Withdrawal

My primary means of protection from other people is withdrawal. Either literally—by staying at home and not going outside where I risk interacting with others—or else in more subtle ways. I tend to make an effort to seem as boring as possible to other people. When someone asks about my interests, I try to come up with the least personal answer. In every little interaction I have with others, I lie. Or at least I feel like I’m lying. When I’m by myself at home (and especially when I’m dreaming), I feel more like a full person—I might even consider myself somewhat weird or unusual. But when I’m out in public, I try so hard to seem like no one that I sometimes start to think that I actually am no one.

I used to spend more time around others. When I see other people each day, I can get really caught up in this performance of nothingness. There have been long stretches of time where I would completely lose my sense of self into that void of fake relationships. Even now, whenever I’ve had to interact with another person, I begin to doubt my own subjective reality and instead worry if the “objective reality”—how others view me—might not be more accurate. Since I act like I don’t exist around others, maybe this proves that I really don’t exist, and that, to the extent that I do feel like I exist, it’s this feeling that’s fake, while the reality is that I really am who I seem to be to others.

I enjoy writing in part because it proves that I can be who I am, even in a way that others can see.

People have noticed how awkward I am around others. I’ve been diagnosed with autism. They see that I can’t really communicate with others, that I seem overly formal, that I can’t maintain relationships (or even get into relationships to begin with), and especially they sense—although they might not put it in those terms—a severe unnaturalness or inauthenticity: the fact of acting like someone else, of not really being myself.

More recently, I’ve had a lot of time to myself—I’ve gone a couple of years with barely any contact to other people—and in the process, I’ve started to trust my fantasies about myself more than the “reality” of how I act in social contexts. This newfound sincerity has even started, albeit very slowly, to bleed into my social interactions with others. They’ve now also diagnosed me with schizotypal disorder. I think whereas “autism” is their word for when I seem awkward and inauthentic, “schizotypy” is their word for when I act more authentically; it describes what it looks like from the outside when I allow myself to be myself.

See also