Dealing with Loneliness and Social Anxiety
Hello, this is my 1st initiated post on this site, so I'm a bit nervous. I did search for similar topics on this site, but a lot of them have been inactive for several years, so here goes...
A little background, I was pretty much born in "da twoof", baptized at 17, pioneered for about 6 years, was part of the RBC part time, and was even in the foreign language field for the last 3 years I was a JW. So I pretty much had a pretty active social life within the organization due to being part of all of those things.
I disassociated about 3 years ago, and literally lost all of my JW family and friends overnight. Although I'm happily married and have a beautiful daughter, and have been pretty much adopted by my hubby's family, I still can't quite shake the feelings of loneliness from losing all of my family and social circle. My husband doesn't always understand how that feels (since he never was a JW), and although he's kind of a loner himself, he still has a close circle of friends that he can still turn to (which I honestly envy at times).
I honestly feel like I struggle to fit in virtually everywhere (work, etc), and I haven't made any decent social connections since I've left the JWs. My husband has encouraged me to just ago out there, find out what I enjoy and meet like minded people who do those things. However, my social anxiety has caused me to make excuses for not doing so. At times, I'm literally terrified of meeting new people. (I also honestly struggle with figuring out what I really do like, since my life has revolved around JW activities for so many years.)
I just wanted to post this to see if any one of you have experienced something similar since leaving the JWs. If so, how did you cope with it?
Hey Novice, I can relate to you as I also have had social anxiety, as a teen but was able to overcome it for the most part. I also was active in the organization pioneering etc. then all of a sudden all of my JW friends were out of the picture which made things difficult at first. I agree with you husband and also recommend to just "get out there". I think if you were able to meet at least one good friend that you have things in common with, it would make a huge difference. My first "worldly" friends as an adult were co-workers. Do you work or go to school? maybe you could start there? Are there any local ex-JW support groups in your area? Just my 2 cents.
I don't have all the answers but there is plenty of people on this forum who have experienced similar feeling to you, generally speaking doing things for others is therapeutic. You will have to get out of your comfort zone it will be then that your world will be brighter.
We are going through some of the same issues.
First, It's not difficult to make JW "friends" as they are "automatic". You show up at the Kingdumb Hall and Field Circus and you have dozens of friends. If your hubby is and elder and goes out to give talks, you have 100s of friends all over the Circuit. If he has "connections" and gets Circus Assm or Convention parts, you have 1000s of friends all anxious to be seen having lunch with you (him). The real world just ain't like that. You have to work at it to make true friends.
Second, our entire lives also revolved around JW activities. Vacations were to foreign conventions and seldom worked territory and social events were all JW related. If you are like us, you may not even have any hobbies. We had no time for such things! Now is the time to find the things you enjoy pursuing since you have Tues & Thurs evening free, as well as Sat & Sun morning!
The greatest revenge is living a happy & successful life!
Thanks for the advice so far. I do work and actually was able to go back to school and finish my Masters, but I almost feel like fear of rejection keeps me from getting closer or pursued those friendships of the people I come across there. I think my social awkwardness is obvious at my job too. While I try my best to be friendly, it seems like I still struggle to fit in.
I've tried looking up exjw groups in my area (I've relocated since my disassociation). So far I haven't found an active one, but I won't give up on the search.
I have faith that one day you will find someone that you "click" just be patient and try your best. Hang in there!
after a lifetime of being told that worldly people are lairs, immoral, drug taking alcoholics who can never be trusted, it's no wonder that we have social issues. But from my own experience, I've found that most people are just trying to find their way in this world and many have the same worries and insecurities as we do. Of course there are those people who are self-centered and generally not nice to be with but I've known many of these kinds in the Truth over the years too. My only advice is to "have friends by being one first". Task a risk and do random acts of kindness to those who might need a little encouragement. It may never be returned by that particular person, but your character will develop and so will your reputation for being a good person. And just as your husband said, try something new ... scuba diving, tennis, stamp collecting, what ever ... and besides stretching your personal boundaries, you'll have something new to talk about over coffee to others.
The all too common results of leaving a religion like the JWs are the feelings you are experiencing. To feel devastated at the loss of your family and close friends is totally natural.
Many people feel that there is a way of moving on and for those feelings to go away. They truth is that they don’t ever completely go away. Even after years, those feelings of sadness and loss can strike your heart, many times out of the blue.
It is not all bad news though. There are some very positive things that can be done in order to compensate for what you have lost.
The first thing is to make new friends. Even though you have been adopted by your husband’s family, this isn’t going to help you with your feelings of loneliness. You need your own friends for your esteem. In the back of your mind, they will have just accepted you for your tragic circumstances.
As lovely as this is, you need people that want to be your friend because of who you are, not just because you are married to them in law. As you have found out, making friends and feeling comfortable when meeting new people is not at all easy. This might be because you have not fully recovered from being a JW yet.
In this matter you have so many good things going for you. Ex-JWs have so many assets that help them achieve acceptance and friendship outside of the religion. The hardest part is recognising what you have to offer people. This is due to the horrible feelings of rejection you feel when you leave the Watchtower and the feelings of unworthiness that you naturally functioned with while you were an active JW.
You need to heal to feel better and you need to feel better in order to heal. A catch 22. So you need to fake it to start with. This never feels good. In fact it can prove very uncomfortable as your post suggests. Nothing at all to worry about.
You need to force yourself out of the security of your comfort zone and get out and meet new people and try new things. This will leave you feeling very uncomfortable and anxious, but these feelings are a great learning process that you can build on for the future. So try not to shy away from how you feel, as bad as it may seem at the time.
When you try new things in the ‘world’ it is going to feel so desperately alien. You are going to feel like a fish out of water. In many situations you are going to feel awkward. This is to be expected. It is also a good gauge. When you try something and you feel awkward, it means that it is not necessarily for you. Be cautious not to write things off too soon though.
It is important for you to try many things, things that you may think are not for you. This won’t be so easy when you have a family to look after, but it is such an important step to recovery. To find your niche outside of the organisation is of utmost importance. Your esteem lies there. Esteem is the biggest thing that will help you manage the feelings of loss of your family and friends.
To be accepted outside of the JW religion will be the biggest aid in your recovery. Where that acceptance will be is difficult to know and might not be in a place that you expect.
The other key in helping you take this first step is the knowledge that most people in the ‘world’ feel the same as you do, even though they have never been a JW or similar. When I first ventured out after leaving I was astonished at how many broken people there were out there. When you realise that you are not unique in feeling alien, it can help you challenge the feelings of being an oddball and aid you in feeling more acceptable to people. You then recognise what you have to offer the world outside.
Once you find even a little acceptance outside in the ‘world’, your esteem will blossom quite quickly. Things will then snowball. You will feel more confident. The more confidence you feel, the more you will heal, leaving you with more ability to try more things. It will only be a matter of time before you find your all important niche in life outside of the organisation.
There is more that could be said, but these are the bones of the road to recovery. Be as brave as you can be and don’t give up or relax into a life where you are not fully content.
I wish you the very best.
Hi Novice Locks 14!
Nice to meet you. You are not alone with these feelings. I am also a sufferer, fish out of water syndrome. Well done on starting a topic, and a meaningful one too.
I guess people in general have long since formed their social networks and are not in the same rush we are to form new friends. I came to the conclusion that it takes time and patience. I joined a hiking group a couple of months back, which is good since there is always something to talk about due to the nature of the activity- aliviating social awkwardness, slowly friendships are being formed.
Welcome to the forum.