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@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
The word “schizoid” was first introduced into my vocabulary when I was in high school by a friend of mine who was in college and majoring in psychology at the time. Like anyone, if you’ve never heard of the word before, the immediate response would be to associate it with schizophrenia. Which, of course, is what I did.
We’re going to take a slight detour before I return.
When I was in college and taking a public speaking class, we had this crazy middle aged woman in our class. And I don’t say that offensively. She was legitimately crazy. She told us. She was medicated for and previously institutionalized (multiple times) for schizophrenia. She admitted to hearing voices throughout her life. Tall and skinny with long, often unbrushed dark hair, reading glasses always at the tip of her nose . There was no doubt even by looking at her she was nuts, still, there was a sweetness about her. She didn’t mean any harm.
During one of her speeches where she spoke about her illness and institution stints, the entire class became uncomfortable. Because we didn’t know how to react to her. In some ways, it was entirely hilarious, and I don’t mean that in a vicious way… this was a college class, we weren’t 80’s movie hack bullies. She would laugh at herself because she did have a sense of humor, but we were also hesitant to laugh because we genuinely felt bad for her. This woman’s existence was not to be desired.
Despite being clearly and admittedly insane, she did have an incredibly good memory. It got to a point, however, where our professor would avoid calling on her, because even though her answers were more accurate than anyone anticipated, they always came with a side story that was equal parts insane and entertaining. She was a tough act to follow, is what I’m saying.
Towards the end of the semester, our Professor, who was a usually meticulously well groomed man, came in rather harried and out of sorts. He cut class short that day, as someone he knew/loved had passed away. Cue schizophrenic lady for comment. In what initially seemed like the most insensitive thing a person could possibly say, she said she had a dream/one of her voices told her this was going to happen.
The look on his face was heartbreaking. Grieving and then navigating how to deal with your middle aged psychotic student at the same time.
And then, she said her name. The name of the dead woman. Our professors face went white and he said in stuttering mere whisper, “how… how did you know that?” And she said, “I told you I hear things.”
I wish I was in contact with at least one person from this class still. Because we were all collectively freaked out by how fucking freaked he was by this lady/moment. This lady wasn’t shy about all the other insane shit that happened in her life so she was clearly a quack and, then suddenly, she pulled some sort of psychic ability.
Whomever he lost, it was not public knowledge. I am the last person to believe psychic mediums or any of that horses shit, but to this day, that moment/class/experience creeps me the fuck out still. You should have seen his face when she spoke her name. I have never seen a face more completely shocked while simultaneously distraught. Mouth agape, eyes widen on verge of tears. I’ll never forget his face.
The class didn’t speak of it again. Like a family that never brings up the most fucked up thing they’d ever seen, when we returned the following week, we acted as normal as we possibly could. This killed me. I had so many questions. So many questions that will never be answered. There was a kid in that class whom I had a big crush on and every time the schizophrenic woman would speak we would exchange glances of anticipation. As half an excuse to talk to him and half because I wanted to confirm I wasn’t going insane as to what we witnessed, I brought up the strange happening.
“I don’t know what the fuck that shit was,” he said, “but I didn’t like it. And I don’t want that woman anywhere near me.”
There are some wickedly strange things that happen to us all. And if I hadn’t been there to witness this impossible happening in my public speaking class, I’d be extremely hesitant to accept such a story. In fact, I was there and I’ve tried to rationalize it in every possible sense. Somethings just don’t make sense.
A second detour story! The above mentioned crush from this class and I used to talk after class all the time. He was smart, quick and had beautiful blue eyes. Week after week went by and he never asked me out. Having been an introvert and still a virgin, I was terribly timid about asking him out. At the end of semester I asked him out and he said he couldn’t because he had to wash his dog. To do this day, I don’t have a successful track record asking guys out (to my surprise as well), but that was by far the worst excuse to not go out with me (or anyone) I have ever heard.
Now… let’s return to a more modern era. Wikipedia defines a schizoid as: a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary or sheltered lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, detachment, and apathy. Affected individuals may be unable to form intimate attachments to others and simultaneously demonstrate a rich, elaborate, and exclusively internal fantasy world.
Well, that doesn’t sound like me at all.
Friend, comedian, and fellow psychoanalytical enthusiast, with whom I have deep conversation, Brian McFadden re-introduced the word to my vocabulary. The true trait of a schizoid is detachment. Often seemingly calm and laid back, if not unfeeling, but are reeling with emotions underneath the surface.
This description fits me better than Cinderella’s glass slipper. (In fact, I first met Brian probably 8 years ago when I was still a baby comedian, and he character analyzed me so quickly and accurately, it took me back a little, having thought I had so many people fooled, guarded by icy facade, but I also immediately liked him for it. It usually takes a long time for people to “figure” me out, if they ever do.)
Now, I’ll keep myself as the focal point, however. Not necessarily because I’m a narcissist, but because it is my place to only speak for myself. The reasons why may be undetermined or I’ll intentionally leave them under explained, but such a personality is grown from a young age where you either lacked the ability or lacked faith in letting others in to help bring your desires and/or needs to fruition. Thus, living in their own head.
Even when I was younger, I had a both a knack and a love for writing. One of the reasons I took to screenwriting is because my specialty was dialogue. Almost ironic, considering I’d never been much of a talker. Yes, some of the dialogue I write is stolen speech from those around me. But my mind is always dialoguing with itself. Sometimes I engage, bicker, jest and viciously attack the echoes. Other times, I just sit back and like a movie, watch my thoughts do whatever the fuck they’re going to do, because they’re going to rehearse their play anyway.
It’s quite entertaining to me, even when it is maddening. In my muttering to myself, I do make myself laugh like a lunatic at times. I’m a ridiculous person. And while it is slowly crippling me by withdrawing me further and further into myself, I think it does actually improve my writing.
Sometimes I try to remember when it was I started compartmentalizing in my head, creating library like stacks. Though it didn’t happen overnight. I’m sure I had been subconsciously doing it for years before I even noticed. The dueling dialogues have been there, too, for almost as long as I can remember. Though they didn’t seem so distinctly their own characters up until about six or seven years ago.
Brian never lacks some helpful tips and insights, though he did suggest something rather horrifying when I told him my depression was a great mystery to most everyone in my life, save for this blog, they wouldn’t even know it existed. “Well, then, they don’t really know you,” he said, not accusing but more matter-of-factly.
What a terribly lonesome idea.
Nobody knows me at all.
What’s worse still, is I don’t think I know how to not be this way. Or if I’m even willing to dissolve this disposition of mine. Disconnected. Decisions dissected by different drivers.
The inner dialogue exists so that I don’t need you. So that I don’t need anyone. However disturbing that may seem. But it is quite amusing. I can use it, sometimes. I can write it down. Make a joke. Layer a character. Use it. I find it quite entertaining.
These aren’t hallucinations, you understand the difference, right? These aren’t external voices telling me about your loved ones about to die. For fucks sake, if that happened to me even once, I’d have already walked off the TriBoro Bridge. That’s one of the freakiest things I’ve ever witnessed. Utterly inexplicable.
It makes much more sense in my head than I’m able to make clear. The stoic front is the defense mechanism of the sensitive girl. The dialogue is often a debate on what to do to keep her from being so sad. Resulting in a sarcastic cynic. Is it better to not let anyone in on that?