Ebooks   ➡  Nonfiction  ➡  Psychology  ➡  Mental illness  ➡  Personality

Life As A Recluse

I am a recluse. I say this neither out of pride nor humility, but with the feeling that I should just say it.

There are a lot of names for people like me. We are called loners, shut-ins, hermits, anti-socials and so on. These words mean different things depending on what media you’ve been exposed to. To some, a hermit is a monastic person living high in the Himalayas connecting with his inner self through meditation and isolation. For others, an anti-social is a crazy, bearded old guy who distills whiskey somewhere up on Schooley’s Mountain. A loner is often portrayed as an individual who lives in his mom’s basement, spending his days wearing a wife-beater t-shirt, watching Jerry Springer, and eating corn out of a can. Or the reclusive Howard Hughes type that hides in hotel rooms, harvests his fingernails and wears tinfoil hats to keep the aliens out.

I am not like any of that, yet preconceptions are a difficult thing to overcome.

Though I have little contact with anyone outside of my immediate family, I think I lead a relatively normal life. Of course, “normal” is a subjective term. It’s just that my normal is different.

I work as a freelance writer and editor. I spend my days banging out words on my laptop like a chimpanzee. I write novels, and I proofread and edit books, articles and term papers for clients. I shop for essentials early in the morning when I’m less likely to encounter people, and I always use the self-checkout machines. I get my exercise each morning by walking two miles around town. I go to church every Sunday. And I see my family at all holidays and birthdays. I’m not a complete homebound shut-in. I do get out; I just don’t interact much with anyone face-to-face.

My early life was pretty much like everyone else’s. I come from a large family. I went to school and made friends. I played with neighborhood friends and acquaintances, and went to birthday parties, campouts, and trips down the Jersey shore or to Hacklebarney State Park. I loved to read and create stories of my own. I learned to play four musical instruments. And I played various sports, even though I was an athletic doofus.

My reclusive behavior began around the time I was in seventh grade, but it didn’t happen all at once. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided I wasn’t going out anymore. I didn’t just disappear from the world. If that were the case—where you just quit the world on the spot and without any warning—the world freaks out; a million text messages are sent, police are called to check on you, interventions are held, and walruses are dispatched on rescue scooters. Well, maybe not that last one. I like to keep a sense of humor.

There wasn’t any defining moment that caused me to turn inward, at least not early on. Instead, it was a gradual and imperceptible process that neither I, nor my family was aware of. I pulled back, slowly, withdrawing from social interactions over the course of several years.

In time, I stopped making new friends. I stopped accepting invitations. I stopped socializing. Except for one or two friends and a couple of teachers, I stopped talking at school. I suspect that most of my high school classmates, at least those who remember me, will recall that I was a pathological shy who rarely talked. And because of that, I was labeled as “weird.”

My condition was ultimately diagnosed in high school as Social Anxiety Disorder. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to make it better. Meeting with counselors ad nauseam didn’t work. Mood altering medications at the time (at least of the legal varieties) were non-existent. In then end, it was my parents resolve that the forced socialization of my going to school every day was the only viable option for my condition.

I guess it helped to a point. I knew most everyone at school and most knew me. Still, I didn’t socialize, nor did I go to the prom during my junior and senior years. The S.A. kept me from approaching anyone. I did have a couple of “crushes” on girls in high school, but the S.A. kept me from asking anyone out.

College began as a better experience for me. I lived at home and commuted to Kean University on days that my classes were scheduled. I didn’t have to socialize and I didn’t join any clubs or organizations, at least not on my own accord.

The only activity I did eventually join was the campus newspaper staff, when an English professor recognized my interest in writing. She gave me a weekly columnist assignment where I wrote humorous essays on my experiences as a commuter student. It was a success, in that for the first time in years I was able to connect with others, at least on paper.

But during my junior year, I experienced a traumatic personal incident that caused my S.A. to develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had met a fellow writing student the year before and, as crazy as it sounds, she and I hit it off and we became a couple. She also had S.A. just like me, yet we had a way of drawing each other out of our shells. For the first time in my life, I fell in love, and had my first girlfriend.

It didn’t last. She an alcoholic with a heroin addiction, and suffered a fatal overdose during spring break of that year. She was an expert at keeping her addiction from me, and had me completely fooled. It didn’t help that I was naïve enough to believe everything she told me. Still, I was in love with her, and a part of me died that day with her.

I never set out to be a recluse. But, life happens and some people are better at dealing with traumatic events than others. For me, it’s something that has never gone completely away.

I’ve written five novels, with two more in progress, and I keep busy between books as a freelance editor. As a result, I’m able to financially support myself without becoming a burden to my family or to society on account of my S.A. and PTSD.

Internet social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn has been a blessing in giving me ways to connect with people without having to do so in person, which wasn’t possible 20 years ago. I’ve found it’s easy to be outgoing, social, and “normal” online. And because of that, about 98% of those whom I’m connected with online are completely unaware of my S.A. and PTSD.

Still, there are some downsides to being this way. I haven’t been to a concert in 28 years. I’ve never been to a high school class reunion. There was a Mega-Reunion last summer for several classes from my high school, but I wasn’t able to get myself there, either.

I do hope that one day I’ll start being like everyone else. I haven’t stopped trying. But, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, either, because I’m not. And I don’t want sympathy or judgment. My reason for writing this essay is to try to explain what I’ve been living with for most of my life. And if anyone out there reading this who is dealing with similar issues, and can find solace in knowing that they aren’t alone, then writing this was worth it.

I admit that writing this was hard, but it’s helped me to open up about my S.A. and PTSD. I recognize that I’m different, but I’m also aware that it doesn’t mean I can’t fit in. I’m not going to pretend to be normal anymore, because I’m not normal. However, I’m going to try to live my life more connected to others. In time, I hope I can find friends who will accept me for who and what I am.

Life As A Recluse

  • ISBN: 9781311443199
  • Author: Mark Mueller
  • Published: 2016-05-23 16:05:06
  • Words: 1337
Life As A Recluse Life As A Recluse