It’s the triple threat and it’s why I tend to see the world a little differently than most people. It always strikes me as funny because I see the world as obstacles to overcome and hurdles to jump, but everyone is always surprised when they learn I am an introvert. I’ve never talked about anxiety with anyone, but it’s there and is really happy being paired with the introversion. Being a highly sensitive person is just a bonus.
Oh, the joys of being an introvert. There are billions of articles out there about being one since it’s a very popular thing to be nowadays. They make it sound like we’re a separate species or something, but really, there is one key difference between being an introvert and an extrovert: extroverts need social interaction to create certain happy brain chemicals. It makes them happy and full of energy and is necessary for them. Introverts use up happy brain chemicals during social interactions and build it up in solitude. Those happy brain chemicals become coin to use and social interactions are assigned to categories: worth the cost or not? This is ANY interaction, not just parties. Meeting with a friend, play dates, taking the kids to the park, being around your kids, hanging with your husband. All of it takes a toll from you; all of it costs happy brain chemicals. Some introverts can’t handle small talk at all because it so damn pointless and it’s waste of my precious happy stuff! I like deeper conversations, but I can handle small talk in small doses. I love my couch and Netflix and reading because during that time I’m creating my happy chemicals and introverts require such solitude in order to be calm and happy. Nap time is essential for me as a parent because it gives me some time to rest by myself.
I’m naturally shy and a very private person. I am also an overachiever and hate being wrong and very rarely ask for help. This all stems from anxiety issues of people judging me (even if they aren’t) and is compounded by my introversion. If I approach you and start a conversation, you should seriously consider giving me an award. I stress and worry about possible scenarios at parties. “What if” is a favorite game of mine. I worry about things I have to do or finish. My husband has often gotten frustrated at my stress over things beyond my control and has said, “Just stop worrying about it. You’ll find out tomorrow,” or “You can’t do anything about it now, just stop worrying about it.” To which I reply, “HA, easy for you to say.” Because it is easy to say but WAY harder to do in practice. My anxiety has gotten better as I’ve gotten older, although postpartum anxiety was pretty bad with my babies. Still, I understand what’s it’s like to freeze up or be unable to breathe when anxiety suddenly rears it’s head. Anxiety is real and it can debilitate your ability to go out, to do things, to conquer. It isn’t something you can easily “get over” or “push through.” It’s actually a terrible thing to say to someone with anxiety because it just makes the anxiety worse.
And then, as if I didn’t have anything else to deal with, let’s through being highly sensitive into the mix. This isn’t a bad thing really, it just means that I notice way more than the average person and I’m extremely empathetic. By notice more, I mean I see everything and I remember almost everything that is told to me (I’m an auditory learner which helps with that). If you tell me you like scones, don’t be surprised that I remember that and bring you scones one day, even though you thought it was an insignificant part of the conversation. This makes me a GREAT gift giver because people forget the stuff they’ve told me they wan, but I remember. I can visit your house once and then again in a month and I’ll be able to tell you if one picture has been moved on your fireplace mantle. No, I’m not creeping around memorizing everything, I just notice that it’s different and probably can’t tell you what it was before just that it’s different now. I can’t watch gory horror movies or violent movies. Once I see that stuff I cannot unsee it and I will get flashes of it forever after that. I know that it’s fake, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t find many comedies funny simply because they make me uncomfortable or embarrassed (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kimmy Schmidt, Wet Hot American Summer all fall into this category). I’m sensitive to emotions, more so than other people, and can pick up on stuff that other people miss. All of this can make social occasions like parties or even restaurants somewhat overwhelming because I’m hearing and seeing EVERYTHING and I can get overstimulated.
So, the next time you see me out somewhere, just remember what it took to even go out of my door. I completely understand people who want to always stay inside their house, I just happen to think seeing people and doing things is important, necessary, AND fun (yes, I do like it, once I get there, but it’s all worry before I leave the house). If you find I’ve disappeared for a while, I just needed to recharge a little, it’s not because I’m sad or angry. If I turn down an invitation, it’s not because I don’t like you, it’s just that I can’t handle that right now, but next time might be better, so ask me again!