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Confessions of an Introvert

An exploration of just what it means to be highly functioning introvert (most of the time)

Strength Not in Numbers

In retrospect, it makes sense that I have been thinking about my grandfather a lot today. Though he passed away nearly four years ago, his presence is one that is still felt in the family, for good or bad.

But then I realized that today is #WorldCancerDay, and it all made a little more sense. To honor the struggles of those who live with cancer, fight the disease, for those who have stood beside loved ones to support them as they battle, I wanted to take a moment out of the day to recognize the spirit, the courage, the love. This post is for you.

Unfortunately, cancer does not care who you are when it attacks. A fact made very real to me shortly before my grandfather’s passing when one of my best friends was diagnosed only week’s before she passed. It didn’t matter that she had a teenage son and two adult children who loved her. It didn’t matter that she was beloved by her entire workforce. Cancer simply didn’t care. However, even as she struggled, there was so much compassion around her. Her strength was tested every day, but she still offered it to others first. Even in the end, she wanted to share her own strength to help rather than to only save it for herself.

For those who have lost a loved one, there are no words. As a writer, I struggled in vain for four years to come to terms with the death of my friend. To lose someone to something so unexpected, it creates a void, and only time will let us heal. This post is for you.

My grandfather was diagnosed close to twenty years ago with cancer. He lived about as far from where his only son – my father – as possible. The distance between Alabama and Washington could only have been made greater if my grandfather had lived in Florida. As a family, we came up with ways to stay in touch. Before FaceTime, before dependable internet in far off places like we both lived in. There was the “Hat of the Month Club”, where we honored my grandfather’s battle by sending him hats from around the Pacific Northwest. There were good-natured $2 bets placed on Monday Night Football games. There were weekly calls. When we could not show it in person, we showed it in gestures – that he was not alone, that there was strength around him.

For those who have stood side by side with a loved one and helped them stay strong in the face of the indiscriminate killer, it is not a battle without scars. For those who have been unable to share the burden, and struggled to watch a loved one forced to physically battle alone, this post is for you.

There are so many ways in which cancer has affected the lives of nearly every person on this planet. I cannot even begin to imagine how many different ways it can change us. But I can offer sympathy, empathy, and solidarity. Even when we live far from the issues, we are not alone. If we can reach out, make a connection, offer comfort, then we can help. We may not be offering life changing cures, we may not be offering anything new or profound, but we are offering love, support, kindness, and even strength.

For all those who have struggled, who have suffered, who have helped, who have cared, this post is for you.

Writing – a world for introverts

2021 has truly been a fascinating three weeks. And no, I have no comment on the political upheavals, I going to stick to just here, just now, just me.

My New Year’s Resolution was to finally take my writing seriously. I hadn’t fully realized just how much I had been missing until 2020 happened. I hadn’t realized how much previous trauma can repress the creativity. But slowly, with time and support, I have started to see more clearly what was holding me back for the past seven years. To summarize, what I would summarize as an abusive work relationship hindered me for several years, and just as I was starting to come out of that funk, one of my best friends died, and the story that was started that year had been meant for her.

I think (and I could be wrong, I’m not going to try digging through the cobwebs of my brain) that since Wendy’s passing, I only managed to write from start to finish one book.  That was three years of so little creativity.  I took to blogging to try and write something.  But even that took a back seat.  Then, as crazy as it sounds, 2019 started to wind down, but when 2020 started, I finally started to have new ideas again.  For Camp NaNoWriMo this year, I finally completed an idea.  The rough draft, Prefecture: Beginnings, went on quite a few detours since it’s original inception six months earlier, but it was a completed rough draft.  And quickly on its heels came Book 3 in Nora’s series.  Things were finally looking up, and then I went back to back in a steady four plus months of writing to wrap up two more series with first Scarlett’s Blood in the Night and then, finally, Caitiff Academy: Pandora.  The book whose main character had been based off of my good friend, was done come the end of 2020, and the sense of completion was so immense I cried.

Now I realize that I’ve branched off far from the usual topic on this blog, so let me circle back.  Most writers I have known, we’re introverts.  We don’t do well with expressing our views in public through conversation, and this has carried over to not always being able to express in private my thoughts even to myself.  Writing was the outlet that my entire life was there for me.  It offered up a way to share my view of the world, my frustrations, my passions.  And it had been dormant for nearly three years.  The ramifications of that were something that I didn’t even realize until I was finally able to break through.  

Another issue that affects both introverts and extroverts, but that from personal experience I can say really hurts hard for us introverts, is the loss of a friend.  We don’t tend to make dozens of them, and so one who was close, when they leave unexpectedly, can upend our lives in ways we never imagined.  With no outlet, I became that which exhausted me most, a shadow of an extrovert.  

I think what the moral of 2020 was for me, then, was more about finding who I was again, and that included being a writer and that most definitely included embracing being an introvert.  With my outlet of expression returned to me, I didn’t have to project back out into the cold, cruel world.  I can now take a deep breath, and go back to watching the world behind the pages of a book or the keys of a laptop.  For all my fellow introverts out there – know that you’re not alone.  We are not as trapped in the extrovert’s world as it might seem, not if we have something that allows us to find our own sense of peace.

Until next time –

L.E.

P.S. I know the image is re-used, but it has definitely become a theme.

The Little Things Can Make a Difference

I have often found in life that what goes on around me has a tendency to sweep me up in its path and overpower the vitally necessary “me time”. This has always been true working for quite possibly the most recognizable shipping company in the country, and I have learned in my multiple years with the company that I have to be the one to take that step back. If I don’t have concern for my own health and well being, no one will.

Now this all sounds so much easier said than done. And over the last few months I have definitely struggled. I struggled so much that I basically lost hold of that elusive need and fell into an overwhelming mess of stress, anxiety, and, on particularly bad days, panic. It was after a full fledged panic attack that I realized I needed to do something different. I needed to take that step back. I needed to take care of myself.

Well, flash forward almost three months, and the old pattern becomes something that’s almost too easy to fall back into. Working five days a week and stressing about work the other two is not a healthy way to live. I’ve managed with the help of some professional therapy and my rock of support to manage not to let work become a 24/7/365 issue. However, it didn’t occur to me until just a few days ago how truly far I’ve come.

Back in March, when the COVID virus was first truly starting to gain a foothold in the country, I was still having to travel for work. I wasn’t happy about it, and even though I was told I could still travel within a certain radius, I put a hold on that. I was too late. Somewhere in the midst of moving around for work, I had contracted the virus. It knocked me down for three weeks, and I still had lingering effects for months. Hell, I still do. In fact, just this last week I had shortness of breath from Saturday thru Thursday. So when it was announced that my department would be having to go to Oakland to help the center catch up on volume, I did something I had never done before. I said no.

Of course, in most corporate work environments, saying no marks you as not a team player. This usually means that those of us who try to please ourselves and our coworkers end up never really saying the word. We find ways to adjust our schedule. We find ways to make yes work.

I like to consider myself a team player. I’ve been the one to cancel plans and go where I’m needed. I’ve worked the job of two people to help others out. But when faced with the prospect of having to travel during a pandemic – a pandemic of a disease I have already suffered horribly from – I found it within myself to do what needed to be done. It wasn’t a big thing. It was a tiny word, as small as they come. And yet, somehow, it released a burden I didn’t even realize I had been carrying.

Maybe that’s what I needed to learn all along, that taking care of myself can be just as essential as helping out teammates. After all, if I’m burned out I can’t help anyone. If I’m sick again I definitely can’t be of any help, and then my long term health comes into question. It’s a vital lesson that it took me 34 years to learn. But one that I think we all have to if we’re going to keep our sanity, especially now.

No great recipes this time, but I’ve been feeling a need for comfort food lately, so maybe something along those lines later.

Until next time…

Sometimes Change is a Good Thing

Let me start by saying there is also nothing wrong with staying the course, monotony in its own way can be more than just comforting. As someone dealing with anxiety when it comes to going out into public, and dealing with panic if too many new elements come into play, I firmly stand behind keeping certain safe parameters in mind. That being said, I also think that change, when handled correctly, can be truly world changing.

In particular, the way that I have found in recent weeks that change can be a good thing is in addressing that I actually have a problem. For years I have been a firm believer that I can “just get through this” and that I only need to try harder.

This flaw in my reasoning came to a head about a month ago at work. My anxiety levels had gone into hyperdrive since my bout with COVID 19, all three weeks of its horrible misery. I had experienced anxiety and multiple panic attacks. However, when I had almost back to back panic attacks, I told myself that it was because my port in the storm, my rock, was gone for a week, hunting in the wilds of eastern Washington.

This in itself was a flaw in my logic. But it wasn’t until he returned and I had a full on, hyperventilating, unable to do anything but sit in a quiet room attack that I finally realized that my problem was no longer something that I could ignore or even deal with alone.

Family support is huge, letting my parents and boyfriend (the aforementioned rock) know what I was dealing with helped. But it wasn’t, in the end enough. Instead, I finally broke down and reached out to medical professionals.

In the last few weeks since then, it has been like a weight was lifted. Yes, I still deal with anxiety and the occassional panic attack. I had one two weeks ago that left me reduced to tears for nearly three hours. BUT taking that step, reaching out for help, admitting that I had an issue, and admitting that I needed to put my health as a top priority has been truly life changing.

That leads me to my current outlet of all things anxiety and COVID recovery related: cooking. I would like to offer exhibit A, Mini Dutch Pancakes. I’m sure most have experienced pancakes – tiny ones, big ones, buttermilk ones – but until you’ve tried Mini Dutch ones, you’re missing out. This variation on the standard pancakes was an amazing change to the breakfast menu, and one I’ll keep using. But I’ll also keep looking for something new to try. Change is, after all, a good thing.

My personal attempt…and then the actual recipe below

Taking a Moment

As an introvert, I am all for spending a majority of time either alone or with those who are my friends and family. In the current world we live in, being an introvert can actually be something of a positive. One of my friends asked me the other day what my boyfriend and I do in our free time. We then laughed – as all of us are considered essential workers – and free time is largely spent catching up on sleep over the weekend. When asked what I did for vacation, I happily said I stayed home.

What I did during vacation that helped with my anxiety, though, was cooking. I’ve been cooking homemade meals for the better part of the last three months, but last week’s vacation really pushed me to venture out.

The earliest challenge was a chocolate and espresso tart – when surfing the great wide world of Pinterest I had stumbled upon it and decided that was what I wanted to make for my birthday. Since I start my birthday on German time – owning to that being my birthplace – I decided the day before my official birthday to make this selection.

My favorite part of cooking is using a recipe as “more sort of guidelines”. Usually a first time I have to stick pretty close to it – especially when meat is involved. When baking, though, I can experiment a little more. Instead of using a food processor to grind up the chocolate cookies for the crust, I decided to use the pestle of my mortal and pestle. I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about grinding the cookies by hand that really puts me into a recipe.

Now there are hundreds of cooking blogs out in the world. I’m not trying to do anything so fancy as one of those. Cooking has become something in my life that helps me to deal with my anxiety, panic, and occasional depression. It was explained to me only this week that cooking offers an element of control in a world where I – and I’m sure many more – feel they have lost hold of their world. Even for an introvert with a currently small circle due to social distancing and the pandemic, I have still felt that I don’t have control over a lot of things. I can’t even bring myself to go to a different grocery story across town right now. But when cooking, I have control over a process from start to finish.

When making the tart, not only did I have control on the process, I could alter the recipe. I could prioritize making it for just myself (I did share with my boyfriend and our landlords, LOL). From start to finish, it was something that was just about me. And that feeling is amazingly empowering. Too often I think we get lost in telling ourselves that what we’re experiencing is normal, that we can just keep going. But sometimes we need to stop, take a moment, and address that we are important too. Life isn’t just about helping others, sometimes we need to help ourselves.

While this isn’t a food blog, I’ll still keep sharing some recipes – especially the ones I create myself out of boredom, curiosity, or lack of ingredients. But each time I step into the kitchen, I step into a world that this introvert can start to feel like the world is not entirely gone bonkers.

Until next time…

It didn’t turn out quite like the picture LOL

Long, Hard Road

Let me just start by saying that this post will be a definite detour from posts in the past.  The struggles of being an introvert in an extroverted world are still very much factors in my day to day life.  However, after experiencing nearly four weeks of presumed COVID 19, and then trying to adjust back into the real world of being an “essential worker”, I have found that the struggles are more internal than they ever were before.

I’ve known depression all my life – not necessarily for myself, but definitely in my family.  I’ve seen how it effects people – both those who suffer from it personally and the family and loved ones who are at times at a loss for how to respond.  Personally, I never really thought that I suffered from depression.  Anxiety yes, depression no.  I would have bouts of times when I was less than happy – but then that has to be common place.  I called these times my “funks” and went on about my life.  I think a part of me didn’t want to admit that there could be anything similar to the depression I had seen growing up, but denial is no friend of mine.

I’ve written about my bout with COVID, and I’ll post it soon – once I’ve had a chance to make sure that I’ve tapered down my rather palpable frustration.  (The people in this world trying to tell me that what I had was some sort of conspiracy both hurts and angers me.)  For now, let me just say that it was 18 straight days of misery, and the road to recovery is still ongoing, two and a half months later.

The key take away from the virus has been, for me, a recurrence and strengthening of my anxiety.  I have had a minimum of three genuine panic attacks – not just anxiety attacks (here’s a helpful link on differences: https://www.healthline.com/health/panic-attack-vs-anxiety-attack#symptoms).  This to add on to the anxiety attacks as well.  My second full fledged attack finally got me to reach out to my medical providers to seek help.  I won’t lie, this is one of the best steps I’ve ever taken in my life.  Acknowledging that I have an issue, and not just chalking it up to a “funk” has been so incredibly helpful.  This does not mean I don’t still have attacks –  I’ve had one a piece since then – but I feel like I am more aware, and that I can start to explore different methods.

One of the key methods I’ve found that has helped me the most is cooking. I’ve always loved to bake – my coworkers still ask me for cookies to this day (after knowing some of them for up to 14 years).  However, I was never one for meat, or even full meals.  I don’t like handling raw meat, and I especially don’t like dealing with meat with a bone in it.  (I did once go vegetarian because of my aversion – it didn’t stick).  My boyfriend, on the other hand, loves meat.  Sometimes I struggle to come up with a way to incorporate vegetables or fruit into a meal that I know he’ll actually eat.  This, as well as the general feeling of relaxing purpose I experience in the kitchen, has led me to experiment more and more with recipes and creating my own.

There is a great deal of information out in the world currently about how stress levels are increasing for everyone.  How it can be difficult to cope, even if we’re not on the front lines.  It occurred to me today that I can’t be alone in experiencing anxiety and panic.  There have to be more introverts out there who also struggle after being allowed to stay in the protection of our homes to reenter the world.  I’ve always been comforted by writing, but I can’t sit down a write books like I used to with all the other things going on – job, family, pets – so this will be my outlet while I continue to navigate this ever changing world as a very firm introvert.  And maybe, just maybe, a few others can take some comfort to know they’re not alone as well.

Next time, I’ll start to share recipes:)

Until then…

ingredients on table
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Not a Day Goes By

How did I survive before I knew you?

What emptiness that was

Now a day is not enough

Rather a sip of a new drug

One I cannot get enough of.

How do I live with these withdrawals?

When each moment is precious

Or wasted – all depending on you

Even if I could I wouldn’t change

You’ve become my everything.

How often do you think of me?

Is it enough to stop the bleeding

Or am I left to wonder

About how a logical mind

Can be turned to one on fire.

How funny is it to finally find love?

Yesterday I laughed with you

Today I yearn for you

This feeling defies all reason

And that, love, is absolutely you.

Observations of an Introvert in Search of a Job Part I: Preparing for an Interview

Having recently finished college, I find myself at loose ends.  I came back to a job for a year, with the understanding that when I was done with school I would be moving on.  Even in my organized mind, this didn’t go according to plan.  I became attached to my work group, dedicated to trying to keep us all afloat when the rest of the world appeared to be drowning, and dedicated to a level of accomplishment that is hard to attain.  However, as the stress of school slowly ebbs from my day-to-day life, I can’t help but realize that the status quo has to change.

When I learn the tricks to a stellar resume and cover letter, I’ll share those.  It can be hard as an introvert to come up with a positive, bold way of talking about ourselves.  As an INTJ, my opinion is that the facts should speak for themselves without the necessity of any elaboration.  Such is not the case, sadly, in this extroverted world we live in.

Despite the lack of glowing feedback in my current job hunt (a lot of no responses and one form letter – wait, make that 2 form letters), I did manage an interview within my current company.  Now it’s a well known fact, at least amongst us introverts, that we are not necessarily shy, we just prefer to be around our “own”.  At work, I can be social, talk to anyone, make friends, and be comfortable.  However, the prospect of an interview – with a stranger at a building not my own – can be quite intimidating.

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I know I am not alone in overthinking things.  You don’t have to be an introvert to check that box.  At the same time, when faced with something that goes outside our comfort zone, I think I can also safely say that most introverts are going to either avoid the event or overthink it.  I’ll admit to the latter.  In a twist of irony, though, after overthinking it and reading the dozen or so articles my mother (also an overthinking introvert) sent to me, my interview was “indefinitely postponed”.  Then, the night before, literally after 7 pm, I was told my interview had been rescheduled for the next day at 4 pm.  Silver lining was that I had to scramble so much to cover my shift and try to take care of all the things I usually shepherd all day that I didn’t have the opportunity to overthink.

The lesson I feel like the world has been teaching me this year is quite simple: stop overthinking.  This worked on assignments my final semester (the less I analyzed, the better the grade).  This also ended up working on my interview preparation.  It can be nearly impossible for those of us who, when faced with something outside of our comfort zone, regain that comfort by coming up with at least a dozen contingency plans.  But maybe that’s the bigger picture here.  Maybe that’s exactly what I needed to have realized for the better part of the last thirty years and just now have started to think of applying.  Maybe life really is easier if we just stop for a moment and live it.

Then again…maybe not.  It worked for me this time, but I’m fairly certain I’ll be back to plans built into plans next time.  Unless, somehow, this lesson finally sticks.  In the meantime, here are a few of those aforementioned links fellow introverts might find useful:

https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-survival-tricks-every-introvert-needs-to-know-before-going-on-an-interview

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/introvert-job-interview

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2015/11/29/introverts-heres-how-you-can-succeed-in-job-interviews/#427d9c9621a1

The Bend in the Road

After 2 1/2 brutal years of multiple jobs and full time school, I can finally say it is over.  It is over, and the massive sense of relief is forced to be short lived.  After all, the real world has never left.  Hence the multiple jobs.  Still, this moment needs to be savored, enjoyed, and then set aside for the job hunt that is bound to follow.

That being said, I have missed writing.  It has always been this introverts release and escape from the madness that surrounds her.  And so, as I venture out towards a full time job, my first place that I can truly call my own, and anything else life wants to throw my way – good or bad – I think maybe I’ll share the journey for a little while longer.  Maybe find some introvert tips for job hunting.  Or house hunting.  Or how to maintain my newest friends when they’re no longer coworkers.  Each will be a tricky aspect, but I think, for perhaps the first time, I am prepared to try.  And in trying, I am prepared to share, in the hopes that I might be able to help fellow introverts who might be similarly struggling.

I don’t know where tomorrow is going to take me.  No one does.  If you’re like me (a high functioning INTJ), you’ve probably made lists and plans, and contingency plans, and plans for those contingency plans.  But that’s the funny thing about life.  It doesn’t care how many lists and back up plans you have, nothing is ever going to go exactly right.  Or exactly wrong, if you are more of a pessimist.  I like to consider myself pessimistically optimistic.  I will always hope for the best, but rarely expect it.

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I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow is going to bring, and as terrifying as that is, it’s kind of exciting too.  Whenever I become overwhelmed with fear of the unknown, I remind my logical mind that this is all just a learning experience.  When it is over, I can analyze it as I love to do, and then I can find my center.  Or maybe, right about now, that center is on a raft in the middle of a stretch of rapids.  The next few weeks will be interesting, to say the least, and a true test to see if I have learned anything over the last three decades.  And to see if I really am high functioning or if the charade has fooled me too.  Let’s hope I have learned and I can apply that to the trials and tribulations coming my way.  Or maybe I can just be lucky.  At this point, even this INTJ isn’t going to be too picky.

-L.E.

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