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What I Wish You Understood About Being an Extroverted Introvert With Depression

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I am the most extroverted introvert you may ever know.

I can practically see your confusion through the screen, so allow me to explain: I can be a very social person but I have the tendency to be quite the loner. I prefer doing things on my own until I feel the need to be sociable, in which case I will meet up with friends and family for short periods of time. However, once I’m done, that’s it. I will say my goodbyes, then promptly retreat back into the cocoon of my own home and remain there until I once more feel the desire for social interaction. That might be days, weeks or possibly even months.

To make that aspect of my personality even more confusing to the outsider is the fact I struggle with clinical depression. That means people are usually unaware it has reared it’s ugly head. How could they possibly know the difference between my depression and my need for solitude? The logical portion of me knows this, yet the monster beneath tells me they don’t check in with me simply because they don’t care. It’s an ever-raging battle between my basic personality and my mental state. So, when I go for weeks without speaking to anyone, I can’t expect them to know it’s because I have lost the motivation to do anything more than keep myself alive.

During my more sociable moments, people see an outgoing, laughing, happy-go-lucky woman who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, yet they know that at any moment, I’ll decide it’s been enough and I need to have some solitude. No big deal, right? Unfortunately, that also means even those closest to me can’t tell that sometimes I’m not simply being an introvert but I’ve completely withdrawn from the world in a way that means forcing myself to shower, being curled up in bed staring at the wall while horrible thoughts flit their way across my mind, bouts of crying uncontrollably and just a massive feeling of utter hopelessness that has taken over my world. These moments are much different from the simple preference of being left alone while I indulge in my varied interests such as reading, crafting and projects.

I’ve gotten advice such as “just try being a little more outgoing,” or “maybe just tell them you’re having a rough time.” To someone who truly doesn’t understand, that seems like sound advice but to someone like me, it just doesn’t work. I can’t (and won’t) change who I am and when I’m fighting my depression, reaching out is the last thing on my mind. In the past, I have tried reaching out but it seemed to backfire due to my solitary nature. I was trying to force myself into a situation I really didn’t want to be in, which in turn made the depression even worse. It truly does seem like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

So what can I do to help people understand when my solitude isn’t a choice I’ve made but something my illness has forced upon me? That’s a question I fear will remain unanswered for a long time but in the meantime, I just have to keep reminding myself it isn’t their fault for not knowing just as it’s not my fault for being this way in the first place. In the meantime, all I can do is keep fighting and enjoying the other days for the gifts that they are.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Originally published: October 11, 2019
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