This week, an email popped up in Mamamia’s submission inbox…
Sent on 13th November, 12:29 pm.
Subject line: I have no friends. Not one.
I am no longer on Facebook. Despite Facebook alerting people to their friends birthdays, not one person would post on my page a simple Happy Birthday.
I called my wedding and 30th birthday “intimate gatherings” when in reality I didn’t have anyone to invite. I danced alone at my birthday and sat alone at my wedding. I did have friends at school but never many and I had troubles keeping them. I remember worrying I wouldn’t have anyone to sit with at the formal.
I feel very anxious about all of this.
What few acquaintances I had, completely disappeared during my divorce. My ex-husband was incredibly social with a large circle of friends. He always just assumed I was difficult or “antisocial”.
I’m 32, and work with some wonderful women, and try and be as friendly as possible… but that never seems to get me an invite to weekend drinks.
I’ve tried joining yoga classes to meet new people but females always tend to take a “buddy” to things so it’s hard to start a conversation when everyone already seems to have someone with them.
Part of me feels silly for writing these things, part of me is relieved to get it off my chest. Any advice on this would be great, it’s really started to impact on me now that I live alone.
So, to help L - and any other readers out there who are feeling alone right now - we reached out to The Friendly Psychologist Jacqui Manning for advice.
"My first suggestion for L will not be a practical one - but she's identified that she's anxious," Jacqui told Mamamia over the phone from her Sydney office.
"It sounds like she's worried. First of all, I'd recommend for her to go see a GP and talk about her anxiety. Anxiety is so common and people don't realise that, but it can negatively affect how your body reacts, and how your energy is. She's definitely not alone in feeling anxious. If L could try and find some ways to manage that, it would be a fantastic first step."
Feeling extremely anxious in social situations - or feeling an intense pressure to make new friends - can affect how we communicate, Jacqui said, which could be contributing to L's struggles.
Jacqui has worked as a psychologist for nearly 20 years, and said everything from breathing exercises, yoga, mindfulness, exercise and tapping therapy can alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
"It's obvious that L has had a lot of social situations that have gone wrong, and when she experienced a difficult situation, the next time she tried to go out, she would have taken that fear with her," Jacqui said. "If she's not ready to seek help straight off, I would recommend keeping a journal to let go of those negative thoughts."
While purging negative self-talk in a journal or diary may seem juvenile - a practice relegated to teenage years - Jacqui said it can be very therapeutic for adults.
Above all? Jacqui said L needs to be kind to herself.
"It sounds like she's had a huge upheaval and change with her divorce," Jacqui said. "I'd tell her, 'Don't be hard on yourself, this is a big shift in your life. Grieve for your loss. Cry and let it out, it will lighten your load'.