I’m two different people.
Most of you already know what I’m like online. I made a vow to be completely honest and hold back nothing (within reason) and so I am doing. This has been a wonderful thing for me because it has given me courage (and takes courage!)
But I’ve always been outgoing online. I talk about the things that concern me, my feelings about them, my relationships, my mostly painful and sordid past. I tell you if I’m happy, sad or mad and I tell you why. I actively seek out friendships and post on other people’s blogs (when I can find the time since I’m always on this blog). I’ve become active on social media too, something I never thought I’d be. If anything, I’m probably a little too confessional!
On the web, I’m comfortable being completely myself and do not suffer from the shyness, shame or self-consciousness that plagues me IRL.
In the real world (which I prefer to call the physical world, because online life is every bit as real as any other form of interaction), I’m the opposite of the above. I suffer from both Aspergers (which I was most likely born with) and Avoidant Personality Disorder, brought on by abuse and always feeling off balance because of my MN mother and my enabling, alcoholic father, not to mention being a frequent target for school bullies.
In the physical world, I’m a very different person than the one you know online. Although I have the same emotions (which I talk about here), I don’t discuss them openly or even at all. I have few friends, am not close with anyone in my family other than my children, and prefer the company of myself, my books, or my pets to that of other people. Lots of noise and large groups of chattering people are very triggering to me, and I find myself tensing up and retreating if possible.
Most people know very little about me. I don’t say much, I rarely initiate conversation, and am very shy. Some people think I am cold and aloof; others think I am just stupid. I’m neither, but my avoidant personality makes me seem unfriendly or insecure. My Aspergers makes me seem awkward which exacerbates my problems relating to people.
I am terrified of intimacy and romantic relationships. After a long, abusive marriage and 7 more years of hell living with him after we divorced, I think I’ve had enough. I don’t trust men enough or trust my own judgment enough to dare take the plunge again into a new relationship. I also feel like my age is a problem, even though I look far younger than I am. I haven’t had sex in 9 years and really, that’s not a problem for me. I like the idea of having a relationship again (who really wants to die alone?), but I don’t know if I could cope with the reality of one. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen though. It just scares the living daylights out of me.
I can’t stand talking on the phone and a ringing phone is very triggering for me: I always expect to hear bad news. I know it’s just my hypervigilance, but I can’t help my reaction whenever the phone rings. As far as talking on the phone, it’s just awkward because I can’t pick up nuances in speech (due to my Aspergers) which is made worse by the fact I can’t see their facial expressions or body language. I try to end phone conversations as quickly as possible, which makes people think I’m unfriendly or don’t want to talk to them.
I don’t connect well IRL with most people, although I do get along with most. I’m not hard to get along with, just hard to get to know.
Blogging has enabled me to open up and be the self I want to be. It’s enhanced my self esteem and my creativity. Being courageous enough to post the sort of things I post gives me even more courage. Journaling online to complete strangers has helped me understand a lot of things I never used to understand and it’s even helping me develop more empathy.
But this isn’t the Matrix and I can’t live inside my online world all the time. I do think, however, that my increased self esteem and self awareness will soon translate into my relations with the real world. In fact, I’ve been told I seem more relaxed, happier, and more confident than I used to be, even though my extreme reservedness remains. I smile and laugh more. Most people do seem to like me, even though they can’t get to know me well. They have no idea the shy, mysterious, taciturn woman who tends to clam up in social situations or avoid them altogether actually runs a blog where she talks about the most personal issues it’s possible to talk about.