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People with schizophrenia (and those without) frequently have difficulty in social situations. I figured out what the big deal is behind some of the anxiety, discomfort, awkwardness of social situations for so many of us, and what I discovered was that it has to do with risk. We all have to risk something to be around other people and interact with them.

I am in a class right now, and I am required to critique other writer’s work. I critiqued one woman’s essay and completely misunderstood what she wrote. She may have thought that I am dense, or that I am a poor reader, others in the class may have thought that my schizophrenia impacts my cognitive abilities or many other things. The point is, to be in the class, I have to take risks. I have to risk looking stupid. I have to risk misunderstandings of all kinds. There is so much to risk just by taking a class.

Going to parties, or having a job, or going to coffee with a friend, all of these things require risks on different levels. Having a job involves a lot more risk than going to a party, and having coffee with a friend requires less risk than that of attending a party. But all social interactions require us to take risks. The better we are at taking risks, and recovering from flaws, mistakes, failures, etc. probably corresponds with our level of anxiety about being with people.

Before I was on medication, making a mistake or being embarrassed could cause me to spend the whole night awake thinking about what a fool or failure I was, and I would play the incident out in my head over and over again. I would torture myself. Now, that I am on medication, and my inner voice is very subdued, if not almost non-existent, I am not as hard on myself. I wonder if some of this has to do with age and the fact that I am more gentle with myself in general? I’m not sure, but for whatever reason, I recover much quicker from social “mistakes” than I used to.

I think this “recovery” from slip-ups, missteps, accidents, misunderstandings, etc. is what keeps me from slipping into complete social isolation. I am not “horrified” that I am an imperfect person and that those imperfections play out in the social arena every time I enter it. I also don’t consider myself a complete failure or idiot for making a mistake or looking foolish.

This discovery felt very relevant to me this morning after thinking about my class and my interactions with other people.