Honoring introversion without giving in to depression and anxiety.
Introversion, depression, anxiety: the trifecta of solitude.
I have an abundance of all three.
Combine that with being a highly sensitive person, and you have everything you need to run home, lock the doors, draw the curtains, and never go out again.
Those who know me from a distance may be surprised by this as I am talkative, outgoing, hilarious, and charming — if I do say so myself. But those who know me well, know I protect my alone time like a lioness protects her cubs.
I enjoy being alone. In fact, I crave it. I’ve created and discovered spaces that are comfortable to me, in which I feel safe and strong. Some are at home, some are out in nature. I am never bored and I don’t get lonely. I’m ambitious, fiercely independent, and, being an introvert, I require solitude to relax, recharge, and refocus.
For many years it’s been a challenge for me to accept my predisposition for solitude. I felt — and sometimes still do — like this is a bad thing, unhealthy or abnormal. When I feel like retreating, I question if it is for a “valid” reason or if it is really my depression or anxiety talking. I wonder if I am hiding because, frankly, it’s easier than trying something new, facing crowds, making small talk, being “on” all the time.
As I get older, I’ve begun to accept my introversion and the fact that I will need to manage depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. It’s getting easier, especially with the rise of self-care culture and increased visibility and acceptance of introversion. I am learning to own this part of myself and to not hide my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety.
Perhaps even asking this question signals that I am not fully okay with dealing with the solitude trifecta. That could be true. As someone who continually questions and critically examines most parts of my life, I still wonder if there aren’t times when I am simply avoiding situations that I don’t want to deal with.
We all do that sometimes, right? Even those of us who are extroverted and not depressed just don’t want to do things sometimes. But for me, it is more than just sometimes. In fact, it is probably most of the time.
Now, some context may be in order here. I am an academic librarian at a large research institution. I run an office with a small staff and multiple students where I attend to research requests, manage the budget, consult with faculty, create resource guides and bibliographies, sit on library and campus committees, manage the publication of a print journal and several digital resources. I sit on national boards, contribute to and edit statewide projects, and write about libraries. I am monumentally busy and was recently asked to take on interim duties as our libraries’ collection development officer, which is a whole other half-time job in itself. I commute to my job 1.25 hours each way. So it’s fair to say that my work life is at capacity.