Having just spent a wonderful, fun weekend away with dear friends I have a confession to make – I don’t want to see/speak/interact with anyone for at least a week, maybe more. The reason is I’m exhausted. No, not just hung from drinking too much (although I’m sure it helped) or listless from eating my own body weight in food at every meal, but simply because being social wears me out.
All that laughter, conversation and good company I loved at the time leaves me feeling like my Apple Mac when that dreaded swirling rainbow appears after– warning, operation system low, no power left, lower the lifeboats there’s going to be a crash…
You see, I am an introvert. Rather than let me try to explain, this description I read recently perhaps says it best:
The key difference [between introverts and extroverts] is how the person recharges. Which environment best juices your batteries? Some people charge their batteries by surrounding themselves with other people; those are the extroverts. Being alone in focused solitude is draining for extroverts. Others charge their batteries by finding alone time; those are introverts. Being in a social setting is draining for introverts.
Well-rested introverts can (theoretically) handle large, intense social situations just fine if they’ve had time to recharge. Similarly, if an extrovert has had plenty of time to be around people and find that stimulation they crave, staying home alone isn’t going to feel as crippling as if you ask them to do so on Friday night after they’ve been cooped up in an office all week.
It’s also helpful to think of introversion and extroversion as being somewhat similar to being right or left handed. Most of us will be one or the other, but writing with your right hand doesn’t render your left hand inert. Similarly, an extroverted person can still do things that aren’t typically associated with extroversion. Meanwhile, introverts can learn to adapt to more extroverted scenarios, even if it might not come as naturally.
Ask anyone who knows me, especially those I played with in the 90s, and they will argue it is impossible someone as vivacious, people and party loving as I was, could be anything other than a raging, whistle-blowing, loud and lush extrovert. Hell, I thought I was too. But I’m not, or at least I’ve changed, and discovering this has been a vital key to finally unlocking a sense of emotional contentment I long craved.
For a while there, I thought I may never get off the seesaw of high and low energy levels, positive and negative thoughts, looking in the mirror and saying “you’re a good person, hold your head high” and “you are a disgrace to humanity and everyone knows it”.
You don’t have to be Blind Freddie reading the above to see I’ve had problems with depression throughout my life. In fact, until the last few years, I’d say all of it. I copped it in the genes from both parents and well, my childhood, teen years and life’s obstacles only aided and abetted its persistent return in guises from mild blah grey to the deepest pits of hell and despair black.
For a while there, I wondered if I was actually bipolar – as did my therapist when I finally sought treatment – but I am not. When I get depressed I am a foetal ball that can’t move a muscle. There’s no low dip after a high, just a subtle slide down, down, down in to the darkness.
What I see now was happening was that I was not allowing myself time to recharge, to be alone, to say nothing and just be after socially active periods. Instead, I would believe such plateaus were a depression descending which, dammit, I refused to accept or needed to block, forcing me out the door and back to people and alcohol and the pressure to be up – the very triggers that shot me down in the first place.