One of the loneliest feelings in the world is being surrounded by people but not feeling part of the group. I have struggled with this for years. Even places with friendly and kind people can make you feel miserable if you do not belong. The theater, youth group, retreats, parties, my own home – I can feel miserable just about anywhere.
There are many reasons for this loneliness. Some might say that it is a normal part of the human experience. We all get caught up inside our heads and become nervous that everyone is judging us. Since we cannot read minds and know what people think about us, we have to guess continually how they are perceiving us. This can lead to us assuming others are trying to exclude us when they are simply focusing on something else.
Aspergers and mental illness complicate situations further. People on the autistic spectrum usually struggle with social interactions. One of the key reasons is that they cannot easily pick up on what people are thinking. Thus, a person who looks solemn might be perceived as angry while another person might take sarcastic comments literally. With the need to constantly analyze people, I feel more like an observer than part of the group. Plus, others usually treat me like a naive but sweet child. This treatment puts in a different category than their friends. Once again, this pushes me (and others in similar situations) into isolation.
Depression and many other mental disorders distort the way someone views themselves. You judge yourself and think others do so as well. When I get into this place, I begin to hate myself and believe others feel the same. The more that this feeling grows, the more lonely I feel. This cycle continues until I finally leave the social situation, believing that everyone wants me to leave or at least would not notice if I disappeared.
Sometimes people are cruel and want to exclude you. Other times, they simply do not realize that they are ignoring you. Another reason you might feel alone in a group is because of your own worries, disorders, and distorted perceptions. That does not make it any easier, but if you know why you feel so miserable, you can try to fix the problem. I certainly still deal with these feelings. However, they are becoming a bit less agonizing as I find confidence and hang out with caring groups of people.