Am I actually an introvert?

When I was a college freshman at K-State, I took Intro to Leadership Studies. I can’t remember why I took it. I think it was part of my scholarship requirements. I was briefly interested in pursuing the leadership minor, but other courses got in the way. Anyway…as part of the course, we took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI). Not an online one, but the actual paper-and-pencil fill-in-the-bubble test that you have to wait for the results in the mail. I remember the professor being very adamant that we needed to think seriously about our answers and not answer with how we want people to see us. We needed to be honest with ourselves about our responses. That’s a lot to ask of a room full of 18 and 19 year olds.

When I look back on those instructions from the professor, I realize I was full of baloney. I definitely did not answer those questions with how I truly felt about myself and my interactions with other humans. But I know I wasn’t fully aware that’s what I was doing. I realize now that I was masking my neurodivergence…my ADHD, my social anxiety, my sensory issues. To hide the true way that my brain functioned, I acted like an outgoing, confident, smart young woman ready to take on the world. Inside, I was insecure, lost, and always anxious.

As a college freshman, I tested as an ENTP. This personality is what calls The Debater. At the time, it made sense. That’s how I wanted to be perceived. When I take any of the online versions of the MBTI now, I test as a INTJ or The Architect. This makes a lot more sense with how my adult life has progressed and with the discoveries I have made about my mental health.

Am I really an introvert that has been masking as an extrovert most of my life? I have often referred to myself as an ambivert since I tend to share traits from both types.

It’s incredibly unnerving, but at the same time, enlightening to realize these things about myself at the age of 39. I suppose that’s why I feel such a sense of hope for 2023. I am finally coming out of my shell and embracing my “oddness” rather than try to hide it or avoid it. Or argue with my family members when they point out how “weird” I am.

I’m not weird…I’m not odd…I’m neurodivergent. And it may be corny to say, but I do think my neurodivergence is one of my superpowers.

A Shift

Being closely in tune with your body has its ups and downs. Frequent body scans let me know when certain areas of my body are holding stress. Sometimes I can make adjustments, but sometimes I have to simply accept that I feel off and hope that eventually the off-ness goes away with time.

Often I ignore the things my body is telling me and “push through” whatever discomfort, stress, or pain I’m experiencing. This ignoring of stress became a big problem after my mom passed away and I kept trying to run, work, be a mom, be a wife, and essentially, “do it all.”

Physically I felt wrong. Mentally I felt very wrong. I tried everything to feel better. I tried talk therapy. I tried yoga. I tried meditation. Eventually I was exhausted from trying to feel better. I went to the doctor. With her guidance, I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, something I now recognize that I have dealt with on and off my entire life.

I went on what my husband refers to as my focus medication, in addition to my anxiety medication. The combination of these medications stopped the panic attacks virtually overnight. They allowed my head to clear. I could think linearly. I accomplished tasks that I had put off for months and even years. This clearing of the head also made me realize something. So much of my identity was tied to feeling weird and crazy and manic. I ran to fight off the crazy. I drank coffee to fight off the exhaustion and busy brain. With the new mental freedom created by my medications, I decided to make two big changes…

I stopped running. As of today, I have not run since July 26th. And I stopped drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee. Instead of 8 cups a day, I drink one large cup only in the morning.

And I feel amazing. Even though I’m not running, I’m still moving my body every day. I’m walking. And when I say walking…I mean WALKING. Power walking with a purpose.

In the month of August, I walked a minimum of 3 miles every day. I walked a total of 135 miles for 31 days. Between the medications controlling my food fixations and the walking being less stressful on my body but still burning calories, I’ve lost 10 lbs! I saw some incredible sunrises too.

The moral of this story…if you feel off and you’ve tried everything, try evaluating the activities you see as part of your identity. Maybe those activities are actually toxic and clinging to them is contributing to the problem, instead of helping it.