wellness

For decades, I thought I was a true introvert. That was before I'd experienced isolation.

When I first entered this self-isolation thing, if I’m being totally honest, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake for me.

I’m already self-employed and work from home. During the span of my workday, I see and talk to people very rarely. Essentially, my everyday ritual wasn’t going to change all that much, apart from my husband also now working from home in his basement office.

I truly thought nothing was really going to change.

That thought was very wrong, because psychologically, a lot has changed for me and I’m struggling quite a bit with self-isolation.

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‘I’ve been identifying as a voluntary self-isolating person long before COVID-19.’ This was a joke I made in the first few days of quarantine to friends and family.

For the past three years of my business, I have truly thrived by working on my own. I’ve been talking for years about saying goodbye to my clients and just being able to work and not be bothered by client expectations. Interacting with them as people? They’re fantastic! Having trusted business partners? That’s been an absolute joy for me! But the philosophy of working with people? Nah, I prefer to work solo.

I’ve been so incredibly firm about this belief. So this self-isolation thing has been really enlightening, to say the least. Because if I was really an introvert, I wouldn’t be struggling so much right now… right?

Truly, I think this process would be a hell of a lot easier if I were because logistically, as far as work is concerned, very little about my life has changed. And yet I’m really struggling.

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Even though my husband is in the house with me, and so is our dog, the psychological weight of self-isolation is far more extreme than I thought it would be. I am in desperate need of human contact and human interaction. I can’t remember the last time I consciously was aware of this need. It’s just about all I can think about now.

I’m legitimately sitting in a chair in my living room staring at the wall, questioning my whole fundamental understanding of myself as a person. Damn, self-isolation is no joke.

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It’s also impacted my friendships. I’ve been the main initiator in almost all of my friendships for most my life. Not necessarily because I would consciously say, “I’m really lonely and need to see someone”, but rather I deeply believe it’s important to maintain regular contact to have powerful relationships. And so, with a sense of responsibility for maintaining healthy relationships, I would initiate plans before others.

It’s now as I’m sitting in self-isolation, unable to see people even if I wanted to, that I’m realising my “sense of responsibility” to contribute to relationships has been overshadowing the basic reality that I require and need social interaction for my own health.

Every time the thought would pop into my mind of, “Hey, I haven’t seen so-and-so in a while, best organise something”, and we would set a date at that very moment via text message — well, I just thought this was me being a practical, responsible adult in friendships!

And while that may partly be true, it isn’t until now that I fully appreciated that this little nudge every single time was my body and mind telling me then I need social interaction for my health. Now my brain is constantly nudging me like a pinball machine to see my handful of close relationships in my life — but I am abundantly and painfully aware of the fact that I cannot do that right now. And it’s really taking a toll on my mental health overall.

If I’m honest, things have actually gotten to quite a desperate state.

I go down to my husband’s basement office at random times during the day demanding a one-minute hug from him. One of my clients who would reliably call me at least once a day, often making me give an exasperated sigh and wishing she wouldn’t… well, now I’m really missing her calls because she’s taking time out with her family. And my phone is virtually silent. That’s how desperate I am for social interaction.

Here I was thinking that as a self-proclaimed true introvert, this whole self-isolation thing would be a piece of cake.

Turns out I’m far more of an extrovert than I gave myself credit for.

It’ll be interesting to see how my life changes from here, now that a fundamental belief I’ve held of myself has actually been quite obviously debunked.

And like every other self-isolated person reading this article, I’m just doing my best to cope and navigate this tumultuous territory. I’m waiting it out for the hopeful day we can come out the other side and life can get back to normal.

Feature Image: Getty.

This article originally appeared on Medium and was republished here with full permission. For more from Gillian Sisley, you can find her on Twitter.

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