An Introvert with CFS

21

This is a guest post by Tim, an introvert with chronic fatigue syndrome. You can see more about him at the end of his post.

It is interesting how most people define introversion, and by that I mean laymen, those who don’t work in an industry that utilises the terminology on a daily basis. I grew up in a small country town, believing I was an extrovert. I went to university where I partied hard and was the socialite. I completed a degree in Teaching. I am an entertaining teacher and when we did a professional development day on team building, other staff guessed I was an extrovert. I didn’t disagree, I knew no better.

At the time I was reading Personality Types by Carl Jung and had an insight into my inner world. I began reading everything Jung wrote, and began a journey of self-discovery. I revelled in this type of adventure. I loved reading, always had, and was excited by the idea of individuation. Unlike my friends that were conquering careers or travelling the world, I was climbing a different kind of mountain.

About 10 years into my career I was asked to take on training as a Myers Briggs Typing Indicator Trainer (MBTI). The first 2 days was about the participants, and I turned out to be an INTP (Introvert, iNtuit, Thinking, Perceiver). Not understanding the terminology in any depth I rejected the idea. The Trainer soon turned me around with some simple questions. I caught up with the trainer later that evening and he helped me to understand that I had always been an introvert, living in an extrovert’s world.

I have studied many theories since then, and long ago became comfortable with my self, and able to educate or ignore those that wanted to drag me into their extroverted escapades.

Fast forward to 2010 and I am the Assistant Principal in a Special School for high school students. It would have appeared, from the outside, that it was an extroverts dream job, and a nightmare for an introvert. 8 hours a day of face-to-face communication with parents, students, staff and departmental personnel. I loved the job, though it left me exhausted at the end of the day.

In June 2010 I became ill, with flu-like symptoms initially. I soon found myself unable to get out of bed, and suffering from bone crushing exhaustion. At the time I did not know what I had, and after 12 months of tests and different medical trials I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I won’t go into the actual symptoms other than to say that it has a myriad of symptomology that tends to confuse doctors, hence the lengthy period for most CFS sufferers to be diagnosed. I was soon unable to work as an Assistant Principal, as the school couldn’t have an AP that needed to lie down of the office floor every hour.

I wanted to write about my experiences here because of the way CFS has affected me, as an introvert. I now spend weeks on end in my house, with small occasional walks around the neighbourhood. Now, to someone that doesn’t have much idea of the introvert/extrovert typology, they might think sitting around the house all day rocks. I don’t know about you guys, but I like watching TV, though in the past I wouldn’t watch much, preferring to ‘live’ on my computer. Now TV and computer are about the only two things I can do for an extended time.

With CFS it can be hard to concentrate, and I constantly need to lie down. What I have found is that my introversion has intensified. I now become agitated when others are around me. I love my family; I have a wife and 2 kids. I seem only able to relax when alone. I don’t feel lonely, in fact I feel refreshed. I love being with my family, but I find that I am increasingly more comfortable alone.

I have grieved the loss of my career, my hobbies, likefishing and gardening. I don’t dislike my intensified introversion, it is just that I am conscious of it, and I amreally working with it in a similar way that I worked with being in an extrovert job. I try to minimalize emotional outbursts (in MBTI I am off the scale ‘T’ and very low ‘F’, so snapping at people tends to be a way of communicating when at my lowest) and at the same time ‘honor’ the need to be alone.

I don’t know how crazy the above sounds, but I suspect there are plenty of people in the world that would dig what I have described, in some way.

BIO: Tim dotes over his blog Best Kindle (one of a few). You can find out more about Tim, the Educator at Kanguru. Tim’s favorite saying is by Mark Twain: Never let your schooling interfere with your education. This is best expressed in Sir Ken Robinson’s classic talk on changing educational paradigms, with can also be found on the Kanguru site. He lives in Darwin, Australia (the tropics) with his beautiful wife and 3 children.

Photo credit: eflon

Share.

21 Comments

  1. I was always introverted, though, growing up I did not know that there was a term for it. I had always felt like I just never fit in. When I was in high school I worked in the school library. I was just drawn to it because it is such a low energy place that I felt right at home. It was not until my early 30s that I discovered that I am an introvert. I am currently 38. If I could not keep up with what everyone else was doing, at everyone else’s pace, I stopped trying. Now I am completely true to my introverted self. If you haven’t, can I suggest that you find a way to carve out a space in your home (that you share with your wife and children) that you can completely call your own? I also want to recommend a book for you to read (if you already have not done this also). It is titled “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Laney. It is a very good book for both introverts and extroverts. She also has a website that is good for looking at also. From your story, it appears that your body is making up (and or has made up) for the lost time that you were not aware of your introvertedness. Hopefully you can find a balance with everything, especially with what you have recently learned and are still learning about yourself.

    • Hi kgm, thanks for stopping by, and your encouraging comments.
      I think in most occupations that require a degree of extroverted persona, such as teaching or sales, have introverts that have adapted. I am one of those, and yes, I worked out a long time ago how to get the time I need to re-energize after a hard days work.
      Part of coming to terms with my introversion was to work out how to let people know that I was OK without their constant chatter or their invitations to participate, and I believe I did alright in that area. One point I wanted to make in the article was that with the onset of CFS my introversion intensified, not that I discovered it. I knew about it in my twenties. The intensity of my introversion while I have CFS has made me rethink all of my strategies, particularly being a family member.
      TimW@Best Buy Kindle´s last post ..Kinstant Kindle Browser

  2. My wife has CFS. She’s an extrovert, but interestingly she’s become far more introverted in the 5 years she’s suffered from CFS. I’m a former CFS sufferer (and a teacher) myself, so I know what it can be like. Even now I have to be careful not to overdo things, though I live a pretty normal life these days.

    I think part of the deal with CFS is that because you can’t physically do much, and at your worst you can’t concentrate on anything or interact with people either, it forces you into yourself more, which makes you more introverted. When all you can really do is think, you get used to that being the norm.
    Barry´s last post ..Arolygiad

    • That is a key question dovev,
      My kids are very understanding, but there are times, every week, that I can see that they are a bit sad that their Daddy can’t go to one of their events or play football in the backyard or go for a swim. It is very frustrating.
      I am lucky though, my wife and kids are very supportive.
      TimW@Best Buy Kindle´s last post ..A Kindle Review of Unbroken

  3. i feel bad about your situation. But life must go on. We need to live life to the fullest. I hope you can do away with introversion because I was an introvert myself but I tried to fight and made myself a normal person emotionally. I hope you too.

  4. Hi Tina, thanks for reading my post and responding. I find your comment strange though, as I personally don’t believe there can be a situation where someone is normal, in comparison to someone that is introverted or extroverted.
    I won’t be fighting anything, I am just happy to be conscious of some of the stuff that is going on inside of me, it helps when relating to others.
    TimW@Best Buy Kindle´s last post ..Tips on Buying the Kindle

  5. I think your body went back to its original state. It’s perfectly fine to be an introvert, the thing I don’t get is how did you manage to live a very social life in the past. Maybe that’s the reason why find peace being alone now. I hope for you the best. Keep your friends and family near you. Even though you need to be alone, you need the most.

  6. Tim, I loved reading your story. It is a story that is very familiar to me. I have always been an introvert and have always embraced my introversion. I chose to go into a career field that requires an extroversion. At a professional conference several years ago while attending a break out session we discovered that almost 98% of the people in the session were introverts an we a an amazing conversation about how we cope and what we do to help us deal with the pressure we were under and put on ourselves. Despite the awareness I still struggled with playing ‘the game’ from time to time. Three years ago I had an emergency appendectomy and the stress from the surgery caused me to develop Fibromyalgia and CFS. I continued to tow the line and work despite the physical and mental toll it was taking on me until last October. Today was the first day of a new job for me after having been unemployed for eleven months. I am looking forward finding my place in my new career. I know that my introversion is a part of who I am and I am going into this new job keeping that in mind. I hope you continue to embrace you introversion. Good luck with your battle with CFS.

  7. Thanks for posting. I am 25 and was recently diagnosed with CFS. My symptoms came on fairly gradually over a couple of years of high stress. In any case, I have always been very introverted, and gradually acquired a slight social anxiety (anticipating being around people I don’t know well makes me anxious for no apparent reason). But now, I seem to enjoy being alone more than ever, and the anxiety is worse. I haven’t had much of an opportunity to make new friends since I moved to a new state, and while I would like a few friends, not having to deal with people outside of work is usually less stressful (not to mention, with the CFS I can barely manage work, so I don’t have the energy for anything else). It’s frustrating that people don’t seem to understand that not everyone needs or wants constant socialization.

    • Be careful, Walter. Your prejudice is showing.

      We introverts do not need to be “fixed” or turned into extroverts. Society could not function properly without us. Extroverts have many strengths that we do not possess, but the reverse is also true. We introverts possess many strengths and advantages that extroverts do not have. The fact that many extroverts do not seem to understand this does not make it any less true.

      People who think introverts are just broken or deficient potential extroverts simply do not understand what introversion is. Frankly I find the suggestion that we should aspire to be extroverts rather insulting.

  8. Renee@iphone 4 cases on

    Hello, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog site in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, superb blog!

Leave A Reply

CommentLuv badge