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FIRST PERSON: An Open Appeal

One CALM reader is appealing for your help and advice.  A very brave move.

Read on…

“Hi everybody. I am always low. This is due to numerous factors and I am not sure that I can address all of these, although solving a majority of them would help me no end. Is anyone out there willing and able to offer me any advice that you may be able to give?

I am in my late twenties, have a BA and MA, and a shed-load of fears and concerns. I still live at home with my parents. Nothing unusual in that during the current economic climate, but the fact that I am situated right in the green heart of rural England and am unable to drive means that I have not had any social life for several years. I have tried unsuccessfully to learn to drive in the past, but an insufficient income prevents me from doing this at the current time. Even if I had the money, I am not sure that I would be willing to throw good money after bad, as it were.

Even if I were able to socialise, there are problems and challenges there too. I have, since childhood, never really been in touch with popular culture. I found my childhood peers to be hard to connect with, since they were largely interested in sport, something that I have never really been into. Aside from a small glass of champagne at a family gathering way back at the end of the last century, I have been teetotal for my entire life. Social problem number two. In my view, this stopped me from socialising during my teenage years, as I was scared by the tales told of bashes over the weekend and what people had done whilst drunk, when myself and my friends returned to school on Monday. As far as I am concerned, this meant that I grew further apart from my peers, and largely stopped me from socialising with them outside of school, until I left for university. Fast-forward to a decade ago, and the start of my BA.

I loved the academic side of my first degree. It genuinely was a new world for me, and allowed me to indulge in levels of thinking and investigation undreamed of whilst at school. However, my natural shyness, compounded by an interest in mainly academic pursuits and by now a burning dislike of the drinking culture, led to me becoming increasingly isolated during my first year. I still don’t like to be around people who are drinking, and tend to try and leave the room or back into a corner when the wine comes out. I remember being at a gathering with my then girlfriend in the summer of 2007, and watching intently to see if the Pimms she had been sipping had temporarily altered her personality in any way, or if she had started to slur her words. I hate the idea of seeing the personality of someone that I care about, or in this case loved, changed.

The fact that I have never holidayed abroad also further limited my ability to contribute, whilst in my first year at uni, to conversations about how great Thailand and South America were. Thanks to my non-existent travel history, I am now filled with terror at the prospect of leaving the UK, where once I was excited. This has already helped to wreck one long-term romantic relationship. I still feel inadequate if I enter into a conversation about travel with someone.

Being single for life is something else that scares me. I don’t want to be single forever. I miss being held like I cannot describe. However, I am a difficult person to live with. Fear plays a massive part in my life, whether that is fear of large events such as terrorism, and the consequences that they could bring for society in general, a fear which is not helped by the fact that my work compels me to constantly monitor breaking news stories, or, closer to home, the fear of loneliness. This fear hurts perhaps most of all. I have already established that I am not a particularly sociable person, but like being around people that I get on with. The fact that I am losing my hair makes my fears of being lonely and single all the more real. I have long had a fear of being a single, elderly man with no friends left in the world, and I need to stop this from becoming reality.

My fears and hang-ups have already helped to drive one girlfriend away, and I don’t want it to happen again. I am also scared about how these will affect my relationships with current and future friends. I met my small number of current friends during university, and have stayed in touch with them ever since. That said, all of them enjoy a drink and most of them don’t mind travelling. Each day that passes makes me feel as though I have less and less in common with them, to the point where I am not really sure whether I want to stay in touch with them any longer. I am already considering leaving Facebook, and retreating further into my shell. During my lowest period of the last few years until now, in late 2010 and early 2011, I retreated into my shell and kept dwelling on childhood and where I had gone wrong in my life. This focus on childhood had some unexpectedly comic touches, such as a dream, during one of my rare periods of sleep at that time, that the miniature Airfix soldiers that I had played with as a child were life-size and marching towards me, still in their original plastic colours. Don’t worry, I can’t work that one out either.

When I look back nearly one decade at the young man who was in the midst of his A-levels and wildly excited about uni, I am angered and disappointed in myself. I am light years behind my peers from school and university, and feel that I will never be up-to-scratch compared with them, or anyone else of my generation and educational background. I feel less mature now than I did five years ago, when I was living and working far way from home, up in the north-west. I hate feeling immature, and looking at how my peers are progressing only makes me feel worse. I could try and get away from home, but three years of job searching have only landed me with a self-created role that can easily be fulfilled using only a PC, meaning that there was no opportunity to move attached to the job in question. The fact that I am currently self-employed, means that I have no colleagues to talk with on a daily basis, even over the phone, and the prolonged period of searching for work that I experienced has convinced me that only I can see that I would be a good employee. I am worried that the above hang-ups and fears, combined with only a limited engagement with popular culture, travel and adult socialising norms could convince people that I meet that I could never be a good friend or partner.

Has anybody any advice for me? Maybe you have been here before. If you feel that this is all a lot of fuss about nothing, please let me know, I promise that I will not be offended. There are much greater problems in the world. If anyone knows how I can try and dig myself out of this hole, please leave me a message. Thanks for your help.”


If you have any advice or thoughts to help James, please leave a comment below.  Please note that offensive comments will be removed immediately.

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