Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dear Extroverted Friends

Dear Extroverted Friends,

We're different.

"Well, duh," you say. "I like parties, and you don't."

First, that's not completely accurate. Believe it or not, I enjoy some parties. At weddings, for example, I'm always on the dance floor until Dad wants to go home. I just can't go to parties/big gatherings/social things as often as you can.

Second, you're both over-simplifying and making a big generalization. That's okay. Introverts do the same thing. In fact, some of you extroverts might be complaining, "Hey! We don't all like parties! I do other social stuff instead!"

There are a few comics and such floating around about introverts and extroverts. They're fun. Maybe they've opened your eyes a little. Now, I want to throw my two cents in.

I'm going to be frank. If you know me, then please understand, none of this is out of resentment or annoyance with you. Those of you who are close enough to get on my nerves usually don't. You're too caring and too understanding of my needs. Thank you. Hopefully this will help you understand better... even if all you understand is that you can't completely understand me. That's okay, too.

This is not meant to be a generalization about all introverts. We have different personalities and struggles, and I've had anxiety issues that make my introversion a little more pronounced at times.

Here's the thing about being introverted: it's not a choice. It's just how some of us are. I simply cannot handle being too social too often. If I am, I'll crack. My energy and mental health will start to leak out of that crack. Sometimes, I notice I've cracked, but I don't retreat from people the way I need to. The crack widens. If I'm not careful, I may breakdown entirely. I try to avoid that. It takes a long time to put the pieces back together.

There are days when I want to hang out, but I know I'm nearing my breaking point. I have to turn you down. I appreciate the invitation, though - I really do.

If I must be around friends or family when I'm already cracking, it does help if we ignore each other. But it's not just quietness that I need. It's solitude. A quiet presence is still a presence. I appreciate your offer to just be quiet around me. Yet, if I'm at my breaking point, then I don't want to hear you, smell you, see you, feel you, or even sense you.

"What's wrong?" you might ask.

Nothing's wrong. I'm not upset about anything. You haven't done anything to hurt or offend me. Nor has anyone else.  I'm just worn out. No, I do not want a hug! Don't touch me! I need space. Sometimes, I love hugs. But when I'm running on empty like this, I can't be in such close proximity with anyone. There are times I won't even let my mom hug me. So if you try, I'll probably snap. I might even hiss like a cornered cat. Please don't try. I don't want to hurt you like that. If you really want to hug me when I'm upset, then stand at a safe distance and ask first.

Talking about it won't help, either. This isn't the kind of problem that's helped by talking or any other kind of human interaction. I love you, my friend, but I need to be alone. So either go away or let me retreat into my hole.

Please, don't feel bad if you've interrupted my solitude when I was cracking. You didn't know any better. I don't want you to feel bad for your extroverted perspective. And my introversion doesn't give me a right to hurt you. So if I snap at you or otherwise hurt your feelings when I'm running on empty, please confront me. I will apologize, and I will work to make sure my problem doesn't become your problem.

Also, please understand that I'm still learning about the needs of my non-introvert friends. I care for you, but I don't always realize that you need a hug or conversation or even just a presence. Plus, there's more to you than your extroversion, which make it even harder to know what you need. So, as we get to know each other, be honest. Extroverts and introverts may appear to be different species, but I'm confident we can live in harmony. In fact, we have to. I need your help navigating the social world and getting information out. Maybe there's something I can help you out with, too... when I'm not hiding in my hole, that is.

Your Introverted Friend

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