I was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 20 years old. It developed slowly at first with strange notions that my friends didn’t understand me and had some agenda against me. I thought I was brilliant and I was keyed into something that nobody else was privy to. I struggled with the notion that nobody understood me and the significance of things for some time, all the while, I was smoking generous amounts of pot and was becoming increasingly paranoid.
Things broke altogether on some week night in my freshman year of college when a dorm hall mate made some inane comment while we were smoking weed, that, in truth, meant nothing significant, but to me it was the worst thing anyone could have ever said. It shook my existence and I went back to my room and lost my shit. There was a warm pain in my head and I could feel my mind splitting in two. It was an innocent and insecure jab that utterly broke me.
Every day after, I was terrified to leave my room. It took every ounce of strength I had to leave and attempt to go to class. On my best days I made it through one class before the alerts in my head were too much to bear and I had to go back to my room to hopefully sleep the paranoia off.
Before long the semester was over and I came home.
I existed in this warm pain for the better part of two years never going farther than the grocery store or class when I had the wherewithal to go. It hurt to be in public and I, with my two minds, was experiencing the world tangibly with one, and analytically with the other. I was in tune if you can call it that; to an incredibly high degree. People’s deepest insecurities were revealed to me through their walk, their expressions, their tones of voice. I could read people, but at the same time, I was terrified that they were reading me and judging me just as harshly.
Now I don’t need to tell you guys this, but that’s not normally the best way to function as a human being.
I’m pretty sure I’m not a psychopath because I feel deeply for those who struggle, but being incredibly paranoid about what other people are thinking of you, should probably have a place reserved for it pretty far up on the egotistical scale.
In this paranoia, nobody can be sure how to act. Especially when it comes to the idea of pleasing others with your incredibly authentic looking, yet entirely fake way of interacting with the world, put on simply so you can pretend to be a normal member of society and not be outwardly freaking out and completely overwhelmed by how the world perceives you every second of every minute of every hour.
For those of you struggling with being a normal functioning member of society and not some raving lunatic I’ve put together a helpful guide to help you at least trick people into thinking you’re normal, hopefully if you follow these steps you’ll actually start to become normal. Granted I’m still struggling with this but you know what they say, “fake it ‘til you make it.”
1. Spend several years floundering while at the same time studying and analyzing every single interaction you have from hours hanging out with close friends to the 30 second period of small talk you have while handing your money to the pizza delivery man. Notice not only levels of eye contact, but also body language and the way people carry themselves. If you get good at it, you’ll not only have a good baseline to incorporate into your behavior patterns but you’ll also start to recognize when people are struggling on their own with this stuff. Most importantly repeat to yourself day after day, no matter how paranoid about it you are, that nobody really cares how you act beyond a shallow and base surface notion about how you’re kind of quirky.
2. Read every book you can get your hands on about human interaction, from manuals by former spies on body language, to books about the deeper levels of neuroscience examining social structure and why we act the way we do on a biological level, to books by the pick-up community about manipulative ways to act in order to get girls to like you. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize that no matter what you read none of that stuff matters in everyday practice.
3. Become overwhelmed by it all and refuse to leave your house for a period of no less than a month during which time you cement your status as a recluse and effectively get your friends to stop inviting you anywhere because they know you’re not going to come.
4. Explore and experiment with different facets of personality that give you an excuse for acting the way you do from being an introvert to, being a psychopath, to being reclusive writer to being a serial killer. Notice all the parallels between the way these people act and the way you act, and wonder if you effectively fit into any of those categories. Realize you don’t and become depressed that you can’t find a way to classify yourself aside from being mentally ill.
5. Over the course of several years, become really good at faking it, like really really good, to the point where people feel comfortable around you. They’ll still feel like there’s some missing point though, something that doesn’t quite make sense about you, something that’s just a tiny bit off. If you’ve gotten good enough to alleviate that notion on their part though, you’ll still be paranoid about it for yourself and work relentlessly to be normal or to fit into other people’s idea of being normal.
6. Lose hope altogether and resort to therapy until it makes you question the very basis of who you are then stop going because it makes you uncomfortable.
7. Take your meds and continue increasing the dose until you are either to dopey to care or too blank to realize what’s going on. Be comfortable.
8. Lose it again when something stressful happens and start the cycle again, this time though, you’re more prepared for it even though it hurts just as much as it ever has.
9. Realize what you learned in therapy was right to a degree and accept your faults. Instead of trying relentlessly to fit into something or somewhere through the way you act. Just give up the fight and accept that you may not ever be normal. Accept your quirks and your paranoia as a reality and not something that should be hidden. Also accept that there are people out there who wish to classify you and judge you whether you like it or not and that is nothing more than a passive-aggressive attempt on their part to get you to notice them. I’ve found that, not only do I feel the most normal when I’m ok with and I accept the way things are, I also feel like people treat me the most normal. Everyone has faults and if you try desperately to hide them from the world, people will only start to suspect something.
10. Be relatively ok.