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Confessions of an Introvert

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

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cooking

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

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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