From a young man in the UK: How do I just talk to people without feeling down regretful and wanting to escape?

I’ve always had issues talking to people since a kid, in school I would be unnaturally quiet for some also socially awkward and depressed.

As an adult ever since my early 20s I been struggling more, I hardly ever socialise,  always procrastinated without realising and always found it hard to fit in, because of my socially awkward behaviour and confusion and mistrust of others… I always became the target of those who like to make fun of me for their entertainment, taken advantage of.
I regret now in my 30s that I wasted my youth being like that, but just couldn’t help it.

I act a little similar to autistic kids I remember in school.

I think I’m a bit better than before, last year I started CBT and went volunteering,  but could never fit in.

When I talk to people, even childhood friends and cousins who say I was not like this when I was a kid, I go mind blank, socially confused, unable to make adult conversations beyond small talk. I carry on let them do the talking, but end up feeling like wanting to escape and tired.

Reaching my 30s, it’s like I’m used to being quiet, used to avoiding people that even my voice is always low and I get tickly throat simply talking shouting or singing to myself. (Which I guess is because I hardly ever talk much.)

Nothing interests me much, I have interests, things I like, but can never talk about them.
In my 20s I was more comfortable talking online, I used to help teach Latin Americans English online. Nowadays, just chatting to people, I start, then I get the same feeling as offline,  just have nothing much to say, wanting to escape and regret chatting.

I started chatting to girls from online dating app, they seems a nice people, there’s one I like, but as soon as I start, those feelings come back. Just blank, down and unable to open up too much beyond the basic small talk, unable to make fun engaging conversations, I feel like I’d like to see them offline, but know I’m not the same person offline. Some girls on those sites seem confident and probably out of my league.

It’s like I’m in a bubble that feels comforting but lonely and boring and wanting to escape but stay at the same time.

Please don’t put yourself down for withdrawing when you were young. It sounds to me like you were shy and socially awkward from a young age. It’s sad you didn’t get the help you needed then but it isn’t your fault. Also sad is that you were bullied for something you couldn’t help and didn’t know how to fix.

But that was then. This is now. Unlike then, you have the ability to get yourself the help you need. It sounds to me like you are in a vicious cycle: You are afraid to participate is social situations so you withdraw. Isolating prevents you from getting any practice with the social rituals so you become less confident to try. Being less confident, you withdraw some more and feel bad about yourself. Clearly, this cycle isn’t getting you anywhere.

I strongly urge you to find a therapist who specializes in social anxiety. Ideally the same therapist will be running some group therapy. Group therapy can give you needed practice within a safe environment.

You said you got some CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy). That’s a great start but, since you are still feeling distressed, it was only a start. Ask that therapist how you can access more long term treatment and support with the added service of group treatment.

Do follow through. You need and deserve to have a life that includes comfortable interaction with others.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie