As an OCD therapist, I’ve noticed many of my clients are introverts. It’s good for an introvert to embrace their unique needs. It’s not good to give OCD what it wants.
“Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.”
~Jenn Granneman (The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World)
Introvert: Staying at home gets the creative juices flowing. So much to do with so little time!
OCD: Staying at home is time to think. Spend the day trying to fix awful thoughts and feelings. Understand with mental analytics. Avoid triggers out in the world.
Introvert: Sheltering-at-home means I don’t have to explain to people I feel like a round peg that doesn’t fit a square hole. I like being unique and different but people totally misinterpret my silence.
OCD: Stay home because if you don’t you’ll make a complete fool of yourself and be rejected forever and always. If you don’t stay home people will notice you are severely tongue-tied, dim-witted, and boring.
Introvert: I yearn for deep, meaningful conversations. Large groups drain me. The casual conversations and knowing how to fill the silence with idle chit chat is exhausting.
OCD: You’re not connecting with people. What’s wrong with you?
Introverts: Unlike extroverts who get their energy from being around people, I find it draining and need downtime to decompress and refuel, so I can get out there and do it all over again.
It’s strenuous to think about what happens as the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. It means accepting invitations to meet at nightclubs, participating in team meetings at work, or attending commemorations and other festivities. All of those situations can be tolerable and even enjoyable, but it’s exhausting.
OCD: What’s wrong with you? Are you depressed? Why are you tired? You’re depressed. OMG, you’re depressed.
Introvert: I can be the life of the party, but later, I’ll need some downtime to recharge.
OCD: Now that you’ve been out in public you better mentally replay the event. Rewind and replay all of your interactions and make sure of…
Due to the pandemic, introverts haven’t had to deal with many social situations. Right now, if you cross the street to avoid bumping into someone, it’s totally acceptable and condoned.
The “New” Normal
People are being told it’s okay to get out into the world now. Coping strategies will need to be resurrected. But, given the “new” normal will strategies need to be updated? Will wearing masks add a new level of discomfort? Are people smiling or frowning? Are they upset or mad? Will standing six feet apart cause more stress?
How can we feel connected within such sterility?
Here’s an introvert’s survival self-talk guide:
- It’s okay to be an introvert. The difference between introverts and extroverts is mainly neurological, not psychological.
- Introverts are heartfelt thinkers and attentive listeners, and with extroverts, who are great at organizing and leading, together, we make the world go round.
- I might need to be a pseudo-extrovert at times, and feeling uncomfortable and weird is to be expected and endured. It can be unpleasant at times, but I can handle it.
- Stop being surprised by how awkward it is to be around large groups of people or how difficult it is to have superficial conversations. It is what it is and always will be.
- Be prepared that wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart may make it harder to feel connected. Just because I don’t feel it doesn’t mean I’m not connecting.
- Eat the frog first. It’s best to get it over with and be gawky or misspeak. I’m bound to do it anyway, so I might as well do it on purpose.
- It’s harmful to mentally rewind and replay the event or seek reassurance. There’s better things to do! Whatever happened, happened.
- Sometimes I am boring, and sometimes I am funny. I am both of those at different times. Together they make me a whole person.
- Perfection can only be faked. I’m willing to find out what my imperfections will lead to.
- Build-in downtime to decompress and refuel. Don’t do too much socializing day after day. Try to spread it out.
- If an adult is upset with me, it’s on them to tell me; I have better things to do than try to read what’s behind the mask.
- Be proactive and come up with two meaningful and two superficial questions/comments before arriving at an event.
- Or, gladly practice sitting in silence.
- If I’m not able to relate or find anything in common with people, the same is true for how they aren’t relating to me. It takes two to tango. I’m not the only one responsible for carrying a conversation.
Even if you’re an introvert you’re probably looking forward to visiting with family and friends in person. You don’t mind revisiting the world of people, and in fact, reunions could get emotional, but it makes sense that solitude will always be your home.