Sometimes she’s lost, sometimes she’s broken. Sometimes she’s closed, sometimes she’s open. Sometimes she’s stone cold, at times she’s on fire. Mostly, she’s everything I desire.
Have you ever started off in one direction only to end up somewhere completely different? Weight loss has always been my obvious struggle, it most likely always will be. And yes it’s the main motivator behind this journey, and yes I’m still working on it. But it’s also forced me to dig deeper and unpack layers I’ve been subconsciously burying for years. I’m finally getting to the root of who I am and why I am the way I am, not only physically but emotionally. And as difficult as it is, it’s also strangely comforting. I’m literally putting myself out there for anyone who wants to read my blog, take me or leave me. For someone who has always lived to please others, I am finally finding the courage and the ability to stand on my own – regardless of what others think. Sounds empowering yes, but it’s also exhausting. So pardon my absence the last while as I’ve been working through all of these feels.
Identifying as an extrovert for the last 30 years has made the recent-ish realization that I’m actually pretty introverted, confusing. The thing that used to bring me the most joy – being around other people – is what I am now realizing may have actually caused me so much stress over the years. Because I aim to please, I literally have poured every ounce of my energy into doing things for other people. And so here, at 31 years old, happily married with two kids and a fairly large social circle, I’ve found solitude oddly appealing.
This has not been easy. Because I’ve been an extrovert as long as I can remember, I’ve never really been alone. I’ve never lived on my own – always had roommates until I moved in with my now husband. I’ve never gone out to eat alone, or to a movie alone. There’s always someone with me and when there isn’t, I always feel this weird indescribable feeling like I am missing something, like I’m not whole.
So how did I get here, to the present day – craving solitude? Though I’ve touched on or alluded to it in past blog posts I don’t think I’ve come right out and said it, but I’ve battled anxiety and depression since I was 14 years old. It’s been there inside of me for as long as I can remember. Through all my life’s most pivotal moments, good and bad. Thanks to varying forms of therapy (group, individual, CBT, mindfulness) and continued medication, I’ve been fortunate to have it mostly under control. I’ve learned to live with it, rather than suffer from it.
Living with anxiety and depression in a world that is still learning to accept mental illness is difficult, to say the least. Just last week I was #pillshamed for needing antidepressants. Like really??!! I’ve been labeled as crazy, oversensitive, over-analytical, reactive, and the worst one of all, needy. Maybe I am all of those things. And while I embrace being emotional, strong-willed, passionate, and maybe a little (or a lot) nuts, that last one, needy, seems to be a reoccurring trigger for me. I think it’s because I’m so quick to offer my ear, my hand, my time, my heart – that when I truly need the same in return and it’s labeled as a negative, it’s a hard pill to swallow. I love to give, I love to help. It’s always been who I am. And though I’d love to say it fills my bucket, and for years it has, lately, it’s been doing the opposite. I feel drained. I feel unappreciated. I feel resentful. Those feelings have been really, really difficult to process. Something so integral to who I am as a person suddenly makes me feel numb and even worse, angry. To put it simply, I’ve felt rather lost these past few months.
The older and less naive I’ve become, the easier it’s been to identify those who mislabel me or worse, take advantage of me. But every now and then they end up back in my circle. And so I find myself in this familiar, horrible cycle of questioning myself repeatedly, apologizing unnecessarily and aiming to please people who offer me little in return besides self-doubt and unhappiness. And yet, I do it over and over again. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. I try to force relationships that can’t, nor want to be forced. And so as I embrace this new, or rather, realized version of my existing self, I say f**k it. I really don’t need people who don’t need me in return. And slowly (very f**king slowly) I’ve been learning to embrace this new found freedom. And it is freeing, though incredibly outside my comfort zone.
I’ve learned that it’s actually okay and even therapeutic to be lonely. Loneliness is actually an emotion triggered in our brains to alert us of something we need, similar to hunger. When we feel lonely it’s most often from a lack of social connection. For me, it’s the opposite. Loneliness isn’t necessarily cured by surrounding yourself by other people. You can feel just as lonely with others as you can on your own. I know some of you introverts are nodding your heads while my extroverted followers think I’m nuts. Surely being surrounded by people is the best option right? Honestly until recently I would have said yes, it is. But the more in tune I become with what I really want, the more surrounded I am, the lonelier I tend to feel. I think the damage and pain of neglecting myself to the point that I have is finally surfacing it’s ugly head.
Let me be very clear, it’s no one’s fault that I’ve repeatedly found myself in this situation, putting everyone before myself. I think it’s something a lot of women innately do. We’re typically givers, empaths and caregivers. But no one has ever forced me to help them or to take time away from myself. And not for one second do I regret a single thing I’ve done for someone else. I’m a social creature by habit and probably always will be. I just need to learn when to turn this off and choose myself instead.
The problem is, it’s been my main source of happiness and sometimes for people who don’t deserve it. When I say my main source of happiness I mean real, genuine, happiness. The joy I get from helping and spending time with others is really inexplicable. Just the thought of helping others releases endorphins into my brain, I’m not kidding, it’s like a drug. But when I think about myself, about helping myself or spending time with myself, I feel afraid. Afraid of what I might really discover, afraid of failure. Afraid I’m missing out on something. And so I put all my energy into someone else. I try to fix their problems but holy f**k at some point I need to own up and fix my own.
So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself
And before I blame someone else, I’ve got to blame myself
And before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself
– “Save Myself,” Ed Sheeran
Perhaps loneliness is exactly what I need right now. Forcing myself to spend time alone, working on myself. Not running the other direction might be exactly what it’s going to take. Living to please others is no longer sustainable for me. It’s literally weighing me down. So if this ex-extrovert seems a little more introverted please don’t take it personally. And if you think I’m crazy, oversensitive and worse, needy, that’s totally ok. You’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to walk away. I’m embracing this loneliness, for better or worse.
Title song – “Hollow” by Belle Mt.