Feeling Lonely at University, Need Advice

Oct 08, 2017 12:17 pm

Hi everyone,

It's currently the beginning of Week 11 of my 13-week uni semester, after which I have final exams. I've been feeling a bit down here and there throughout the course of the semester, but more so recently. Though I've been at uni for 11 weeks now, I haven't made any friends. I know some people from school who I bump into every now and then, but I don't have any actual close friends at uni. I've got friends outside of uni from school, but they are at different universities studying different things, though I still catch up with them frequently. I've been feeling quite lonely recently. I know why I haven't made any friends, and it's 10% me being a quiet person and 90% the two bags that I have to wear all day every day shooting me down mentally whenever I start chatting with someone new. It's like there's a mental blockade that I can't get past because of these bags, which I'm sure many of you have experienced before. I think it's a subconscious fear of what people will think if they find out, or how/if I will tell them.

I've been watching Scrubs again recently. As silly as it sounds, it's the thing that made me want to study medicine when I watched it when I was about 12 years old. In a particular episode, the main character sums up how I've been feeling very well: "Because nothing sucks more than feeling all alone, no matter how many people are around."

While I've had so much support over the last six months, I've always felt very much alone with everything. I don't know why. I think it's because I don't really have any close friends that want to openly discuss any of it, other than family. I'm having my J-pouch surgery in a month and a half, and I'm hoping that not having two bags attached to me will mostly remove the mental blockade.

Have any of you felt similar? It has been very difficult going through this at 18 years old. People expect me to be out having fun, but I really don't feel like I can. I always seem to stop myself from doing things.

Sorry for such a depressing post, but thanks for reading and thanks for any input.


Oct 08, 2017 7:03 pm

Hi Hamish, feeling alone is terrible and I have been there on different occasions. And, the pouch does complicate things a bit too. I read that you stop yourself from doing things because of the pouch. I would suggest joining in a little.... and see how it works out. For example, if there is an event happening on campus, empty your pouch and go for a while. Test drive the event and don't overdo it at first. Build up your confidence... each time you have a success, things will get easier. If you have a little mishap, leak or pouch malfunction, learn from the experience and try again. With me, if I limit eating, I can hang out for several hours without needing to go to the bathroom. If needed, I would suggest going back to the dorm, take care of everything and go back out and just hang getting to know everyone. I am way older than you but have the type of job that forces me to be out and about every day. It was really hard, scary in the beginning... but with practice, I go out. That being said, I do not leave the house for 14 hours a day like I used to because of my pouch, but I do work a 9-10 hour day. Remember, telling people about the bags is not necessary in the beginning. See if you connect with a few people and when you feel comfortable with their friendship, let them know or don't. Over the past 4 years, I have let some know about my ostomy but I do not broadcast it. It really is none of anyone's business, unless I wish to share. Take care and test drive joining in.... I bet you will have lots of fun and meet some great people. Good luck and keep me posted. Sincerely, LadyHope

Gray Logo for MeetAnOstoMate

Why Join MeetAnOstoMate?

First off, this is a pretty cool site with 35,000 members who truly understand you.

It's not all about ostomy. We talk about everything.

Many come here for advice or to give advice, others have found good friends, and some have even found love. Most importantly, people here are honest and genuinely care.

🛑 Privacy is very important - we have many features that are only visible to members, ensuring a safe and secure environment for you to share and connect.

Create an account and you will be amazed by the warmth of this community.

Oct 09, 2017 6:04 am

Hello Hamish.

Feeling lonely is indeed a very potent and disturbing emotional experience. The inability to mix with others is often based on 'fear, which is an umbrella term for emotions like worry, anxiety etc. As you so rightly say, this is bound to be aggravated by having to wear the bags and being concerned about what others(and you) might think if things go wrong. A key to overcoming loneliness is to understand that it is a 'feeling' (an emotion) and therefore it can be altered with a bit of work on your part. Changing a 'feeling' is about changing one's attitude towards whatever it is that is creating that feeling in the first place. Doing something practical like steeling yourself to overcome the intial fear and getting out there is a good start and LadyHope has put out some good advice about trying things  a little bit at a time until you feel comfortable. However, for some people, even these initial steps are so difficult that they have the reverse effect and create more anxiety. I feel sure that somewhere on your campus there will be a student counsellor, who will be very familiar with the concept of student loneliness as many students suffer from  this every semester. If you can explain your own situation to this one person (as you have done with us) it will help you to clarify in your own mind what it is that bothers you and it will be a first step to meeting one (safe) person to whom you can relate. 

There will be quite a few students that are isolated on campus but not all of them will suffer with loneliness. This is because they approach the 'feeling' from a slightly different perspective and decide that they prefer not to seek/want the company of other students but prefer the solitude that studying offers. For them, the socialising is viewed as a waste of university time rather than 'fun'. They prefer to study and to contemplate by way of thinking things through in ther own ways. Some of them will have their social contacts throught their electronic devices, whilst others will meditate in their own ways with or without help from other sources. Interestingly, these people are often viewed as 'swats',  geeks, etc and are likely to be the ones who end their university time with the highest grades. They can sometimes suffer from taunting and bullying from by other students, which can lead to its own set of problems unique to them. However, the unacceptable behaviour of their adversaries will often make them even more determined not to become part of the socialising crowd and they sink themselves even deeper into their academic work.

I point out this alternative approach, not necessarily to recommend it but to explain that it exists and works for some students.

Personally, I prefer not to have too much to do with human social groups because they have internal dynamics and patterns of behaviours that I tend to dislike. However, being  'within' the constellation of a group is not the only way one can achieve social contacts as there are many more people on the edges of this type of social interaction than there are at the centres. All one has to do is recognise those that are also on their own and there is a chance to make contact with like-minded people. If this is the path you take, I would suggest that you will need 'respect' for their privacy and independence in order to make meaningful contact as they will be wary of anyone approaching them that is not a kindred spirit. Sometimes, a simple smile, repeated over a period of time, with little or no conversation, is enough to break down barriers and lead to friendships that have substance.

I could go on forever on this subject but I think you will get the gist of what I am trying to say and I'm off to work now.

Before I go, I would like to remind you that we, on this site, will always be here for you if you need people to converse with that know all about your bag problems.

Best wishes


Newbie Dana
Oct 15, 2017 5:00 pm

Hi, Hamish. One thing - have you been to see a counselor for your depression? You are going through a lot of stress, and your bag situation is definitely adding to it - but there is more going on in your life than just that. It is major, so you hang all your feelings on it, while there are actually several other factors going on in your life right now. One is going to university itself - college life is hard, even without your health situation. The fact that you are shy and quiet, while everybody else around you seems (on the outside) not to be, just makes your shyness worse. Being basically a shy guy, but wanting to meet and interact with others sets up a conflict in your mind that is hard to overcome - and here comes a handy factor to blame all your problems on, the 2-bag situation. This all mixes together in your head into a paralyzing situation that prevents you from acting, loads on the guilt and self-bashing, erupting as severe overall depression, which you blame on the bags (because it's handy and you can't do anything about it, so it's a reason to keep going in the same direction). The brain loves inertia, not having to make any effort outside its comfort zone, so it keeps you in your misery, even though that is not the best thing for you overall.

You can't beat this just by yourself. My son lost nearly 2 semesters of college and his GPA tanked because of the same thing (without the ostomy situation, thankfully). It took several weeks of therapy and medication to get him back on track, and overcome the problems. He is now back in school with a solid B average (which I think is terrific). The point is, he wouldn't talk to anybody, and kept trying to "handle" it himself until he spiraled out of control. Don't wait! Most universities (at least here in the US, I assume elsewhere as well) have a counselor on staff you can go to, unburden yourself, and get advice from (and medication if needed). You really shouldn't try to bear it all alone. We are here on this site to help and encourage, but there's only so much we can do from this far away. Do consider seeing a professional to help you get through this. At the very least they should be able to help you successfully cope with life until your J-pouch surgery.

Oct 21, 2017 5:42 am

We can't always concern ourselves about what other people think. Yes, most young people are out having "fun", but some are very focused on more serious things too. In my opinion, you need to think about what you want from life by thinking about what is good for you at this time. I've worked with many of the same people for more than 10 years but wouldn't call anyone my close friend.

That being said, it doesn't mean you can't go out and have some fun. What type of things are happening at or near the university that interest you? Like LadyHope suggested, how about checking those things out. Either on your own or ask someone who you may think might also find it interesting some questions about the event. It may spark up the question of whether they will be going. Eleven weeks is not (IMO) time enough to find a close friend. But who knows when you do decide to meet more folks, you just may find a connection with someone and be close friends for a very long time.

Remember, you are still young and have a lifetime ahead of you and will make many friends.

How to Manage Ostomy Leaks with LeeAnne Hayden | Hollister
Oct 21, 2017 3:12 pm


Thanks for the replies. I haven't been feeling too bad recently. I have exams in two weeks so I have had something to keep me very occupied.

Dana, I wouldn't say I'm depressed. I acknowledge that I have down moments more frequently than others, but I would say that that's understandable. I like to think I handle it alright and I do talk to my parents about it usually when I am feeling particularly crap. I do honestly think that if it weren't for the two-bag situation that I'm in, I would have made some friends at uni because I wouldn't always have that mental barrier. I have explained in one of my very first posts on here that I saw a psychologist for a few months after my surgery but I got to a point where he wasn't helping anymore because the situation I was in was completely foreign to him, so it got very difficult for him to understand. As I said, though, I feel like I have handled it fine thus far. My J pouch surgery is a month tomorrow, so, assuming that it goes well, I'll hopefully feel a bit more comfortable with myself then.

Mrs. A, I don't necessarily concern myself completely on what other people think. It's partly worrying about others and partly feeling comfortable with the idea of myself being around other people that I don't already know. How can I be comfortable with new people when I'm not even that comfortable with myself some days? Anyway, I never bothered to search into events at uni. The two-bag thing can make me quite paranoid about going places as my wound/mucous fistula bag leaks quite frequently, so it's not uncommon for me to come out of a lecture with blood seeping through my clothes. I know eleven weeks is not long at all for finding close friends, but it's more just that I haven't let myself talk to pretty much anyone other than people that I've had to work with for group assignments, and with them I just did the work that I needed to do because of the reasons I've explained.

It's certainly a difficult situation. I'm doing alright with it, I think my original post was mainly letting off some steam. I'll keep everyone updated with the J pouch surgery.

Thanks again for all of the kind words.


Nov 05, 2017 6:56 pm

Hi Hamish.

I understand and it seems that you know what is going on about why you are feeling the way you do. We all need to do some "soul searching" into what and why we feel the way we do when life poses situations that we want to improve on. Keep us informed and I hope as you move forward life will open up new and interesting things for you.

Mar 04, 2018 1:10 am

You have taken the first step and I applaud you! I am 63 and really, I do not have very many friends either. If I may suggest, look into a couple of clubs or groups that help others. Sometimes, when you expend energy assisting another person who needs help, it takes your mind off of your troubles and sadness and puts the energy toward a worthy cause. As you continue to assist and help, I can guarantee that you will begin to meet others. Then, as you get to know them and make close friends, you will feel more comfortable talking about your two "buddies" who hang around you all day and night. Perhaps you can offer advice to another person who has had the same surgeries you have had. Sometimes, the hospital can set you up as a volunteer to offer support to new osteomates who are feeling down and that they have no place to turn. When I had my surgeries, the first emergency one on July 12, 2017, and my most recent revision on 17 Feb 2018, it sure helped to talk with someone who had been through it. This site has been a lifesaver for me. Everyone was so nice and helpful. There was also a lady who is a friend of my stepmother who wrote me a really nice letter and put in a newsletter from her osteo group. I also studied all about my "adversary" Miss Maxine and learned as much as I could about what made her tick so I could understand what was going on with me. Even though I will never know what caused my colon to just up and die in 24 hours the first time, I knew what to expect on the second go-around. Always be polite, smile and try to be outgoing and do some fun things. I used to think my life was over but through this site and the help of those who have gone through it all, I see that my life isn't over, it's just different! Good luck and if you would like to talk further, toss me a line or two. I'm here if you need me!