Question of the day.

   You’ve been given the ability to speak to one type of animal for the rest of your life, which one do you choose and why? 

   My answer: 

   Practically, I would choose cats, because I have a cat, and I’ve always wanted to know what Misha is thinking or feeling, and it has always low-key frustrated me that I can only try my best to guess if he likes or dislikes something or if something hurts him etc. Sighted people have the eye contact and gestures, but when you don’t have even that to rely on, it’s even more of a guessing game, especially that Misha isn’t overly vocal. So, if I were able to speak to him in his language, I assume I would understand him as well. That would be very helpful and comfortable. Speaking to him feels a lot less important than understanding him, but it could be useful too. I often wonder if he actually understands our human gestures, like hugging or kissing him, as manifestations of affection for him, and if he understands just how important he is to me and how much I like to sleep with him, that it’s not just like a part of my routine or something. Similarly, I don’t think he understands the concept of something simply not being there when it used to, despite he wants it to be there, so it would be neat if I could explain it to him in his language. I could tell him that, no, I’m really not making fun of you or trying to be mean to you, everything comes to end, and that’s what just happened to your treats, there’s no spare box of them that’s going to appear magically out of nowhere, someone will have to pop to the shop tomorrow, but right now it’s midnight and all the shops are closed, so you’re out of treats. Or I could try to alleviate his fears, like explain to him that vacuum cleaners really have no bad intentions towards him or that the world doesn’t revolve around him so that if someone turns towards him or touches him by accident, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re trying to harm him, or that they’re even thinking about him at all. 

   However, as much as it would be practical and as much as I love Misha, there’s one species of animals that I think would be far more interesting to talk to, assuming, like I said, that you could also understand their answers. Those animals are horses. I think horses are such insanely wise animals, and I’ve always been fascinated by how complex personalities they can have. Cats definitely have their own personalities too, but they don’t differ between each other quite as much as horses do, and they’re rarely so multi-dimensional as horses seem to. And horses are really good observers. Well not all of them I suppose but many of those that I’ve come across seem to be. For example, I am quite good at bottling stuff up and am rather emotionally inhibited on the outside, but Czardasz aka Łoś – the first horse that I used to ride and with whom I had a really strong bond until he died – would always immediately pick up on when I was anxious or not and would act differently, and whenever I was sad, he was always unusually affectionate and clingy with me. He was also insanely good at estimating his rider’s physical capabilities. Somehow he always knew that this kid has very spastic cerebral palsy and is currently putting all the effort she can into riding, but this one is actually slacking and can do more than he’s doing with his better leg, so let’s make him use his muscles properly. And he was always extremely patient with people with all sorts of behavioural difficulties like neurodevelopmental disabilities. So while I unfortunately wouldn’t be able to talk to Łoś, I’d still like to talk to other horses about what they think and how they perceive people etc. 

   What would you choose? 🙂 

Elin Jonsson – “Beluga”.

   Hey guys! 🙂 

   Just earlier this week, I came across Elin Johnson, and more specifically her album Drömmaren (The Dreamer), from two years ago. I liked it quite a bit, so I decided that I’d share one piece from it on here, except I’m sharing a live version of it. Elin is a Swedish fiddler from Jämtland. 

Floraleda Sacchi – “Divenire” (To Become).

   And for today, I chose a very interesting contemporary classical piece composed by pianist Ludovico Einaudi, originally coming from his album of the same title, and here played on the harp by Floraleda Sacchi, many of whose other interpretations of Einaudi’s compositions I’ve shared on here before. 

Song of the day (28th March) – Anne Crosby Gaudet – “Changing Seasons”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Spring has theoretically started, but here it’s been snowing since yesterday! So I decided that for yesterday’s overdue song of the day, I’ll share with you a piece which reflects this seasonal transition, from the Canadian harpist and teacher Anne Crosby Gaudet, the third tune by her on this blog. A lot of Anne’s pieces are inspired by nature, and this is one of them. 

Lucy Blue – “I Left My Heart”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Last year, I shared with you Pilot, the first song by Lucy Blue that I heard and that I instantly liked. I’ve been listening to this Irish artist ever since. I like her personal songwriting, and I like how “blue” overall her music is. So I thought I’d share another song by her, one that just came out earlier this month. About nostalgia for home, and how you miss it and want to come back even though you’d always thought you wanted to leave. There’s even a line in Irish, which makes it feel all the more authentic to me. 

Phamie Gow – “Seeing the Light”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Today’s song is a piano piece from the Scottish multi-instrumentalist Phamie Gow. This is her 2020 single. 

   Phamie Gow – “Seeing the Light”.

Delyth Evans – “Y Bardd/Mother’s Delight” (The Poet/Mother’s Delight).

   Hey guys! 🙂 

   Today, I decided on another piece from Delyth Evans/Jenkins’ album Ar y Ffin (On The Border). These are both traditional tunes. 

Inge Frimout-Hei – “Venus”.

    Hi people! 🙂 

   I have already shared on here a piece called Jupiter on here, played by Inge Frimout-Hei. Today, I want to share with you another composition from the same celestial-themed album, Planetary Impressions, this time all about Venus. I think it’s really evocative. 

Harriet Earis Trio – “Earl of Hyndford”.

    Hey people! 🙂 

   For today, I chose yet another piece from  Harriet Earis Trio’s album which I really like, From the Crooked Tree. The piece itself is called Earl of Hyndford, which refers to a Scottish title but I have no idea if it’s about any of its bearers in particular. 

Robin Huw Bowen – “All Through the Night”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   For today, I want to share with you this quite famous Welsh lullaby, also known as Ar Hyd y Nos in Welsh, and played by Robin Huw Bowen on the Welsh triple harp. I’ve shared one other piece by Robin Huw Bowen before, namely Ymadawiad y Brenin. I have also shared a different version of this song, sung by Meinir Gwilym

Song of the day (20th March) – Lynn Saoirse – “Glass of Beer / The Musical Priest”.

   And for Monday’s song, I have for you guys two cheery tunes played by the Irish harpist Lynn Saoirse. They’re both traditional reels. 

Song of the day (19th March) – Lxandra – “Solid Ground”.

   For Sunday’s overdue song of the day, I’ve chosen a pop piece, from a singer who has already had her debut here on My Inner Mishmash three years ago, with her song Swimming Pools. Lxandra, or Alexandra Leith, is a Finnish singer songwriter who lives in Germany. This song comes from her 2021 album Careful What I Dream Of. I like that album very much as a whole – well, I generally just like Lxandra’s music – but this is definitely my favourite song from it. Musically, but also lyrically. It just speaks to me on a lot of different levels and has plenty to like it for. 

Question of the day (18th March).

   What’s something you do when you’re alone that others would think is weird if they saw you? 

   My answer: 

   Probably quite a lot of things, more than I can think of and maybe even more than I realise. But the most obvious one is stimming/“blindisming”. I don’t know which word fits better here because stims are widely associated with conditions like autism, which I don’t have, while blindisms – things that are on the surface very similar to stims (like rocking, spinning in place, eye poking, head swaying, all kinds of repetitive hand and finger movements, jumping etc. ), but are only done by blind or visually impaired people – apparently only have a compensatory function, to compensate for the missing sensory input. But for me I feel like they sort of fulfil both purposes – compensation AND emotional regulation. And, from my observations, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only non-autistic person who is like that. Both can also be classified as sensorisms I believe, but I see this word a lot less often so it’s probably not very obvious. I think for the rest of this post I’m going to use the word stimming in reference to mine, unless it makes sense to do otherwise, because “blindisming” isn’t a real word, right? 

   Blindisms is something that I guess almost all children who are born blind develop, although of course they’re different for everyone and I guess their intensity too. It seems to me that it, as well as other such compensatory mechanisms associated with blindness, are still terribly under-researched. When I was a little kid, I had some very obvious blindisms, and I guess quite a lot of them. My favourite ones were playing with small objects in a very specific way, sort of repetitively moving them in my hand between two fingers or kind of waving them or bouncing them in my palm or something, though it would also depend on the type of an object. While doing this, I would simultaneously always create some sort of story in my brain, and I found the whole thing insanely pleasurable. I had a whole box of all kinds of objects that I liked and with which I had interesting synaesthetic associations, and I would sit with that box in the living room, playing with each object for a while and creating a story which would contain words that I associated synaesthetically with each of them, and I can have multiple associations with one object so the possibilities were almost endless. My parents found it really amusing and never quite understood what I was doing. Not only was it mentally stimulating, but also oddly relaxing. I would also flick my fingers and flap my hands any time I was happy or excited about something or daydreaming or thinking about something fun.

   I think they have lessened greatly once I went to school. Unlike in neurodivergent communities where stimming is these days often embraced and even encouraged, for blind children the general consensus is that they should unlearn them as soon as possible. Which makes sense because they don’t really enhance the way other people perceive you, and some blindisms like eye poking can be downright dangerous and I knew some kids who had to have eye surgeries because of that. I don’t really remember being told at school not to stim, but I did hear other children being reminded a lot about this, and I think that when I witnessed others doing similar or the same things, my awareness of my own stims and their visibility gradually increased. Also, as I got older, I developed my famed bottling up skills, alongside the conviction that other people really shouldn’t see or draw conclusions on what I might be feeling, and stims were a bit of an obstacle with that so I tried my best not to do them around other people. 

   I don’t know how about other blind people who have unlearnt public stimming, but I definitely still do it when I’m on my own. Perhaps not as intensely as when I was a kid, but I totally do! I can’t imagine not doing it. I mean for real, when I’ve had times when I wasn’t able to stim for a few days because of someone with good enough sight being close all the time, it always made me feel kind of weird. A mental equivalent of when you want to pee, but can’t, I suppose. 😀 I have some smaller stims that are more discrete/less glaring (or at least I believe they are because no one’s ever told me “BIBIEL wtf are you doing?!”, and I’m pretty sure Sofi would have because she’s very image-conscious and a very perceptive observer for her age) and that I can resort to when I really need to, which I tend to do particularly during times when you’re supposed to sit basically still in public for some extended period of time, think in church or at a stiff family gathering. Things like intricate playing with your fingers, cuticle- or nail-picking etc. Normally in such situations, people have plenty of visual stimuli that keep their brain occupied, but without them, it can easily get sort of boring, even if not always on a cognitive level too. Such stimming even helps me to focus better. 

   As for my very private, unapologetic stims, well, I no longer have a huge box with marbles, clip-on earrings and things nicked from my Dad’s garage, I’m more of a minimalist now. I have one little plastic fish, and one more in reserve in case I lose the regular one somewhere just like I’ve lost most of my marbles as a kid (hahahahaha OMG pun totally not intended). When I have nothing stressful and rumination-worthy going on at a given time, my brain’s favourite topic for night-time rumination is always what I’ll do if one day I’ll lose both fishes, because they’re very particular fishes and my Mum doesn’t even remember where she bought them, lol. Every immediate family member has asked me at least once why this fish is so very important to me that I take it with me every time I leave home for longer than a day. I never give them any real answer, so they assume I’m just so attached to it emotionally. But I guess I’m not really. There are plenty of things that I feel a much stronger connection to. Saying that I have an emotional attachment to this fish would be like saying that I have an emotional attachment to, dunno, kitchen utensils, because I use them every single day. This fish just happens to be an ideal object for comfortable stimming. Since I no longer have a whole selection of objects that I’d associate with different words, I don’t make up stories solely from my brain, what I do instead is I read something and pick out specific words from it and make a story using them while stimming with this fish. It might be about anything. Something interesting that I’ve been thinking about lately, based on something I’ve read or heard, or totally random, whatever I want. I usually don’t really have a plan beforehand. 

   Besides that, I also still flick my fingers when I’m alone and feeling excited about something. Or, even more so, when I’m daydreaming/paracosming/fantasising or whatever you wanna call it. It somehow doesn’t feel complete without stimming, and it happens almost involuntarily once I zone out into my Brainworld. 

   Rocking is a very very common blindism, but honestly I don’t recall rocking a lot as a small child. When I went to school, I developed mild aversion to it because you don’t have to see it to find it kind of off-putting in others. For example, it’s really annoying standing between two people both of whom are rocking or swaying all the freaking time lol. And when I was in preschool my Mum kept saying how this always makes her think of children in orphanages. But then as a teenager I suddenly started doing it when alone, either when I was deep in thought or felt some intense and yucky emotions, and I still sometimes catch myself doing it. But because it started happening so late, I dunno if it really is a blindism or even a stim. 

   Unless I’m really out of it because I’m so deep in my brain, I NEVER stim in an obvious way around other people. Even when I really really really need to do it, I sort of can’t, because I have such huge emotional blockades at this point. Unless you consider other repetitive body-focused behaviours such as nail biting or lip biting as blindisms or stims, which I guess sometimes can be classed as such and for me they serve a couple of different functions. With these, if I feel the urge to do it, I do it regardless of where and with whom. I can only stop for a little while before I unwittingly start doing it again, and when I’m around other people I at least try to make sure that I won’t end up properly bleeding like a freak or that I have tissues. 😀 But with all the other stims, I only do them when I’m absolutely sure that no one can see me and that the door is closed. When I have even the slightest suspicion that someone might be close enough to see me stimming, all the fun is spoilt. Misha is an exception from the rule, I totally don’t care what he thinks about my stimming. 

   So, how is it with you? 🙂 

Song of the day (18th March) – Llio Rhydderch – “Yr Hufen Melyn a Mathafarn” (The Yellow Cream and Mathafarn).

   Let’s listen to this traditional Welsh tune known under a whole lot of different names. I’ve already shared a version of this tune called Hufen  y Cwrw Melyn played by Gwenan Gibbard. It is also known as Mathafarn. There seem to be quite a few places called Mathafarn in Wales, so the alternative name of this tune must refer to one of them. 

Question of the day (17th March).

   What’s your favourite chemical element? 

   My answer: 

   Lol, this question reminds me of when I had the Achilles tendons surgery at 10 and then was practically immobilised for weeks, and my main pass-time was reading, except the only things I could read at the time were old children’s magazines and dictionaries, including a Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases which had like twelve volumes in Braille, so I learned a whole lot of obscure, useless, insanely niche words during that time. At the end of that dictionary, there were different “tables”, the purpose of which I didn’t really understand very well as a kid, but they contained things like all the families of languages, the months of the French Republican calendar, and the periodic table of elements, except if I remember correctly they were not arranged by atomic number but alphabetically, but I could be wrong. Anyways, being in third grade at the time, I was familiar with some chemical elements, but looking at that table, I remember being very surprised how there are so many of them and how they have such weird names and I wondered what they look like. And since my brain seems to have a bit sponge-like properties, and also that I didn’t really have a lot of more fun reads at the time, I ended up memorising all those elements and their symbols, but unsurprisingly not their atomic numbers. 😀

   The one that I found particularly fun was bismuth. You may or may not know that I really like the word Bis. It started out with my fascination with Radio BIS, and then I created my own meanings of the word and we use it casually with Sofi until now. First, Bis can mean any child, and second, Bis is anyone who is cool and likeable. In Polish, bismuth is actually bizmut, so no bis there, but it still sounds fairly similar and I believe that in that table, there also were Latin names of the elements so either way I associated it instantly with Bis. Then I read in the actual dictionary that bismuth was a hard and brittle metal with a silvery shine or something like that, and then I kept thinking how I’d like to feel bismuth, what it’s like to touch, because I thought it must be really beautiful. I now know that people even collect bismuth crystals, so I guess they must be, but despite I collect crystals, I’ve never come across bismuth to buy anywhere, and I also haven’t really looked much for it specifically, because while I’d still be happy to feel bismuth or have a piece of it, I’m no longer quite as crazily into it as I was back then and I actually collect gem stones, so a bismuth would probably feel lonely among them. But yeah, bismuth is really cool and so underrated. 

   How about you? Do you have a favourite one at all? 

Song of the day (17th March) – Delyth Evans – “Andante”.

   And another harp piece for Friday, but much shorter and much different in vibe, by the frequently featured on here Welsh harpist Delyth Evans/Jenkins. It comes from her 1998 album Ar y Ffin (On The Border). 

Question of the day (16th March).

   What is your most useless achievement? 

   My answer:

   The first thing that comes to my mind is graduating high school, and even with honours (or rather our Polish equivalent of that). 😀 It’s funny and was totally useless, because months later, as you may or may not be aware, it turned out that I failed my Maths final exam, and you have to pass all your finals in order to go anywhere further in your education. I failed it miserably enough that that I decided not to retake it, as I had very little idea about what I’d do afterwards anyway, so I guess it’s possible that in the end my finals and any further education would end up being a useless achievement too. As I wrote in a post about useless skills, I guess some of my languages, namely Swedish, Welsh and Norwegian, may be considered useless for me as well, so if we think of them as such, then my achievements related to them can definitely be called useless. Not that I care particularly much though. 

Song of the day (16th March) – Anne Roos ft. David Blonski – “Cantiga”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   I’ve been a bit behind on our regular series posts lately, so let’s catch up on the overdue ones. First, I’d like to share with you something from a harpist who I believe has never been featured on this blog before – Anne Roos. – Anne plays the Celtic harp, and last year she released an album together with multi-instrumentalist David Blonski. Here is one piece from this album, which I like for how evocative and elaborate it is. 

Book Review – It’s a Shame I Can’t Share: Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder by Jake Ware.

When I started this blog over five years ago, I swore that I would never do book reviews here. I did a lot of them on my previous Polish language blogs because, as someone who reads a lot, it almost felt like I should, but I don’t think I was very good at it. And it didn’t seem to fit in with what I wanted this blog to be, at least originally. But here I am, breaking my vow and writing a book review. I feel I really need to do it with this particular book. It was supposed to be a mini review (ha, ha, ha!), but in order to make it Bibiel-style, I have decided that it WILL contain a lot of personal reflections, so consider yourselves warned.

   It’s a shame I can’t share: Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder is Jake Ware’s memoir about his own experiences with avoidant personality disorder, published in February this year. Jake also has a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing his experiences and raising awareness of the disorder, which I discovered quite shortly before the book came out. As you may know, I have also been diagnosed with it and have talked about it on here many times, so you may be more or less familiar with the term and what it means. Jake has done a great job of explaining what avoidant personality disorder is in his book, but let me give you some basic definitions here, just so you know what we’re dealing with.

   Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is one of the so-called Cluster C (anxious/fearful) personality disorders. It is characterised by severe, ingrained social anxiety, which is not limited to a single type of situation such as public speaking or meeting new people, or being afraid of very specific things such as blushing, but occurs in pretty much any type of social interaction, and is often accompanied by more generalised anxiety. I often say simplistically, that it is like social anxiety, only more intense, more firmly rooted in the brain, and with a few extra gimmicks. People who suffer from it also experience intense feelings of inadequacy and fear of social rejection or criticism. They therefore avoid social interaction as a way of coping with the symptoms. There is much more to AVPD than this, but these are the key features used to diagnose people with the disorder. Other common symptoms include, but are not limited to: low or non-existent self-esteem, fantasising/maladaptive daydreaming/unhealthy escapism, paranoid traits, high sensory processing sensitivity, preoccupation with what other people think of you and whether or not you are making them feel uncomfortable, inhibited emotional expression, inability to share thoughts or interests freely with others, depressive tendencies, and what I personally call a low humiliation threshold and a low cringe/embarrassment threshold. Of course, as with any mental illness, it’s important to remember that the presentation can vary from person to person and also depends on what comorbidities, if any, they have. 

   I’ve always found it frustrating and disheartening that there is so little information, so few resources about AVPD, especially when you compare it to other personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder. When you think about it, this is not at all surprising given that the very nature of AVPD means that people with it often find it very difficult, if not impossible, to seek treatment, and as a result doctors rarely come into contact with it outside of textbooks, and there are very likely many people who are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Even if they are diagnosed, they may be very reluctant to talk openly about their struggles for fear of coming across as cringey (even if only to themselves) or just plain whiny. Even I myself, despite mentioning my AVPD a lot and writing posts from the perspective of someone with AVPD, have still not written a proper, more general, detailed post about AVPD, although I have thought about it more times than I care to admit. As a result, Most of the personal stories of AVPD I have come across come from relatively high functioning people, certainly more high functioning than myself in most respects, which in turn has often led me to wonder if what I have is really AVPD, if people with it can do things like have a responsible job that involves peopling, engage in intimate relationships, have a genuine real life friendship, or raise children. Yes, it’s still more challenging for them than for the average peep, even a very introverted but brain-healthy peep, but they can actually do it, which means that their AVPD and my AVPD must be two different pairs of rain boots, to use our Polish idiom. 

   I was thinking about this one day in January when I had what I call an AVPD flare-up (feeling much worse AVPD symptom-wise than my baseline) and I thought that maybe with AVPD it’s like many other conditions that they’re more like a spectrum, think of how there’s so-called high-functioning and low-functioning depression, or high-functioning and low-functioning autism. I’ve also heard of high and low functioning Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder (although in the case of the latter, the high functioning type seems to be better known as quiet BPD). So if other personality disorders work this way, it seems logical that AVPD does too. I’m not going to discuss the (un)helpfulness of labelling conditions as high or low functioning, which, as someone who also has persistent depressive disorder, often colloquially referred to as high-functioning depression, I’m certainly aware of. That’s way beyond the scope of this post. It led me to google “low-functioning AVPD”/”low-functioning avoidant personality disorder” (in quotes), which yielded very few results, but one of them was Jake’s channel, where he describes his condition as such. I ended up watching every single one of his videos. With a few exceptions, mostly simply due to the fact that we are two different people with very different external circumstances, our AVPD experiences felt incredibly similar. Which, as sad as it was to hear that someone else was dealing with pretty much the same shit as me, was also extremely uplifting to find out. Enough, in fact, to help me out of the stinky rabbit hole I’d been stuck in. So when I found out that Jake was about to release a book all about AVPD, I was really excited. I read it a whole month after it was released, though, because apparently I hadn’t been on YouTube for over a month 😀 I think this book really deserves some recognition, if not for anything else, then at least for all the courage it must have taken Jake to open up, both on his channel and in the book. I mean, as someone with AVPD, I would know. I can’t even think about talking to the camera about my AVPD without feeling more or less like I’m standing in stilettos on the edge of an icy cliff, just after a spin on a merry-go-round and about to fall into the deep, freezing sea. Also, as I said, it’s the first real book about AVPD I’ve read, and a pretty in-depth one, from a perspective very similar to mine, so it seems only logical that I should write a review so that hopefully more people will read it and become aware of what AVPD is and feels like, as it seems to be aimed primarily at people without AVPD who want to understand it better. 

   The book opens with a poignant introduction that gives a brief but very candid account of what it’s really like to live with AVPD. Jake writes about the constant self-loathing and self-doubt, unconsciously analysing people for clues to what they might be thinking about you, constantly analysing your own behaviour, dwelling on all the things you did wrong in the past, never mind that no one else remembers or even cares, etc.

   In the next chapter, the author introduces himself and explains AVPD in a more general, but still very detailed way. He talks not only about his own AVPD, but also about what he has learnt from other people with AVPD through his channel. He explains what AVPD is in a very clear and descriptive way. He also writes about what AVPD is not, which I think could also be very helpful to many, because I see it so often that people confuse avoidant personality disorder with avoidant attachment style, when they are two completely different things. So for that reason alone I hope a lot of people will read this book. Already here, it touches on a lot of interesting things that are rarely mentioned when talking about AVPD, such as the very likely correlation of AVPD with being a so-called HSP (highly sensitive person), which I honestly didn’t know prior to finding Jake’s channel, or how a lot of AVPD folks, including himself, which is evident throughout the book, have a tendency to use a lot of sarcasm and weird self-deprecating humour as a sort of coping strategy when socialising. 

   Later in the book, Jake writes about his life in more detail, focusing on the signs of developing AVPD and what might have caused it. I was already familiar with some of this from his YouTube channel, where he talks about how his symptoms developed over time, but it was still interesting to read his life story in more detail. At the same time, reading these chapters was a surprisingly emotional experience for me. Perhaps because, although my childhood, family and schools were quite different from Jake’s, I am also a Gen Z, so for both of us our AVPD-related experiences to date have largely been with the education system, and the regular people on here know how much I hate the education system, regardless of country, I think. I felt for Jake right from the start when he described how he tried to hide from his mum and school staff to avoid going to preschool. I guess it reminded me of my own similar attempts – locking myself in the loo to avoid going to school, or going out on the snow-covered balcony in the middle of the night, barefoot and in my pyjamas, to get sick and not have to go to school the next day. People here often idealise American schools based on pop culture, but from what I’ve read in Jake’s book, I feel that for an anxious student, they must be even worse than our Polish ones. Perhaps part of the reason it was so emotional was that it was the first book I’ve ever read about AVPD, so even though I was more or less familiar with his life story, I couldn’t help but compare the severity of my AVPD to his. Whenever something made me feel that in some way my symptoms were less severe than Jake’s, my inner monologue would go something like this: “And you think you have AVPD? Look what real AVPD is like, you little pathetic fake Bibiel!” If mine seemed more severe, my brain would go: “You’re such a freaky, broken Bibiel that even people with AVPD can deal with life better than you” 😀 Eventually I rationally accepted that everyone’s limitations and struggles will obviously be different, even with the same condition and more or less similar presentation, but it was still pretty rough. 

   I could also relate to the somatic signs of Jake’s anxiety – constant nausea, stomachaches, headaches, what not. – He also writes in detail about his experiences with various extra-curricular activities he took part in, including marching band, which was particularly difficult for him, and for me to read about because I could literally feel all the yucky feelings and got a lot of memories of my own. At one point, it actually made me cry a little bit, and you guys probably know that I’m not an easy cryer when it comes to empathising with someone or feeling moved by something. Of course, there’s also a lot of focus on his family, particularly his parents, as he believes that it was largely the never-ending conflict between them that he and his siblings were dragged into, and their very specific expectations that he couldn’t meet, that contributed to his anxiety eventually turning into full-blown AVPD. This was also very sad to read, but in this case because for the most part, I do not have similar family experiences, so I always feel for people who have been less fortunate than me in this regard. 

   As I mentioned earlier, it’s a common problem for people with AVPD that they are really afraid to share their interests with others for fear of being judged, criticised or stereotyped based on them. Personally, I think I deal with this less than many other people whose AVPD stories I’ve read or heard. I can be quite apprehensive and self-conscious about sharing my interests with people, especially in-depth, and I can also be very afraid of their reactions. Oddly enough (or maybe not), the more strongly I feel about something, the more I’m afraid to share it, so one of the things I’m particularly apprehensive of is talking to others about my faza people. If someone says something vaguely resembling criticism about my faza peep or their music, I feel as if they said it about me, or sometimes like they did something almost sacrilegious, and it really makes me cringe. … But at the same time, I LOVE sharing my interests with people and if I could, I would go on and on and on about them. Especially – yes – my faza people. It’s so fun and exciting, and I feel like the thrill is stronger than the fear for me, though of course it depends on the situation and with whom. Maybe it’s because I generally find it a lot harder to bottle up the happy stuff than the difficult stuff. Seriously though, just a few weeks ago my Dad suddenly wanted to listen to my current faza peep’s – Gwilym’s – music with me, just out of curiosity I guess. Normally I have to plan these things in advance, what to show a person when, what to say, how to handle it emotionally without showing my brain state etc, but this was so sudden that I got a mini-shock. We did listen to Gwil for quite a while and it was fun and he seemed to like his music even though he doesn’t know anything about folk music and doesn’t understand a word of Welsh, so he couldn’t appreciate his music properly, but I couldn’t settle for hours afterwards. I couldn’t sleep, I was buzzing with so much anxious, shaky energy, mulling over everything that had happened and wondering what my Dad could have been thinking every single second of that hour. My heart was racing the whole time, and when I looked at my Apple Watch, my pulse rate during the time I spent with Dad went up to 140 at one point. And it was just my own Father! 😀 But as I said, despite the anxiety, I generally feel able to share my interests with others and to enjoy doing it more or less, which is why I find it heartbreaking that many others with the same disorder, including Jake, find it much more difficult. Jake has quite a few interests, some relatively niche, which he writes about in his book and how he would love to share them with like-minded people, but at the same time it feels impossible. 

   Jake had to drop out of college after one semester because of increasing anxiety, as well as depression that he’d already developed by that time, and he couldn’t get a job after that. He felt very suicidal, and his parents didn’t really understand what was going on. Eventually he found a psychologist who used CBT, and in the book he describes his experiences with this therapeutic modality, which I found really validating because now I know I’m not the only person with AVPD for whom it didn’t work. My first therapist, the one I worked with for years as a child and who eventually helped me get a diagnosis, worked mostly with CBT, although her approach was rather integrative, and then when she dumped me, my next therapist’s approach was very much rooted in CBT. I never really felt that it helped me in any meaningful way. And CBT is supposed to be like the default therapeutic approach for AVPD. Which makes perfect sense if you think of it as social anxiety plus, except in practice I don’t think thatt’s really what it is. As Jake writes in his book, it was not the insight into his thoughts and beliefs that he needed, because he already had it. I think most of us with AVPD have it, perhaps too much of it. But I suppose that’s another problem that comes from the fact that there is so little research into the disorder. Admittedly, when I later tried psychodynamic therapy, it didn’t work for me either, in fact I think it made me worse, but I’m not sure whether the problem was with the therapy, or  the therapist and me clashing big time, though the latter certainly must have played some part. It was also through that psychologist that Jake was first diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. 

   Later, Jake describes his difficulties with AVPD fantasising/intrusive thoughts. I think it’s really interesting how it seems to have nothing to do with the disorder and yet so many of us experience it. It looks different for everyone and in his book Jake describes what it looks like for him. What I found particularly interesting was that he started experiencing it as an adult. As someone who’s always had very vivid fantasies, I used to think you just had to be born with a brain like that. 

   Jake then writes about his journey to finally being diagnosed. If not social anxiety, what could it be? Like me, he considered autism and it turned out not to be that either. Eventually he found out about AVPD and decided, again like me, to seek an official diagnosis for the sake of his family, to help them understand what he was going through, why he acted the way he did, why many things were so much harder for him than they were for them, and so on. Which unfortunately, but expectedly, didn’t have the intended effect. He also describes the whole evaluation process, which, although I think it looks different depending on where you get evaluated, might be helpful for people considering it to have a basic idea of what it’s more or less like. 

   The final part of the book is mostly dedicated to people who do not have AVPD to help them understand those who do, or who are very socially anxious. However, as someone with AVPD I also found it valuable and I think many others with the disorder will too. It is very well written and well thought out. The advice is broken down into different sections for different types of relationships, from strangers to people you care about. The last and longest section is particularly insightful and encouraging for people with and without AVPD. It contains a lot of very practical, honest advice and covers a lot of different things quite comprehensively, even though it’s only one chapter. I think it could be a hugely helpful resource for anyone in a deeper relationship with someone with AVPD. I’ve come across articles about relationships with AVPD in the mix in the past, but they barely scratched the surface and felt quite generic and clichéd compared to this. 

   The book ends on a positive, if bittersweet, note. Jake is still in the process of finding the right therapy and medication, and gradually improving his life, which I really hope he will one day succeed with, as much as possible. But what I think is most important is that he’s already taken the first steps, quite big steps I think, by opening himself up to people as much as he has. It’s easy to write a book if you’ve managed to overcome something. But I think it really takes courage to write a book about something that you’re still dealing with and will probably struggle with in one way or another for the rest of your life. 

   Jake’s writing is really good stylistically, as far as I can tell as a non-native. It’s very honest and raw, reflective and vulnerable, warm and engaging, sprinkled with some dry, sarcastic humour, which is always a good seasoning to balance things out when you’re writing about shit. 

   I think I could recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Those who don’t have AVPD and want to understand it better, those with AVPD who want to read about someone else’s experience, anyone interested in psychology and how the brain works. Just, everyone should read this book. While reading it, I found myself thinking that I would like to translate it and give it to my non-English speaking Mum to read, which in turn made me think that it would be good for parents in general to read this book, especially parents of children who have any kind of social anxiety, or parents who are socially anxious themselves; in other words, parents whose children have any chance of developing AVPD in the future, so that they know what it looks like and can spot the potential signs early on and do something, because most of the time parents CAN do something. 

   Gosh, this is long! So, what do I say in conclusion…? Well, I probably shouldn’t say this was a great book or anything like that, because honestly, this was a really hard read emotionally, as I said, the first part anyway. It was depressing, nauseating, and inducing violent second-hand cringe fits, although of course none of this is in any way a fault of the book itself. I’m very proud of Jake for writing it, very happy that it exists, very grateful that I got to read it, and very hopeful that a lot of other people will do it too. 

   Official thanks to the author for providing me with a DRM-free copy of the book 😀

   It’s a Shame I Can’t Share is available on Amazon. You can visit Jake Ware’s Youtube channel (Jake – AVPD) to learn more about him, and avoidant personality disorder.