Why I created ‘Socially Distant’ and what it’s all about.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing was something people were forced to do.
For me, the pandemic made me realise just how socially distant I am.
I’ve spent most of the last two years at home, by myself, with very little social contact.
And it’s been great. I haven’t been lonely. I haven’t been bored. Nor have I gone mad.
I’ve long known that I prefer my own company. But it wasn’t until lockdown that I realised just how comfortable I was being by myself for extended periods of time.
The contentedness I feel in my own company is experienced at a cellular level, deep-down-to-my-soul-core. When I’m alone I feel like I’m living at my default setting. I’ve not had to ‘learn to love’ my solitude these last couple of years; instead they’ve felt more like a coming home, a return to a state of being I reckon I’ve always been predisposed to: that is, a solitary one.
But aren’t we told that humans are social animals? That people need interaction, connection, companionship? How many times during lockdown did we hear the sirens sound for the threat social isolation posed to people’s mental health? We were told that because humans are naturally social creatures, social distancing could only be anathema to our very being; it could only lead to loneliness, listlessness and near-suicide.
Where does that leave people like me, though? Who are perfectly content being by themselves for significant stretches of time; who don’t need other people all that much?
I’ve always been shy and quiet.
My whole life I’ve struggled to speak, to socialise, and connect with others.
For this, I’ve been bullied, belittled, ostracised, shamed, questioned, queried, made to feel lesser than.
Being ‘socially distant’ has been, and continues to be, the main struggle of my life.
I’m in my late thirties now, and still, in so many ways, burdened by a chronic reserve I just don’t seem able to budge.
I malfunction, socially. Something doesn’t quite work properly.
It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I realised I was an ‘introvert’. It was Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’, that revealed to me that my own quiet nature was indeed just that; natural, inborn, innate.
I wasn’t meant to be the life and soul of the party. My brain is wired in such a way that yes, I am going to struggle to say something on the spot. It would take a lot for me to put my hand up. And as for socialising, it’s not so strange that I prefer to stay in with a book than go to the pub, because interacting with people is going to wipe me out.
Thanks to Cain’s Quiet, we hear a lot more about introversion and introverts these days. Indeed, a particular discourse has formed around it.
One that insists that introverted people are still social. They’re not afraid of people. Quite the opposite in fact; introverts love to form deep and intimate bonds with others. They’re not LONERS (urgh!).
I don’t relate to this.
I am a loner. I don’t want to socialise. It doesn’t interest me.
It also scares me. When I interact with others, I lose my self. People don’t just drain me, they suffocate me. Destroy me.
I don’t have a romantic partner, I don’t have any friends. And I’m actually okay with that. I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything.
The last thing I want is a close relationship with someone. The idea freaks me the fuck out.
This means the mainstream discourse around introversion only speaks to my experience as a quiet and solitary person up to a point.
This was reinforced during the pandemic. There I was so comfortably alone, not needing people to talk to, or to touch. And yet, many an article was published, telling us how even the introverts were finding lockdown tough.
‘Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not social! Humans are social animals!’
I began to think of myself as more than a ‘mere’ introvert. What was I though? It felt like something was missing. I wanted another word, another term, another frame of reference to understand my socially distant ways.
And then in spring 2021 I found it.
And oh boy! It was like a series of jigsaw pieces fell into place, solving the puzzle of me.
Ever since then, I’ve been gobbling up information about schizoid personality/schizoid personality disorder.
There isn’t that much out there, unfortunately. This perhaps explains why I hadn’t come across the term until now (I’m in my late thirties!).
The literature that is out there though, is incredibly fascinating. Yet also complex and bewildering (and contradictory at times, too!).
This is one of the reasons why I created Socially Distant: to explore the rich terrain that is schizoid personality/schizoid personality disorder.
I want to raise more awareness of the ‘schizoid’ way-of-being in the world, and in so doing, expand the ‘introvert discourse’, to take into account those of us who exist on a different part of the quiet spectrum.
Learning that I’m schizoid has led me to confront the fact that, as much as I adore, and thrive in, solitude, it also serves as a defence mechanism. There is a ‘darker’ side to my socially distant ways.
For this reason, I also intend for Socially Distant to examine the troubles and struggles of schizoids – and other solitary/asocial types – in relation to their social isolation.
Yet it will also address the persistent and pervasive cultural bias that exists against solitude (and by extension, solitary people).
Ultimately, Socially Distant will be an exploration – into those of us who don’t need other people that much: the schizoids, the solitaries, the loners, the loveless.
Who are we? Why are we? And how do we get to live in our ‘you must be social!’ society?
I hope you’ll join me for the journey. Be sure to subscribe so you can be notified when I publish something new (scroll to the bottom to sign up). I intend to post at least fortnightly.
Do feel free to leave comments.
Or if you just want to lurk, that’s cool too.
Thank you for reading.