Hello, Papabear. Thanks for reading my letter, I think the work you do with this website is really amazing.
So here’s the thing: I been feeling bad or nothing at all, I don't get excited about anything anymore. I don't want to do anything, so I do nothing all day. I have books I wanted to read but I lack the will to start. I stay at my pc waiting for someone to talk to me on skype, looking at random stuff at internet, fapping, doing all kinds of useless things. Sometimes I try to draw but I always stop after 10 minutes or so. Sometimes I feel a strong desire to be part of something, a group or a fandom so I'll have someone to talk to, and I don't know why I don't join something. Talking to furries most of the time don't result in good conversations. I find myself trying to draw stuff to please people hoping I can make friends, it kinda works but not the relationship I would like. My real life friends are scarce and they don't really have much in common with me or don't talk to me much.
I know I have to change something, but I don't know what to change or where to start. I'm going to start Tai Chi classes next week so hopefully that helps, but I feel like its not going to be enough. Not even playing games get me excited anymore, I'm tired of listening to the music I have and I feel really angry when I go on the internet to look for more for some reason.
I wanted to never log in skype anymore, but I feel addicted to it, the hope that someone will want to talk to me and I wont be there, which never happens anyway. And feeling like this isn't good for me since I feel physical pain when I'm stressed or feeling anxious. Which is one of the reasons my life been really hard for several years now.
I guess I'm just another lonely person seeking for attention. That feeling that my existence doesn't matter at all. And really sucks to admit that being old as I am. Maybe I even deserve to feel like this considering all the friendships I neglected on the past, it took me quite a while to realize what an asshole I was to everyone, now that I changed, there isn't anyone here to see anymore.
I guess what I want is a legitimate reason to do something since I feel I'm never going to be happy at all. What could I possibly seek that would change how I feel about things, how I feel about my future? I can't even look forward into buying stuff, I bought enough stuff to realize that materials only make me happy for a brief moment. The worst part is that I'm in college for a year now and I didn't made any friends. So I'm stuck in a senseless quest for a senseless job, to get senseless money, to buy senseless shit, to live a senseless life.
Spike (age 21)
* * *
You’ve come to the right place for a sympathetic ear: I know EXACTLY what you mean, having gone through what you are going through several times before. Before we continue, have you seen a counselor or psychotherapist?
* * *
A few months ago I gone to a psychiatrist, we didn't talked much and he gave me some anti anxiety meds which made me start to have anxiety attacks every night so I stopped taking them. I was in his office for 20 minutes, and 10 of this 20 minutes he was on the phone with someone, so I guess he wasn't very good at his job. I actually only asked him for help about my irritable bowel syndrome, which makes my belly hurt like hell whenever I'm stressed or anxious.
* * *
I hear you. I went to a psychologist for several months and was not very happy with him. I often recommend professional therapists to my readers because I am not one and it is not right for me to offer advice on psychological issues without at least giving people a heads up that the other option is available. Some people are lucky and find good therapists; others, like you and me, get lemons.
Before you give up on psychotherapy, however, I would suggest you try another psychologist or psychiatrist (and ask him or her about something else besides your bowels). The reason is that there is a possibility your problems might be caused by biological factors, such as hormone or other imbalances. It is important to have that checked by a doctor. In fact, you might consult with a regular physician for advice on this.
Okay, enough with the doctors and psychologists. Let’s tackle your letter piece by piece.
First off, part of your problem is that, in an attempt to make friends and gain attention, you are doing things to please other people rather than yourself. A lesson that I am still learning in my life (giving you three decades’ heads up here that will hopefully save you time and grief I was not spared) is that when you are a people pleaser you rarely please yourself. In your case, drawing art to please others sucks the fun out of art because you aren’t drawing what YOU like; therefore, what fun is it? In a sort of related example from my own life, I enjoy history and learning about it through books and online and from TV documentaries. In high school, I loathed history courses because the teachers made it godawful boring. Nothing but names and numbers and dates. I learned history for the test; I read books to write papers to get good grades. By the time I was done with the course, I thought that history was boring. It wasn’t until I stumbled on some excellent documentaries that a new spark came alive in me and now I love to learn about history.
Therefore, step one is to answer yourself honestly this question: why am I drawing art, reading these particular books, studying these particular subjects, etc.? If you are doing so to please others or because “it’s good for me” or any other reason than “because I want to for my own enjoyment and enrichment,” then you are doing it for the wrong reason. Refocus your motivation to center on yourself. Tai chi might actually be a good way to assist you with this, as well as your anxiety issues, as it helps you with focus and helps to calm you.
Next, reexamine your friendships. Sounds like a lot of your nonfurry friends have little in common with you and don’t even converse with you much. Why are they your friends? They aren’t, really. Are you seeking friendships with the sole motivation of being afraid to be alone? Then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ve tried this, too. When I moved out to the Coachella Valley, I wanted to meet local bears and be friends with them. Turns out, well, a lot of the local bears are douchebags. I was trying to pick friends for the wrong reasons. Fortunately, I found some friends who are real friends and care about me.
Tired of games and music? Yeah, been there, too. At first glance, many people would say this is a sign of clinical depression—when the things that used to bring you pleasure no longer do so. This can be true sometimes, but there could be another reason: you need to break out of your comfort zone and old habits. For example, as a young bear, I used to only listen to pop music. I didn’t try anything else; I also shunned “old people music” like what my parents listened to. But, as I got older, I started listening to music less. It started to sound like the same ol’, same ol’. My wife at the time introduced me to country music, and I got over my preconception that it was all “Cryin’, Dyin’ an’ Drinkin’” stuff. Garth Brooks is awesome. More recently, I’ve really gotten into “grampa music” such as Frank Sinatra. His stuff still holds up. And listening to music like this has reinvigorated my appreciation of old favorites of mine such as The Beatles. In addition, I started taking piano lessons and am totally into jazz now. For fun, I also enjoy listening to reggae, and my sister-in-law, believe it or not, bought me a CD or yodeling music when she was in Europe. LOL! Hey, it’s fun when you’re in the mood. There is a whole world of music out there. Try new stuff!
Games? Yes, after a time, gaming can get dull, too. Especially if you get into a rut with games that are all, say, first-person shooters. I kinda went through this when I got into SecondLife. At first, I was completely intrigued, but, after a couple years, felt I was wasting my FirstLife and quit. I really don’t have time for games or virtual reality stuff right now, but if I did, I would mix things up. Try games that exercise your mind more, such as “Myst” or “Civilization.” If that doesn’t work, well, just take a break from gaming and try something in the real world.
And that brings us to our next topic: breaking out of all the stuff you’re doing now and completely shake up your life. I suspect, in your case, that too many of the things you are trying—gaming, music, reading, drawing, buying stuff you don’t really need—are things you do by yourself. And while you are trying to socialize, much of it seems to be online, when you are, physically, also alone.
Go out into the Real World! My best suggestion: do some volunteer work for a worthy cause. Part of your problem may very well be that you intuitively feel like you are not making a difference in the world through your current activities. You may be surprised how soul-nourishing helping others can be. And you can combine this with your furry interests, too, if you like. For instance, I was just reading about the Atlanimals group, which does charitable work while in fursuit. My buddy Tycho Aussie does this on an individual basis. It’s something I’d really like to get into, too, with my fursuit.
Yes, it might be that you made mistakes in the past and have alienated some people. It might even be that you will never get those friendships back (have you tried contacting people and giving them a heartfelt apology?), but none of that means you can’t start fresh. At 21, you are still at the beginning of what will hopefully be a long life, and there is plenty of time to make a fresh start—or even two or three fresh starts.
My advice, in summary: break out of old ruts to try new things, make those new things stuff that involves interacting with people in the real world, and remember that, while it’s nice to help others, being a people-pleaser is not a good strategy. It’s not selfish to please yourself first, as long as you are kind and considerate to others, because when you’re happy that happiness will rub off on others and make your whole world brighter.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.