortable.  That's the only way you're going to get through this.  I know it isn't easy.  But that's the one thing I know for sure.  

Anyway, good luck and thanks for sharing.  I think you'll find a lot of people can relate.  

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/07/2014 at 09:10 PM

I hear what you're saying. My current course of action is to stay away from people as much as possible right now. I really don't feel like I have any business socializing with anyone right now, especially meeting new people. I realize that's not healthy in the long term, but it's what I have to do right now.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

10/05/2014 at 10:35 PM

E-mail sent!

Super Step Contributing Writer

10/06/2014 at 01:31 AM

I think you've identified your triggers. Now it's a matter of coming up with strategies to combat those triggers. I honestly do think therapy and possibly medication might be worth it, though I say that as a college student who has "free" access to a counselor, but it really did help me during my catastrophic Fall of 2013. There's definitely information online and feel free to ask me if you want to hear some of the things my counselor told me, cause I have similar anxiety issues that have gotten better as a result of a change in mindset. 

Some of what you describe sounds like Asperger's and reminds me of my ex-girlfriend's friend's boyfriend in Arkansas (almost want to use the phrase "twice-removed" here to be cheeky), but given your not-monotone voice and fairly normal cadence on NWP, I don't think that's it. Granted, I'm not licensed to determine any of that, so ... 

basically, feel free to PM me and I can relay any info that helped me in similar circumstances and we can both vent about similar experiences if that's what you want. 

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/07/2014 at 09:12 PM

I'm extremely apprehensive about taking pills. I'm already such a zombie most of the time that the thought of using medication to "even me out" sounds horrific. I know they really help some people, but I don't think they are for me. Maybe therapy when I can afford it though.

Super Step Contributing Writer

10/07/2014 at 11:29 PM

I thought the same thing, but in my case they don't make me a zombie. I just have an easier time putting things in perspective without sudden flight-or-fight reactions. The pills wouldn't help anywhere near as much without the perspective-changing therapy to be honest. 


10/06/2014 at 01:43 AM

All this sounds very, very familiar to me. I wasn't brought up JW, but everything you said about difficulty socializing and rage is a carbon copy to my experience. 

I did some Primal Therapy way back when and I think it set me on the right path, even though it was a bit challenging for me at the time. Their idea that you have to focus on feelings and get into the emotinal pain of your childhood seems right on to me. It's scary as all heck, but it gets to the heart of the matter.

I don't see a therapist anymore, but I work on things on my own, and sometimes I have a breakthrough and realize something about myself, and things change. I think it's absolutely possible to change and become who you really are. 

I guess what I'm saying is: you're not alone, and there's hope. That's about it.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/07/2014 at 09:13 PM

I think with me looking deep inside and realizing I have all these issues I can work to address some of them. I hope my girlfriend will be around to help me with them, because she helps me see a better side of me. Thanks for sharing. It's nice to have some other perspectives.


10/06/2014 at 11:23 AM

Except the father and religious part, I can relate to the rest or atleast some of the ideas.

I was born with Asperger syndrome, so I had to cope with some of the problems here that are common for the people that have it. I did have some psychologial help and I did have a few friends, but more the most part I never tried to be outgoing because I found it awkward and I wasn't one for being friends with everybody. Some of it is still true to this day, even if I do have some good relations with some people and some few friends, but even then, I often get careless with that.

Thanks for the share Julian.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/07/2014 at 09:14 PM

Thanks for your comment. I know there are a lot of people out there with varying degrees of these issues, and I think it's good to talk about them. Seems like it gets swept under the table a lot.


10/07/2014 at 01:53 PM

wow. Just wow.

I'll need to get back to you so I can be in the right mindset to offer some words about each of the subjects you've touched on. But before I do that I have a question.

will you be easily offended by any comments made by myself in reguard to these subjects that you brought up? I only ask because my method of psychological and sociological diagnostics can be rather harsh when i perform an inner evaluation of the core issues of any persona.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/07/2014 at 09:16 PM

That depends. Can you do so in a respectful manner? I'm all for real talk, but some people become needlessly brutal in the guise of "tough love".


10/07/2014 at 10:04 PM

I believe I can be. I was mostly concerned about the stark honesty that sometimes can't translate well over the internet. Like sarcasm as an example. In all evaluations honesty is the best policy. It is just that some may consider honesty to be too biting on touchy situations that can be looked in on. You wont' find any "stop being a wussy" talk if that is what your concerned about. I usually reserve that for the types that talk about suicide but only pursue that path because they just want attention.

I'm just concerned that I might say something that offends you when I have no intention to do such. I'm not sure if you are hyper sensitve like most in society where they take offense to any little thing or read to much into them.

If anything I can see how two of the outlying issues you speak of could be interconnected and from those show more corolation that could lead to a core purpose of the issues at hand.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/08/2014 at 08:24 AM

Have at it, then. :)

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