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Difficulty Making Friends After a History of Being Bullied

Published: September 08, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,

I have a question I am a 15year old boy and need help I am not suicidal but i have a hard time making friends my story is that I moved to a different state in a boarding school (parents are not around) and I can't make true friends if made (what I thought was a friend on the first day of school) and he was nice to me for about two days and now he just uses me to get stuff that he wants like my food or stuff like that again I search for more friends and have seen people be nice to me the problem is that I'm scared what they thonk about me maybe it might be my mentality because I'm 7 through 8 grade year I was brutally bullied there are times though that I have high self esteem and I'm funny and talk to people other times I isolate myself from people I start to feel like a loser and hide away in my dorm I need your help most people at this school are really nice to me and they always give me a smile I'm just to afraid to talk to them and don't know what to talk about please any conversation skills would help i just walk around school by myself I don't know how I can develop a friendship this is also starting to effect my grades I pity myself in class

Signed: Difficulty Making Friends After a History of Being Bullied

Dear Difficulty Making Friends After a History of Being Bullied,

First off, TeenHealthFX would like to say they we are truly sorry that you went through such a terrible bullying experience. Those kinds of experiences can feel anywhere from difficult to traumatic. So we can absolutely appreciate the impact it must have had on you. And in addition to your peers being so hurtful and cruel, since you have been at boarding school and away from your parents FX can also imagine that perhaps it’s been hard for you feeling alone and disconnected from others.

FX can appreciate that you want to make some friends and connect more with the people around you. Having people in our life who are close to us helps us to feel happy and good about ourselves. It can even help us to become more independent and autonomous and take healthy risks in our lives. Having good conversation skills can certainly help. You could try the following:

  • Bring up something that interests you – a new movie you just saw, a new band you discovered, a sport you like. You could say something like, “Did you see that new movie that just came out?” Or you could say, “Have you heard XXX’s new album? I just listened to it and it’s really cool.” Or “Did you see the game yesterday? I can’t believe they won [or lost]!”
  • You can also ask something about the other person, such as what kind of music they listen to, what kind of movies or television series they like, what they do in the summer, where they are from, what things they like to do outside of school, or any cool places they have ever traveled.
  • If you are in class, you can start a conversation about something related to the work you’re doing. You could say, “Wow, this test is going to be so hard.” Or you could ask, “Did you study for the test?” Or if you see someone reading a novel you could ask them what they’re reading, what it’s about and if they like it.”
  • Part of forming close connections with others is having shared experiences. Think about ways you could increase the amount of time you are doing things with your peers. Whether you invite someone to do something with you or you join a sport or club at your school, it would be helpful for you to have time where you are doing things with potential friends.
  • Watch and learn from the people around you. What are they talking about? How do they start conversations? How do they respond when other people start conversations with them?

 

While knowing some good conversation skills and things to say in different situations is helpful, how you feel about yourself, other people and relationships is also very important. For example, if we have a hard time trusting that other people will be kind and friendly, we may put up a wall, keep our distance and keep ourselves from getting close to others. If we feel we are not likeable, lovable or worthy in some way we can also keep a wall up and put distance between ourselves and others. That said, FX thinks it is also important for you to think about how you feel about yourself and other people. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you see yourself as worthy of other people’s time, attention and affection?
  • Do you feel that other people want you around and want to be around you?
  • Do you feel that you deserve to have caring people in your life who care about you?
  • Do you feel that most people have good intensions in terms of how they relate to you or what they want from their relationship with you?
  • Do you feel like other people will want to consider your wants and needs?

 

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then FX would recommend you put some focus here, as well, in terms of making friends and closer connections. One way to go about this would be weekly (at least) individual or group therapy with a reputable therapist (such as a clinical social worker, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist) who can address the feelings you have about yourself and others that might be making to harder for you to form close connections. FX is not sure what is available at your boarding school, but perhaps you could speak to your parents, or a medical staff, advisor or professor at the school, to find out what your options are.  

Since you started off your question be mentioning that you are not suicidal, TeenHealthFX wonders if there has been a time in the past you have felt suicidal or if you are worried it could head in that direction in the future. If you have gotten to the point of feeling suicidal and/or you feel you could reach that point again, it is very important to get help from a reputable mental health professional. Ongoing treatment will be very important so you can get the support and guidance you need so things don’t get to the point where you have thoughts or urges about harming yourself. If you are ever at that point, it is important for you to reach out for help right away. You could call 911, go to your local emergency room, tell a trusted adult at your school or call a crisis hotline. In northern New Jersey you can also call the crisis hotline from Morristown Medical Center at 973-540-0100. Outside this area call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available toll-free 24/7. You can also use the Crisis Text Line by texting “connect” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. This service is free and available nationwide 24/7. Remember that there are people out there who care and who can be helpful to you – so please reach out for help if you are ever in a place where you think you might do something to hurt yourself.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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