In medical school, I remember quite distinctly the day we talked about personality disorders. We discussed schizoid personality disorder. These are the folks who prefer solitude. They are lighthouse keepers or wander the desert. This is in stark contrast to social anxiety disorder, where a person is unable to interact with people, and this inability causes great distress.
I remember this because it was when I realized that I have made some terrible decisions in my life, choices that I am not proud of, in order to wake up in the morning and not shoot myself.
I was recently forced to do a lot of introspection. This is something that I am relatively comfortable with. I keep this blog, I write in a journal, I feel like I am pretty in touch. But surprisingly, putting a voice to my inner monologue was quite horrifying.
In my life, I've had my fair share of romantic disappointments and failures. Couple this with other issues with intimacy and relationships growing up, and somewhere along the line, I decided that I could not take it anymore. I made the quite conscious decision to hold the world at arm's length, to distance myself emotionally from all this turbulence. And without that horror, I've thrived. I've done well in medical school and residency, and I feel like I've managed to accomplish quite a bit in my life.
But it comes at a steep price. Sure enough, I have not had my heart broken in a long time, and I haven't felt that pain again, but the problem is that the pain and joy come from the same place. I have cut myself off from a world of happiness, because the risk of pain was unacceptable.
And I've watched life pass me by from my little castle, with all interlopers thwarted by the high walls and deep moat. And actually, if I am really honest about it, women have tried, some trying pretty hard, to get inside. And rather than welcome them in, I have put up more walls, and closed myself off.
This distance has its pluses. I can unflinchingly deal with most patient interactions. I've had people cry, people yell at me, the whole gamut of emotions, and I have been able to be empathic, and none of it hurts me, because I don't let them get close. They have to work on my schedule. I can deal with patients in convenient 15-20 minute chunks. They open their doors to me, but it isn't reciprocal.
It's too bad that joy and sorrow come from the same place, and that it is our greatest loves who can hurt us the most. I just don't know if I can risk it. I don't know if my heart can take it. I so desperately want to be loved, but the thought of me loving another person is absolutely petrifying.
I portray to the rest of the world a man of confidence, an outgoing and gregarious guy, but at heart, I am none of those things. They are adaptations so that I can operate in this extroverted world. And I think of how wonderful it would be to meet a girl who could cut through all of this façade and get to know the real me, and not this face that I portray to the world. She would tell me, "Hey, it's okay. This is safe, you and me," and I could finally, finally let my guard down.