One of the hallmarks of STPD seems to be eccentricity. Odd thinking, speaking, strange appearance etc. So I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. How do I and others with STPD stand out in a crowd? Honestly, I can’t really tell myself.
Let’s start with an easy one. Clothing. I wear jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and comfy sweaters. Easy, comfortable and pretty anonymous. I wear mostly black or muted colors in earthy tones. I do have one bright pink hoodie, which was a gift and which I wear because it’s comfy like you wouldn’t believe! So, anyway far as I can tell, I dress normal. The weirdest piece of clothing I own is a super-soft gray bunny hoodie with floppy ears on the hood, which I do wear outside on occasion and people seem to find it adorable. And it’s warm and comfy like you wouldn’t believe.
Others with STPD I’ve seen also looked perfectly normal to me. The one person that stood out the most to me appearance-wise was one girl who had a bit of a punk-rock style going which wasn’t really a stand-out in Copenhagen. And besides, clothing styles belonging to identifiable subcultures such as goth and punk-rock tend to be excluded from the eccentric clothing criteria in STPD. All in all, we basically looked like average college kids.
So where does the whole dressing strangely even come from? Is it even relevant in this day and age? Surely I can’t have been the only one to think: “How can I have STPD? I don’t look like I have STPD”. But maybe clothes are just an easy thing to focus on. I think the odd clothing style is but one of many ways the schizotypal brain can express its uniqueness. We wear certain clothing for many different reasons. We wear what we feel comfortable in and what we like, what makes us happy, and we use it to express how we want the world to see us.
I wear what I wear chiefly because it’s comfy and secondly because it’s fairly anonymous and so I’m not likely to stand out in a crowd. I don’t like to stand out. It makes me nervous when people notice me. But the thing about clothing is, whatever you wear can stand out depending on the environment you’re in. A bright pink hoodie isn’t likely to stand out too much on a shopping trip, but it surely is at a funeral. A nice suit and tie is generally associated with giving off a good impression most places, but it might not be the thing to wear walking down a shady neighborhood at night. Knowing what to wear when can be a bit difficult to keep in mind, especially when your mind’s already so cluttered. So it might be we either spend too little or too much time on our clothing choices. But so what?
One thing I like to do when looking at the criteria for STPD is not only to ask: is this thing present in my life? but also: is it a problem? If it’s not a problem, then it’s not worth paying attention to. The way I dress is not a problem, so it doesn’t matter. If, on the other hand I looked so alien that people actively avoided me or I continuously found myself in trouble because of what I wear, then it’s worth paying attention to. As mentioned, we can dress to express ourselves, but even when we don’t do so consciously, people around us are likely to judge us based on our appearance. Someone who’s tattooed all over their face isn’t likely to land a job as a salesperson or receptionist. So, if there’s a chance your clothing style or overall appearance communicates something other than what you want and creates problems for you or holds you back, then it’s worth paying attention to. Otherwise, feel free to express yourself as you want and wear what you feel comfortable in. Luckily, in this day and age you have to go pretty far out clothing-wise to really seem too alien.
So anyway, what is it about STPD that we tend to stand out as eccentrics? Although I think you can certainly be eccentric and not have STPD and have STPD and seem pretty normal on the outside. I think there might be a quality in the way we think or how our brain works that makes us more susceptible to developing STPD. I read somewhere and I unfortunately forgot where, that there was some research evidence linking the Big Five personality trait ‘Openness’ with Schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like disorders like STPD. It made me think of that thing some skeptics like to say: “Being open-minded is fine, but you don’t want to be so open that your brain falls out”. I wonder if that’s kind of what happens? That we’re so open to new experiences that we kind of lose ourselves?
When talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders people on the spectrum themselves like to point out that they aren’t wrong or broken. They’re just wired differently. They don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be heard and accepted as they are. They’re “not neurotypical” or “neurodivergent”. I think this is true in many ways for people with STPD. We certainly do have problems that we need help treating. I’m certainly not denying that! But I think we also tend to pathologize what’s simply different even when it’s not really causing significant problems. After all, sometimes it’s just easier to cut down the tree rather than build the road around it.
The very idea of pathologizing simple eccentricity does seems strange to me. We don’t typically go to our doctors because we’re “weird” or “different”. We go because the noise inside our heads is so loud we can’t sleep, can’t hear ourselves think or focus or fully follow what’s going on around us. We go because trying to keep up with the rest of the world is stressing us out, wearing us down and making our brains go haywire with all the warning and stop signals it can throw at us until we actually stop and listen to our own bodies, and finally pay attention to our needs. And sometimes our loved ones make us go because we’re alienating ourselves and everyone around us. It’s not simply because we’re strange. It’s because the strangeness goes so far that it creates problems in our lives that we need to address. Being eccentric in and of itself is rarely ever the problem.
Weird, odd, strange, eccentric, different. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. They can bring color and variety to our lives, broaden our horizons, open up new paths we never imagined. Strange isn’t always easy for sure, but it’s not impossible to live with. It’s when strangeness goes too far, becomes utterly unrecognizable, isolating and makes creating meaningful connections difficult or impossible. That’s when it needs to be addressed.