I saw my counselor today. We met for an hour. I was exhausted before we even got going. When I got out, all I wanted to do was take a nap. That, my friends, is severe introversion at its best and finest.
I long-ago made peace with the fact that I’m an introvert. (Thank you, Holley Gerth.) So that’s not really a problem, although it does drive my husband a tiny bit crazy. And by tiny bit, I mean a lot.
But the past few weeks, I’ve gone from my normal mild introversion to severe reclusion, and it’s been really freaking me out. Last week I was filled with dread when I saw notifications on my phone for, like, a voicemail…for a call…that I was expecting…but couldn’t bring myself to take. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It was a “Hey Ma’am, Medicaid approved the referral for Ezra’s OT, when can we start?” thing.
Then there were the Voxer notifications from my two best friends in the whole wide world that I let sit, and sit, and sit. Because, I just couldn’t bring myself to listen.
Me (1): “What in the world is wrong with you?”
I haven’t been able to listen to the radio in the car. I’ve avoided conversations at church. I’ve sent phonecalls to voicemail just because.
Me (1): “This is bad. Don’t you realize this severe introversion is a really really unhealthy habit? You need to cultivate your social life and invest in your relationships! You should call up so-and-so and ask her if she wants to do coffee this week.”
Me (2): “Please don’t make me!”
Me (1): “If you keep this up, five years down the road you know what you will be? LONELY! You’ll have NO FRIENDS.”
Me (2): “Please, just be quiet.”
Okay, so now that I have you really worried, I really don’t have voices in my head. However, my husband and I DID have a real-life conversation yesterday that went something like this.
Russ: “I have a plan for the afternoon, but you probably aren’t going to like it because it involves us all leaving the house.”
Me: “You’re right. That’s a horrible plan.”
He’s working overtime this week. That means, cue the music, I get to hear about how sad he is that he misses his family all week long. It’s adorable, really. This isn’t me complaining.
“I wish I could be the stay at home parent,” he tells me in a text message. “But then I would just miss you instead. I just miss you and love you and love talking to you.”
It’s this moment when I really start to wonder what’s wrong with me.
When he was in Afghanistan, I missed him so much it physically hurt. But now I don’t. Is that what it takes for me to miss him? Him being gone for months on end?
Which brings me back to sitting on a couch in my therapist’s office asking her if there’s something horribly wrong with me. She smiles. She says, “It sounds like caregiver burnout. You are so great at go-go-go, but now that everything is going well it’s your turn to fall apart.”
“That’s the thing, though,” I say. “I don’t really feel like I’m falling apart. I just feel like I want everyone to go away and leave me the heck alone.”
I tell her about all of the things I’m getting to do by myself these days. My two hours at the YMCA where I exercise and work on school work. She tells me that I shouldn’t view school work as introversion time, because it’s still a drain – it’s still me putting out. That’s when it all started to make more sense:
A bunch of stuff has happened in the last month that I didn’t really realize was all that big of a deal. We pulled Ezra out of twice-a-week OT at the beginning of September because the 45 minute drive each way was getting to be too much for me and Little Brother to handle. A few weeks later, at the end of September, intensive in-home services ended. Now, we are on a hiatus from therapy – having dropped from seeing providers four times a week to none at all.
You would think that, with all of this extra time on my hands, I would have all the energy in the world and be knocking out projects, blog posts, and housework left and right.
Instead, I’m so tired. So freaking tired that my couch is literally my new best friend. Netflix and chill, my friends, because…you know… #lifegoals.
I guess all that go-go-go-ing kept my adrenaline racing at unhealthy levels which made me feel like I had a lot of energy when really, I was just depleting my reserves. Now that I’ve stopped, I realize just how empty they really are.
Then there is school, which is going great. But in all three of my classes, we’ve been talking about some big issues that have my brain (and inner being) overwhelmed with a lot of deep stuff.
In my sociology class – in which we’ve been talking about big issues like racism, sexism, prejudice, inequality, and stratification – I’ve had to answer discussion board questions like, “How does global stratification personal affect you and your community?”
In my stress management class, the questions have been, “In what ways could you incorporate more mindfulness into your life? Describe an experience that frequently causes you stress. How might that experience be changed if you were to apply mindfulness (non-judgmental awareness)? Describe a time when you felt guilty about something you did or said. In what ways could your guilt be turned into positive action?”
And in my Human Services class, we are studying diversity. I also had to write a whole 2-4 page “Self Reflection” paper on why I want to go into human services, what my view of human nature is, how that view will affect my work, all about my strengths and weaknesses and about 20 other questions.
My 2-4 page paper is currently 11 pages long. Because…writer. I emailed the professor and asked if there would be points deducted for it being over length. She wrote back and said, “I won’t take off if the paper is longer than the requirement. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to share the details of your life in the essay, you can have boundaries in how you relate your interest in the field.”
This is hilarious. Epic-ally hilarious. Because, in that section of my paper where I talk about my weaknesses, this is what I had to say:
“My biggest weakness is definitely boundaries. I know I will probably always struggle with getting too emotionally involved with my clients. I tend to be awkwardly vulnerable with people and share too much. I feel like people will like me more or listen to me more when they know everything about me. I care too much what people think and try too hard to make them like me.”
It’s like she already has me pegged. *hangs head*
Anyway, so if you take this recovery-from-therapy stage of caregiving, throw in a helping and a half of self-reflection, add in a crap-ton of social media drama swirling around this upcoming election (you can read my thoughts on that here) – you have the perfect recipe for “How to Send an Introvert into Severe Turtle Mode.”
This past Saturday, I set up a kid-friendly coffee date for the moms at my church. Russ took the boys to Grandma’s for breakfast so I could do my thing. No one showed up. It was wonderful.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. Several times through the weekend, he brought it up – as though trying to peel back into my deep, dark recesses searching for hidden disappointment or hurt.
“Nah, it’s okay. It must have just not been a good time for people. It’s fine!” I tell him.
(And I got to sit there and eat my sausage and hashbrowns and not talk to anyone for thirty solid minutes. It was perfectly lovely. Then I went to Starbucks for a mocha and got gas in the car AND a car wash. ALL BY MYSELF. #noregrets)
Things are really good right now. We are in maintenance mode. Everyone’s meds are adjusted. We all have providers to see for ongoing care but we are no longer in crisis mode. Ezra gets to come home from school and do “normal” boy things like ride his bike and make sling-shots out of sticks.
In my stress management class, we’ve been learning about the fight-or-flight response.
Y’all? I’ve been fighting for a long time. Fighting for answers. Fighting for services. Fighting for my kid to get the help he needed. Fighting for the ultimate birth experience. Fighting for my marriage. Fighting to hold on to my faith. Fighting for my own adult identity.
All that fighting paid off. But now, I don’t have to fight anymore. The battle is over (at least, for now). I can lay down my weapons and rest for a bit.
I don’t really know how to live this way. But I’m trying to figure it out.
“The important thing,” my therapist says, “…is not to judge yourself and your introversion during this phase.”
So this is me. Not judging my super introversion.
I can show up for the car pickup line and just sit here and do nothing – because I’m not in a hurry to drive 45 minutes away or to rush home to clean for a therapist who is coming over. I don’t have to fill the quietness and 5 minutes of down-time catching up on Facebook or talking to my friends on Voxer. I don’t have to flip on the radio.
I don’t have to fill up my calendar with coffee dates. I don’t have to login to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I don’t have to blog. I don’t have to call anyone. I don’t have to listen to my voicemails right away.
I’m in turtle mode, and that’s okay.