Let’s talk about introversion or gee, you’ve been quiet. What happened to the blog?!
*Originally posted 5/16/17
First impressions of me are probably of a confident, chatty and pretty silly woman.
I can chat to almost anyone and often overshare.
I’m a theatre director, an instructor and earned my chatty spurs via more than 20 years of retail experience. I say good morning to strangers on the street thanks to my Dad’s influence (pictured below with me) and am externally a sunny side up kind of gal.
I have recently discovered that I am in fact, nowhere near as extroverted as I have always believed. After any period of extroversion I am in deep need of solitude and quiet. I become sensitive to noise, uncomfortable around crowds and don’t want to speak for days. I will put off making any phone calls, even to the pharmacy. My iPod is quite literally a lifesaver during these times. If I don’t find a way to shush I become exhausted and cranky, even waspish.
If I’d known how to articulate these aspects of my personality, how to soothe the introvert, I believe I could have avoided illness in my twenties which inevitably led to my dropping out of university. Nope. Never did finish that degree.
After a pretty soul-destroying time at high school it was incredible to find my people in theatre studies at university. I worked my tail off on shows and partied constantly. After plenty of years of loneliness and teen angst at high school, university was a revelation. It was truly the most exciting time of my life to date. Turns out my psyche felt differently.
I became completely and utterly exhausted and after a bout of glandular fever weird pains started creeping in. At first we thought it was connected to my endometriosis but it turned out to be fibromyalgia. The diagnosis took three years and many many doctors. This was before the internet (!!) and before much research had been done into chronic illnesses like fibro and chronic fatigue. In the end my Mum happened upon an article in the paper about a woman with chronic pain. She sounded so much like me that we asked a specialist. He said yes. And good luck with that. There was no treatment, just anti-depressants (which are still pretty good for such things but there are so many other things to try. Hello marijuana patches, I’m looking at you!) and a list of activities I should engage in when I found it virtually impossible to walk to the mailbox.
Fibromyalgia provided me with the first lesson in life management. Just because I was skilled at something and enjoyed it didn’t mean I had time for it. I was always an over-achiever and am still pretty good at over-committing myself but when you are in the middle of a major flare up of allover body pain you realise it could be time to reconsider your schedule.
In hindsight I consider this period to be one of forced introversion. My body forced me to fall off the face of the earth. I dropped out of college, quit work, quit partying and moved back in with my folks.
I was 21.
Everything stopped. Some loyal friends kept in touch but I was unable to leave the house even for a coffee. I began to watch Friday night football with my parents and this was considered a big night out albeit in the living room. (If you know me you will understand how sick I was. I hate Aussie rules football, it has always pissed me off. No idea why). To say that this major life change was unwelcome would be to understate it utterly. I was in my twenties, single and just starting to build a reputation in the local theatre scene. It seemed to me that my future now held pain and suffering, boredom and not much else. Woohoo!
In fact, the massive changes made to my schedule brought tiny improvements to my health. For a few years following my diagnosis I used trial and error to find my limits and gradually began to recover. I was lucky to have no responsibilities, supportive parents and time.
The reason I write about this is to attempt to understand the extremes of my personality and the impact they can have on my health. I am and have always been a people pleaser (insert eating disorder here), an over achiever (and here) and a daydreamer (yep, here too). I aim high yet have also become very good at sabotaging my own success. A pattern emerged after my recovery of doing very well at something and giving it my all, only to find exhaustion hitting me like a tonne of bricks and then I would quit. After a period of recovery I would do it all over again.
Self-sabotage seems to have been an extreme and unconscious way of managing my health. I have stumbled along from one vague success to another with no plan and very little concept of what works and what doesn’t. The variety of projects I have worked on, the skills I have developed and the people I have encountered have given me so much pleasure and done wonders for my sense of self worth but I think I now understand the concept of balance.
Until a few weeks ago I was happily riding the latest freight train weighed down with projects and commitments and then we decided to get a dog.
The incredible Neko entered our lives and I somehow believed I would be able to keep up with the train. That I would even want to! Turns out that ultimate mindfulness can be experienced when you are raising a puppy, almost as demanding as a new baby human. Neko has forced me to stop. A German Shepherd requires an enormous amount of time, exercise and training unless you are happy with a pretty naughty dog. Nope. No thanks. So I have put in the majority of my daytime (and nighttime!) hours into raising this dog to be relaxed, groovy and well behaved. It’s working. We receive many comments from strangers regarding her lovely temperament which is very gratifying. She sleeps through the night and generally loves loving us. The feeling is mutual.
But what happens to my work? And that train I was on?
Well, I have hit the pause button in a very major way. The small amount of work I had left to complete after Neko joined us caused me enormous stress and had me working very weird hours. It was definitely time for a change.
I have been tossing around various notions in my subconscious for a few months now. Recently everything coalesced and I knew what I wanted to do.
My small business, Pikelet Workshop, will close up shop. I will take the entire summer off to rebrand and contemplate, do some writing and focus on my family, myself and my pup.
In the fall you will see a new brand, and I hope it will become a driving force in maintaining a lifestyle which will accommodate my need for introversion and contemplation, along with the extroversion we all know so well. I will continue to write about myself (egomaniac) and my recover, as well as anxiety and raising a girl with the same condition. Things will change but they will hopefully be an organic distillation of all of the pieces of me which I’ve been having trouble uniting for most of my life.
And I have finally found the right adjective to describe my personality.