• Empathyspaceng

Ndidi's Avoidant Personality Disorder Story

On the outside, Ndidi looked calm as a cucumber, on the inside, she was having a full fledged debate with herself, with the topic being, if she should talk to the ‘friendly looking’ lady seated beside her or not. She had run through the list of possible intros for when she eventually summoned enough courage to say a very low toned, ‘hi’.

Ndidi was convinced there was something seriously wrong with her, how can someone be as socially timid and avoidant as she is. The lady must have noticed her awkwardness as she looked over at her and Ndidi threw her a forced and lopsided smile. The lady, probably not in the mood for idle chatter on this very hot and traffic infested day in Lagos, promptly stood up and went to the last row of the rapidly filling up Danfo-bus to find another seat. Very far away from me...Ndidi soliloquised. And so, the mission ‘to make a friend by force today’ had been aborted by the kind looking lady. How did she even conclude that the lady was both kind and friendly looking just by sitting next to her for a few minutes? Ndidi wondered to herself.

Ndidi looked down at her hands and breathed a heavy sigh. She had just finished reading ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie and this was her first public transport outing since then. She had high hopes for how to put everything she had read into practice. But here she was, frozen in place and another encounter gone wrong.

She had no idea when this all began for her but it was no different in the boarding school where she attended for her high school education. She resorted to books to keep her company; anything to escape from the constant bickering of the housemates who constantly picked on her. She went through different forms of bullying in school and by the time she graduated, she had a serious case of insecurity in relationships and was sure she was unlovable and undeserving of people’s friendship or attention.

At 38 years old, she was a sub-editor at a Publishing Firm, she has no friends and never got invited by her colleagues for any of their numerous outings. They probably all see her as extremely introverted, and even though she nursed very low feelings of self-esteem herself, she wanted desperately to be able to make friends with them. Most times she would pep talk herself ahead of getting to the office, to say hello to everyone she ran into in the corridor instead, she froze inwardly, never said any greeting aloud for fear of being ignored. The only person she talks to at work is Edet, the security guard who loved to crack jokes to make her laugh.

She really wanted to be in on the private jokes her colleagues would crack at brainstorming sessions and be able to high five them as they pass each other in the hallway. But she found that, no matter how much she tried, the thought of actually approaching them and getting familiar with them, left her filled with so much dread in a way that was both appalling and uncomfortable.

She knew without being told that the time has come for her to find a solution. With all the troubles she had keeping up with her non-existent social life, she paid little to no attention to her love life. How would anyone want to be with her for a long term relationship. As it is, she could not even bear to be with herself.

She vaguely remembered a Dr Kafayah who had facilitated a mental wellness session at the last social media week in Lagos. She had been so impressed with the way she simplified mental health awareness she had followed her on Instagram. She sent a DM introducing herself and asked if Dr. Kafayah would be willing to discuss something very very important with her and scheduled to see her later in the week.

After the first session, she was given her first assignment. To greet anyone she meets with a smile and ensures she maintains eye contact with them too. The thought of the task seemed enormous to her and was really hard at first,....still hard to be honest, but she wasn’t going to give up on practicing the assignments. She decided she was going to start with the person who lived closest to her, she was going to start by chipping in small talk with the woman who lived in the flat opposite hers.

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