Friday, November 8, 2013

Introvert Shaming

TGIF.  I busted my butt this week at work, and now I'm exhausted.  I hate being such an introvert.  I resent it.  At work, we measure our "productivity" in terms of how many clinical hours we had (hours with patients).  We shoot for 17 hours.  I was at 135% productivity, which means that I spent 23 hours this week in the therapy room.  That also means that I have 23 notes to write.  That means I prepared for 23 sessions.  That means my brain holds 23 new stories.  It's a lot sometimes.  I always overschedule, because somebody always no-shows, or gets sick, or has a field trip, or a soccer game,or a relative visiting, or doesn't feel like coming to therapy or whatever.  That ALWAYS happens.  But this week, everybody came.  Seriously.  No field trips.  No stomach bugs.  No soccer games or heavy traffic or dying grandmas.  100% of my folks showed up.  That never -- ever -- happens.

But beyond that, I just hate the feeling of overwhelm that sometimes washes over me on Friday.  It's not always this bad...this week was just an intense week.  Also, my new colleagues (not "new"...since September, but "new" in the sense that the folks I worked with for 2 years left in September) are extroverts.  They're talkative and chatty and seeking stimulation from me and one another, and they never seem to tire of it.  It's amazing to me.  And crazy.  My other colleagues -- K in particular, who I worked with the most -- she got it.  Fridays were a time when we got coffee together in the morning, and spent the rest of the day leaving one another alone, except for a little moral support to get those notes written.  There was no reason to chat.  We came in, acknowledged that it was Friday, drank some coffee to celebrate, turned on our respective headphones and got shit done.  It was perfect.

Not so anymore.  There are "week in review" highlights to be discussed, and "what are you doing tonight" conversations to be had, and "what are you doing tomorrow" conversations, and "what are you doing tomorrow night" conversations.  Today, they were talking about what they were like as children and how much trouble they got into as adolescents...and all I wanted to do was write my 23 notes and go home.

But then I feel guilty, right?  Because it's Friday, and people are happy it's Friday, and people are making plans, and there is part of me that sometimes wants to be part of that.  I usually have things that I'm doing on the weekends, but sometimes I don't, and that's awesome.  If I can stay home with the dog for a day and just do whatever it is I want to do or need to do, it's perfect.  But that's not a socially acceptable thing to say, you know?  That's not how it's supposed to go.  I'm supposed to be excited to get out there and do fun things and be...excited

If you know me at all, you know that's never what I've done or what I've enjoyed, so it's not new for me to make up excuses or escape something like that, but it doesn't stop me from feeling bad about it.  I just do, sometimes.

But I also know that I just need time.  I just need the quiet.  I just need time to be by myself and clear my head.  I need -- in a physiological sense, like I need water and food and sleep -- I need to recharge.  If you listened carefully in my last session today, I'm pretty sure you could have heard my quiet little low battery chirp.

So tonight, I'm recharging.  I need to do it fast because I need to be to my parents house by 8AM to move my sister, and right now, that feels impossible.  I'm breathing slowly.  I'm drinking some Tension Tamer tea with ridiculously beautiful wildflower honey I bought at the farmer's market in NY last weekend.  I'm trying to get out of my head and back into my body and ground myself again.

Wait...time-out.  This isn't what this is really about.

What this is about is this: I have one colleague that just makes me feel uncomfortable.  She reminds me of some other people I have known, and she just makes me feel unsafe.  She is extremely extroverted and talkative, and she doesn't have the best social intuition, and she says stuff that makes me uncomfortable.  We have had two pretty intense discussions already when she made statements that I disagreed with and found offensive regarding race and socioeconomic status.  She is a very privileged woman -- as am I -- but I don't know that she's ever unpacked that privilege, and she is blind to it.  Blind enough to make hurtful and insensitive remarks, without any idea that they are hurtful and insensitive.  It rubs me the wrong way, and I generally get along with just about anybody.  I've been thinking -- hard -- about how I can best cope with this for the rest of the year, and I'm not really sure yet.  I'm trying, but it's getting to the point that I sometimes try to will her not to talk to me with my mind.  I haven't mastered this yet, but I'll let you know if I do.

At any rate, with that context in mind, the following exchange, after a really long week, just set me over the edge.  She was trying to convince me to come out with her and our other colleague for drinks.  I told her no thanks, and explained why (I need to get home, take the dog out, pack for tomorrow, wash dishes and clean a bit, do some laundry, etc, because I'm going to be away for the second weekend in a row).  "Plus," I said, "I'm just honestly worn out.  I never should have scheduled all those clients this week."

She pushed --which I hate.  It's a personal pet peeve type thing.  I just like it -- a lot -- when people respect when I say no the first time.  I will like you more if you respect what I say the first time I tell you.  It does not make me feel good when you try to change my mind.  It does not make me feel like you must really want me there.  It makes me feel like you (a) didn't hear me or (b) don't care that I just asserted my wants and needs.  I politely declined -- again -- and gave my well-wishes to her for a happy weekend.

"So what are you going to do?" she asked, sarcastically, "go home and talk to the dog?"

"Meh.  Probably," I said, laughing, not sure what else to say.

She laughed.  "I can picture you rocking in a corner with a blankie talking to the dog about how you had 23 hours this week."

And just like that, the Introvert Shame came flooding in.  Being an introvert means you're not one of the cool kids.  Being an introvert means you DO need to take time to be by yourself, which means you are Not Fun.  Being an introvert means you can't handle things like Normal People and things wear you out and zap your energy.  Being an introvert is not good.  It means you talk to your dog and rock in a blanket in the corner.

(As an aside, what's with the "rocking" joke?  Probably 75% of the kids we see are rockers or hand-flappers or spinners or toe-walkers, and they're awesome.  I'm not personally a rocker, but...let's lay off the rocking-shaming in the workplace, right?)

So here's the other side of the coin: I recognized and respected what my mind and my body needed tonight, and I came home.  I played with the dog, I took a shower, and now I am writing.  This is self-care, and it is essential, and it is a radical way of telling the world "screw you and the ways you think I *need* to behave.  I'm doing what I need to do for me to continue being my best self.  I respect myself and my needs too much to be bullied into believing that my needs are wrong.  I continue to take the steps I need to bring my whole self to a place of peace and equilibrium, and this is beautiful and right.

Even if I did talk to the dog about my week.


  1. Who on earth actually *makes fun of* people for not going out after work? Do people actually go out after work ever?

    Workplace culture can be so weird. I can only imagine the shifting nature of staffing changes makes it that much harder to keep up. Why should anyone require more than a smile and a "Thanks for inviting me but I can't make it tonight!"?