What’s In a Name

I’m an introvert. I mean, one can clearly assume this from the blog title.  It often surprises some of my newer friends or colleagues when I share this with them. “But you can start a conversation with anyone.” It’s true, but I think part of that is manners. We all learned how to fake being an extrovert in school. However, once I got to college I realized I would rather spend on weekends reading a new book then going out to a bar or club. In conversation, I typically ask the questions and keep it very superficial about me. Unless you ask my birth stories, then you better grab a chair. I share those with everyone.

I could barely handle my wedding because I was the center of attention. We eloped so I could avoid a wedding. But even after the elopement my wife was set on a formal wedding. I obliged and panic attacked my way to, and through, the day.

Wedding 2

People wear me out. I will eat lunch in my car during an all day workshop or job just so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

I leave most large parties without saying goodbye to anyone. Betsy tells me I’m rude. I tell her my heart races a hundred miles an hour thinking about the goodbye, let alone doing it.

I dread singing happy birthday to anyone in a large group. Restaurant happy birthdays are the worst. A group of waiters singing to someone at my table while various patrons watch or participate, cue bathroom escape and sweating.

If I see someone I know in a store I will probably go out of my way to avoid them. Nothing against them, I just don’t have the energy to maintain a conversation without being rude.

If we’re having friends over and one of them asks last minute to bring a friend that I don’t know, I wonder if it’s too late to cancel. Surly they must understand how much stress this causes an introvert? Nope, they’re here. Cool, I think my kid needs me.

Kids, they are the best excuse for an introvert. You can use kids as an excuse for anything. Nope, can’t come to your party. No sitter. Sorry I disappeared to the car without saying goodbye, Atticus was having a meltdown. Excuse me while I go put my kid down for bed, 45 minutes later Betsy comes to look for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to come back down.

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Sleeping babies are so good.

Except birthdays. Three times a year I have to endure the anxiety that comes with my children being sung to for their birthday.
A year ago I read the book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain. It completely changed how I saw myself and other introverts. I’m much less hard on myself when I don’t want to be social and go out. Or when I exit a party without saying goodbye. And I’m trying to get better at being honest with others in my reason for not attending a social event. Although telling someone you can’t come to a gathering because being social requires too much energy doesn’t always go over well. I may just stick with the kids excuse.

Living in Shame

A couple of years into my mental health journey I was listening to NPR and heard this interview by Andrew Solomon. He was talking about the prevalence of peri-natal depression and anxiety. One of the things he mentioned was that most of the women experiencing depression and seeking help are so afraid to tell their husbands that they text (instead of call) their therapist because they don’t want their husband or partner to overhear them on the phone. What the fuck? I mean, really?  Women have so much shame about how they are feeling they cannot tell the person they are creating a child with.

In a typical healthy marriage if you are sick with any physical ailment most likely you’re going to tell your partner. Your partner is going to suggest some type of antidote to treat the condition. Except when it’s a mental health problem then we keep it a secret, hope it goes away, or are told, “can’t you just not think that way?” Obviously, if I could just turn it off (‘like a light switch’- name the musical) I would. You think I want to feel this way?

With each of my subsequent pregnancies I took an anti-depressant for OCD and later in the pregnancy anti-anxieties. I did EXTENSIVE research about the safety of these meds while pregnant. I have OCD, of course I researched the shit out of it. I spoke to midwives, OBs, Perinatologists, and my PCP. I read research studies. Don’t get me wrong, if you can avoid meds while pregnant, great! But not all of us can. And my need for medication was not going to stop me having kids if I wasn’t putting the fetus at risk.

I remember one particular encounter with my perinatologist (they are the doctors that work with high risk babies.) I was asking, repeatedly, about my use of a benzo later in the pregnancy. She assured me it was safe. I mentioned my experience with my first pregnancy and how it came to me using meds while pregnant. Betsy, briefly explained her role in the whole process and the perinatologist commented to Betsy, “You should give a talk on how to recognize signs in your partner and how to be a better support for those struggling.” She proceeded to tell us about how many women don’t have a supportive partner. They live in fear and shame about telling their partner if they don’t feel absolute love for their new baby.

Part of the reason I was able to get my mental health crisis under control so quickly was because I was completely honest about what I was experiencing with Betsy and my parents. During my first week of therapy the therapist suggested Betsy not be part of the sessions because it might influence what I shared. I instead she was involved knowing that I would not be able to tell her alone what I was thinking and feeling. She needed to know and I was willing to tell the therapist with her present.

Betsy, and the rest of my support network (few knew the severity of my situation) were amazing. But this isn’t the norm. Lying to our partners and trying to get through it alone is the norm. And it should not have to be that way.

A Nibble 

I have sleep anxiety. I mean, I have all kinds of anxieties but sleep is one of my more common ones. Apparently this isn’t uncommon for moms. I have three kids, one of which is an infant, he wakes up a lot. Plus, I never really know when I’m going to get a good night of sleep. Noa came in the other night at 3AM because she had a bad dream about a tiger in a bathtub. What do I say to that?

I’m frequently tired. And if there is one thing that makes anxiety worse, it’s lack of sleep. As soon as I lay down for bed I think about all the shit I need to get done. I’m super productive at making mental lists of things that need doing. Less good at doing them. Eventually, I start calculating how many hours of sleep I might get if I fall asleep right now. Or now. Or now. I could do this for hours.

I have anti-anxieties that I  started taking at night to help me not obsess about the playhouse I REALLY want to build, or the five thousand dollars I just spent to keep my dog alive (she’s worth it.) However, I noticed I didn’t need a full pill so I began breaking them in half. This was still too much so I further broke the pill in half. Betsy calls it my ‘nibble.’ It’s the smallest fraction of a pill I could take. I could lick the powder off the bottom of the bottle and it would equate to how much I take. But it works. Most likely placebo, but if I don’t take it, I obsess. Betsy will wake up, notice I’m still awake and tell me to, ‘just take the damn nibble.’ And so it is, I take a nibble and doze to sleep.