I’ve been working with a consultant or other sort-of-stranger all day, doing my best to learn, to be professional, and to make small talk when needed. Then on the way home I start to think of things that annoy me or worry me or generally make me unhappy, and I almost manage to start crying before I make it home from the office! In fact, if I run into someone in my inner circle, I may want to start an argument – a pointless, circular argument which no one can ever win. What the hell’s wrong with me? I finally found out years ago, before I even knew I was an introvert. It’s a people-overload (introvert) meltdown!
I can’t believe I never figured out about meltdowns on my own; it took someone else to point it out to me. On the day in question, I had to go on a day trip with one of the executives of the company I worked for at the time. He’d told me to meet him at 6:30 am and we’d ride together to a division office 120 miles away, where we’d evaluate their need for his pet software project and talk to them about what was available. This was a nice guy, always friendly, but of course I didn’t really know him. It seemed like a reasonable thing to him; I’m sure he didn’t want to go alone. I mean, who would want to make a two-hour drive alone, when they could have an acquaintance/coworker with them? (ME, that’s who)!
I met him as requested, and we made the drive to the remote office. He was very nice, and he did most of the talking. I really enjoyed talking to him, and I learned that his attitudes toward employees were really great; I was really lucky. Then we spent the entire work day with employees of the remote division, discussing software, having the group lunch, of course, taking a tour of their manufacturing facilities, and finally, finally setting out for home. In fact, on the way home he told me that his wife was an introvert; she’d told him that meant she recharged her energy by being alone. I wasn’t quite sure about what that meant (it’s been about eight years, before I became enlightened), but I was interested to hear it, so we talked for the whole two hours back to our home office.
FINALLY I drove home, and the guy I was dating came over. We were supposed to go grab some dinner, but somehow I started an argument. And in fact, I was so wound up and tense, I really wanted to cry. The astounding thing is, instead of getting angry or arguing back, he said, “You need to be alone. I’m not mad, but I’m leaving and I’ll see you tomorrow. You need some alone time.”
“Noooooooo! Don’t leave!” I protested, but luckily he really left. And the most amazing thing happened. Instantly I didn’t feel like crying anymore. I went into the kitchen and fixed a nice little dinner, grabbed the book I’d been trying to get some time to read, and proceeded to dive in to both. I was happy in no time!
Most of you are probably a lot more self-aware than I was, so maybe you know about meltdowns. But if you didn’t, you might want to start noticing – if you’ve been overloaded with social stuff or other interpersonal time and you’re starting to feel depressed, argumentative, grumpy, mean, or like a spring that has been wound too tightly, please don’t waste another second before you go have a refreshing break alone. You can’t feel the least bit guilty for taking that break, because the meltdown is evidence that you’ve gone ‘way past your normal limits.
It took too many years for me to understand it, but if I push myself to be with people, past the point where I can comfortably deal with them, I may just have to burst into tears at the end of the day. That would be a disaster if done in front of coworkers or really anyone else 🙂 but now that I know the cause I’m a lot better at heading it off. I recognize that pre-meltdown feeling and realize, it’s time to enjoy unwinding, un-tensing, and introverting!
Photo credit: valentinapowers