Saturday, May 21, 2016

Natural introvert or socially anxious extravert?

This post about the difference between introversion and social anxiety is an interesting read. I zig zag back and forth between "E" and "I" on the Myers-Briggs test. I love people and getting to know people and sharing ideas with people and surrounding myself with people. But people can also be a drain. I love socializing, but then I need time alone to recharge my batteries.

One thing I've noticed is that when I routinely take prescription Sertraline for my PTSD, I feel much more "E" than "I". And when I lapse and decide that I don't need meds, I tend to feel more like an "I". Makes sense. Sertraline is also prescribed to people with social anxiety disorder.

After reading this post, I think maybe I'm not really an introvert, but a socially anxious extravert.

I think I was born an E. But it's hard to be an attention-craving, friendly fat girl in a fat-shaming society. I was sent to Weight Watchers in third grade, and it was soon after that I began to spend more time alone in my bedroom or on long walks by myself. Being an extroverted fat girl in a fat-unfriendly society made me believe that there was something wrong with me. Made me believe I was not good enough in most people's eyes.

I avoided social situations because I felt like I was too physically revolting to most people. I HATED public speaking for most of my life. The idea of people looking at me, seeing how fat I am, thinking to themselves, "What a lardo. She needs to go on a diet," made me stay seated in class as a teen or at work meetings as an adult, even if I felt like I had something interesting to say. I silenced myself, preferring to stifle my naturally exuberant personality so people wouldn't look at me.

The year I turned forty, my brother died and it occurred to me that life is way too fucking short not to live it to the fullest. Around that same time I read the book Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon. I finally got the nerve to stop dieting. Only took me thirty-one years, a bout with anorexia, and an obscene amount of days spent sobbing.

I'm forty-five now. I haven't been on a diet in five years. I'm still fat. But I'm healthier than ever. My cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and bone density are in the healthy to excellent range. I go to bed at night feeling good and I wake up excited about the day.

Another big thing: I've gotten over my social phobia.

After I turned forty, my brother died, and I quit dieting, ready for some full life living, I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. A storytime lady.

Storytime at the library was my favorite thing in the world when I was a little kid. Books saved my life many times when I needed a friend, or a laugh, or some sympathy as I got to be too old to go to storytime. I was thrilled when my own child was born and we started going to storytime at the library when she was four months old. But then she got too old for storytime. Which meant I couldn't go to storytime anymore. Which made me very sad.

But what if I didn't have to stop going to storytime? What if I could figure out a way to get the nerve to LEAD my own storytime?

I did it. With a combination of psychotropic medicine, cognitive behavior therapy, and pure, self-healing perseverance, I learned how to lead a storytime without worrying about all the eyes on me. Without worrying that the caregivers will think I'm revolting. I joke around that the reason it took me so long to find my dream job is because I never thought I could be a storytime lady because I don't have a great singing voice. that it's my job to demonstrate to caregivers that it's OK to sing with your kids even if you don't have a great voice. But honestly, the reason it took me so long to find my dream job is because for far too many years I feared judgy eyes on my fat body.