DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: It’s been a while since I last asked (I was the LW who wrote in for “Rebuilding the Life He Ruined”), and while I did take the lessons there to heart, it’s more like a concerted effort of nailing a box of Jell-O to a tree, nothing is sticking.
I guess I’m writing again from a dark place in life. First off, I’m graduating. Yipee! I can finally be an indie game developer as I dreamed of when I took my Computer Science courses! But unfortunately, I cannot really be happy about it.
I’ve been having dreams of reunions with my friends from junior high, but whenever I tried to reconnect with them, I just get met with radio silence. Even letting days pass to cool down, and still no response. Pretty much just confirmed to me those friendships are long since gone, since if I keep pushing, I’m gonna come off as a needy a--hole.
And for the most part, I am living by myself at this point. I’m living with my parents, sure, but the most they do is come home from work, eat dinner, then go to bed, minimal discussion between all of us, so it may as well be as good as living alone.
And I have to say, I think I might be losing it. I hate being alone with my thoughts. (Usually thoughts of me or my family dying of rabies from an unseen bat) And really, trying to fill the void with new friends hasn’t been working well, since I can’t bring myself to talk to people I barely know nor care enough to know.
I wanted friends I can share my creative writing stories and game ideas with, all this creativity, and I’m the only one at the museum. At the same time, this runs the risk of coming across as the “guy that just wants to sell his mixtape”. And I honestly see myself falling down the rabbit hole of seeing the ‘power of friendship’ as bulls--t since it didn’t work for me and kinda resonating with Adachi from Persona 4 (which isn’t a good sign).
Which brings me to my next point, “the level grind to betterment”. I saw comments relating to videos analysing Adachi and most of them call out others like “if only you actually TRIED to make friends” or “if only you TRIED to put in the work”, which I’m not disagreeing with. But at the same time, I see the grind to betterment as traversing the Darkest Dungeon. Trials happen, Stress increases, and there’s only so much anyone can take before they hit a Stress threshold and give up.
So I guess what I’m asking is, how do I recover from pretty much what’s left of my entire support network just being flicked off overnight and how do I push the level grind without, you know, being beat down further by getting seemingly nowhere?
I would see a shrink, but honestly, after just having had to bury my aunt four days after my graduation, the funeral expenses dented the budget, and I wouldn’t risk starving just to see to my mental health.
– Lost, Lonely, Grieving
DEAR LOST, LONELY, GRIEVING: OK, LLG, I’m saying this as compassionately as I can: the reason why you’re still dealing with these issues – the whole “nailing jello to a tree” thing – is because you desperately need to be talking to a therapist.
This hasn’t changed since the last time you wrote in. That whole “thinking about me or my family dying from being bitten by rabid bats” is very much the sort of intrusive thought that tends to accompany issues like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. And not to put too fine a point on it, talking about resonating with a character who’s whole thing is being so self-isolating that he becomes a serial killer of women is not a great indicator that you’re in good working order. Especially when much of Adachi’s circumstances are self-inflicted.
Part of the problem is that you’re not moving on. Your junior high friends have made their lack of interest obvious; no reply is a reply. At best, all you’re doing there is trying to tap a dry well. You’re wasting your time and resources pursuing it for no reason other than it seems like they’re the last batch of people you hadn’t alienated yet.
And honestly, I’m not surprised you’re having issues, considering that you veer between wanting to make friends but also apparently being either apathetic about the people you meet or feeling active dislike for them. Neither attitude is going to endear you to others.
Part of the problem is that you’re isolating yourself to an absurd degree. You have, quite literally, made yourself alone in the crowd. You aren’t talking to anyone. Not family, not friends, not strangers. Being social is like a muscle; you improve it by exercising it. But if you don’t work it, it starts to atrophy. That lack of social skills and unwillingness to work at them has bitten you in the ass before. The fact that little seems to have changed hasn’t helped.
I know you feel like you’re trying to explain things in metaphor with your game references, but what you’re actually doing is giving reasons why you “can’t”. It’s hard, sure, but it’s necessary. If you need to take it in stages or take it more slowly than you’d prefer because you need to build your emotional stamina or work within your circumstances, then recognize that part of the grind is learning how to work within your limits and how to expand those limits over time.
But before you do that, you have to accept that this is going to take work, it’s going to take time, and the “power of friendship” ending comes after the person has actually worked on having friendships. That doesn’t seem to have been happening… and considering the s--t that went down in your last letter, I’m not entirely surprised.
But more than anything else is the fact that you, again, desperately need the sort of help that can only come from working with a trained mental health professional, not a loudmouth with an advice column. That much hasn’t changed, and honestly, until it does, nothing is going to get better. That’s going to be the long and short of it. This is going to need to be a priority for you if you want to move forward and actually improve.
Your aunt passed away recently and you have my sympathies. You having to deal with funeral expenses is, likewise, a shame and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that. But this is one of those times when, if you want things to get better, you’re going to have to make some hard choices and figure out how to make things work. And quite frankly, if you don’t figure out how to make those choices for yourself, they’re going to end up being made for you, and in ways that you’re probably not going to like or appreciate.
This is the time when you need to start taking some serious steps to figuring out what you can do to get the help you need. This may mean asking your parents for financial assistance until the bite that the funeral expenses took out of your budget is eased. It may mean looking into what social services are available to you, either through your local municipality or through the university; many still have options for recent graduates, or could help you find someone who’s willing to work with you on a reduced-cost basis.
But if things are this bad and you’re sincerely worried about where it could possibly lead if you don’t halt the descent? Then you need to put your money where your mouth is, metaphorically and literally. You are well past the point where this is something that you can muscle through on your own.
Get help. Get professional help that actually addresses the underlying problems you’re facing, because this isn’t a case of having been abandoned for no reason or people maliciously dropping you like fifth period French. You’re still dealing with some significant mental health issues and it’s well past time to address them.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com