Tag Archive | introvert

Opposite of Lonely

I don’t often feel lonely, not the way I hear others describe it. I looked it up in a dictionary and thesaurus, and curiously, could not find an opposite for lonely that makes sense to me.

Lonely is defined as the one of the most terrible things in the world: Sad because one has no friends or company, isolated, alone, lonesome, friendless, with no one to turn to, forsaken, abandoned, rejected, unloved, unwanted, outcast, deserted, uninhabited, unfrequented, unpopulated, desolate, isolated, remote, out of the way, secluded, off the beaten track/path, in the back of beyond, godforsaken; in

the middle of nowhere.

Opposite? Populous. Crowded.

I do have a longing for meaningful connections in my life. Love and acceptance from people you can trust. I have a deep, dark, pain, an emptiness much greater than loneliness, because I know it will never be filled. I’ve looked into the depths of this chasm, and it is seemingly bottomless. It seems I’m safe as long as I only glance at it, no jumping in.

For me, acquaintance people are nearly always a nuisance, a stressor. Hell even the current people in my life that are supposed to be loving, supportive, combat loneliness, like my husband and in-laws cause stress and conflict. My kids are the only people I enjoy time with, and even then after a bit , I still feel crowded, smothered, like I can’t think or breathe. When I am alone, I feel peaceful. When I am with others, the tolerance clock starts clicking and I have limited time before I bolt, hide, isolate myself and recover from the constant scrutiny, questions, confusion, misunderstandings, obligations, words…so many endless words attacking my system.

It wears me out to nod, smile, be polite, figure out how to respond, sense danger, protect myself. Talking is my least favorite activity. I’d rather go to the dentist than have to chitchat with some random person. Is it my turn to talk? What did they just say? Are they lying right now? What time is it? Is that a TV show they’re talking about? Is this something I’m supposed to know snd recall or are they telling me something new? Ugh. Too stressful

Add multiple people and this feeling is exponentially heightened, to being the opposite of lonely, I get a strong need to be alone, to escape.

I’m not heartless. I do wish all these people well. I just don’t want to hear about it, sorry. Most things people tell me I can’t do anything about and I feel uncomfortable having to express sympathy or advice. Most people I start diagnosing their personality disorders, recognize cognitive distortions popping up, and of course I must remain silent. People don’t want to know this. They don’t actually want to change their own behavior or think about their thoughts. And they would be insulted or embarrassed, even though they are the one oversharing to me. It is only socially acceptable to offer support like, oh you poor thing that sounds difficult for you. They just want to hear it sucks, for validation.

I’ve found when I interact online, I can control the pace and intensity and don’t get overwhelmed. Each time I venture out to a real life Meetup, it is not a positive experience.

I’m not sure that’s bad or unhealthy. At this point in my life, if I feel satisfied by this level of connection, than maybe I need to stop trying to force myself into a more social, extroverted role just because I’m supposed to be lonely this way.

I’ve been reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain and embracing my introverted self. I don’t think I need fixed. When I socialize it is to complete a task, or because others want me there. I get nothing but stress from most gatherings otherwise.

I watched the Netflix series “Atypical” which was fantastic. I’m not an expert on autism to know if they portrayed this accurately at all. It was entertaining, but also I indentified strongly with his social struggles. I don’t think I’m autistic. But I do think I’m atypical and that my brain can’t be changed much at this point. I don’t connect and form bonds or relationships like most others do. I’m highly sensitive, tuned into emotions, which is the autistic difference. My hyperactive neurons though gives me high scores on tests for autism, overwhelmed by sensory input, can’t look people in the eye, don’t make friends, can’t work in groups, hate loud noises and bright lights, take things too literally at times, repetitive soothing behaviors, trouble following conversation, it goes on and on. Fascinating really. So it seems that autism may be caused by too many neural connections, a lack of pruning, is one theory. I’ve read similar theories for anxiety and PTSD, our connections stay strong reinforcing past memories to keep us vigilant and safe.

This is me rambling and I hope not being stupid or offensive with these curious thoughts. I only look for similarities to figure out the puzzle of me. I don’t claim to be right, ever.

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Isolation

I have been isolating myself again, or still. It seems to be getting worse, and I don’t care any more. Being social is no longer a goal, short term or long term. I am not going officially hermit…yet. Though I would if I could. The only thing stopping me from slipping away into my own world is my kids. 

As I near the end of my therapy program, I have done some even deeper thinking than usual if that might be possible. I am thinking I am done changing to be accepted or make others happy. (Except my kids, they are always the exception and I will endure whatever is needed for them) If others don’t find me acceptable I am finding I don’t care. I prefer to be alone and at peace. I have no need or desire for friends. I am done trying to force fit myself into some model that works for others. I am content being invisible. It is only when I try to fit in that it pains me when I cannot. I have never enjoyed what others enjoy, even when I am included. Shopping is a tortuous necessity. I know nothing of fashion and dress for comfort and function and value. I hate wasting money. I feel most things most people have is a waste of space and money. I admire beautiful things but feel content to visit them in nature or museums, no need to own them. I have no need for touch or affection. I would prefer no one ever touched me ever again. I continue to adapt, to try to be okay in a world that disagrees with me on nearly everything. Everything I am ‘supposed’ to be, I am not. I am done trying. I won’t run away or become the eccentric oddball everyone talks about. No, I choose door number 3. I shut up. Keep to myself. Try not to bother people and try not to let them bother me.

Personality Type: I have none

As in I have no personality – or I have no personality type, I am still undecided. 😉

Still tossing around the question “what do I want?” and drawing so many blanks, more than blanks, it is like the black hole in there with a solitary cricket just for fun and sound effects.

I recall taking personality tests in high school and then more recently recommending them to students to point them in career directions and learn about themselves. I’ve also used some of these assessments to help manage teams and people at work, so I thought I would revisit them myself despite my huge cringe and distaste for them.

Why the cringe? Well, a number of reasons:

  1. I’ve always been able to see right through these assessments and I’ve never been able to take them honestly without thinking about how my every response will skew my overall result (too many assessments and statistics classes)
  2. I think too much about it and debate each response like ‘well sometimes I prefer that but sometimes not, it depends…’
  3. I’m afraid of choosing the ‘wrong’ answer
  4. I don’t think people fit neatly into little boxes
  5. Sometimes I truly have no idea what it is asking – the question has no relevance to my life experience. If you’re doing blank would you rather blank . . . well, I would actually never blank in the first place, so none of these choices fit.
  6. I don’t know if I should answer for how I am NOW or how I WANT to be, like based on what I’ve been told is unhealthy isolation or my goal of being healthier and more connected to others
  7. I don’t know if I should base it on my actions, my thoughts, or my feelings – because those are never in agreement
  8. I don’t know if how I am now is my true personality, or should I base my answers on other experiences, like before depression hit me, before I attempted suicide, before I knew how messed up my world was. Would my true personality be more of what I was like as a child? or does it change as you grow up naturally? and how much was mine influenced under the brain-washing control of AF and my dysfunctional family environment?

This applies especially to Myers-Briggs, where it fits you into 16 personality types. To me everyone falls on a spectrum and should receive a percentage for each area to show preference of where we most naturally fit, not an all or nothing as it suggests for each of the 4 categories.

But I need a starting point, and I thought it would be interesting to compare my thoughts to a test I know so well already. I guess what trips me up is I can’t seem to choose from what would seem to be even the most basic ideas about myself, still, after all of these years past high school I guess I was hoping for some more solid ground, something to jump up and bite and say, yes that sounds like me.

Extrovert or Introvert: I’ve written on here many times about how I am an introvert. I am pretty sure this is correct, even though I have always loved performing, the bigger the crowd the better, and public speaking and giving presentations. I hate any type of party, and tend to avoid social gathering that are people getting together to just ‘hang out’.  I like when groups get together to get stuff done, planning and discussing, committees, and things with a focus and an agenda. I typically listen more than I talk, and often have no idea what to say to just fill the air with talking. Unless I have a great idea, or someone has a bad idea, I have no problem speaking up. Or if someone needs help. I do have huge anxiety related to chit-chatting with neighbors, the parents of my kids’ friends, or people I’ve just met. But I have no anxiety to teach or lead the group. I find my mind wanders when the stories and laughter that everyone else enjoys are being told, especially the same stories they like to retell, can’t hold my interest, and I’m off looking at how the light fixture made a cool shadow or petting the dog. Not always though, I can tune in as well, I laugh with them, I get goofy, but still usually in a quieter way. I have a few friends that have seen my rougher, foul mouthed side, but I tend to keep that hidden with most people as it doesn’t fit with my perfect mother/teacher persona. I find great satisfaction in a few well placed cuss words. My kids have heard them on occasion recently, because sometimes I do forget to be perfect these days.

Intuitive or Sensing: OK this one confuses the bejeezes out of me as I don’t understand this as being the flip side of anything. These are not opposites in my mind, and not something I use one or the other but rather both at all times. I simply can’t choose between these two traits. I don’t know how many people feel like this, or if being an abuse survivor has fused these two skills, since survival meant relying on immediate senses in ourselves and our abusers, and then using intuition to interpret the next move. I’ve always escaped into my imagination, no matter where I am, I can be somewhere else, fully experiencing it. And while I’m in this escape zone, I can sense my environment, feel the sun and breeze, hear the birds, or switch into creative thought and planning mode. It’s all the same to me.

Thinking or Feeling: I am further on the thinker side of this spectrum, preferring to rest in the impersonal analysis, use logic, pros, cons, be highly critical and see all flaws quickly. I like to fix things, refine processes, make improvements, make plans, work efficiently, reduce wasted time and energy, minimize errors. Although I am highly empathic, it doesn’t always mean I understand the feelings I feel coming off of others. And then I try to think my way out of them. And I think and think and think and think until I have an action to take. I’m confused by feelings that seem illogical or invalid, and I appreciate when others point out to me my errors, that I need to allow myself to have all those feelings, whenever I need to have them, and they don’t need to make sense. I am forever trying to make feelings make sense and they never cooperate.

Judging or Perceiving: This one is easy, I am a Judger all the way. I hate surprises. I have lists for my lists and alarms for my calendars, notes for my goals. I feel lost without a current set of daily, short-term, and long-term goals. I must achieve. I must make decisions, not knowing eats away and gives me terrible anxiety. Time is always running out. Sometimes for me, it is always like the end of the MacGyver episode, 3 seconds on the clock, everything is beeping and blinking and we must decide now which wire to cut or everything will blow up and it will be too late. I put huge pressure on myself to get things done. That’s why this healing business is not working for me. I need to know how much time to pencil in my calendar. How much rest do I need. What kind of rest. If I cram better rest into a month all at once can I get better more quickly? I’m always looking for the advanced studies route, and darn it if life doesn’t seem to offer this. My brain may learn quickly, but it heals at the same rate as any other neuron on the planet. I also can’t stand to think I’ll know if I am actually healed, since we all heal and grow throughout our entire lives. I understand this human viewpoint theoretically, but I REALLY want an end date, a graduation date, a diploma, a degree, a certificate, SOMETHING that says I am officially recovered from PTSD, with honors of course.

And of course I can’t get this, I know. So what do I do without this? I’m starting to figure it out, but I know without knowing the answers, from past experience, you just keep going.

I’ve made some interesting connections to the personality types and schema types during my reading that I hope to be able to put into words soon, a cool crossover for guidance counselor and clinical counselor and a kind of putting it all together moment for me when I started to look at strengths and talents and not just personality/behavior.

Horrible Holidays – part 2 – How to cope

An amazing therapy session today. I feel empowered to handle some of the holiday stress now. She found my ruby slippers – ‘you’ve had the power all along dear’. Except when I click my slippers, I will be transported to a mental happy home.

So I explained all of my issues regarding holidays. We decided to tackle the gatherings at MIL’s house first, and scheduled 3 more sessions to work on the issues of my own family of origin’s parties.

So I told her I don’t enjoy these long days of family hoopla. She asked what I’ve already tried.

Well I said, I have 3 choices here.

  1. Go and plaster on my smile and pretend all is well
  2. Go and be authentic and stir up trouble as I speak my mind
  3. Don’t go at all

She says I have a 4th choice. Something I never considered.

 

4. Go and be authentic to myself

 

COPING SKILL 1 – IMAGINE

At first I didn’t understand. She says I am to use my amazing inner world to supplement my outer one. Like I do in business meetings ALL OF THE TIME. I was still confused. I said what about being mindful? She said yes I want you to be mindful, be aware of your stress level, and when it approaches the red zone, maybe even when it is orange or yellow, I am to mentally back out of the situation and imagination a different ending.

I’m thinking Ally McBeal style.

So when anyone starts saying something negative, attacking, selfish, snobby, etc – I will picture them as hippies dancing through a field of flowers and delivering fresh baked goodies to the homeless. Or their big egos inflating their heads like balloons. Or them holding the coveted glowing iphone as angels sing and circle.

I don’t wish to force my values on anyone, and I don’t enjoy judging these people that I should accept as family. I have already tried the path of greatest resistance – I have already spoken up multiple times and they know my stance on these issues as well as I know theirs. So if they insist on speaking about politics, education, or how great the latest iphone is, I will not consider it my duty to scold them, and will instead IMAGINE the conversation taking a different route.

She said just make sure I don’t use it as an escape – it should only be a minute as needed to lighten my own mental mood. I do this when speaking to my boss, but had never considered doing this for my inlaws. I asked my therapist “Is this really healthy?” “Isn’t the same as pretending?” She said no. I will be true to my inner self and wisely choose which battles need fighting. Having the same argument is draining for me, and no net gain will ever be had. I’d be better off arguing my points to the rocks outside, at least then I’d have some fresh air to go along with the futility.

 

COPING SKILL 2 – Breathing Breaks

She said no one has to know I doing deep breathing and counting and feeling my belly rise and fall. I don’t even need to leave the room – which can actually cause more stress as people ‘search’ for me and ask if I’m ok when they find me sitting alone in the dark. A whole house full of extroverts – I’m alien to them. Sitting around the dinner table with one hand in my lap, it will be easy to focus on my breathing and keep my heart rate down and stress levels at bay without causing unnecessary alarm or drawing unwanted attention to myself.

 

COPING SKILL 3 – DIVERSIONS

She said to bring something to do. Busy people are usually left alone. She suggested my camera. If they see me out snapping pics they are less likely to worry or intrude on me. I actually did this last time, practicing my macro skills and playing with lighting – I took 50 shots of her blooming Christmas cactus, some very artsy, and some very standard. And then I share my favorites with them, so my antisocial break turns into a positive social later. win-win. She also suggested I take my sketch pad and some pencils, or some games or crafts to play with the kids.

 

COPING SKILL 4 – BOUNDARIES

I have already set the boundary that we will not spend the night at MIL’s on these occasions. I am trying to also limit how long we spend there – does it need to be 8-10 hours? If so, I need to be afforded extra quiet time before and after the visit to prepare and recover. Some of this is simply giving myself permission for this, not any changes that need to happen other than my own inner critic allowing me to be tired and being gentle with myself.

 

COPING SKILL 5 – CHANGE IT UP

If yz always seem to happen after x – try starting with Q! If MIL always complains about having to make all of the food, but refuses to let anyone in her kitchen to help – tell her ahead of time we’d really like to bring some special dishes this year. Make them in our own kitchen, with whatever bowl or spoon we choose, and bring it along to lighten her load. If certain conversation always lead to arguments, throw out new topics and see what happens – Say did you know anglerfish has bioluminescent bacteria residing in side of them to make the glowy bobber? I’m pretty sure no one will have a strong or caustic opinion about that. Always in trouble for showing up late? Go for breakfast this year. Tradition is one thing – but a rut is a rut.

 

So to sum this up – she does not feel there is any danger or harm in exhausting myself at MIL’s house as long as I take care of myself too. She thinks that it would be harmful to avoid it, both for my own peace of mind and guilt, feeling of belonging – as well as for my kids. She said if nothing else, go and be a part of this wild group a few times a year to model how to do it for my kids. Grumble grumble yes I thought she would say that. pout. FINE.

Actually I am looking forward to trying out my new skills and seeing if I can carve out an introverted niche in the extroverted wild kingdom. Use my powers for good! Let this family get to know me, and love me. Understand I am actually loved and missed if not there. Understand that strong personalities zap my energy, but not my soul. No dangers here, turn off the red alert.

I’ll try.

Teetering

On the edge of sanity. Finger in the crack in the dam, holding it all back. Missing my hermit days.

I am not handling the stress very well at all lately, and it is getting worse. I feel the anxiety, fear the out of control thoughts, and have a wall up against my own negativity. I am wearing out and afraid what will happen my defenses falter.

My kids all have some minor health and dental issues that require multiple doctors and multiple appointments and multiple medicine/treatment regimens and multiple rearrangements of the calendar. Nothing serious or life threatening, thank you  thank you thank you, but everything needs attention – my attention. I’m running out of attention to give, and going into hiding mode to reserve what I do have for emergencies.

When life gets hectic, I get social anxiety. I lose the ability to make simple decisions. I feel stupid and inept and frightened.

1 kiddo has bronchitis that requires an inhaler every 4-6 hours. I kept him home from school for 2 days to administer it here, and sent him to school today hoping he makes it all day. I don’t have it in me to go to the office and turn in the meds and doctors slip for him to have it at school. I feel panic imagining that conversation for some reason. Not like the elementary school secretary is scary herself, but somehow the interaction terrifies me today.

So I am at home.

I have a neighbor that is trying to be my friend. We’ve been watching each other’s kids all year long, but she is trying to be friendly with me now, texting me, and horror of all horrors, wanted to carpool with me to a school event. Instantly I feel trapped. I’ve been managing school events fairly well because I am invisible. I slip in and out and avoid eye contact. I watch my kiddo and get out of there, ignoring the chatter all around me. This neighbor wants me to go with her, meaning the chatter would be nonstop and I would have to leave when she wants, not leave early if I want. Why is this so uncomfortable and scary to me?

So I am at home.

Today is another school event for another kiddo. It starts in about an hour. I am trembling thinking of going. I was hoping it would get rained out and postponed, but it didn’t. I can go and add this stress to my already shaking nerves, or I can stay home and bear the guilt of disappointing my daughter when I am not in the bleachers. Guilt sounds easier right now than having to shower, dress nicely, and plaster on a smile. I don’t recognize people well, not sure why, but people come up and start talking to me and it takes me forever to figure out who they are, even people I talk to often appear to be strangers at first. Does anxiety do that? Or do I have some facial recognition disease? Like I can see my next door neighbor grocery shopping and she comes over and starts chatting and I use her conversation context to figure out who she is. I start sweating, mind racing, searching for clues to tell me who this is and how to respond. I hate it.

So I am at home.

I will get my work done, alone in my dining room, safely converse through a computer where each coworker has a name listed and I clearly know who it is and how to respond. Here I am brilliant and confident. Out there I am stupid and anxious.

My head is telling me that it is my fault the kids are sick, or have cavities, or whatever other issue. It says I should take better care of them and not work so much and my promotion is a mistake and hurting them. It says I shouldn’t have had kids, passing along all of my genetic health issues was cruel.

An old lady at curves has gotten too friendly and I find myself avoiding going there too. She follows me around chatting while I work the machines, while I pant and sweat. She goes on and on about her cats and grandkids. She is very sweet but I can’t stand her and I don’t know what to do. She made me touch her nose. SHE MADE ME TOUCH HER NOSE! You can’t take someone with social anxiety, a fair amount of OCD and germophobia and make her touch your nose. No. Just wrong. She had been in air conditioning for hours and was feeling cold. She grabbed my hand off the workout machine and placed it on her nose so I could feel how cold it was. I nearly died. The back of my hand became a red alert and I wanted to go wash it, but knew that would be offensive. So I kept my eye on that spot, it seemed to be red and pulsing with alarm bells, throughout my workout, and kept my hand off my face. I always do anyway, I only touch my face with my shirt and wash them when I touch public items.

I know this reaction is funny, but it is also true. I know it is irrational, but it is my reaction and so difficult to control. I know I’m not going to die. But the adrenaline pumped into my system sure felt like I was going to die. I know statistics, and I don’t think touching and old lady’s nose has ever been listed as a cause of death, unless maybe she was the queen and secret service gunned you down or something. I know I am ridiculous – and yet here I am.

At home.

I drown my thoughts with junk food and alcohol and marathon TV watching and here I am teetering on the edge of something, so afraid to fall in.

Now I know I can get back out if I fall in. But we still avoid the puddles, ditches and ponds, right? If everyone jumped right into every pond because they knew they could get back out, we’d all be wet all of the time. I don’t think avoiding the fall is a bad thing as long as we don’t start wearing floaties every day.

I’m struggling to voice this thought. I’m trying to explain my hiding behavior, and say in the grand scheme of things, it seems to be an ok way to keep me healthy right now. It’s ok to ease up on the things that cause fear and anxiety as long as I don’t avoid them completely. If I handle myself gently, maybe my tolerance will increase over time. This is just something I still need to do for myself. Maybe I always will? No, I won’t harbor that thought, not helpful. I’m throwing out thoughts today like going through the mail – read now, throw out, keep for later.

Like mother’s day. Notice I didn’t post about that yet? keep for later.

Family Like Snapping Turtles

 

snap

snap (Photo credit: ccarlstead)

Winter is wearing us out over here. My house is small and we have been inside of it, all of us together, for way too many days recently.

 

 

 

We are all behaving like snapping turtles, no matter what anyone says, someone else responds with a snapping, biting remark. My son and I are extreme introverts and struggle with the constant people on top of us here. My other son is an extreme extrovert and suffers from the lack of school and tries to get too much out of us  introverts. We are all on edge.

 

 

 

We are in desperate need of sunshine and fresh air. We are done with the gray cloudy days and air so cold it hurts exposed skin in a few moments. Another storm on the way tonight. (sarcastic sigh and yay) So with sunshine out of the question since we can’t afford a trip out of this state, we are planning a day trip to a cool children’s museum very soon. If the weather advisory holds off and it is safe to drive that day, of course. (fingers crossed)

 

 

 

In the mean time, here is my attempt to find the positives to being winter’s prisoner:

 

 

 

  • I have cleaned and organized parts of my house better than I have in years, due to being stuck inside and tired of seeing the clutter and dust.
  • The kids have come up with highly creative new games to play with legos and other toys
  • The kids have beat super mario and unlocked new levels and characters
  • I have beaten all of my high scores in wii fit and continue to get stronger and more balanced
  • I have had plenty of time to draw and paint
  • I work from home so I rarely have to dig my van out of the snow and chip off the ice
  • I work from home so all the snow days off of school did not affect my ability to work
  • The ice is rather beautiful and sparkly
  • the crunching sound when I walk in the snow (I do have to go outside one in a while) makes me smile and remember my first date with Hubby
Icy Window

Icy Window (Photo credit: derekGavey)

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An Introverted Exploration into Introversion

Re-Joining the social world outside my mind, home, and computer has stirred up all kinds of interesting thoughts lately. After my Big Breakdown in my mid twenties, I chose to isolate myself from most of the world. It was just me and my babies at home. Hubby was not even allowed in any more. I’m not sure any of that was a conscious decision or if it was a necessity born of a lack of coping skills. My severe depression, then unknown PTSD, suicidal thoughts (and a few actions) over those years forced me to hide myself deep within a thick-walled protective fortress of my own creation. I had no idea that my inner child had always been buried in there, and it took my Big Breakdown to find her and introduce her to the young adult me. I found her in there, scared, alone, and trembling. I didn’t entirely know why, and it took a long time, years of intense therapy sessions to get the entire story and start on this journey of becoming whole.

I know so much about myself now. I am understanding my needs and doing my best to fill them. Now I am not talking about cute new shoes or the latest smartphone. If you know me at all, those are not needs. My needs are soulful: I need to be understood (first by my own self, and now expanding this to a few safe others), I need to be creative, I need to be alone often, I need to be helpful, I need to keep learning, and I need to love and be loved. Sometimes I need chocolate ice cream too, but that’s a whole different story.

Therapy this week we explored my aversion to small talk in any social situation. I have written about it before here. I get bored, then annoyed, then feel actual physical pain, and feel anger when I am forced to listen to pointless stories full of details that I don’t need to know. I care about people, deeply. And so I do my best to listen and participate in something that is so obviously a need for most people. At least for most extroverts I think.

I am not shy. Not at all. I have no fear of saying anything to anyone. I have no fear of scolding other people’s children (in front of them) if I notice feelings getting hurt or the child is about to get hurt. I love being the leader, giving presentations or speeches, and I really love performing and being the center of attention. But I hate talking about personal nothings, like what we had for dinner, where I bought my shoes, or if I saw the latest movie.  And I really hate listening, or attempting to listen when others go on and on about these things. Especially when they talk about their kids or pets. I have kids and pets and have very little I would want to randomly share about them.

My therapist asked me if I remember anyone going on and on with small talk when I was little. At first I thought she was nuts and just going back to those memories that therapists love to dredge up. But then I heard myself say, “My mom.”

And then I was transported back in time to the millions of occasions that my mom would be on the phone – talking for hours – and we were not allowed to interrupt her even though we could hear she was talking about the latest movie star scandal from People magazine. She would ask us to write her notes if it was an emergency, because to her it was rude for the person on the phone to ever hear her children in the background. I assume this was important in keeping up her facade that she was a perfect mom and we were perfect children, not pesky or unintentionally rude as is normal for small kids.

And then I remembered how many times I was dressed up in a perfect ruffly dress, and taken her friends’ houses to sit silently on the sofa while she chatted for hours. I was not allowed to interrupt there either, and if the friend asked me anything, my Mom would always answer for me, giving me a “keep your mouth shut or else” look. There would always be snacks on the table that I was instructed to say “no thanks” and stare at a plate of chocolate chip cookies for a few hours.

I was the youngest sibling. These memories are from before school age, when she was not working, and my brothers were in school, so I had to go every where with her. I didn’t want to wear the itchy lacy things she bought me. I wanted to wear shorts and climb trees. I didn’t want to sit still and “be a lady”. I did not care if anyone saw my underwear. Besides, why did she make me wear the lacy ones if no one was going to see it? I still remember how scratchy that felt on my little behind, and how I would squirm to try to itch myself politely, knowing Mom would hate it if anyone saw me adjust my undies.

So maybe, just maybe, some part of me does not want to be like my Mom. It is so simple, really. I am afraid if I enjoy the mindless buzz of talking that I will be like her? And of course my greatest fear is to become anything similar to either parent.

I don’t know, but I think it could play into it. Otherwise, it is simply my own extreme introversion. I’m convinced I would be introverted with or without childhood abuse. This is not a flaw, a disorder, or anything wrong with me. It is simply how I am wired and how I process my world. Two of my kids shows signs of some introversion and I try to respect that and give them alone time as needed. My youngest appears to be a full extrovert so far, which explains why he is extra exhausting to me.

I did some searching on this topic and found many irritating articles that do not understand introversion at all and only work to expand on myths and confusion. And to me, they stink of manipulation. Guides to manipulate those you talk to  – to pretend to be interested, to lead conversations where you want them to go like a slimy salesman or lawyer. Yes – I could do those things, but I choose not to be fake. I choose to be me at all times. I choose to be the same me to everyone.

http://theadventurouswriter.com/blog/how-to-make-conversation-for-introverts-tips-for-small-talk/

I’m only going to highlight a few ‘tips’ here:

1. Be curious about other people. “People are flattered when you find them appealing – and they naturally reciprocate,” says Dr Ann Demarais, psychologist and co-author of First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You. Showing interest in others increases your likeability factor because it shows you’re confident. “And when you’re confident, you appear more attractive,” she says.

This first tip turned my stomach. I am not going to flatter people just for the sake of flattery. If I like your hair, I will genuinely say so. If not, I will be quiet unless you ask me about it. And then I will honestly say I liked the last cut better. I will not say I think you look like a Q-tip, although I may think that and actually visualize you cleaning giant ears. But my introverted vision is just for me. And the whole likeability factor? OMG. That makes me mad. I don’t give a crap if you like me. And I certainly don’t want you to like me based on some false flattery or something I am not. Ugh. Forget it.

And the thing is – I am curious about other people – genuinely. I can see the pain on faces, notice limps or twitches, see underlying sadness. I know when people are speaking vaguely and avoiding pain. I feel frustration. I sense tension. And I know when people are not being true. I heard the argument between the husband and wife as they walked up the driveway and I’m not fooled by the plastered on smiles. I’d much rather talk about what I see and feel and dig into what really matters. But most people don’t want to talk about real life, and I know that, so I usually pretend I don’t notice, to be polite and to talk about things appropriate to the situation.

5. Smile with your eyes. If your face feels and looks pleasant and happy, your conversation partner will feel relaxed. A happy face looks approachable and friendly. To keep your face open and happy, think positive thoughts: recall your last vacation, a funny joke, or last night’s episode of “Two and a Half Men.”  Making conversation for introverts is easier if you’re happy and relaxed.

I struggle with this one, as my face does show my thoughts. I may look concerned while the mom is discussing her recipe because I am aware her 3 year old wandered out the door. I am not sure if she is aware, or if someone else is watching the little one. Many other moms are much more relaxed about watching children than I am and can get offended if I point out they are not watching theirs. So I have learned to watch them myself and speak up when needed to keep them safe. I purposely fill my glass only a little so I can get up often and look around.  Or I know the friend with MS is in serious pain and shifting in her seat. I cringe right along with her. And then the one who is now living alone, her children grown up and her husband died. I sense her loneliness and longing underneath her silly story. I care about everyone and struggle to shield my reflection of what I feel on my face. I do have to remember to force a smile at time when my mind has wandered and I see everyone else smiling or laughing.

Bonus tip for small talk: wear a light scent. Research from Northwestern University shows that a light lemon smell increases your “likeability factor.” You don’t have to smell like citrus to make people like you – any pleasant, barely perceptible scent is effective. A light scent may give you confidence, especially if you have introverted personality traits.

There’s that likeability factor again. Oh man. Seriously? When’s the last time you decided to talk to someone because they smell good? Now I do think you should make sure you don’t smell bad, I mean a nice shower and a breath mint go a long way. But I have had many wonderful conversation with some very stinky people before, after a dance performance, after a run, heck, even after a child vomited on them. Smell is not high on my list of why I talk to people. Are so many people really this superficial??

I think everything works on a spectrum, and there is not a clear line of introversion vs extroversion. I believe I am extremely introverted.

http://www.carlkingdom.com/10-myths-about-introverts

This one seemed to understand introversion much better. I’m listing all 10 here.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Yes, exactly. I love talking. Get me going about brain research, education reform, biology, examining feelings, and so many other topics I am hard to shut up. The latest football game or what was on TV last night? I am not interested and probably clueless there was even a game or anything on TV. I live in my own world.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

I love that – I don’t interact for the sake of interacting. I have no need for this.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

I have been called blunt and dense more than once in my life. The social pleasantries feel forced and fake to me. I do my best not to offend though, and it is completely exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Yes – I value everyone. Even the person you are trash talking, so I don’t want to hear it. If you ever need me though, I’ll be the first one there.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Exactly! The fair is fun for about 20 minutes. I’m done now. I enjoyed it, but I’m done now.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Not always alone, but I treasure being alone because it happens so infrequently.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

No, I’m fine with being weird. I challenge everything. I am the pain in the butt that makes people change or see things differently. I don’t even know what is popular or how to find out. Fashion means nothing to me, I choose clothes and accessories for comfort, texture, and durability. I own one purse at a time, use it for a few years until it breaks. I don’t join the PTA at school because I know I would not keep my mouth shut and prefer to stay unknown in my small town.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds. 

Think Tank

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

My inner world is so much fun! Think Ally McBeal. I have musical numbers going on in here, people transforming in amusing ways, and words turning into poems. I swear my insanity keeps me sane.

I have attended ‘think tank’ titled meetings and visualized something some crazy smart mechanical tank barging in and shooting lasers to rescue me from boredom and whisk me away to save the universe with a young Harrison Ford. (Just found out that not everyone has this inner world . . .)

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Yes, yes, and yes. I will look up the dopamine pathway for introverts, never heard that before.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

Hmm. I used to think there was something wrong with me. Then I thought there was something wrong with everyone else. Now I see we all fill our needs in different ways and no one is wrong. Just need to teach tolerance, understanding and acceptance rather than conformance. Teach kids we’re all different, and we’re all OK too. Stop striving for normal and fitting in. Instead celebrate our differences!!

So to sum this up, I understand myself a bit more now. My introversion is not caused by abuse, but my personality was shaped by my experience and I may be more introverted than without the abuse. I also attached an ‘abnormal’ label to myself all these years as I tried to fit in. Now I am finding ways to fit into social groups without compromising myself. I am finding people that value me as me. This is important, because I used to think only in terms of my past, my abuse. I thought it had touched all of me and made me who I am. It is important to see the difference that it yes it shaped me, but so did many other things. I don’t have a neon sign of “abuse survivor” on my head like I previously thought. I am not so damaged. I was hurt. I have scars – But I am not a scar. Huge change to my way of thinking about myself.

I am loving and gentle to myself now, and amazingly, others are acting this way too. My whole world is transforming and opening up to me – all because I have chosen to actually be me. Amazing.

If you are on this journey to, don’t give up. It takes practice to be kind to yourself. I still make mistakes. But I am allowing the nurturing parent and teacher in me to take care of my hurting inner child. I would never belittle my own kids, or those in my classrooms for stumbling when learning. It is to be expected. Learning is hard, but never impossible.