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DISCOVER: SELF INTERVIEW

Welcome to the self-interview.

This tool teaches self reflection while guiding you through challenging life experiences.

Let's get started.

Returning user? click here

This is a private conversation with yourself.

Your word are your own.

When you click on words highlighted in blue they changethey become something newyou can choose the words that fit best.

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Some parts of this activity are temporarily stored in your browser to make the experience more meaningful. That data is stored only while you are on this site. To protect your privacy, AboutU.org does not use web cookies, nor does it track your usage. That means anything you write in the Self Interview is gone once you close your browser.

Additionally, no one will ever read what you write here. That makes this a private, personal experience. But it also means no one will be able to respond to any requests for help submitted through this tool, nor to implied signs you are in distress.

(If you are in crisis now — feeling totally out of control, or wanting to hurt yourself or someone else — click here

This experience is meant to be taken slowly, and it's normal for it to bring up strong feelings. Feel free to take a break in the Sala de Respiración o detenerse en cualquier momento.

It may help to think of someone who you trust. If this gets too intense, reach out to them for support.

(If you are in crisis now feeling totally out of control, or wanting to hurt yourself or someone else Click here

Help is available. If you're in crisis now, I strongly recommend stopping and contacting emergency services. (Dial 911 in the U.S.)

I believe you can get through what you are experiencing. However, this tool is not set up to help with urgent needs and no one will see requests for help you type in here.

If you are not in crisis, Click here to continue.

So what would you like to talk about?

I feel overwhelmed. My life is out of control.

I've lost someone important to me.

I have a secret eating away at me.

There's trouble with a group or team I'm part of.

Family problems is getting to me.

It's about my gender or sexual orientation, or both.

I have concerns about suicide.

I experienced something hurtful or traumatic.

I have trouble making or keeping friends.

"I'm in college and struggling."

"I don't understand my purpose."

So what would you like to talk about?

I feel overwhelmed. My life is out of control.

I've lost someone important to me.

I have a secret eating away at me.

There's trouble with a group or team I'm part of.

Family problems is getting to me.

It's about my gender or sexual orientation, or both.

I have concerns about suicide.

I experienced something hurtful or traumatic.

I have trouble making or keeping friends.

"I'm in college and struggling."

"I don't understand my purpose."

Well, I'd like to reassure you, that right here, for the next few minutes, you are in control.

Maybe not of everything in your life, maybe not of most things right now, but this space is yours, and no one can say otherwise.

That may be a small thing, but it's where we can start.

Choose an object in the space around you.

Large or small, it doesn't matter. It just has to be something you can see from where you are.

What are you looking at?

This object is now your grounding object.

Think of it like a lightning rod for your nerves.

Tell me about your object. Be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying, "a plant," tell me it's "a fern, with short, green fronds that are getting brown at the tips."

Describe it in a way that helps me visualize what you're seeing.

That's good. This is a practice called grounding.

There's lots of ways to do it, but this is a simple one we can use right now. (Later, you might like to check the Skills Studio for others.)

I know life feels overwhelming right now, so feel free to pause this experience any time and repeat your grounding exercise to yourself. Each time, try to find something new to point out about your grounding charm.

Let's talk about what's got you feeling overwhelmed.

If you're really charged up and now isn't the best time, that's fine.

Our Skills Studio and Catch Your Breath Room are always available.

it's not just one thingthis one big thingjust... everythinglots of little things making me feel overwhelmed, you know? It's complicatedsimplesillytrickystraightforwardcomplexunbelievablea great opportunity and that makes it betterworse.

it's hardscaryeasya lottoo muchcrushing for me to think about, and so usually I just don'tput it offcrytry to forget itwait til it goes awaygive upobsess endlessly over itthink about it anywaytry anyway and get overwhelmed, like right now.

It's alright if it's to think about.

Are you comfortable being more specific? Like, if you had to narrow it down to the most important thing, or even the most important part of something big, what would it be?

I would say the most important thing is .

Actually I'd rather not get into this now...

That's just fine. I trust you to get through it in your own way, and I'm sorry you're feeling overwhelmed.

If you'd like to try something else, our Guided Journaling tools are available for you to work through your thoughts..

If this really wasn't your thing, or you're feeling worse than before, the Young Adult and Family Center has resources available to connect you to a live person.

It may seem obvious, but what makes important to you?

Say as much or as little as you like. This is your space.

All that said, I walk away if I could.

would
wouldn't

Do you know what you'd like to or need to do about it?

Yes
No
Actually, I think there's something more important..

That's a great start. What needs to be done? No need to worry about the details yet.

Let's narrow it down a little, what's the first step to that?

If you can, it can help to phrase this as something you do, as opposed to saying something "will happen".

That's alright. Why don't you use this space to write out a few of your options for what to do? Try not to worry about the details yet.

If you're having trouble, what options are you sure you don't want? What would it look like to do them anyway?

If you had to pick, which is the most realistic?

Now, take that first step and break it down further. For example, if your first step is to "leave the house", break that down even further into concrete steps, like "put on socks", "put on shoes".

Again, try to phrase this as something you do.

You said the first step is . Do you feel up to doing that?

Yes
No

Glad to hear it. You're welcome to re-do this process any time you need help breaking things down into more manageable steps. I'll get out of your hair and let you get to it. Click here to review the steps you laid out for yourself.

If you struggle with this often and would like one-on-one help from a live person, the Young Adult and Family Center has resources to connect you.

If this exercise felt too structured, our Guided Journaling tools can also be used to put racing thoughts in order.

I'm sorry to hear that. I don't want to leave you hanging though. If this wasn't what you needed, you might find one of the tutorials in our Skills Studio helpful. We also have Guided Journaling tools available to help you put your thoughts in order with less structure than this exercise if that would help.

If this really wasn't your thing, or you're feeling worse than before, the Young Adult and Family Center has resources to connect you to one-on-one help with a live person.

Now, take that first step and break it down further. For example, if your first step is to "leave the house", break that down even further into concrete steps, like "put on socks", "put on shoes".

Again, try to phrase this as something you do.

There's no right or wrong feeling to have after losing someone.

Sometimes losses are painful. Sometimes we feel nothing for a while, and that's ok too.

I'm here either way.

Who did you lose? Could you tell me their name?

If you'd rather not, I'll just call them your important person.

There's a lot of ways to lose someone important, and I don't want to get the wrong idea about what happened.

is my

It was so suddena long time comingunexpectedexactly what I knew would happenpredictablesomething I was warned aboutunbelieveableso gradual I hardly noticed passed awaystopped speaking to memoved awayleft me behindleft us behindwent missingdieddumped mebroke up with megot dumped by medisappeared.

I'd rather skip the details...

Before I thought they would be there to the endalways have my backbe with me longerbe there a little longer, at leastsss .

Sure, no problem.

Tell me more about . What made them such a meaningful part of your life?

Of course, it may seem obvious why your would be important, but tell me what made important to you.

Say as much or as little as you'd like. This is your space.

I Wish we had more timeI could take that time backI knew what happened to themI knew what happened between usI knew whyI knew what I didI could forgive myselfto forget about themthe best for themthis were easier .

We can't always control when people leave our lives.

Even when we see it coming, we aren't always prepared for the space left behind.

Not knowing what happened, or why, or if we could have done things differently can make it harder still.

Sometimes I feel let downbetrayedabandoneddisappointedsurprised by the worldfatethemmyselfa higher powermy godeveryone involved for not doing morenot trying hardernot feeling bad about them being gonegiving uptaking them awaytaking me away from themnot being honest soonernot putting in more timenot paying enough attentionnot cherishing the time we had.

Now that they're gone, I feel aloneupsetrelievedemptyheartbrokenabandonedangrygladoutragedconfusedanxiousuncertainsadfreenothing. Sometimes I feel justifiedguiltydisappointed with myselfmost honestgrossproudselfishbestworstvile when I catch myself feeling that way.

Feeling is understandable.

People can touch our lives in all sorts of ways, for better and for worse, so there's no wrong way to feel about them being gone.

Take a moment and just breathe.

You don't need to have any of this figured out just yet.

Now that isn't there anymore, what has changed about you?

Or about the way you live your life?

If there's something you left unsaid, something you wish you could have told write it here.

Treat this as a magical journal page. Imagine < will read anything you write here and understand it exactly as you mean it.

Of course, we both know it's not a magical journal page.

But did you say something you'd still like them to see? YesNoMaybe?It doesn't matter, they're gone.Yes, but I can't say it to them.Yes, but I shouldn't say it to them.There's no point. They wouldn't listen.

Got it. Well, here is what you wrote in case you'd like to hang on to it.

Feel free to copy and paste it somewhere safe, or continue on and leave this here.

It would be easier if only I could replace themforget themfeel more upset about thisfeel less upset about thisfill the hole they lefthave them backgo back and fix thingsgo back and prevent things.

But I Can't change the past.

I can only keep live with thisfind a way to live with thiskeep going somehowremember themremember the good timeslive in the presentcherish themhonor their memory.

I am who I am I .

because of
despite

That's a strong statement. I understand no longer holds that place in your life they once did. So I bet it would be easier if you could . But no one can change the past.

There's no single way to feel after losing someone important, and no correct length of time to grieve a loss.

You don't need to feel like everything must to go back to normal all at once. You may find normal itself is different now. And that's ok.

I don't imagine this has been fun to think about, but I respect your courage in facing your feelings. And I believe in your ability to

Be patient with your emotions. How you feel today may not be how you feel tomorrow.

Take a moment to breathe. The next screen will be the last.

Keeping a secret can really wear on you, even if you have an idea of what you want to do about it.

This is a safe place to talk about that if you'd like. I'm not going to tell anyone.

Keeping a secret can really wear on you, even if you have an idea of what you want to do about it.

This is a safe place to talk about that if you'd like.

I'm not going to tell anyone.

It's mysomeone else's secret and I've been holding it in for a short timea whilea long timetoo longa lifetime .

Ever since I found outdid itsaid itwitnessed itheard itexperienced itrealized what was happeningheard about itfigured it outaccepted it , I knew it was hugeseriousdisastrousterribleamazinggoing to be a big dealexciting.

If anyone finds out about itwhat I knowwhat happenedwhat I've donewhat was donewhat was done to me , it will cause a huge messend a friendshipspoil the surpriseend a relationshipend my relationshipruin my plansget me in serious troubleget someone I care about in troublemess my whole life upcause a ton of dramacause problems for someone else .

So far, I haven't told anyonehave told someoneonly told one persontold someone I shouldn't have , and that turned out to be the best thing to do at the timea mistakea HUGE mistakeeasier than I thoughtharder than I thoughtthe worst thing I've donebetter than expectedeven worse than I'd feared .

Now, I'm not so sure.I'm certain.who knows?it's all messed up.I just hope for the best.I'm not sure what to do.

If it would help, you can talk about your secret with me. There's no one I can tell, so you can say as much or as little as you like. (If it's about hurting yourself or someone else, though, we have people you can reach out to.

I can see why that's really eating away at you.

Also, if it helped to just put it into words, you might want to check our Guided Journaling section after this. You can express yourself in more ways than just writing about it.

You've got my support. And I trust you for a good reason. Yeah, I did.Not reallyMaybe?

That's alright. We don't have to talk about specifics. If you change your mind and want space to put it into words, be sure to check our Guided Journaling section when you're done here. You can express yourself in more ways than just writing about it.

You've got my support. And I trust you for a good reason.

Yeah, I did.Not reallyMaybe?

I see.

It's been hardeasya strugglestressfultrickyuneventful so far. Just because it's secret doesn't mean it's simple.

I don't know ifknow that I will be fine. It's just that right now, this isn't easydoesn't feel that wayfeels worse than it isfeels out of my controlis up to me to fixis something others depend on me to fixfeels more annoying than anythingis like nothing I've ever dealt with before.

I what to do about it.

know
don't
need help figuring out

It would be bestworsthurtfula reliefinsulting if anyone who found out didn't careshowed they careddidn't make a big deal of itacted like it mattered I don't know ifknow that I could handle that.

If nothing else, I know that I need to tell someoneI can't tell anyoneno one can find outI can't tell anyone else yet This can'tcanneeds toshouldn't wait. It's too urgentsomething I can't stop thinking aboutalready over, essentiallytoo latetoo importantscaryimportantsillytrivialoverwhelmingimportantonly stressful right nowreally stressful.

It wouldwouldn't help to have someone to talk about this withfix this for mehelp me resolve thishelp me work through thiswork with to settle thismediate thisprotect me . I have to take care of itdeal with it myselfget helpget some adviceendure by myselfwait until this blows overchill for a whilehave faithtrust in the universe .

What I really need is someone to believetrusthave faith inunderstandvalidatestand bystay withhelp me. Someone who will see my sideunderstand my reasonsnot think I'm weirdgive me the benefit of the doubthave my backtrust my reasonstrust that I have my reasonstrust me to figure this out .

Because I deserve trustfaithfriendshipfamilybrotherhoodsisterhoodcompanionshipunderstandingall that and more .

Well, I'll you. You deserve it, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

Take a deep breath. Gather your resolve. I'll do my best to help as you figure this out.

Do you think anyone would you if you took the risk? YesNoNo, that's how this mess started!

Who can you count on to you?

You said it would be if anyone who found out , and that you I you could handle that. It sounds like you have an idea of what's at stake. So what is your ideal outcome? If everything went the way you would like, what would that be?

Do you think you can make that happen?

YesNoMaybeI can try , and I'm pretty sure it'll be hardeasypossibleimpossiblepointless to trycomplicateda disasteralrightstressfula new challenge .

,I've never been so confusedreadyscaredpreparedcertainresolvedangryfrustratedworriedcharged upon my A game.

Tell me something you can do that would help, even if it can't make your ideal outcome a reality. Or if you truly feel there is nothing you can do, what can someone else do that would help? Sometimes putting that into words can make it easier to ask for help, even if you can't tell them everything.

No matter what, I trust you. And I trust your judgment.

You don't need to have all the answers right now. You've done a lot of work already.

If you'd like to explore this more deeply at your own pace, you might find our Guided Journaling area helpful.

Or if this brought up thoughts or feelings you need help with immediately, the Young Adult and Family Center has resources to connect you to a live person.

There's lots of ways to think about groups, teams, or communities. It can be anything from the people in your neighborhood, to an organization you're in, to those you consider your people.

I'm having trouble with:

What do they mean to you? What made them worth your time and attention? Even if you think the answer is obvious, try to say something specific.

This is your space. Say as much or as little as you'd like.

So tell me about the trouble you're having with them.

Being part of can be exhaustingexcitingoverwhelmingfrighteningreassuringtroublingawesomeconfusingcomforting .

I used to feel exhaustingexcitingoverwhelmingfrighteningreassuringtroublingawesomeconfusingcomforting to know there were others like meI could count onwho'd gotten through what I've gone throughwith the same goalswho I got along withwho knew my strugglewho shared my interestswho share my pastwho look like mewho share the strugglewho grew up where I did , but now they have changedI have changedthings have changedmy thinking has changedmy place has changedI don't know anymore.

These days it feels like I can't relatethere's a lot of dramait's harder than everwe're targeted for who we areI'm unwelcomeI'm being pushed outwe're under attack from all sideswe're drifting apartI'm being left behindwe have no time for each otherI'm leaving them behindone person is causing all the problemsthe world can't see us for who we arewe're being torn apart from within and that preassure is overwhelmingparalyzingdisappointinginvigoratingexhaustingfrighteningexcitingconfusingtiringcrushingthrilling.

It means things are changingwe're losing groundI'm losing themI can't keep upI'm losing my sense of where I belongthey're changingwe're losing the strugglethe bullies are winningwe're making progress, but….

It's hardexcitingunfaircomplicatedconfusingdistressingmessed upunbelieveableunacceptablejust part of lifea sign of growth when things change like this.

I hopedoubtthinkworry things will go back to how they were before. It would be best if they diddidn't.

deserves itdeserves bettershouldn't go down like thisis stronger than the haterswill never be the samehas grownwill rise to the challengehas failed mehas bounced back from worseis too toxic to save.

So how did it get like this? How did you respond?

If there's someone specific to talk about, this is your chance to say what you'd like without it getting back to them.

If you get hung up on facts and details, try to say how you feel instead.

My voice still mattersdoesn't matter to them.

Do you think it's within your power to make that group somewhere you can get what you need again? A place where you belong?

Yes
No
Maybe?

What would that take? What would make it feel like a place you belong again?

I see. It's not easy feeling like things are outside of your control. It's an old metaphor, but think of your team or community like potted plants. Sometimes we outgrow the people and places that once helped us survive. That doesn't mean it's a comfortable process, though. (Imagine repotting a plant from the plant's perspective sometime. Pretty intense, huh?)

It might not feel like it in the moment, but it takes courage to accept when things aren't working out the way you imagined. Even if it's just for yourself, or there's no easy solution in sight.

Alright. Take a deep breath. All that tension, all that drama, it can't touch you here. There may be trouble with , but right now it's just about you.

Take a deep breath . Picture yourself gathering strength as you inhale. Now exhale, and push out all the noise, all those who doubt you.

One more time, breathe in. And out.

Your voice still matters.

You've got this.

I deserve to be heard. deserve to be respected. I deserve I deserve to have people in my life who support me.

To get that now, I need to speak upspeak outwork harderleave them behindhave some hard conversationsget helptell my storyfind someplace newstand my groundconfront themfind new people who get meopen up and be real about this , because it's on meit's on themit's all I can dowhat I've done so far hasn't workedI don't know what else to doI'm done trying to reach themI can only control myselfit's time.

I believe in your strength. Problems with a group or community can be especially painful. People will endure a lot to feel like part of a group, even when it hurts them or others.

You are not alone in this.

If this got you thinking about something you'd like to explore more fully, you might find our Guided Journaling section helpful.

What strengths do you have that others might not always see?

Family can affect nearly every part of life. For better or for worse.

When things are going well, family can make it better. But it's especially tough when things aren't ok.

I want you to know you're safe here. Nothing you tell me will get back to them.

And you don't have to share any of this with them unless you want to.

This space is yours to talk through what's on your mind without them around. So what's going on?

My Family trieswants what's best for meloves mesays they love metakes care of each othershould take care of each othersays they'll take care of each otherused to be there for each otheris separated nowhas been apart for a while but it doesn't mean everything is perfectokeasyeasiercool between us.

I wish they understoodwould listen to mewere therewould accept mehadn't messed uphad the answerswouldn't overreactwould stay out of itwould help mewould let me figure it out myselfcould do more.

Right now, I'm having trouble with my .

Growing up, I was told to "respect your elderslisten to familyput family firstfind your own wayrespect traditionput yourself firstdo what you have to do ", but in this case, that's not so simplethe problemimpossiblenot importantessentialpointlesssillynot what my family had in mind.

With my , the trouble started todaya short time agoa few months agoa few years agoa long time ago and I don't know what to dohow I feelhow I should feelwhat I can doif I can do anythingif I should feel anything about it.

What's going on with your Don't worry, your will never see this.

Say as much or as little as you like.

I feel lostexcitedconfusedbetrayedworriedashamedangryscarednervousalonenumbguilty . I feel like I should have known betterbeen able to helpbeen able to stop itbeen better to themnever been leftbeen told soonerbeen protectednever been hurtnever stayedbeen better prepared for thisbeen able to fix thisnever been bornnever left homenever left them.

But mostly, I feel .

Just because you were raised to , that doesn't mean it's always easy, or straightforward. And it's ok to feel . You're allowed to feel that here.

Don't doubt your worth just because you feel like you should have . No one can predict the future, and the past is out of reach.

Try to forgive yourself. And if you can't forgive yourself for decisions you "should" have made, then for now, I forgive you

As a whole, my family means everything to memeans nothing to medoesn't know medoesn't know the real meis why I'm messsed upis why I'm doing okgot me where I amhurt me more than anyone couldare the only ones who understandis broken . I owe everythingnothingmost thingssome things to them.

AndBut as for my , I loveget upset withwould never hurtput up withtry to forget aboutmissused to lovehateignoreused to hatetry to ignorehate myself for still lovinghaven't thought much aboutdon't care aboutwant nothing to do withwant to forget them.

My deservesdoesn't deserve my lovepatiencerespecttimeenergyattentionunderstanding.

After all, my loves medoesn't understandrefused to accept meloves me, but...is worth itisn't worth itlet me downlet me down too many timesviolated my trustviolated meused to be closernever wanted mefought to protect mehas problems toowants nothing to do with meis doing their bestcan go screw themselves.

I want to forgetforgivelovehateget overleave behindhurtkillbring to justiceget in touch with my but I can'tshouldn'twould neverhaven't yetdon't know howhaven't figured out how yetdon't know how they'd reactwould just get hurt.

I can't change what happened . And I know I learned to But as I said, in this case, that's .

What I really want is for my to listen to mejust stopapologizeunderstandaccept meforgive mestop hurting mego to jailget over itgrow upjust die alreadylove me.

But I can't control my . I can only control myselfdo what's best for medo what's best for the familyfind a way through thistell them how their actions affect me.

I know family can bring out some intense feelings, and it's easy to get carried away. I get it. I do.

.

If you're serious about intending to your , I get that too but I'd urge you not to act on it. At least reach out to someone through the live help resources or a counselor in your area before doing anything. If it's an emergency, call 911.

"I can only ."

So what does that mean exactly? What do you think needs to be done? Say as much or as little as you like.

Do you have hope that what you described is possible?

Don't answer immediately. Let your first impulse sit for a moment and consider all your options.

Yes
No

If it would help to keep this as a reminder, here is what you said:

You can copy and paste it into a note if you'd like.

It's ok if you don't have all the answers right now or it doesn't feel like enough.

Family is complicated. Each member can affect the whole family, and that means solutions to problems are rarely simple.

Not every answer works every time, and not every fix lasts forever. Families are always changing.

And sometimes there aren't solutions, just ways of getting through the hard times.

If there's more you'd like to say about what's going on with , our guided journaling area has the space and tools for you to say that. And you can check out our Expression wall to see that others have gotten through tough things with family as well.

If your problems with have you feeling hopeless, powerless, or like things will never change, the Young Adult and Family Center has compiled a list of resources that can help.

Like any identity issue, there're a lot of strong opinions out there. There're a lot of voices saying there's a right way and a wrong way to be you. This space isn't about those voices, though.

Your identity is about you. It's your voice that counts.

Before you go further, this is about helping you sort through your thoughts about your identity.

If you are clear in your identity and this is about a conflict with a family member , or within a group or the LGBTQIA+ community because of your gender or sexual orientation, it might be easier to go to those topics directly.

Gender and sexual orientation is a big subject. Two big subjects, really.

Sometimes it makes sense to talk about them separately. But sometimes it makes more sense to talk about them together because sexual orientation is about how you relate to other people, and your gender may be a part of that.

We can talk about just one if you know that's what this is about, or we can talk about both at once. (If this all feels like a big confusing mess, start with both.)

I want to talk about my gendermy sexual orientationbothboth, I guess?.

My issue with this came up todaythis weekrecentlya while agoyears agoas long ago as I can remember When I realized somethingdiscovered somethingmet someonegot hurtno longer felt comfortablesaw somethinggot confronted by someoneheard someone talking about thisfirst heard the gossipfelt something differentgot attackedlearned people like that existlearned people like me exist .

It's a lot to processsomething I've known a long timeall new to menothing new to mealways on my mindconfusing and I knowthinkdon't know if there's anyone I can talk about this with. That isisn'tis part of the issue.

I see. You said it started when you , so what brought it to mind today?

Say as much or as little as you like. The details are your own.

I used to think people like methat are beautifulstrangecooldisgustingthe problemonly found elsewhereinterestingbeing selfishgoing against nature and I still dodon't anymoreregret thatknow better nowam more certain now

Right now, I am unsurepretty sureabsolutely certainas certain as I can be about my It makes me want to screamlearn morestop talking about itdig deeperstop thinking about itmeet others like melash outdisappearhurt myselfdiestay strong .

People see me as cisgendertransgendergenderqueeragendergenderfluidallosexualasexualgrey asexualdemisexual but I knowam afraidam suresaysuspectwould say

that I am

Uncertain what any of these terms mean? Here is a handy explanation

You said it makes you want to I know the feelings this brings up can be strong, and it's common to use strong words to express it. If that's all this is, feel free to continue.

If you are serious about hurting yourself or someone else, I encourage you to talk to someone about it before taking action. Help is available.

So when you say you are what does that mean to you? If you can, focus on specific feelings or things you do that are part of being.

Some ofAll ofNone of my family knows alreadyknew before I didsuspects somethingprobably figured it out by nowwould want to knowwould care.

They have alwaysnever reallyusuallysort ofsometimes been there for me in the past. So in terms of my , they would still support mewould probably support menever approvedwould never approvewould kick me outhave already kicked me outhave already cut me offwould probably cut me offhave said they'd approve, but...have never bothered to ask .

Whenever they saw people like methat on TV or in movies, they said nothingwere gladwere confusedmade jokesdisapprovedwere disgustedwell ... never said anything because we never saw anyone like me I learned to loveto hateto disapprove ofto fearto welcometo distrustnothing about people like methat because of that.

Do you have a religion, or spiritual tradition? Did its leaders or teachings have anything to say about your ?

It could be good or bad, or nothing at all. Say as much or as little as you like.

I was raised to think men were strongcapablerationalobjectiveunemotional and that fitsdoesn't fitsorta fitsis nothing like me. I learned a man should find the right womanprovide for a familyavoid showing emotionalways be interested in sex , and I think that's limitingthat's rightthat's demeaningthat's insultingthat's wrong for methat's right for me .

And growing up I was told women were emotionalnurturingirrationaluntrustworthycrazy and that sounds likedoesn't sound likesorta sounds likesounds nothing like me. I learned a woman should find the right manfind my princenever show interest in sexget married and have kidsplay hard to getonly have sex with one man, ever , and I think that's limitingthat's rightthat's demeaningthat's insultingthat's wrong for methat's right for me

It's common to hear such messages growing up. It's less common for someone to perfectly fit the ideal image of a man or woman. Think of someone you respect or admire that doesn't meet all the expectations. What do you admire about them? Do those expectations matter in how you view them?

I feel like nothingsomething is wrong with me and my .

Oh? What makes you say there's something wrong with you and your

Don't worry. I'm not here to judge, or tell you you're right or wrong for feeling the way you do. I just wonder if you can put what you're feeling into words. So say as much or as little as you like.

I see.

I promised I wouldn't add to the voices telling you you're right or wrong for feeling like that.

I can say for certain that you're not alone, though. You're not the first person to feel that way because of their .

I know that it'll be ok eventuallyI'm fine, it's other people who are the problemno one gets itsomeone is looking out for mepeople judge me .

YetSo I'm afraid that I'll lose people I care aboutnothing will changesomeone will hurt mesomeone I care about will get hurtI'm in dangerthe harassment won't stopwe'll lose the progress we've madeI'm the problemI'll be alone foreverI'll lose controlI have no way out . That fear is pretty intensenot that badonly there sometimesalways on my mindnever too serious .

I understand how intense that fear can be, and I don't want to make assumptions about whether you're ok or not. Are you thinking of acting on it right now by hurting someone else or yourself?

Yes
No

Help is available.

I promised at the start no one would see what you write here, and that's still true. If you're serious about hurting yourself or someone else, I would encourage you to let someone know before you act.

The Young Adult and Family Center has resources available to connect you to a live person . Otherwise, emergency services can be reached by dialing 9-1-1 in the U.S.

I'm also guessing this isn't a new fear, is it? You said that the fear is , so how have you handled it before? What did you do to move through it that didn't involve hurting yourself or someone else?

Yeah. I can understand that fear. It's not uncommon.

I'm also guessing this isn't a new fear, is it? You said that the fear is , so how have you handled it before? What did you do to move through it?

I want an answerthe world to see me as I amthis to all go awaypeople to stop worrying about thisto be freeto be acceptedto know what I am s o that I can stop worryingbe safebe normalstop feeling guiltyhold my head highbe differentbe myselfbe loved for who I am .

But it's not that simplenot that easynot up to megoing to take timehard to find answers .

I hear you. I get why you say it's

For what it is worth, I see you for who you are. I accept you.

Take a moment and breathe. You're stronger than you know.

I know that I am clevercompassionatetoughcreativeforgivingresilientopen mindedpatientfair and being doesn't change that

I know that I am braveauthenticgeneroushopefulloyalhonest and being doesn't change that.

I know that I am loved and being doesn't change that.

From the start I said only your voice matters when it comes to your identity.

That's still true.

And you're not alone.

If you have other thoughts about it that you want to explore, our Journaling and Sketchbook sections have space for you to do so.

If you're still feeling confused, it may help to search online for message boards or pages devoted to identities. Sometimes it's enough to see what others are saying about something you have in common.

If you're feeling even more mixed up than before, or feeling hopeless or powerless, the Young Adult and Family Center has compiled a list of live resources that can help .

Even if you don't know whether you will do it, what's the first step to that?

If you are able, it can help to phrase this as something you do, as opposed to saying something "will happen".

If talking about brought up feelings for you that you'll need some time to let settle, our Catch Your Breath may be a good place for that. Going forward, our Guided Journaling section has tools you can use to continue exploring memories of at your own pace.

If this brought up feelings you aren't sure you can handle on your own, the Young Adult and Family Center has resources to connect you to a live person who can help.

We can't control everything in our lives, but what is something you can control?

We've spent a lot of time on the past, but soon you'll have to go back to the present. What might you from the future tell you about getting through today?

What makes a secret worth keeping?

I am glad you are here and willing to talk about suicide. Even if it is hard to see sometimes, your life and your impact on those around you makes an important difference. The purpose of this self-exploration exercise is to better understand your feelings and ensure you or a loved one stays alive.

Suicide can bring up some strong emotions even when mentioned in passing, so I want to give the topic the respect it deserves. A few things to start:

First, this tool does not take the place of a therapist or other trained specialist. It cannot respond if you are in crisis or take action on your behalf.

Second, while there will be discussion of risk, it cannot be used to assess your risk or anyone else's risk of suicide or self-injury.

If at any time you feel you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, pause and contact emergency services. This tool cannot take that step for you.Take that urge seriously by getting outside help. Do not act on those urges.

Some other signs of increased risk include:

  • Talking about hurting oneself or ending one's life
  • Feelings of hopelessness, feeling burdensome to others, feeling trapped
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Increased use of drugs (including alcohol)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Searching for methods online
  • Visiting or calling others to say goodbye
  • Giving away pets or prized posessions
  • Depression, including loss of interest in activities
  • Anxiety, irritability, or agitation
  • Shame or humiliation
  • Sudden feeling of relief or lifting of mood

If you recognize these risk factors in yourself or someone close to you, seek the help of a qualified professional for assessment.

This tool is for increasing self-awareness and creating space for a frank discussion on the topic of suicide. If you are looking for general information about suicide, risk factors, or how to help someone struggling with suicidal ideation, we have a companion article in our Skills Studio.

If you are here because you lost a loved one to suicide, the Loss branch of the Self Interview may be more helpful.

Have you ever created a safety plan before? A safety plan is a brief outline of who to contact and what steps you to take to keep yourself safe in a crisis.

Yes
No

It may be helpful to have that on hand going forward.

It is beyond the scope of this tool to create a comprehensive safety plan for you. That should be done with the help of a professional. The following are elements of a basic safety plan. Answering these questions can help you feel more grounded and secure:

I can contact if I am having trouble managing and I trust them to help.

has worked in the past for temporarily distracting myself from distressing feelings. .

My anxietyMy fearsMy scheduleMy jobSchoolMy lack of people to trustThe reaction of others could get in the way of taking the steps above. If that happens, I can .

Suicide has risen to the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals between ages 10 and 35 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 1st leading cause of death is accidents. These accidental deaths can sometimes be the result of risky behavior or careless disregard for one's own safety due to an underlying desire to end one's life. The World Health Organization reports that accidents are among the highest misclassifications for deaths by suicide.

An unfortunate reality is that suicide can be contagious, like spreading a virus. If someone close to us, someone from school or a workplace, or even a celebrity we admire died or came close to dying by suicide, it's common for it to set off our own feelings, thoughts, and urges. Those don't need to be acted upon. Just know that you aren't strange for having those thoughts more frequently shortly after hearing about someone else's death.

I havehave not lost someone close to me or someone I admired to suicide.

I won't pretend to have a simple answer for your pain. That is an awful way to lose someone.

That is fortunate. It is my sincere hope that you never do. Even though we know about suicide contagion, it's not the only reason these thoughts can come up.

You're here because of concerns about suicide, so what is on your mind?

I have concerns about myselfsomeone elsesomeone close to mesomeone who died by suicide

I believe you matter.

I believe you having a life worth living matters.

I am glad you are still here.

It is neither easy nor simple to walk beside someone struggling with suicidal ideation or intent.

I want to honor your courage and commitment in that while you take this time to tend to your own needs in this process.

I am struggling because I don't know what to dodidn't know what to dodon't know how I feelwant to do something I shouldn'tfeel overwhelmeddidn't do enoughfeel unable to stop myself. In a word, it leaves me feeling confuseddespairangryguiltyafraiduncertaindisapprovallonelygriefreliefshameemptinessnumbnesshurtdepressedbitter.

The best way to describe it is

Like I said, the topic of suicide can bring strong feelings to the surface. It's totally valid to be feeling . You're allowed to feel here. Your feelings are your own and feelings themselves are not right or wrong.

Just because a feeling is strong, and valid, does not mean it must be acted upon, even when the urge is powerful. Especially if the action you are considering is hurting yourself or someone else.

Is a feeling you can manage? In other words, can you feel without taking action?

Yes
No

For now, picture that feeling like a wave that you can ride until it passes.

And it will pass.

Even if it doesn't seem like that in the moment.

All feelings and urges pass in time.

is a newold feeling, and it has grown moreless intense lately.

I feel like I cancan't manage it right now, and there have been times I could manage itcould not manage itgot overwhelmed by itgot overwhelmed but endured itgot through itgot help to get through ittried to get help for itwas free of itdidn't have to think about it

You said the has grown intense lately.Is there something specific that set that change in motion? How have you coped with it so far? Say as much or as little as you like about what is going on.

I don'tdo want to diehurt myselfhurt someone , but I really want to stop feeling this wayneed to feel something elsedon't think I canwant a better solutionneed to escapewant a life worth livingdon't think I can stop myself from acting on itthink I can control the urgestruggle to see the problem with thatunderstand why others are concernedwant to get better

I want todon't want tocouldwish I couldcould not do morehave done more but I don't know howcan'tcouldn'tworry about making it worsestill think about it.

I am scared I'll always feel this waystrong enough to let this passunsure what to do about itlooking for a way outable to bounce backable to manageunable to figure this out on my ownin need of help.

When you said "I want to , but I really ", what did you mean by that?

When you said "I but I ", what did you mean by that?

I see.

I'm going to ask you to do something with that feeling.

Take a moment to breathe.

Gather your strength.

Take that thought: "I to , but I really " and imagine someone you care about saying it to you.It could be a friend, a romantic partner, or even a family member.

Take that thought: "I but I " and imagine someone you care about saying it to you.It could be a friend, a romantic partner, or even a family member.

How would you respond to them saying that? Imagine this person accepts your reaction exactly as you intend it, and it will be understood exactly as you mean it.

I would tell them they are wrongtell them they are rightoffer them a hughold them until they felt alrighthelp them find a solution that works for themjust listenlisten without solving itlisten without judging themtell them they aren't alonetell them I am going through that too

I would make sure they knew

How do you imagine they would react? Remember, this is an ideal scenario.

Is that how you would like someone to respond to you?

Yes
No

Then how would you prefer someone react to you? Who would you trust to respond that way (even if you had to ask them to)?

Who would give you that response? Is there anyone who would respond that way if you asked them for that response ahead of time?

I was taught that suicide is always wrongpainful to those left behindsinfulonly for the sick and dyingcowardlymisguidedabout getting attentionan escape and I believedon't believe that

I cancan'twouldcould somedaywill nevercould in theoryprobably wouldn't forgive a person for completing a suicide.

If that's what you believe, how does that impact your actions?Is there anything in what you were taught that gives permission or prohibition for suicide? If you don't believe that, then what do you think? How does what you actually believe affect your actions? Is there anything in what you were taught that gives permission or prohibition for suicide?

If that is what you believe, how has that impacted how you feel about the person you are concerned about? If you don't believe that, what do you think? How does it change the way you feel about the person you are concerned about?

Imagine sitting across from a future you. Since this future you knows everything you know, you probably have a pretty good guess what they'll say to you. What does future you want you to know about this moment?

What is something you are looking forward to? Try to be specific.

If your reflex is to say, "Nothing," I would encourage you to think harder. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful. It can be something simple or something that seems silly.

This will be wrapping up shortly. This space is here for you to say anything that has been left unsaid. Write as much or as little as you like, whether it is something you want to keep private, or wish you could tell someone, or even just a to-do list for what you want to accomplish today.

That's it. For now.

Focus on your breathing for a moment.

In, and out.

Don't try to change your breathing. Just notice it.

You've made it so far.

Allow yourself to breathe a few more times before clicking the arrow.

If this tool brought up any thoughts or feelings that feel too intense for you to handle, please use the help resources listed here. Or contact someone locally, or someone you trust. You do not need to be alone in this moment. (If you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, call 911.)

The Journal section is available for you as well if you would like to explore anything you've said further.

When discussing this topic in depth, it is common to notice feelings or thoughts bubble up seemingly at random afterward. Notice what you feel, but remember that nothing you feel needs to be acted upon in the moment.

Be kind to yourself today.

Please pause and contact emergency services (911 in most areas in the U.S.).

A few words on why: Even if it doesn't feel like how you would define a state of crisis, your responses on the previous page seem to suggest a need for greater care than this tool can provide.

Other resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

If you feel you've reached this screen in error, you may use your browser's back button and alter your response. If you do, try to make note of what you may have said that led you here and why an outsider may be concerned.

I want you to know it takes courage to say that.

I will do my best to help you talk through what you experienced and how it may still be affecting you.

Allow me to start by saying anything done to you was not your fault. You are only responsible for you, not what others do to you.

Before we discuss specifics, take a moment to check in with your body. We are going to do a very brief Body Scan.

Get yourself into a comfortable position. Adjust your posture if you need to.

Start by taking one slow, deep breath. In, and out.

Begin from your feet and slowly work your way up your body, paying attention to each muscle group. Where are you holding tension right now? Are you experiencing pain or discomfort anywhere? Try to release that tension or relieve that pain if you can.

As we proceed, pay attention to those body parts. Make note of any moments where you feel that tension or discomfort returning

We start with a body scan because we hold psychological pain and tension in our body in very physical ways, not just in our memories. Sometimes knowing where we hold our pain or tension can offer a clue about its nature.

If you would like to go deeper into that exercise, or feel like you are still holding on to too much of that tension, try the Body Scan skill in the Skills Studio. This tool will still be here for you when you are done.

Otherwise, continue when you are ready.

When did this happen?

It happened todayyesterdaylast weekearlier this monthearlier this yearover a year agoa long time agoat a time that's hard to recall.

It was the first timethe only timenot the first timethe last timethe most recent timeone of several timesone of many timesone of too many times it happened.

Trauma occurs when you or someone you care about experiences emotionally harmful or physically threatening events.

This includes violence, harassment, neglect, emotional abuse, sexual violence, natural disasters, bias-motivated harm (such as racism, sexism, or other forms of empowered bias), or historic trauma (being member of, or descended from a diasporic community or victims of enslavement or genocide).

When we witness harm that happened to others, or when we have a caring relationship with someone who suffered some harm (e.g. a parent, child, or partner) we can experience similar reactions to when it happens directly to us.

Your experience is yours, whether the events harmed you directly or someone close to you.

It happened to meto someone elsewhere I could see itto someone else and I responded to it.

It can be healing to talk through or write about painful experiences.

That doesn't mean this process is always a comfortable one. So I commend you for the steps you've taken already in bringing this to mind.

Can you share about what happened? Say as much or as little as you like. This space is for you.

Thank you for saying as much as you did.

Everyone responds to trauma in their own way, but there are six broad categories of common responses: re-experiencing, emotional dysregulation, emotional numbing, hyperarousal, avoidance, and traumatic re-enactment.

Would you like to explore each of those and how it affects you in greater detail?

Yes
No

Re-experiencing includes memories you can't stop thinking about, nightmares, or flashbacks (where you feel thrust back into the traumatic event and forget where you are). It can also be a very physical experience of pain, nausea, heart racing, the fight- flight-freeze, or feeling reactive to touch as you re-experience the physical sensations from the event.

I experience none of thesedifficulty with memoriesnightmaresflashbacksfight-flight-freezepainnauseaheart racingsensitivity to touchseveral of theseall of these.

The most significant one(s) are

Traumatic re-experiencing can often be "triggered" by your environment (external stimuli) or your own thoughts (internal stimuli) when something reminds you of the event. What has triggered re-experiencing for you in the past?

Discussing this topic at all can bring things to the surface in unexpected ways. Let's take a moment and check in with your body again.

Start by taking a deep breath. In, and out.

Begin from your toes and "check in" with each part of you as you work your way up. Adjust your posture if you need to.

What are you feeling in your body right now? Any pain or discomfort? If your heart is racing or you feel nervous, now might be a time to pause for a few minutes in the Breathing Room

Relax any muscles you find that are tense.

The second category of responses is Emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation means it feels like your emotions are out of control and overwhelming. Anger, guilt, anxiety, and depression are common. The paradox of these emotions is that they are protecting us from one pain by causing a different pain.

Anger makes me feel out of controlconfidentcapable of changing thingspowerful, even I wasn't.

Anger makes me feel could have done morecould have prevented itcould have stopped ithad control of the situation when I didn't.

Anxiety keeps me safe by keeping me alertfrom getting hurtaway from dangerfrom being vulnerable with othersaway from people who will hurt mefrom feeling safe even when I am safe.

My depression is just realismjust fatiguejust a need to be alonekeeping me from enjoying life.

Emotional numbing is the third common reaction to trauma. It's the mind's way of coping with overwhelming emotions by turning them off.

Emotional numbing can feel like being in a daze, where things don't feel like they are happening to you, or events feel dreamlike or unreal. We call this dissociation.

Imagine the memories, pain, or feelings like instruments in a song. Sometimes one of them is so loud that it takes up all our attention and makes it impossible to focus on anything else. Our brains cope by turning that volume down.

But there's a catch. Your brain doesn't have a complicated editing studio, so you can't turn down just one instrument (feeling) that's too loud. If you want to mute that one instrument, you end up muting the whole song.

That means good feelings get muted too.

Traumatic events trigger the fight-flight-freeze response in the body. That response can get stuck "on" leading to the above responses, as well as the fourth category of responses: hyperarousal. Hyperarousal is where you feel jumpy, anxious, or tend to overreact to mild irritation.

I sometimes fee jumpyon guardanxiousunable to settle downunable to sleepeasily startledquick to anger.

I cope by

Not every coping mechanism for emotional numbing and hyperarousal is safe or healthy. Some common unhealthy ones are self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, or risk taking (including intentionally risky sexual behavior). The reason unhealthy coping mechanisms are considered "unhealthy" isn't moralist fear or the inherent danger of the activity.

It's that they don't actually work. They make it more difficult to heal from trauma because feeling your emotions fully is part of the healing process. Which leads to...

Avoidance. Avoidance is one of the most troublesome responses to trauma for the person doing the avoiding. Avoidance comes from the very real need to protect ourselves, but that need is in overdrive. It even leads to avoiding things that will lead to growth and healing.

What are some of the ways you avoid things related to the event? Do you avoid certain people or places? Does any of what you do cause problems for you?

The final common response to trauma is the cycle of re-enactment. Briefly, re-enactment is the tendency to find oneself in similar circumstances to the trauma where it can happen again. This isn't an intentional thing. It seems to arise from both a tendency to surround ourselves with the familiar (and even though it is hurtful, sources of trauma can be familiar), and a subconscious need to "try again" and master something that once harmed us.

This is a complex behavior pattern deserving of its own focus, so we have an entire skill in the skills studio devoted to Breaking Re-enactment Cycles

Those are the six common responses to trauma. You may have experienced some or all of them. You may even recognize them in people around you who have experienced traumatic events.

Now we'll get back to how what happened is affecting you today.

How has your experience affected you? Large or small, profound or subtle. What is different now compared to before?

Write as much or as little as you like.

In describing your experience earlier, and talking about the changes you've experienced, you've already used one of the most proven effective ways to process trauma and heal: writing.

Several of the tools we provide draw upon the work of Dr. James Pennebaker, who has done extensive research on the healing effect of writing.

Our Journal section has a prompt called Writing to Heal which allows you to undertake the writing exercise pioneered by Pennebaker himself.

It is impossible to avoid all triggers, or all situations that can provoke reactions based on your trauma. So let's plan ahead for how to manage. A good plan involves a way to re-regulate (calm intense emotions) by yourself, around others, and connect with someone you trust (a friend, family member, spiritual leader, etc).

Remember, let's stick to healthy ways (no drugs that aren't prescribed, no reckless or dangerous behavior). If you need some ideas, our Skills Studio is full of tools you can use.

When I am by myself, I can calm or distract myself by

When I am around others, I can

When I am having trouble, I can reach out to

Gratitude has some surprising health and wellness effects in the wake of trauma. Expressing gratitude helps build resilience. To be clear, we aren't talking about gratitude for the trauma!

Gratitude can help us recognize the good in our lives when our minds are trying to tell us it's all bad. Practicing gratitude when you are feeling ok can also help when you're feeling not so great.

Try to list as many things you are grateful for. Aim for at least 8-10 if you can.

Forgiveness sometimes comes up when discussing trauma, but it is complicated. Not everyone responds positively to the idea of forgiveness (and some reject it outright!). But those who do find value in forgiveness tend to find it to be the most helpful. Depending upon your experience, it may be easy or difficult, or even impossible to practice forgiveness.

There is one important person you may want to practice forgiveness with and that is yourself. Self-forgiveness for how you responded to your experience is another strategy for healing.

I'm not going to ask you to forgive anyone or judge you for what you decide. We have a skill in the Skills Studio for practicin Forgiveness if you feel it is right for you.

Sleep is another important coping strategy for trauma. Sleep replenishes our energy levels, restores our emotional balance, helps our memory, consolidates learning, and allows our body and mind to heal and repair

It can be difficult to prioritize sleep. And in the case of trauma, the experience might even cause difficulty with sleep. What gets in the way for you, and how can you navigate those obstacles to good sleep?

The final helpful concept for you is Post-Traumatic Growth. This growth comes from finding meaning or purpose in your experience. Trauma directly damages our sense of safety and control. During traumatic events we witness or experience things that remind us that we cannot control everything that happens to us.

When we think of Post-Traumatic Growth, we often talk about finding meaning and purpose. This can take the form of becoming an advocate or helping others who have or are at risk of a similar trauma. Or it can mean being the best version of yourself despite your experience.

Have you heard of or know anyone who has experienced something awful and then grown as a result? What does that idea of growth mean for you?

We know from the work of Victor Frankl that even in the worst trauma (Frankl himself survived the Nazi Holocaust) survivors can find meaning and purpose. This search for meaning and purpose helps us build resilience. The skill Finding Meaning In Trauma can explain this concept further.

I want to commend you for exploring this topic today.

Every time you dig into these experiences can be difficult in a different way, and it takes courage to face those emotions.

Pause for a moment and reflect.

Check in with your body one more time.

Take a deep breath.

You're done for now.

Throughout this exercise, many skills have been suggested. Our Skills Studio contains all of the skills linked earlier and many more.

Our Journal section is available for you to explore your thoughts and emotions at length as well.

If this exercise brought up feelings you are having difficulty controlling, our Get Help section can connect you to live and automated resources that can help right now.

I understand how isolating that can be.

I'm here to help change that.

I believe you have value, even if it feels a little unseen right now.

I'd like to get a better understanding of your current situation.

How many friends would you say you have right now?

How many people would you describe as a closely trusted confidant?

You're not wrong for feeling like that is on the low side. That's actually the current average. You may not believe it, but that's above average.

Recently the average number of close confidants fell from 3 to 2 according to a study from 2006. More concerning, in that study, the most common response was zero close confidants.

That means you're not alone in feeling isolated.

That may not take away the discomfort with your present situation. I get that. If you think of it another way, that means more people than you think are open to making new friends!

How about romantic partnerships? A healthy relationship should count as having a trusted confidant. (If they don't, that may be something worth reflecting upon.)

I havedon't have a romantic partner right now and I have in the pastand I haven't beforeand I never haveand I don't intend to in the future . I havehave not lost friends when starting a relationship.

I havehave not lost friends when they got into a relationship and I hope it doesn't happenI hope it doesn't happen againit sucksit still hurtsI have seen it happen to others.

You said you lost friends when starting a romantic relationship, and that you lost friends when they did. Say more about those events: What was different about those situations? What was similar? How are you feeling about it now?

Friendships require time and attention to maintain just like relationships. I bring up romance because having a romantic partner can cost up to two close friendships according to a 2015 study .

That can affect you whether you're the one in the relationship or the friend cut loose to make room for the new love interest.

(That said, if someone is isolating their partner from their friends through unreasonable demands, jealousy, or other harmful behavior, that's a sign of an unhealthy relationship dynamic and not the typical drifting apart we're talking about.)

Of course, knowing it's normal to lose people around major life transitions (transferring schools, graduating, moving to a new city, finding a new partner) doesn't make it any easier to be without enough close friends right now.

So what are the ways to deal with it? What are the ways you made friends as a kid? Maybe those can help…

If I see someone I want to make friends with I could sit down at their lunch tablewalk up to them and tell them we're friends nowget assigned to sit next to themgrow up on the same street as themwait for them to invite me to hang outget stuck working on a project togetherhave our parents arrange a playdateconsider some better options….

Ok, so maybe the way we met people as kids won't work here. It's not an illusion that it was easier to meet people when we were younger. In general, there's three common conditions that make it easier to form friendships: proximity, frequency of interactions, and a safe setting that allows for vulnerability.

Schools and neighborhoods make that easier than most other settings. Sports teams and community organizations do too. Even online groups can foster those connections.

So what gets in the way for you? What are the obstacles you have encountered when trying to make friends? Say as much or as little as you like in this space.

Think about friendships you've lost. I know it's not a pleasant topic, but stick with it as best you can. Focus on your role in the endings of those friendships.

I feel like I am too busytoo exhaustednot enoughtoo much to handletired of the dramaconfused about what went wrongnever in one place long enougha bit of a flaketoo eagertoo distantscared of being vulnerableoverwhelmed by peopletoo trustingnot trusting enoughholding people to a high standardlooking for moretoo unstablespread too thinfocused on my goals right nowunsure of what to say.

Sometimes I and that harmed my friendships.

My current (or most recent friends) might say made things difficult.

Sometimes we fear aspects of ourselves or regret our behavior because we recognize the problems after the fact.

So, what if what you just said about yourself is true? Does that give you a target for change? What might you do differently in the future? How does it change your expectations for yourself and future friendships?

Remember, friendships are based on the actions of both people involved, so this isn't about blaming yourself or them.

Do you have any lingering thoughts about past friendships? Anything you didn't say already that you want to express? This is your space to say whatever you want without it getting back to them.

With all that attention to the past, you might be wondering how to build up a social life that you find rewarding. It's important to understand patterns of how you relate to others, and to understand your needs going forward. There's a few practical steps you can take, however.

Remember those past friendships that ended? They might be the easiest and best option, assuming not all of them ended in flames. The biggest advantage is that the core compatibility you shared at first is likely still there and can be recaptured.

Do you have a past friend who you could reconnect with?

Yes
No

What is that person's name? .

How did things end? Do you need to do anything to reconcile, like apologizing?

What would it take to send them a message right now? If you were to text them or message them on social media, what would you say?

Some thoughts you may want to include: acknowledging the time apart, saying you want to reconnect, mentioning a fond memory, and/or suggesting something you can do together in the near future.

In case you want to actually send that message, here is what you wrote:

If reconnecting isn't an option or isn't the only thing you want to try, the next is getting out there and meeting new people. While this is a digital age, in person activities make this process easier. Start with the following:

My main hobby is .

I am curious about .

is a skill I would like to learn .

I could join or participate in .

You said:

My main hobby is

I am curious about

is a skill I would like to learn.

I could join or participate in

Look for groups, teams, classes, or organizations in your area that match your answers. Search online, or talk to people who might know. Ask yourself: do any spark your interest?

Recall those three requirements for forming new friendships: proximity, frequent encounters, and a safe environment. That's what you're looking for in those activities: opportunities to meet people.

I'd most look forward to the chance to talk to othersshare about myselfchange up my routineget out of my househave somewhere to gogrow as a personget back in the gamedo some goodlearn something new.

The thing that would most get in the way is .

I can deal with that by .

Lastly is growing acquaintanceships into friendships.

This is the hardest part sometimes because there's no way to make it easier or faster.

Think of some acquaintances, people you know by name or face and aren't quite friends with, but would be open to getting to know better. List their names and where you know them from. List as many as you can. Try to avoid listing people you have a crush on or romantic interest in for now.

You listed:

Which one will you have the most opportunity to see in the near future?

Which one are you most interested in getting to know?

Next time you see them, try to engage them in conversation. This might be awkward if you've never talked to them before.

If you are already comfortable talking to them, try to deepen the conversation with some self-disclosure. Be mindful of your environment and choose an appropriate topic, but try to choose something a little more meaningful to you than "idle chat." Check out Questioning Your Way To Friendship in the Skills Studio for more tips on this method.

Or, think of an activity or event you can invite them to. This is best done with something you intend to do or attend regardless of their response. The pressure shouldn't be on them to decide whether or not you are going.

It's likely scary to consider. All of those options carry with them the possibility of rejection. The hard part is that there is no way to remove the risk of rejection entirely, and rejection does hurt.

How have you bounced back in the past?

Can you do that again this time? Or something similar?

Yes
No

That's good! I see.

I believe in your ability to bounce back.

I think you're strong enough to get through the awkward and uncomfortable parts too.

This is the end of this exercise, but it isn't the end of the story. Maintaining Friendships once you've made them is its own skill, which you can find in our Skills Studio

If this brought up feelings that you'd like to explore further, our Journal section has prompts for experiences with friendship as well. And when you build your own Self-Care Toolkit , be sure to include tools like Send Love, Voicing Needs, Take A Class, and Meet Up With A Friend.

I believe in you. And I believe in your ability to get the support you need. If you are still struggling with urgent concerns, our Help page has resources as well.

College is challenging in many ways.

Academically. Socially. Emotionally. Financially. Even spiritually.

You aren't the first to feel overwhelmed by it. I can't make the challenge go away, but hopefully I can help you face it.

I'd like to get a better understanding of your current situation.

Where are you studying now?

What level of degree are you pursuing?

Do you know what field you are pursuing?

Yes
No
No, and that's the problem

What field are you studying?

It's ok to not be sure right away. Right here, right now, in this space, you do not need to have all the answers. You have permission to not know.

Even if the problem is a rapidly approaching deadline, for the next few minutes I'm saying it's ok to be unsure here.

When I started I was excitedscareduncertaincuriousterrifiedjust taking the next stephesitantthrilled.

I amam not the first in my family to go to college, so I feel prouda lot of pressurerelievedlike it is expected of meconfidentguilty leaving them behindlonelythe weight of expectations.

First generation college students face some unique challenges. Family members lack the frame of reference for college life because they haven't lived it. They may also not be able to help as much financially as peers' families might, leaving the burden on you. This may also be the longest time you've spent away from them and it is common to feel anything from fear, to loneliness, to guilt or even relief at being away.

My family doesdoes notmightprobably wouldn't understand what I am going through.

I dodo not have the support I need from my family.

I feel because I am away from my family.

Think about what brought you to this exercise. Describe what is going on in your own words. Say as much or as little as you like.

I would say keep that issue in mind as we go forward, but I'm guessing it's on your mind a lot.

We will go through several problem categories, even ones that might not feel connected to what you said. That's intentional.

College problems are often interrelated in ways we might not expect.

That is to say, academic struggles may be related to social adjustment, which may in turn cause career anxiety.

We also know that a large number of sexual assault survivors first present for help because they are having a hard time in class, and only later does the assault get recognized. If this describes your concern, you may skip directly to those that section

First we will start with academics. Because of the difficulty of the coursework, students often need to be at their best to succeed. So when there are problems in life outside of college, the first symptom is often academic struggle: slipping grades, missed deadlines, frequently skipping class.

My grades are about the same as alwaysfallingfalling fastbetter than expected, and I find my classes challenginga breezetoo hardtoo easyoverwhelmingly difficult. I feel like I am doing just finesinkingdrowningcoasting throughunchallengedcrushing itgetting by.

I dodo not, miss class often. I am on time with my workalways procrastinatingfrequently late on assignmentsdoing the minimum to get bydoing my bestdoing my best and still can't keep up.

I dodo not, understand the material and I havehave not sought help from professors or tutors. I havehave not learned study skills.

Connect some of that for me. When you say you feel like you are , what does that mean for you specifically? How does it relate to why you are in school? Is there help you need and are not getting? What stops you from seeking it if you need help?

When it comes to my field of study, I don't know what I'm doing yetI know I'm on the right trackit will do for nowI worry about my decisionI'm certainI'm totally lost.

I dodo not think about changing course.

You said earlier that you didn't know what you were studying. It's a big decision! Oftentimes we approach the decision as, "do I want to do this for the rest of my life?" when really we should be asking, "do I want to do this for as long as I find value in it?" Or even, "Am I curious about this?"

After all, almost no one does the same task for their whole life. People move on to other projects or other careers entirely. They move up to leadership roles or turn around and teach those just starting. This is just your starting point, not the whole of your future.

Tell me what you are curious about. What excites you?

Is there anything further you would like to share about your academic situation before moving on? Anything not addressed already?

Next we will look at social concerns. Please note that while we will discuss friends a bit, if the big, overall issue is loneliness or lacking friend connections there is an entire self interview thread dedicated to building connections specifically.

College is often the first time we can meet people outside of the circle we grew up with. Or for those who moved frequently growing up, college may be the first time you are able to foster connections over the course of many years. For those returning to school, it may bring the opportunity to forge cross- generational friendships.

Even students on campus several years may need to re-evaluate their social circle from time to time.

How many close friends would you say you have right now?

How many of those close friends are people you met at college?

Tell me about them. How do they show support for you, and how do you show support for them? Try to be specific and name actions if you can. If the number is zero, what is behind that number? Are you new to campus, when its normal to not know anyone? Do you face cultural or language barriers that make it difficult to fit in?

Common wisdom suggests not comparing oneself to others, but that's a normal, automatic action. Comparing ourselves is part of how we know ourselves. The key is to compare fairly, both to you and to them.

When we aren't comparing ourselves fairly, we can fall victim to Duck Syndrome. I'll explain briefly, but if you want to know more, we have a Skills Studio article available here

Imagine a duck. What you can see is the bird's body above the water. You see the gentle ripples of wake as it swims across the surface of the water. The duck looks calm and tranquil.

What you can't see unless you are underwater or very close is that the duck is paddling furiously to move about. We miss the details and mistake the task for being effortless.

Likewise, we know the details of our own life. We know exactly how hard we work for everything we do. Even in our failures we know how hard we tried. We know what systemic forces are working against us and how they impact us.

We can't always see how hard others are trying. Unless we are intimate friends, like being up close with a duck, we don't usually see the daily struggle or the toll it takes on them. We just see what they are projecting on the outside: calmness, productivity, success. But inside they could be a mess!

That's the essence of Duck Syndrome. No one else looks like they are struggling as much as us, even though they are.

Think about the ways you compare yourself to others. What comparisons do you make? How fair would you rate those comparisons? How does making that comparison make you feel about yourself?

Say as much or as little as you like.

Some students grew up in situations that slowly coached them toward adulthood. Others had to grow up too fast and assume adult roles like parenting even as a child. Others were sheltered from adult responsibility until suddenly being saddled with all of it at once on the first day of class. Others are returning to school and juggling outside responsibility too.

Each of those experiences brings different challenges to the table.

Being fair to myself, I would say I learned to handle adult responsibilitywas forced to take on adult responsibility too soonam adding college to an already full platehave had to figure out how to take care of myself without help.

When I think about that, I feel nothing in particularproudangryresentfulregretfulworriedanxiousoverwhelmedreassuredconfident.

I feel like I dodo not have the outside support I need.

I have handled the responsibilities of college wellwell enoughpoorlywith a great deal of effortwith a great deal of sacrifice thus far.

Can you identify areas of need that are unfulfilled? Is there outside support that would help? In an ideal world what would that look like? If you had to pick one thing from the list to address right away, what would it be?

Say as much or as little as you like.

Drugs and alcohol are easy to come by on college campuses, and greatly impact school performance. How would you describe your use of alcohol and other drugs?

I have prescriptions that I takedo not take appropriately as prescribed.

I drink alcohol days per week.

I use days per week.

I havehave not missed class due to substance use (including staying at bars, parties, or social gatherings too late).

I havehave not missed assignments or done poorly on coursework due to substance use (including staying at bars, parties, or social gatherings too late).

My substance use doesdoes not impact my academics.

Can you reconcile that for me? How is missing class or doing poorly on assignments not negatively affecting academic performance? How do you accomplish that?

If addiction and substance use are major contributors to your current issue, we have a thread of the Self Interview that goes into greater depth on that topic.

Lastly, we will be talking about sexual harassment and assault. If this is content you would prefer to skip, click here

According to RAINN, 11.2% of all students (graduate and undergraduate) experience rape or sexual assault. 4.2% have experienced stalking since entering college.

We also know that sexual violence, like all trauma, can bring on the symptoms of PTSD including depression, disturbed sleep, difficulty focusing, and avoidance of reminders (like a class shared with an abuser).

Naturally those symptoms can lead to some significant problems getting the most out of college.

11.2% of all students (graduate and undergraduate) experience rape or sexual assault. 4.2% have experienced stalking since entering college.

If this describes you, know that it is not a rite of passage, and it is not something that should have happened to you.

It is beyond the scope of this exercise to delve too deeply into this topic. We do have a self interview devoted to exploring trauma and PTSD symptoms that is more suited to that.

That said, if it has happened to you, I would gently encourage you to explore the options you have for getting help. Your college should be capable of providing help for you to recover, seek justice, and succeed in school.

If your college campus has a confidential victims advocate, they are the ideal first stop.

If you don't know if your school has one, your school's counseling center should have information on resources.

If you have tried campus resources in the past and not met with success, our [Help] section has links to community resources.

We are approaching the end of this exercise.

Academic struggles are unlikely to go away on their own. Likewise college culture adjustment can take some extra help along the way.

What resources do you know of on your campus that you can reach out to for assistance? List as many as you can. If you are struggling for ideas, look at your school's webpage.

Do you have any final thoughts or concerns that you didn't get to voice elsewhere? Say as much or as little as you like.

This is the end of this exercise, but it isn't the end of the story. Your campus resources should be your first stop for any direct assistance you need.

If you have more concerns about your direction, our Journal section has prompts for finding meaning and purpose. And when you build your own Self-Care Toolkit , be sure to include tools like Voicing Needs, Get Outdoors, and the Serenity Creed.

I believe in you. And I believe in your ability to get the support you need. If you are still struggling with urgent concerns, our Help page has resources as well.

It's hard work finding motivation and keeping momentum when you are uncertain of the overall purpose.

I'm here to help.

Together we can try to put words to your sense of purpose.

We will be discussing work and jobs, but this isn't career counseling.

The aim of this exercise isn't to find a perfect career fit for you. While you certainly can — and some people do — find meaning and purpose in the work they do for pay, that isn't always possible or the right path for everyone.

Sometimes we find our purpose in what we do outside of work and that is just as valid.

Start by thinking of someone you admire from afar. You don't need to idolize them or hero worship them. They don't need to be perfect, and you don't need to justify their mistakes here.

I admire for

You admire . Think about what you know about them. It isn't necessary to know their biography. In this case it's enough to imagine their struggles.

You said you admire them for, "". What do you believe they had to overcome to achieve what they did? How do you imagine they overcame it? In other words, for each challenge, what qualities did they possess that enabled them to achieve?

When I think about I feel encourageddiscouragedinspireduninspiredanxiousconcernedemboldenedexcitedbitterthrilledenviousscaredthreatenedconfuseduncertain because I can find that strength toowe are just too differentwe share the same backgroundI want what they haveI don't really look up to peopleI have more in my wayI have bigger problemsI like them but I don't see myself in themit seems like a lot of work.

Think about their personality, not talent, fame, or money.

and I both seem to value .

seems bravecreativecuriousfairforgivinggratefulhonesthopefulhumblehumorouswisekindlike a strong leaderlovingpersistentspiritually connectedlike a team playerdrivenprudentdisciplinedto have a good perspective on thingsto appreciate the finer things. I dodo not share that quality. I believedo not believe I can get better at it.

We are going to move away from discussing distant inspirational people for a moment, but let's remember the quality you identified: . We'll come back to that in a bit.

Who taught you what you value? Sometimes we learn our values from people who show us how not to behave, and that's important too. But you're not just a collection of "don'ts". For this try to stick to someone who had a positive impact.

I learned my values — right, wrong, and what makes life meaningful — from my familymy mothermy fathermy siblingmy grandparentmy grandmothermy grandfathermy extended familymy peoplemy nationmy ancestorsmy close friendsa teachera coacha mentora characteran authora public figure

Specifically, I learned it from

What did they teach you? How did they teach it? Did they explain things out loud or did you discern it from the way they acted? Was there a lesson that they tried to teach you that just never stuck?

Once again, when you think about , consider their personality and actions, not talents, fame, or money.

and I both seem to value

seems bravecreativecuriousfairforgivinggratefulhonesthopefulhumblehumorouswisekindlike a strong leaderlovingpersistentspiritually connectedlike a team playerdrivenprudentdisciplinedto have a good perspective on thingsto appreciate the finer things. I dodo not share that quality. I believedo not believe. I can get better at it.

Next we will be discussing you directly. But first let's remember the quality of that you identified: . Do you notice any similarities between them and how seems ? Any differences?

Even if the qualities are the same or similar, what differences exist in how they each inspired you?

Think about yourself now. What makes you want to be a better person? There is no right or wrong answer here. Your words are your own. Say as much or as little as you like.

I see! But we are not done yet.

To be my best self I must .

I have the most difficulty sticking to my values when .

The times I have failed to stick to my values are because I , but when I succeed it is because I .

Describe your vision of a life worth living. Say as much or as little as you like. The details of this are for your benefit.

Sometimes when we struggle to articulate goals and dreams it can be easier to think of them from the opposite direction.

What would be the opposite of your purpose? In other words, what is a life you absolutely do not want to live, or what would it look like if you were to do the opposite of what you desire? How could you maximize the negative in your life?

Alright. With that laid out, what clues does it give you to what you truly want in life?

It tells me I know myself better than I thinkneed to work harderneed to work lesshave some time to figure it outdon't have all the information I needdon't have all the information I need, but I can get itam doing better than I thoughthave some way to gocan achieve my goals . I also know that I want morewant lesswant betterwill not settle for lesscan help those around mecan do more for my communityhave a place in my communityneed supporthave the support I need.

But mostly I've learned…

Consider yourself the way you considered those we discussed earlier.

I value .

My strongest character strength is that I am bravecreativecuriousfairforgivinggratefulhonesthopefulhumblehumorouswisekinda strong leaderlovingpersistentspiritually connecteda team playerdrivenprudentdisciplinedsomeone with a good perspective on thingsable to appreciate the finer things . I believedo not believe I can get better at it.

I can get better at it by .

I can demonstrate that trait by .

You said seems , and that seems . You said you are .

What connections do you make between those strengths you identified? What makes these people worth looking up to and learning from, and how did they impact your own strength?

.

This is some hard stuff to think about in the depth you have so far, so pat yourself on the back.

I believe in the value of the work you are doing to learn about yourself and your needs.

Next we are going to consider some obstacles.

One thing that slows my progress toward my future goals is timetime managementmoneybudgetingworkcommitmentskidslack of skilllack of energydisabilityconfusiondifficulty learning what I need toeducationwhere I livewho I live withmy age

Another thing that slows my progress is timetime managementmoneybudgetingworkcommitmentskidslack of skilllack of energydisabilityconfusiondifficulty learning what I need toeducationwhere I livewho I live withmy age

But the biggest obstacle is .

To deal with that obstacle I .

What habits get in your way? In other words, what do you routinely do that makes it more difficult to accomplish your goals?

What can you do differently to change that habit? What can you change to better prepare you to choose differently next time the habit comes up? Are there people that contribute to it?

Beware of "should". We often use this word when we are morally judging ourselves but this isn't about judgment.

Let's move on to work. What kind of work do you find most meaningful?

I find work most meaningful when it benefits my communityit lets me be creativeI can see the resultit provides time and money for me to do what I loveI make decisions about what I do and whenit's routineit's always changingit benefits meis something I chose to doI own what I produceI am part of something larger than myselfit is solving some major problem in the world

I havehave not had a job that felt meaningful.

Think about jobs you have had, or team projects you have been a part of. What made them meaningful? Or if they were not, what could have been changed to make them more meaningful to you?

What do you do that you find meaningful that doesn't involve pay? Think of the ways you spend your time: hobbies, recreation, community building, friendships, learning. Which are the most meaningful? What qualities make them meaningful?

You have done a lot of work already and we are almost done.

You've identified people who inspire you and what traits you value in yourself an others.

You've considered what makes life and work meaningful, and what obstacles get in your way.

Take a deep breath. In, and out.

You started this exercise with a question: What is your purpose?

Maybe you have answered that along the way, or maybe you feel wording the question that way doesn't bring as much clarity as breaking it down. That's ok too.

This space is here for you to list any final thoughts you have that you didn't get to express earlier. You can also use it to answer the question of purpose if you desire.

This is the end of this exercise, but there's always work to be done if you want to achieve your vision of the future. You can read more about the Character Strengths and Virtues in the Skills Studio.

If you'd like to explore this topic further, our Journal section has a prompts for Writing a Letter To Yourself and Creating Your Ideal Fortune Cookie Message . And when you build your own Self-Care Toolkit , be sure to include tools like Voicing Needs, Raising Your Expectations, and One Thing At A Time.

I believe in you. And I believe in your ability to get the support you need. If you are still struggling with urgent concerns, our Help page has resources as well.