An Introvert in an Extrovert’s World

Today’s post is supposed to be titled “Favorite Nonfiction.” And it started out that way. But, I couldn’t leave that as the title, because, while this post is about my favorite nonfiction book, it is also about much more than that.

Susan Cain published Quiet in January 2012. Where was I in January 2012? Dating. Online dating to be specific. Meeting complete strangers for drinks at bars. It was absolutely terrifying. I was terrible at it.

And then I heard about this book. Or maybe it caught my eye at a book store, I can’t remember. But Susan Cain came into my life hard. Quite frankly, she saved me.

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For those of you who don’t know Quiet, this is a book about being an Introvert in an Extrovert’s world. Cain not only describes the differences, but also goes to great lengths to help us understand ways to be ourselves and still feel comfortable and confident in today’s society.

Not too long ago, my sister had my whole family take personality tests. I was not surprised to hear that everyone, except me, was some variation of extrovert. I had known that for years. They call laughed, though, when I told them mine:  INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). The rarest type in society. Only 1% of people have this personality. Where this comes from in my family, I don’t know, but I’m definitely the odd man out.

Growing up in an extroverted family was not easy. I very much wanted to keep up with all of the social activities, sporting events, and oh please god just let me get a word into this conversation! But mostly, my brain kept telling me that my books were waiting upstairs in my room.

School, especially college, was hard. For many people, college means parties! New friends! Clubs! For me, college meant feeling extremely out of place in a very big environment. People seemed to cling together quickly and easily, and I didn’t understand why that didn’t happen to me. Classes required group projects, and because I was in the business school, my groups were filled with aspiring sales people and entrepreneurs. Extreme Extroverts! All of my ideas were overspoken and thrown out…if I even tried to speak them at all. It has always been a very big frustration to me when I try to add something to a conversation and I get interrupted. I’ll try again once, maybe twice. After that I usually give up trying to participate.

But let me get back to January 2012. Remember that very dark place I talked about the other day? I was desperately trying to pull myself out of it. I needed something positive, fun, anything. So…online dating. Fun right? I was going to meet people. Yeahhhhhhhh….mmmk. Introvert’s Nightmare.

But then I read Susan Cain’s book. And she taught me that introverts need to recharge after social stimulation. I also learned how to prepare myself when I knew that I was going to be out in a big public place or bombarded with social stimuli.

So, I’d pick a bar or a restaurant that I could easily control. I’d show up 15 minutes early, and make sure I already have a beer before my date arrived–through the door that I could easily see. It made me much more relaxed and able to enjoy myself.

And hey…I found my husband that way, so it must have worked right? (Except he came in the wrong door on that first date. And I spilled beer all over myself.)

Applying these methods have also worked in other areas of my life too. R knows very well my “Haley Limits,” as he calls them, and helps make sure I’m recharging when I need to. My work is busy, but I am careful to watch and make sure I’m not multitasking to the point of overstimulation (and that is a problem for me sometimes, as a bit of a control-freak). I’m blessed to be able to work out of my home, so that helps too–and I’ve made my office a very calm place to focus.

My relationship with my family has grown up quite a bit as well. Maturity has a lot to do with it, but also, I know now that I will never be able to keep up with all of their activities. When I’m home though, there is nothing we like to do more than open a bottle of wine and play card games. And that, I can most certainly enjoy.

I would encourage you, at the very least, to watch Susan Cain’s Ted Talk. She discusses themes from her book–specifically our society’s obsession with GroupThink. (Confession time, I’ve probably watched this 10 times.) And I really do believe that everyone, Introvert or Extrovert, should read Cain’s book. It is that important. Especially for managers, teachers, religious leaders, parents–anyone who has any type of coaching or teaching role, especially with children. It is crucial that everyone is included in this world, that no one’s ideas are left unheard just because they are not as bold or loud as others.

Because some of us sit here, behind computers, behind books. We have ideas too. Some of the most brilliant minds in this world have been introverts. And they only become leaders because they have to. Susan Cain mentions this in her Ted Talk. They come across more genuine because they aren’t trying to steal the spotlight. They are up on that life stage because there is something out there that needs doing, and who else is going to do it but that introvert who is going to make it happen? So they stand up, even though every part of them is resisting. And at the end of it, they are beaten and exhausted and drained and small. Sometimes, it kills them. But it must be done.

Who are you listening to?

You Can’t Just “Shake Off” Depression

A link was shared with me today that raised my blood to full boiling point. You can check out the article by clicking HERE. (Oh, and the IUPUI’s Press Release, because it is being endorsed by the school:  HERE). Trust me, it’s not pretty.

A freshman at IUPUI decided it would be a fantastic project to pop a video camera in the schoolyard, play Taylor Swift’s peppy new song “Shake it Off,” and let people dance with clown hair and other props. All with the tag for suicide prevention.

Because people with depression can absolutely SHAKE OFF their sadness, emotions, and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.

 

 

My initial reaction when I saw who made the project was the typical excuse. “Oh, he’s a freshman, he has no maturity. He’s just some dumb kid with a video camera.” But you know what, no. That’s not an excuse. I have had brilliant conversations with 15 year olds who know exactly what depression is. They feel it. Every single day they battle with it. They know what it is like, to sit in a dark room, hiding under blankets, afraid to talk to anyone, not really caring even to open a book or turn on the TV, because nothing feels. Not even feels right, just nothing feels like…anything. They go to school because they have to, and no one understands why their work is “half-assed,” when they are really intelligent kids. It’s not because they aren’t trying on purpose, it’s because their brains just have no energy left. They have essentially run out of gas.

So all those excited, happy people dancing on the video? What we aren’t seeing are the depressed people sneaking by behind the camera. “Please don’t see me, I can’t dance today.” And that’s just those who are even walking on campus, trying to make it to class in the sunshine.

Sunshine. What a curse it is sometimes. Like dancing, it is a sign of happiness, joy, life. And for some, it’s the devil, nosing in the window to see if you’re ready to come out yet. Why can’t the world just leave well enough alone?

 

My depression was situational, not clinical, thankfully. There was a period of about 2 years where the darkness closed in and I really just didn’t know what to do. My life was broken, and so I felt erased, worthless, and so completely emotionally damaged that most of my strength was just gone. I didn’t ask for help, I was too proud, too ashamed. I was never suicidal, thankfully my world never got that black. But the monster that attacked was a very real thing.

That’s over now, and looking back, it’s so frightening to see the pit I had dug for myself. Sometimes you don’t realize how far down you have gone until you’re out of it. And mine was only one long moment. One chunk of life. My heart crushes at the thought of my friends who suffer from clinical depression–those that feel this way on a periodic or cyclical basis. I’ve had people close to me snuffed out too soon, and while their pain ends, it’s devastating to the family and friends who cared for them. We never really know the depth of the pain people are in.

Depression is a beast.  Sometimes, it grabs you all at once and sucks you under. Other times, it takes you like that frog in the slowly heating pot of water, warming you until you boil. And what is really, truly scary about it, is the entire time it’s taking you….you stop caring. It steals your feelings, it steals your ability to choose what happens to you. It becomes this big dark blanket that wraps around you, at first it is comfortable, soft, warm. Ok, it’s nice to be alone and quiet for a bit. And slowly, slowly, slowly…you suffocate. And by that point, you’ve isolate yourself so well, that no one recognizes that you’re drowning. And that is why everyone is always so surprised when someone commits suicide.

 

This is why the video and the article upset me so much. You can’t just “shake off” depression. It’s not just a bad day or an attitude that you can dance away. Even if there are depressed people in that video, and there might very well be–I don’t know their story–chances are…it’s a mask. We are really good at masks (another reason people get surprised).

I am sure Harris’s point was to raise awareness. I see that at it’s base, and I am sure that is why IUPUI is endorsing it. These things go viral so quickly. We saw what happened with the Ice Bucket Challenge. And while a lot of great awareness and money raising came out of that…I just don’t see a real benefit to this specific video. All I see is a really terrible catch phrase, and a whole bunch of hurting people being pushed further into the dark. I hope I am wrong. Or, that someone comes up with a twist to this that actually promotes suicide awareness in a different, more helpful light. It is so needed.

 


 

A Disclaimer, and some information:

  • I am clearly not an expert on depression and mental illness but it is something that interests me and is near to my heart, so I spend a lot of focus on it personally. I experienced it myself, and I’ve had a lot of discussions with my friends who have seen and experienced this. I’ve also done a lot of reading on the subject…because that’s what I do when I’m passionate about something.

If you need help, please please please, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed or scared to ask for help. There are SOOOOO many people out there who have gone through what you have gone through, or have been trained to help you. Tumblr now will even pop up and check on you if you type Suicide in the search box. Reach out to your people. Even online people. We are here. And there are more of us who love you than you think. Don’t let that monster take you under. We will notice. You will be missed, I promise you that.