Last night I attended a recruiting event for my son to join the cub scouts. When my wife asked me to do this I know she had three intentions: First to get my son involved in an activity to make friends and second to find something my son and I to bond with and finally to get me involved with a regular social event in which I could develop some relationships. I would need to perform with schizophrenia at social events.
When my son and I arrived, we were immediately greeted by a scoutmaster (I think that is his title). My son ran off to a bouncy house to play with the other boys. I was pointed out to the four tables for each local pack. They all were affiliated with a different church in town. Being the heathen I am I asked which one had the most public school kids in it (our town has several parochial schools).
I caught myself nervously stuttering as I asked this and a couple of other questions. Here I was, at a very friendly event and I was struggling with this little interaction with strangers. In my mind everyone was watching me because I was new to a town that not many people moved to and I was not a member of their church. I couldn’t stop the thoughts that they didn’t want me or my son there.
The sign for the event said registration was ten dollars but it turned out to be eight. I paid with a ten but they had no ones to give me change. I tried to express that ten was close enough and they could keep the extra two dollars. My questions were answered and I didn’t want to stir the pot. I was sure they didn’t welcome me there and that if I appeared cheap they would have an even lower opinion of me. They insisted on giving me correct change and sent a runner to the nearest fast food restaurant to give me change.
After that was done I watched as my son as he played with the other boys for around 20 minutes. My son often has a pretty severe social anxiety and I’m terrified that I’ve passed on my anxieties or, worse yet, my schizophrenia to him. But today it was non-existent. He was laughing, playing and wrestling with boys that were his age up to several years older. My son didn’t seem anxious or intimidated at all.
He jumped onto the kid-size train and rode it around the tracks with a huge smile on his face. He didn’t look to be seeking me out for comfort in a new environment like normal at all. It was terrific to see my son doing so great in a situation that had so much potential to be triggering for him.
I told myself that I needed to follow his example and try and introduce myself to a few strangers. They were all packed up though and I was having a bit of an off day apparently. I gave myself a pass telling myself that I’ll be social at the information/welcome meeting and watermelon feed early next week.
I stopped over to see how my son was doing. He said he needed to use the bathroom, which there was none. So we left. Most other kids and parents were there only long enough to get signed up anyway. My plan was to take a Klonapin when I arrived home to help with the mild panic attack that was creeping up on me. But when I arrived home I began to feel my agitation begin to recede.
This event was a reminder of how much my disease has progressed over the last few years. There was a time in my life where no one would have described me as shy or reserved and I definitely didn’t stutter. Now I would happily spend my entire time walled away in isolation. I don’t have to stay in my house, I carry my walls with me everywhere keeping a physical, mental and social distance from everyone.
It seems like the further I get in life the fewer people that I let inside my walls. My wife is always inside them and my kids too. I know I need to let more people in or make them less impenetrable. It feels like there is so much risk letting anyone in. I have gotten to the point where I consider it a victory if I send a text off to an acquaintance.
Isolation may be comfortable but it is also unfulfilling. Schizophrenia makes me feel so different than everyone else. It wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to say that I feel unknowable to anyone on the outside. What kind of common ground can I find with people that aren’t constantly tortured by their own brains? How could a neurotypical understand that all of my imagination is taken up by what feels like a separate malevolent force that seeks to tear me down constantly?
But I must work to forge a few relationships with other parents at scouting. I don’t want my son to be known as the kid that comes with the weirdo that hides in the background. Next week I’ll have Klonapin with me. I’ll try to approach the event like I have a specific role to play just like I did at my last (failed) job. I’ve been called a chameleon by a previous therapist. Able to change my colors to make anyone think exactly what I want them to. I’ll have to go full chameleon not to make them think something specific but to hide my true unknowable nature.