Monday, April 9, 2012

My life as an introvert

The feeling was overwhelming all at once.  The need urgent.  I've lived this life for 37 years, I should know by now when to anticipate it, but still the feeling creeps up quietly and then pounces, like house cat going after a bird.  I should notice the signs, the frustration level that creeps up and up.  The little voice in my head that says all the sarcastic things that my regular voice only sometimes says (I can hear some people laughing at that.  Trust me, only a quarter of the sarcasm actually makes it to the air).  The tightness of my shoulders and back, the all-over tiredness.  They are all signs of impending meltdown.

The last six months I've wavered in and out of my experience of depression.  There were days when life looked very bleak, when the sun wasn't going to shine.  This is not the same.  Life is fine, I am fine, correction, I will be fine when I get time alone!  This is my life as an introvert.

Spending 11 years as a Youth Director and Worship Leader, I fought against my nature on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.  Small talk has always been ridiculously hard for me, it increased ten-fold on Sunday mornings.  I had to be "on" and "energetic" two modes of operating that took a lot out of me. Sunday mornings were painful at times, especially if I didn't have a chance on Friday or Saturday to recharge.  It took me a few years to realize just how much I needed those days to regroup and be ready to face another week.  I was an introvert living an extrovert life. 

Yet, I've learned how to deal with this part of my personality.  Not just deal, accept and accommodate my deeply introverted state.  I tend to sit in the back of the room, not as a way to escape, but as a way to prepare.  I can see everyone and have a view of the room to prepare when people are coming my way.  I sit quietly, not verbally engaging but smiling, in a group of people and wait until it feels safe to say something.  I keep myself busy, in the background, helping others so that I can avoid those oh-so-hard small talk times.  I find the one other person who struggles in these situations and hang out with them.  Most importantly, I take the time that I need to be alone and rejuvenate...though sometimes other people don't understand that.

Once I started really figuring out just how I worked, what would make me crazy in an instant or when I was hovering over the edge of complete and total meltdown, I started letting other people in on the secret to me.  It wasn't that I didn't want to hang out on a Friday night, I really couldn't.  It wasn't that I didn't love hanging out with youth who stopped in hours before youth group, I honestly needed a chance to prepare myself for youth group, mentally, and sometimes I just couldn't hang out.  It wasn't that I thought myself elite and above everyone else, it was simply painful to be in an unknown situation and hard to climb out of my introverted shy self.  I can put on the extroverted mask and be the one in charge for 22 hours of the day, but I need those 2 hours to be by myself and recharge before I can it again...okay, more like 21 to 3.  At the end of a long week with 20 other people on a Mission trip or any kind of other trip, I've put in all I can of myself and you can bet that I won't be perky and up to hanging out for a couple of days.  In fact, I may just hide for two days in my house.  Don't worry, I will eventually emerge again.  I just need space.

While I'm not in full-time ministry anymore, my personality hasn't changed.  I still am that introverted person.  I still face the realities of me every single day.  I accomodate my needs the best I can and put on a good face 75% of the time.  I am still, though, caught off guard from time to time when that feeling overwhelms me.  That desperate need to have space.  I've still got some learning to do.

I am an introvert...that's just the way God made me.

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