"Dust on this tired old street, Mark corners where we used to play. Dust trace our tired old feet, In circles as we pace our time away."
There’s long been rumors as to how exactly does Mae see nothing but shapes, and how it escaladed into an incident that featured Mae gaining notoriety among the townsfolk after being involved in a violent episode at her school's softball match. According to the Night in the Woods video game itself, Mae experienced a sudden form of dissociation from the real world - which seemed like an acute episode of derealization. She saw objects and people as just meaningless shapes, and not really existing. She felt a deep sadness for everything around her, lamenting that nothing was there for her anymore and that everything was just "stuff in the universe."
The next day at the softball match, a second episode occurred, something "broke inside her" and before she knew it, she was beating Andy Cullen's head in with a bat in front of the entire school.
Following that, most parents told their children to stay away from Mae. By the events of Night in the Woods, most of the kids in town know Mae through the attack, nicknaming her "Killer". The incident put a strain on Mae's relationship with her family. Financially, the Borowski's went deep into debt trying to treat her.
Mae was sent to Dr. Hank for treatment, where he prescribed keeping a journal as a means of keeping her emotions in check. Mae claims it helps her feel grounded with reality and that it works somewhat. She seemed to be doing alright until she left for college.
There, the effects of dissociation seemed to intensify and Mae never made a single friend at college because she was terrified of leaving her room. She was left starving or else downing entire pizzas in one go. She drank cough syrup just to sleep and forget about her living nightmare. Mae was especially terrified of the rusty statue of the founder outside her window: always a mess of shapes watching and pointing down at her. She felt too scared to phone anyone for help.
After three semesters, Mae finally mustered up the courage to leave and return to the safety of her home, where things weren't just "dead shapes."
Acute episodes are usually preceded by a sudden feeling like you're being watched, or that something is just "off" somehow. Let's say, in a dream. Something just feels wrong somewhere. If someone says something really unexpected, it can cause someone to start to feel this way too.
But... Maybe there's something more to Mae's condition that we never really explained. After much analysis, I began to question if Mae suffers from Derealization, or a common mental illness titled, "Schizophrenia".
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior and failure to understand reality. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices that others do not, reduced social engagement, emotional expressions, and a lack of motivation. People with schizophrenia often have additional mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or substance-use disorders. Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and last a long time.
The causes of schizophrenia include environmental and genetic factors. Possible environmental factors include being raised in a city, cannabis use during adolescence, certain infections, parental age and poor nutrition during pregnancy. Genetic factors include a variety of common and rare genetic variants. Diagnosis is based on observed behavior, the person's reported experiences and reports of others familiar with the person. During diagnosis a person's culture must also be taken into account. As of 2013 there is no objective test. Schizophrenia does not imply a "split personality" or dissociative identity disorder – conditions with which it is often confused in public perception.
The mainstay of treatment is antipsychotic medication, along with counselling, job training and social rehabilitation. It is unclear whether typical or atypical antipsychotics are better. In those who do not improve with other antipsychotics clozapine may be tried. In more serious situations where there is risk to self or others involuntary hospitalization may be necessary, although hospital stays are now shorter and less frequent than they once were.
About 0.3 to 0.7% of people are affected by schizophrenia during their lifetimes. In 2013 there were an estimated 23.6 million cases worldwide. Males are more often affected, and on average experience more severe symptoms. About 20% of people eventually do well and a few recover completely; while about 50% have lifelong impairment. Social problems, such as long-term unemployment, poverty and homelessness are common. The average life expectancy of people with the disorder is ten to twenty five years less than for the general population. This is the result of increased physical health problems and a higher suicide rate (about 5%). In 2015 an estimated 17,000 people worldwide died from manic behaviors related to, or caused by, schizophrenia.
Individuals with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations (most reported are hearing voices), delusions (often bizarre or persecutory in nature), and disorganized thinking and speech. The last may range from loss of train of thought, to sentences only loosely connected in meaning, to speech that is not understandable known as the word salad. Social withdrawal, sloppiness of dress and hygiene, and loss of motivation and judgment are all common in schizophrenia.
And that's exactly what Mae Borowski has, and we might not even know it yet. So all that "Derealization" is only part of schizophrenia, she is hallucinating and has gone into a stage of pure, emotional distress, causing the incident to happen. So she'll "Die Anywhere else", but her own, personal Hell.