I am taking Abnormal Psychology this semester. The class has stimulated a great deal of enlightenment within me, as my eyes have been further opened to suffering in this world – suffering of others and suffering of myself. I would like to believe that the first step in defeating an enemy is to get to know them. I have gotten to know very many enemies this semester! In the most recent chapter personality disorders were discussed. Schizoid personality disorder (extreme social isolation, but no desire to change it) and Avoidant personality disorder (extreme social isolation and a strong desire to change this, but inability to do so) stood out to me. We were required to make a forum post (Prompt was: Which disorder was most surprising to you?) about the contents of the chapter and this was my response:
“The Schizoid and Avoidant personality disorders were personality disorders that were not necessarily surprising to me, but types which, whilst reading, awakened a sense of sorrowful remembrance, but also gratitude and a sense of purpose within me.
I saw a psychologist (thanks to gentle nudging therewards by my family) back in 2013 with the hopes of getting some clarity on various issues I had in my life mostly centring around social anxiety. After a few sessions with the therapist, she stated that I had a mild form of social anxiety. I certainly had the desire to approach, talk and enjoy other people (unlike the schizoid type), but had a good deal of fear and numerous terrible, non-self-serving cognitions (like the avoidant personality type) that held me back from living my life more fully and completely. Since the diagnosis I have taken up the sword and the shield to defeat the demons of my past and I have fought this fight publicly - I have created a blog that mostly deals with social anxiety and fears that I struggle with. I certainly have not completely vanquished the enemy, but I have come a long way in living a life more closely to what I am truly capable of living.
Reading about the avoidant personality type was especially heart-wrenching because I identify with so many of the characteristics that outline diagnosis for avoidant personality. I actually wondered why I was not diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, however, the text discussed how many researchers consider avoidant personality disorder to be a more severe form of social anxiety rather than a diagnostic category in and of itself. This discussion made me realize that even though I certainly had social anxiety, my condition was a far cry from avoidant personality disorder. I had it good, so to speak. I had an acutely strong appreciation for my parents and family for letting me grow up in the wonderful way that I did so that I developed sufficient resilience to not devolve into a more severe form of anxiety. I wondered how different I could have been had I grown up in a broken, dysfunctional home in a war-torn, impoverished area where hope is something that you only see in the movies - not a daily reality.
I can only thank God that I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family who probably (in no way do I think is this an overstatement) saved me. I can only hope that one day I may help improve dysfunctional families/communities and contribute to overcoming fear that resides in others, much like Marsha Linehan did to take up the fight with borderline personality disorder which she was afflicted by for so many years. I think we all deserve the opportunity to have a shot at self-actualisation which is the very top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and I feel that I have a responsibility to get others to the point of seeing that promised land. What someone does with their shot at self-actualization is, however, up to them.”