Loneliness is often a problem for those of us with mental illnesses. Our loneliness is often brought about because we are scared to socialize with “normal” people because of stigmas that still surround mental illness. Loneliness can also be caused by the paranoia that accompanies many mental illnesses. Loneliness can also be caused by depression when people are to sad or depressed to go out and socialize with even close friends. Any one of these alone can make the idea of socializing daunting.
Loneliness can be overcome. It can take a long time to overcome, though. It certainly takes a great deal of effort to overcome a fear of socializing and opening up to people. The topic of your mental illness can scare anyone into thinking that no one would want to socialize with him/her. However, it is not necessary nor advisable to discuss any aspect of your mental illness the first time a new person is met. Only when any person has earned your trust should you feel like you could discuss it with him/her. Even then, discuss it only if you feel comfortable doing so.
There probably will be times when you have new friends who wish to discuss aspects of your illness before you are ready. In such cases, it is necessary to be polite, tactful, yet firm that you are not ready and do not wish to discuss such issues about your illness at that time.
Fears of socializing can be overcome by with practice and by gradually pushing your limits. There is no need to feel that you have to conquer your fears all at once. A fear of socializing, like any fear, can only be overcome by repeated acts of gradually increased bravery and courage. It just may be just enough to say hello to your neighbors or someone in a store as a first step. A second step may be to make some mundane comment about something as harmless as the weather to the clerk at the grocery store or anything like that. From there, you can build up and branch out. Socializing is by no means an exact science. It is not something that can be learned from reading a few books or watching others do it. It has to be learned by trial and error.
From my own personal experiences, I was by no means an extrovert growing up. I didn’t learn a great deal about ‘normal’ socializing until I was well into college. I don’t know how much of this was due to my illness or my being a natural introvert and I’ll probably never know. The fact remains I would have never learned what social skills I have now had I never attempted to work on my skills. I took a risk, faced my fears (and there were a lot of fears and paranoia), and came out better because of it. You can too. You just have to keep working at it. There are no easy ways around it.