I don't really have friends, I am a bit awkward when it comes to speaking with people and it can be difficult for me to get my words out sometimes, I try to just avoid those situations wherever possible. I know this isn't a healthy way to deal with things, but it is what I have at the moment.
Hopefully when I get back to work and start talking to people again I might start to feel better.
It's not always easy to speak to others with confidence, mainly because we don't know how they will react to what we say. Over the years I've become more thick skinned and generally don't care that much about other people's reactions - unless I've gone too far and I realise myself that I have gone beyond the boundaries of acceptability, thankfully those times number only one that I can recall lol.
Self confidence takes time to nurture, especially when mixing with others, but most people are quite capable of recognising those who we can feel most comfortable with, who we can be ourselves with and not have to tread too much on eggshells.
Running my own business helped me to nurture self confidence - I had to, it wasn't something I could put on the back burner otherwise I'd be the one getting burned. It didn't come easy to me as I severely lacked self-confidence around others, not in my abilities to do the job, just in dealing with people who were self-confident themselves. However, the more I became assertive the easier it came to me when dealing with those who were over self-confident. We all have to learn where the marks lie in the social structures of acceptability. In many ways it's an art form and you can only become a great artist with practice.
I'm sure that when you get back into the real world Lee, that your self-confidence around people will grow. As for friends, choose them wisely - the good ones will stick whilst the fluff will blow away in the wind. It's not easy to accumulate good friends and good people around you, especially nowadays. People tend to be more isolationist and always see the bad in others rather than looking for the good. This is possibly why few people know their neighbours these days, that joyous sense of community is fading and that is something I find really sad.
Anyhow, you enjoy getting back to work and mixing with others and I hope that somewhere in your lifetime you will meet a truly good friend who will stick with you.