By: Alyssa Zaunz
“The scary thing about my personality disorder is that I don’t know where the illness ends and where I begin.” – Unknown.
The first time I read that quote, it felt like a punch in the face. It still gets me every time I read it because it speaks the sad truth.
I question myself a lot; those doubts are not just a symptom of my disorders, they are often about my disorders and my behavior linked to it. I always ask myself if it’s me or my personality disorders (PD) that acts and I never quite know the answer.
The fact I don’t talk much in this conversation, is this me? When I can’t enter a crowded room, is this my PD? Did I decide to stay in my room, did I want to hide from the world, do I really hate myself, or did someone — no, something else — decide for me?
It’s different with my anxiety; I know when I’m anxious. I know it’s anxiety that makes me nervous, that causes me to stutter, or that gives me heart palpitations and self-doubt. I’m aware of its presence — I know when it’s there.
But my avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) is sneaky. It’s the quietness, the hesitation, the hatred, the self-criticism, the avoidance and the isolation that lingers in the dark every day. It’s so much of me; it’s the small thing no one can see, and the big ones that keep me locked up.
I want to hide it. I want to hide this part of me I hate so much, but how am I supposed to do this if I don’t know where it begins? How do I stop it if I can’t tell when it shows up to manipulate me?
Staying at home, not talking much, not going out, not pressing “send” on this message saying “hi” to a friend, distancing myself, pushing people away, not answering the phone, canceling plans, being disappointed at the reflection in the mirror, being not good enough, feeling out of place, not making eye contact, constantly looking down at my feet, feeling uncomfortable, shivering when someone touches my hand, staying private and not opening up about myself, pretending everything is fine… Did I make the choice for all those things?
Every day, the question comes back: Is this me or my disorder?
It gets louder in my head as I try to respond.
Sometimes I’m able to answer it by spotting the more obvious symptoms.
Sometimes I realize it was a symptom of my illness, afterward, when it’s already too late to fight it.
But more often, I lose myself. Not knowing if I, myself, decided to act a certain way, to say a certain word, to think a certain thought, or to feel a certain emotion.
Not knowing how much of me is really showing and how much is hidden behind my illness.
This is not just the case for AvPD. Personality disorders are named this for a reason. Those disorders are rooted in your personality so deeply, they mix up together. They are so close that it gets hard to tell them apart.
I don’t know what’s me and what’s not.
Where do I start? And where does the thing inside of me end?