Category Archives: Personal Development

‘I’ve always been plagued by a sense that I was a little out of whack’

I don’t necessarily agree with Hannah Gadsby on everything- probably not on much -but I appreciate her putting her experience with autism out there. I have much to learn about the condition. mrossol

The Gardian, 3/19/2022, by Hannah Gadsby

You don’t have to be an expert to know that people with autism don’t get to speak about their own experiences. Until very recently, autism has largely only been understood through the prism of the experience of parents and as a list of observations that mostly neurotypical medical professionals have made and assigned meaning to.

The myths around ASD (autism spectrum disorder) have wasted enough of my life, so I don’t really want to waste any more of my time thinking about them, much less writing them down. But as the myths are so firmly embedded into popular (mis)understanding, I don’t have the luxury to skip over them, so it is just a sad reality that I have to waste even more of my time to bring many of you up to speed.

 

For a long time, I worried that I’d been misdiagnosed. It was difficult to believe that I wasn’t entirely to blame for my life being such a painful struggle, because I was so used to assuming I was a bad person. It took me a long time to get brave enough to simply share my diagnosis. My experience did not match the popular understanding of autism, and I knew I had to become an expert in neurobiology in order to untangle the myriad myths surrounding autism – just to beg permission to claim that piece of my identity.

I was right to be cautious, because when I finally did start telling the world of my diagnosis, the dismissals came thick and fast. I was told I was too fat to be autistic. I was told I was too social to be autistic. I was told I was too empathic to be autistic. I was told I was too female to be autistic. I was told I wasn’t autistic enough to be autistic. Nobody who refused me my diagnosis ever considered how painful it might have been for me, and it got really boring really fast.

Ever since I can remember, my thoughts have been plagued by a sense that I was a little out of whack, as if belonging was beyond me. To give this feeling a story, it’s as if I am an alien who has been abandoned on Earth and left to muddle my way through life, without a reason, a mission, or any memory of home. If you are a conspiracy theorist, this is where you begin to wonder if I might perhaps be a lizard. I am not.

Portrait of Hannah Gadsby

I am a visual thinker. I see my thoughts, but I don’t have a photographic memory, nor is my head a static gallery of sensibly collected thoughts that my brain curates into easy sense. It is not linear. It is fluid and flexible, kind of like a private Wikipedia that I am constantly revising and editing, but instead of words, everything is written in my own ever-evolving language of hieroglyphic films filled with hyperlinks to associated and often irrelevant thoughts. I have never managed to develop a reliable system to file and separate my thoughts into individual think pieces, and so I am utterly incapable of having one thought without at least another hundred coming along for the ride.

Further complicating this issue is the fact that my brain doesn’t work in the realm of the abstract. I’m not capable of thinking with imagery that I haven’t seen with my own eyes, which means that when someone tells me a story, I will see it as something like a film that I must edit together out of all the other films sourced from my own internalised collection. Every single day I have spent on this Earth, I have added countless images to my brain library. Needless to say, it is very busy in my head. If it were possible for someone to catch a glimpse of my thoughts being processed, they’d be hard-pressed to make sense out it. I doubt they’d even believe that the tornado orgy of wingdings and gifs was anything other than gibberish.

Sadly, the enthusiasm that my brain brings to the collecting of visual records is not then applied to the filing and retrieval process. And because of my inability to quickly and efficiently translate what I see into an externally communicable format, I am wired to have lots of fun and adventure in my head while at the same time failing totally, utterly and miserably at life on the outside, and feeling profoundly alone.

I believe that it is this whirl inside my brain that contributes to my occasional inability to speak. To be clear, I don’t identify as being nonverbal, but I often lose my verbal ability. Especially if I am overwhelmed by a lot of sensory information at the same time as I am trying to identify, process and regulate emotional distress. This is what is called selective mutism, which commonly exists alongside ASD, but is not exclusive to it.

When I told Mum I was autistic, she said: “Yeah, that makes sense. I always knew there was a lot going on inside you, but I just couldn’t get in. You were like a tin of baked beans and my tin opener wouldn’t work on you.” It’s a tidy metaphor, especially if you know that Mum does not like baked beans.

My childhood was a serendipitously effective buffer for the worst that my ASD threw at me. Small town. Not a lot of change. My family unit was a ready-made social network that I didn’t have to navigate cold because I was just a part of it. They looked out for me, but, because we were a big family, no one really noticed if I didn’t talk. I was the youngest, so no one expected me to be a leader. No one noticed when I would disappear for hours, and no one thought much of my habit of taking frequent naps in the linen press. I wasn’t quirky, I was just Hannah. Nobody thought I was special when I memorised every single question and answer in Trivial Pursuit. Because I wasn’t special; everyone cheated one way or another. It was only when I stepped out of the bubble of my family that things went to shit. And, gosh, to shit they went.


I struggled to grasp even the most basic of life’s skills. In my first year of primary school, I forgot to wear underpants so many times that my family started to check me at the door every morning before I left. I assumed I’d get better at stuff as I got older, but it only got worse. And the older I got, the less amused people were by me.

During my adolescence I began to find it more and more difficult to make myself understood, and that is when I developed an instinctive habit of taking the blame whenever I didn’t understand what was going on around me – which, to be clear, was all the time. This struggle persuaded me to assume that I was unlikable, and eventually I stopped thinking about the world through the lens of my own needs. And anybody who is a human knows that this is not a recipe for good times.

Portrait of Hannah Gadsby looking sceptical

I used to fret about fitting in at school, not because I wanted to, but because I knew I was supposed to. I was at my happiest in my own company, which I took to be an abnormality. It never occurred to me that it could be the epitome of normal behaviour – for me. I was a “girl”, and girls were expected to be masters of the mingle, so I tried really hard to be normal, but it was a fool’s errand because my neurobiological situation makes it hard for me to “see” all the networks of undercurrent connections that drive the interactions of the more typical thinkers, which in turn makes it incredibly difficult for me to intuitively reflect peer group behaviours. So the best I could do, and continue to do, is observe, guesstimate and imitate, which is often referred to as “masking” in autistic circles. As a coping mechanism for teenage me, masking was an incredibly successful tactic – I was only bullied intermittently during my school years – but as a catalyst for growth, it worked more like castration.

By the time I was middling my 30s, I was no longer living my life. I was merely coping with it, and barely. I felt as if I was a supreme annoyance and a burden to anybody I spent meaningful time with. But nobody seemed to notice that I had major depressive episodes every other year, and debilitating anxiety the rest of the time. Not even me. Nobody noticed that I never made eye contact. Nobody noticed that I often spoke in a patchwork of collected phrases. It took me a long time to even spot those patterns of my own behaviour, because I was too busy trying not to do the wrong thing by guessing, pretending, panicking, then either shutting or melting down.


My meltdowns had always been a mystery to me, so when I was finally diagnosed, I was able to reframe the way I thought about my strange little outbursts. For a start, I became far more compassionate toward myself, which probably halved the distress of the occasions. In the scheme of my life, I have not had very many meltdowns, however. I’m more of a shutdown kind of autistic. From the outside, a shutdown looks very similar to a sulky tantrum, but it is nothing of the sort. I don’t have control, for a start. And I am certainly not ruminating on any kind of emotional narrative, because I have gone into fight or flight, but in my body that translates into neither fight nor flight; I just shut down like a maxed-out power grid in the middle of a storm.

Meltdowns are equally distressing, but for different reasons. The worst is knowing that I am out of control, and may accidentally injure myself or, worse, someone else. Meltdowns are often conflated with panic attacks, but they are not the same beast. The biggest difference between them is that a panic attack is agitation and fear, spinning on a kind of mind loop, whereas a meltdown is a maelstrom that begins in the body. Another important difference is that a panic attack will never resolve the anxieties that triggered it. Meltdowns, on the other hand, are a real spring clean. They clear the pipes and can often leave you feeling as if your body has been reset.

I wish more than anything that I had known about my ASD when I was a kid, just so I could have learned how to look after my own distress, instead of assuming my pain was normal and deserved. There is no one to blame, but I still grieve for the quality of life I lost because I didn’t have this key piece to my human puzzle. But until someone unlocks the riddle of time travel, little me will have to flail and fail their way through the world for 30-odd years.

I see a fault in the idea, put forward by neurotypical “experts”, that autistic people have mind blindness, which essentially suggests we are unable to understand the inner workings of other people. I believe we all have mind blindness; why else would we invent language? The only way to see another person’s mind is to find a way to be able to hear what they have to say.

Portrait of Hannah Gadsby with her face screwed up

The problem is that communication skills are developed atypically in autistic people and, most often, very slowly. I have always had difficulty articulating my needs, but as I have got older, my language and social skills have improved a great deal. My ability to regulate, however, has not, and nor have my sensory sensitivities. My eternal struggle with these distressing disabilities often gives the impression to others that I am moody, reactive and inconsistent. I say I want one thing, then moments later I will say that I need the opposite. This is not a reflection of my character, but rather a reflection of my neurobiological functioning. I am unable to intuitively understand what I am feeling, and I can often take a much longer time to process the effects of external circumstances than neurotypical thinkers. But it is they who get impatient with me, and under that pressure I feel forced to guess my needs before I have had time to process stuff in my own way, and so mistakes are made. I can be cold and not know it. I can be hungry and not know it. I can need to go to the bathroom and not know it. I can be sad and not know it. I can feel distressed and not know it. I can be unsafe and not know it. You know how sometimes you put your hand under running water and for a brief moment you don’t know if it is hot or cold? That is every minute of my life. Being perpetually potentially unsafe is a great recipe for anxiety. And – spoiler alert – anxiety is bad.

Once I understood that I was always going to have difficulty with self-regulation, I stopped worrying about it. Once I am distressed, my moods are not mine to control, but my environment is. I am always working to remove myself from all the cycles and patterns of hostile environments. I no longer search my behaviours exclusively for revelations about my character; I use my occasions of distress as ways to map the circumstances and environments I move through, and look for ways I can reduce my exposure to distressing situations. I have learned how to advocate for my own experiences instead of being ashamed of my pain and confusion. I stopped worrying about what I was expected to do, and worked on building an understanding of what I could do to make myself feel safe and calm.

I am not afraid of pressing pause during a television show when I feel distressed. I seek out spoiler alerts to avoid getting panicked by unexpected plot twists. I leave crowded spaces. I switch off discordant music. I wear headphones at restaurants. I openly express my hatred of the saxophone and electric guitar solos. I don’t allow important emotional conversations to take place in cafes with polished concrete floors.

I spend hours alone at home rearranging my little piles of bric-a-brac, because it’s really fun. I only wear blue clothes because blue makes me feel calm. I listen to the same music, watch the same shows, and eat the same foods over and over again without any qualms. I find joy in my life where once I couldn’t because I was too busy trying to do the “right” thing instead of checking in with my own needs first.

I am lucky. I have the privilege to be able to protect myself – now. But it’s not because I can do it on my own. I need help. There is not much about my life that is not looked after by another human, sometimes teams of them. That’s the beauty of success in show business: other people become quite keen to do all the things for you. I am basically a middle-class white man from the 1950s.

 
‘Now everyone wants a piece of the Gads’ … Hannah Gadsby in Melbourne, Australia.
‘I broke the contract’: how Hannah Gadsby’s trauma transformed comedy

But even if I hadn’t stumbled into success, I would still need a lot of help just to navigate life. It is absolute bullshit that the only way I could access the help I needed was by accidentally activating some kind of exceptional potential I didn’t even know I had until I was nearly 30 years old. Please stop expecting people with autism to be exceptional. It is a basic human right to have average abilities.

Most people who struggle to find stable employment also contend with things like intergenerational poverty and/or trauma, cycles of abuse, mental illness, systemic discrimination, disability or neurological disorders. Not only are these all chronically stressful and traumatic circumstances, they have all been linked to a high incidence of impaired executive function. Welfare systems are not built to be easy for people who are anxious about using the phone, or people who mix up dates. They are not designed for people who are bad at keeping time, filling out forms, or people who can’t easily access all the relevant bank, residential and employment details from the past five years, if they thought to keep that information at all. Welfare systems don’t accommodate transience because welfare systems are not built to be accessible, they are built to be temples of administrative doom, because, apparently, welfare is a treasure that must be protected. Can somebody please do something about that? I am not good enough at organising to be an actual activist. But searching for the connections between the big picture and the little picture is a very ASD thing to do. I am never not cross-referencing the trees with the forests, and it can be a very exhausting way to engage – but I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I believe communities need thinkers like me.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/mar/19/hannah-gadsby-autism-diagnosis-little-out-of-whack?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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C.D.C. Lowers Speech Standards for Children

C.D.C. Lowers Speech Standards for Children

I can’t say it better than this article. When the facts don’t support the definition, change the definition. mrossol

By The Epoch Times 5 hours ago

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered its standards of childhood speech development, a decision that has many people worried about the way milestones are measured in kids.

CDC added two new child development milestones at 15 and 30 months. Earlier, children aged 24 months were expected to know about 50 words. But in the new update, the CDC raised the time period to 30 months, lowering the established standard of speech development. In the update, the CDC linked to research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that influenced the organization in setting up the modified benchmarks.

“Application of the criteria established by the AAP working group and adding milestones for the 15- and 30-month health supervision visits resulted in a 26.4 percent reduction and 40.9 percent replacement of previous CDC milestones,” reads an abstract of the AAP study, published on Feb. 8.

“One-third of the retained milestones were transferred to different ages; 67.7 percent of those transferred were moved to older ages.”

The AAP, based on recommendations from the CDC, convened experts and revised child developmental checklists. The original milestone followed standards that only 50 percent of children were expected to achieve, the organization said. These guidelines were deemed unhelpful to families who were worried about their kids’ development.

Milestones were updated to ensure that at least 75 percent of kids are able to achieve them, according to Jennifer Zubler, an author of the study. Because many children were unable to achieve the previous milestones, it was decided to establish new, lower milestones.

Literacy advocate Karen Vaites points out that, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, children speaking fewer than 50 words by 24 months is still a worrisome situation. She had previously spoken against forcing kids to wear face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the negative effects that the masks have on speech and learning.

“Masks impede language development, and they also impede the process of kids learning how to read,” Vaites said in a Jan. 18 tweet. In another Twitter thread from late July, she shared her experience of observing a kindergarten room during a reading class; in the thread, she insisted on the importance of children seeing the movement of a teacher’s mouth and vice versa.

In some situations, parents and clinicians choose a wait-and-see approach regarding children’s development, which ends up delaying diagnosis.

“The earlier a child is identified with a developmental delay the better, as treatment as well as learning interventions can begin,” Paul Lipkin, a member of the AAP Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and Council on Children with Disabilities, said in a statement. “At the same time, we don’t want to cause unnecessary confusion for families or professionals. Revising the guidelines with expertise and data from clinicians in the field accomplishes these goals.”

Lea Themea, who has practiced speech pathology for close to three decades, believes that the CDC guidelines have been updated to better clarify what parents should look for as developmental progress in their kids.

“I think these guidelines look at how the language is used, because you could have a 2-year-old that can label all their colors and count to 10, but they’re not saying them to actually communicate,” she told ABC6.

Dr. Nicole Saphier, a Fox News medical contributor, drew parallels between the CDC quietly lowering speech standards to an incident from last summer, when the AAP began “deleting stuff” from its website about the importance of facial recognition in childhood development while also pushing masks on children.

Saphier insisted that face masks were “negatively impacting children” and cited studies conducted in the UK, United States, and the Netherlands to point out that kids during the pandemic are performing poorly on “gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and overall communication.”

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How to Find and Keep Friends: A Guide for Middle Age

Hmm. There is an opportunity here. mrossol

WSJ  1/29/2022, by Julie Jargon

Loneliness is a reality for many of us, now more than ever. After last week’s column on the loneliness felt by moms in middle age, my inbox began overflowing with emails from readers, many of whom asked for solutions.

While there’s no magic wand to fix loneliness, there are things you can do to make new friends, and to rekindle or sustain the friendships you already have. Tech can help, but some of these methods are old school with a pandemic-era update. For all the strategies, you still have to take initiative—and be vulnerable.

Just ask

When our kids are little, we teach them to approach other children on the playground and ask to be their friend. Adults need to do the same—without being so literal, of course. I’ve made some good friends by chatting with other parents at my neighborhood park.

There are also ways to reach out to strangers virtually. While reporting last week’s column, I learned about a woman in Texas who posted a request for friends on a Facebook page for moms in her town; more than 200 women responded, saying they’d like to meet her.

One of my colleagues told me about a woman who had read my column and then posted to the local social-networking site Nextdoor. She asked if anyone else in their Berkeley, Calif., neighborhood would like to form a group for dinners and trivia nights.

“It requires vulnerability to do this, but if you don’t ask, you don’t receive,” said Jillian Richardson, author of “Un-Lonely Planet: How Healthy Congregations Can Change the World.” She facilitates friendships in New York with the Joy List, a free weekly newsletter of meetups. A recent study found that nearly half of Americans have three or fewer close friends—and the trend toward fewer friends has grown considerably in the past few decades. “When considering asking someone to go out as a friend, keep in mind that, statistically speaking, that person is probably desperate for connection and you’re giving them a gift by asking them out,” Ms. Richardson said.

Be social, minus the media

Social media doesn’t necessarily cause loneliness, but many people I’ve interviewed over the years said platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can make loneliness feel worse. 

Kat Vellos, a friendship coach and author of “We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships,” suggests inviting friends to take a social-media break with you and agree to spend the time you might have spent scrolling Instagram having a phone call instead.

Create a routine

If there’s something you need or like to do each day, such as walking your dog, try doing it at the same time, said Danielle Bayard Jackson, a friendship coach. You’ll probably notice the same people out at the same time and have ample opportunity to strike up a conversation.

Doing so during a pandemic takes a little more care. Ms. Bayard Jackson advises maintaining a distance and even beginning the conversation by explaining that you’ll stay a few feet away if you sense the other person is nervous about getting too close.

I tend to go hiking and visit the park with my family at regular times. We often see the same people out, some of whom have become friends. I’ve found that people with dogs talk to more people than people without dogs, so your four-legged friend can be an instant conversation starter.

Ms. Bayard Jackson also suggests that people who want to meet new friends keep their phones out of sight while out walking, and not wear earbuds, to signal that they’re open to conversation.

Try a friendship matchmaking site

People turn to matchmaking sites to find romantic partners, so why not do the same to find friends? If you’d like to explore this option, there are several, including Bumble BFF, Meetup and Friended.

When setting up a profile on such apps, Ms. Bayard Jackson suggests being as specific as possible about your interests and about what you’re seeking in a friendship, to improve your odds of attracting the right people. She said research from dating apps shows that matching algorithms favor positive language, so it’s important to list the things you like and not the things you don’t like. If you start messaging with a potential match, ask questions to show your interest and keep the conversation flowing.

Rethink the hangout

One reason many busy parents don’t see friends as often as they’d like is because the very idea of planning outings can feel daunting, especially now, when Covid-related safety measures can make everything feel more complicated. “We have this idea in our minds of happy hours and long brunches, and many people don’t feel they have time for that,” Ms. Bayard Jackson said.

A recent idea that has gained popularity on social media is going on errand dates with friends. You have to go to the grocery store anyway—why not shop at the same time as a friend? 

Book time

We’ve all been in the situation where we run into a friend and say, “We should get together,” but then no one plans anything. Friendship experts recommend booking friend dates right when the topic arises, or even entering recurring meetups into your calendar.

Jen Mann is a humor writer whose latest book is “Midlife Bites: Anyone Else Falling Apart, Or Is It Just Me?” She said that a few years ago she began pulling up the calendar on her phone whenever a friend suggested getting together. “You can tell right away who means it,” she said. “When they say, ‘Oh let’s play it by ear,’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re dead to me. Next!’”

If getting together in person is too difficult or doesn’t feel safe because of Covid-19, you can book time each month for a video call with friends. Ms. Bayard Jackson said having a purpose for the meeting can help, like discussing a book or podcast.

Do the little things

Maintaining friendships doesn’t have to entail grand gestures. Sending friends an article or funny video that makes you think of them shows you care.

Texting or calling can feel time-consuming and exhausting, but you can send friends voice memos—it may be easier for you and more personal for them to hear your voice. You can use your phone’s voice-memo app or the voice feature found in many messaging apps.

Make the first move

If you don’t find groups that resonate with your interests, research events in your area then invite people to attend. You can also create your own event. 

Karla Olson, a 51-year-old mother of three in Park City, Utah, is working on creating what she’s calling the Empty Nester Club. She plans to develop an online community on the video-communication app Marco Polo, and hopes local branches will form around the country for in-person meetups. The goal is to create a community that will encourage others in midlife who are trying to develop new interests or businesses.

Ms. Mann said she found it hard to break into established friend groups in her Kansas City, Kan., neighborhood. Late last year, she and a friend created a monthly get-together they call “Midlife with Moxie,” with activities including a Christmas-lights tour and tarot-card readings. “It can feel scary to people, because what if no one comes? I’ve never had no one come,” she said.

Ultimately, the best way to make friends—even just one or two—Ms. Mann said, is to leave your house: “You have to put on pants and go somewhere.”

—For more Family & Tech columns, advice and answers to your most pressing family-related technology questions, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Write to julie.jargon@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the February 1, 2022, print edition as ‘Easing Loneliness Is Important Work.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/being-a-parent-is-lonelyheres-how-to-find-and-keep-friends-in-2022-11643465968?mod=Searchresults_pos4&page=1

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Moms in Middle Age: Rarely Alone, Often Online and Increasingly Lonely

WSJ – 1/22/22  by Julie Jargon

Middle age is a crowded time. It’s also a lonely one. Work and family demands leave little time for nurturing friendships, particularly for women.

Pre-pandemic, conversations about loneliness often centered on men, with talk of a “loneliness epidemic.” But during lockdown, Generation X women, who range in age from 41 to 57 years old, reported the sharpest rise in loneliness, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted in the spring of 2020 by the Roots of Loneliness Project, a research organization. And the increase in social isolation reported by women living with children was also greatest among those from Gen X, according to an unpublished portion of the survey shared with The Wall Street Journal.

For women feeling burned out from holding family life and work together, social media has typically been the most convenient place to vent and seek connection. But going online has surfaced feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, many say.

Mirranda Reinhardt, of Pueblo, Colo., with two of her three children, Caden and Willy; she says she has struggled to find in-person friends to connect with.

‘Less isolated, but more lonely’

Mirranda Reinhardt, a 38-year-old photographer in Pueblo, Colo., with children from ages 11 to 20, says she hasn’t found her “mom tribe.” She said she’s never fit in with her kids’ friends’ mothers, because she’s been either the youngest parent in the group or among the oldest.

The fact that she home-schools her kids—because her husband traveled frequently when they were young—has made it tougher for her to find friends with similar interests and stances, she said. She doesn’t feel she fits in with the other home-schooling mothers in her area, because she said she feels their views are more conservative than hers.

“It feels strange to think about feeling lonely because I’m never alone,” she said. “There’s always someone around, but I feel like I’m missing that connection with moms who are going through similar things.”

Ms. Reinhardt and a close friend, who has a 6-year-old and another child about to turn 3, watched the TV show “This is Us” together before the pandemic, but as work and life became busier for both, they stopped, figuring they would pick up again later. They haven’t yet.

Ms. Reinhardt, who works as a photographer and home-schools her kids, says social media helps make her feel less isolated, yet more lonely.

“Where is the time? Where is the energy?” she said. “Covid has added so much to the mental load for moms, which was high already, that at the end of the day we’re just worn out.”

Ms. Reinhardt said her Facebook feed helped her maintain connections with old friends but left her with mixed emotions. “It’s a link to people you haven’t talked to in ages. I can see their lives, but I’m not part of them,” she said. “Social media has made me feel less isolated, but more lonely.”

Ms. Reinhardt has tried Facebook groups to find moms in similar life stages, but because she hasn’t found a group of in-person friends, she sometimes feels that she’s left on the sidelines. When she sees posts of women getting together for a girl’s night out or going on a trip, it stings. “I want that,” she said. “Sometimes I stop and ask myself: ‘What did I do wrong?’ ”

Social media can make it feel like everyone has a friend group, she added. “Some days I feel like I’m a teenager again, wondering, ‘Why can’t I find a group like that to fit into? Am I not funny enough? Am I too introverted?’ ”

‘Everyone has been in their bubbles’

When I posted a question about middle-aged loneliness in a large Facebook parenting group, I immediately heard from more than 300 women, most of whom expressed similar feelings.

Deb Fabrizio, a 55-year-old divorced mother of two, became an empty-nester last summer after her youngest daughter graduated from college.

Nabbing time with married friends was always tricky, but Ms. Fabrizio, an accountant in Burlington, Conn., said she made an effort to organize gatherings and could find someone to have dinner with or go on a walk with at night. “I was out volunteering and meeting people, and then the pandemic shut all that down,” she said. “Everyone has been in their bubbles.”

Working remotely has made life even lonelier, she added. Instead of dinners and walks, she said Facebook is now her way to keep in contact. That has been a mixed blessing.

A 2018 AARP Foundation survey of people 45 and older found middle-aged and older adults report feeling more lonely as they increase their use of social media. A study of adults in Italy conducted during the Covid-19 lockdown found social media is no substitute for in-person social interactions.

Ms. Fabrizio has been cautious about socializing due to health issues and because she doesn’t want to risk infecting her granddaughter, who was born in June 2020. Friends became so used to her declining invitations that they don’t always think to ask her out. And then they post about their gatherings on Facebook.

“There’s a big fear of missing out,” Ms. Fabrizio said. “I’ve seen photos of friends at the beach, and I think, ‘They were outside. I could have gone.’ ”

Ms. Reinhardt, at work in her home office.

Andie Martin, a 52-year-old mother of two college kids in Atlanta, spends most of her time assisting her 84-year-old mother and taking her to doctor’s appointments. She moved to Georgia from Texas five years ago for her husband’s job and hasn’t forged deep connections like the ones she had before relocating. “By the time your kids are in high school, most women have their own little group of parent friends,” she said.

Ms. Martin said she appreciated being able to connect on social media with far-flung friends and relatives during the lockdown phase of the pandemic but felt the connections were superficial.

“I like knowing what they’re doing, but it doesn’t solve my loneliness problem,” she said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/moms-in-middle-age-rarely-alone-often-online-and-increasingly-lonely-11642860003?mod=hp_lead_pos10

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