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Confessions of an Introvert

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

When Being Alone is Lonely

And here we are

I’ve seen a lot over the last two years about how the pandemic has changed people. It has changed how we work in some cases, how we visit friends and family, even how some of us get simple items like groceries. I’ll freely admit, that not only as an introvert, but one who has permanent effects from a rather rough bout of Covid two years ago, I’ve been largely okay with these changes. I’m okay with it, until I’m not anymore. And that’s when everything becomes so very, very lonely.

This has become more and more obvious to me as I work with my new job. It’s almost entirely remote, which is great. But then I’ll go a whole day without having any one on one interaction with anyone, and I’ll wonder if I missed out on something. As much as I love my corgi, cats, and chickens – talking to them is not nearly the same as talking to another person.

One of my bosses and I have had frequent conversations (sometimes only through online means) about how to get others engaged, how to bridge this gap. And the more I find myself in that gap, the more I realize that it is something that needs to be addressed.

I’ve found some outlets for this that help – Friday chats with people that can be simply “How are you”. And then there’s the barn – where the horse is, and where there are usually a handful of people to run into. But the more I stay alone, the less I want to go out into the world, and the more I know I need to. It’s a funny balance, one that is not made any more clear by the world going on around me. I’ve finally been given a chance to stay away from it all, and I find myself wanting to sneak back – just for a few moments. As much as I love being alone, I need that reminder to avoid being lonely.

Paradox? Perhaps. But I guess it is the “way we live now”.

Until next time – though feel free to drop a comment – a connection is still a connection even in the great wide web.

-L.E.

Another Bend in the Road

In retrospect, the fate of my different blogs and social media outlets is entertaining for anyone who likes to study the psychology of the human mind. This blog, the one that I first started to try and say the things that I couldn’t out loud, was put on the back burner a year ago when I decided to put my writing first. But over the course of the last year, I’ve come to realize that in putting so much into the social media side of writing, it had become a personality all its own, and that was exhausting to the introvert that I am. The fact is that even being social in the otherwise anonymous internet world can still be stressful and draining, just as being social in strange situations.

As an introvert, I’ve had to create another side of me, one that can go out in public and introduce myself to strangers. While working in differing industries, I’ve always had to help with the problem resolution side of things. As soon as I answer a phone, I become a different person. I become the problem resolution character. But I think if I start to name the other masks I’ve crafted, I’ll start to sound a little crazy.

Anyway, after three months of being without a “real” job, I started to lose my firm grasp of my public persona – the main mask. Sometimes, I couldn’t even bring myself to go into Starbucks to get my coffee without a pep talk. All this time over the last few months has reminded me that for most of us introverts, we have to find a way to survive in an extrovert’s world. For me, that’s the different masks. My public relations one, my teacher side, my full on INTJ-tough decision one (and yes I realize the contradiction in that, but it makes sense to me so I’m sticking with it). These masks, they’ve helped me survive, but without constant use, they start to fade.

Finally, after five months of applying for a new job (I started applying before my last job forced my hand of leaving earlier than planned), I finally had a request for an interview. And then a second interview. For the first interview, I could feel the dust on my mask, but I could brush it off and get through. For the second interview, I knew true fear. It crept up on me while I wasn’t looking – the deepest, darkest fear I could have: the fear of failure. To prepare myself, to stop the fear from spreading, I knew I had to go back out to the world and make sure my mask was ready.

I’ll be needing this soon

The funny thing about these masks is that they are a part of me, and yet separate. They are who I am – I’m not being fake when I put one on – they just aren’t the side of me that I’m most comfortable with. And if I don’t keep track of the introvert meter, they can exhaust me. Still, they’re what is necessary to get by in this extrovert-centric world. And I’m proud of them, in a way. I’ve crafted them, learned to grow with them, and they’re there when I need them.

Now, as I go back into the working world, I’ll need to find that happy medium where I balance who I am most comfortable with being and who others are most comfortable being around. Funny world we live in, but there you have it.

As I get ready and start to transition back to the regular grind, I know I’ll need to depend more on my outlets. The stress of a new job will get to me, I’ll need to make sure to take time for just me. And luckily, with my other interests, I know I have options. Writing, horses, corgis, and cooking – and without the strict expectations of doing everything on time and perfectly in my personal life, maybe I can continue to grow and share my struggles with others. There is often little that compares to knowing you are not alone in your struggles.

From one introvert to another…until next time –

L.E.

Scars Don’t Always Show

There are so many ways in which scars don’t show on the surface. Victims of abuse don’t always carry bruises, wounds don’t always come with stitches, and our mental health, something that can often be set aside so long as the body functions, can hide right in the open.

My personal experiences in my hidden scars currently come courtesy of COVID – both the suffering from it that continues to this day, and the disregard from so many around me. I’m not seeking to quantify. Instead, I seek only to continue to share how I work to move in this extroverted world now not only as an introvert, but as one with a fickle immune system. To say that Long COVID has made the last year and a half difficult is an understatement. However, I’ve often heard of the stages of grief, and I find myself now entering into anger.

My anger is directed at both myself and others. At my own body for not being stronger. For my mind for giving into the weakness. And to all of those others who downplay the struggles of those like me, for all those who still don’t view COVID as a danger, and for those who think it appropriate to deride those of us who are still cautious. Am I perhaps overly cautious? Probably, but when you live with a disease for over 18 months, one that even the top doctors have no answers for, you find yourself not going out for dinner, not staying to talk to old friends. Instead, you find your safe place, and you do your best to feel alive.

Last year, as I was getting over the first wave of COVID symptoms (yes, they definitely come in waves, and I’ve lost track of how many it’s been now), I found that cooking was my release. I would find new recipes, make up my own, and, all in all, find solace in the kitchen and my culinary creations. When I found myself moving from denial of being saddled with this disease and into anger, I realized I needed to go back and find that same solace again.

My first real experiment with cooking was in making a chorizo hash. I just have to say I’m not a fan of cooking chorizo. It’s messy. And I mean very, very messy. But that flavor…well it makes it worth it. I tend to make my potatoes pretty much the same – clean, cut, boil – then add in onion, garlic, salt, pepper, a dash of chili powder, and then the spice I can’t live without: paprika. Add chorizo, and it doesn’t matter if you had enough salt or pepper on the potatoes, the chorizo adds all the flavor you could want. Thrown on some fried eggs, and viola. There is little so rewarding to a cook than to know that a new meal turns out tasty.

Cooking helped me work through some lingering frustrations with my own lingering wave of Long COVID. Even though I’ve been on the down side of the cycle, I felt a brief bump come from knowing I’d created something worth eating. And that bump is what I’ll keep looking for as I continue to navigate the world around. But even if I continue to make grounds on my own inner demons with cooking, it’s not going to change my opinions of what all my extrovert friends are up to. I’m still not going to a giant birthday bash in the midst of a pandemic. I might not have gone even without the pandemic. I love my extroverted friends as much as my introverted ones, but there has to be a happy medium for how we interact. And the added stress of the pandemic has meant that as an introvert, my personal safe spaces and personal quiet time have become as necessary as the air we breathe. No doubt there will be challenges ahead as I reenter the extroverted world yet again, but for now, I’ll take my little island of peace, and my little victories in the kitchen.

Until next 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

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