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