Digging through my archives I found this article I wrote 2 years but feel it’s as relevant today as it was then and wanted to share it again……
The biggest part of my journey so far towards wellness was realising how my soul recharges. Recently, I read a book called Quiet by Susan Cain that completely opened my eyes. I always knew I was essentially an introvert but had no idea how it affected me and the ways I dealt with life. The word ‘introvert’ was always a negative description to me, but now I realise it’s just a description. It doesn’t need to be considered positive or negative, but if you know that you are an extrovert or an introvert it can help you deal with different people and different situations.
I’ve always loved spending time on my own at home – I find myself craving being by myself. For years I had thought when I started to feel like this, I was on a downward spiral towards depression. So instead of giving into these cravings I’d push myself more, be more active and more social to try and get out of the rut I thought I was in. But I wasn’t depressed at all or even close, what I was was socially exhausted. My job is very full on and hugely social, I’m a riding instructor and a business owner. When I’m at work I’m the boss, the one that everyone goes to to ask questions, discuss problems, get advice: life advice, horse advice, riding advice… anything really. I have to be bubbly, strong, welcoming and most of all: social. The exact opposite of what I naturally am; give me a choice and I’d be the one sitting quietly in the corner with a book. God, I love books!
So when I get the chance now, I know have to give myself some ‘me’ time in order to recharge. This is because, unlike an extrovert, who recharges in social situations, introverts find social situations drain them. This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy them – I certainly enjoy socialising – but I don’t want to keep going all night long, because the next day I’m exhausted and if I’ve already had a busy day, a night out socialising isn’t what I need.
So how did I cope in the past when I used to party a lot? Well, I was a sugar addict. Because I felt my true self was boring I masked it, I drank copious amounts of Red Bull when I was younger and then Coca-Cola as I got older. I ate ridiculous amounts of chocolate and sweets to try and keep up with all the extroverts. I turned into the person who wants to keep going for longer and longer and became the life and soul of the party. It was lucky that I knew I had an addictive nature so I stayed away from the illegal stuff that most people use to keep going when their body says stop. Behaving like an extrovert meant I fitted in, I was cool and part of the crowd, all good right? Nope, wrong!
I got ill, very ill. At 19 I was diagnosed with ME after burning the candle at both ends. Did this stop me, did it hell, I would beat it, I’d prove everyone wrong. So I gave up Red Bull as the ‘culprit’ that had made me ill! Haha. But I carried on drinking coke, eating sugar and generally treating my body like crap. I was slim, I was able to the job I needed to do so what was the problem? Well, I kept getting ill. I was always ill: colds, flu, aching joints, agonising tummy pains, headaches, exhaustion. I was constantly admitted to hospital for one thing or another, nothing ever serious, luckily. It took me until I was 30 years old to realise this wasn’t normal, that everyone else didn’t keep getting ill, that I needed to grow up and fast! I had convinced myself that I’d left my ME behind me in my early 20s and that none of this was related to that, until this year, when I had a huge relapse. All the old symptoms came back, it was scary but to be honest it was the kick up the butt I needed. I needed to change my life otherwise I’d never be able to have the life I want.
So whilst I was unable to move, housebound and ill, I started to read, and one of the books I read was Quiet. Each page I turned I cried, it is probably the most important book that has helped me to understanding myself that I have ever read. For the first time I could see a pattern, not only to why I was so exhausted and ill, but also to why I ate what I ate, did what I did. This pattern was all wrong.
First things first – kick the crap out. Once I realised I didn’t need to keep going when all I wanted to do was stop and sit quietly, I realised I didn’t need all that false energy I was pumping into my body. I needed food that would heal me and make me strong again. I now eat a sugar-free and gluten-free diet and I feel the difference already, not only in the fact that my skin is alive, my eyes are shiny and my nails have grown, but also in my head, I now recognise when I’m tired I need to stop, not just down another sugary drink or coffee.
So that was the next thing to tackle – giving myself permission to stop, which is hard when your whole life has been focussed on keeping going, but now I know I have to for my health, if nothing else. I now allow myself time to be on my own, and I notice when I haven’t allowed that time how bad I feel.
Just last week I worked through my lunch breaks, I still ate but I didn’t allow my quiet time to recharge. By mid afternoon I had the worst headaches and my body felt like it was walking through glue. By the end of the week, my ME was back knocking on the door, big symptoms pushing at me telling me I’d done too much.
Why am I writing this? Well I don’t want it to happen to anyone else. If you crave time alone and find that when you’re out with friends you’re done before they are ready to go home, then don’t keep pushing, hold your head up high and head home. Good friends will still be there and you’ll be healthy and able to enjoy time with them. Recognising that we’re not all the same, that some of us need quiet time to recharge whilst others get their boosts from social situations is so important, then we can go on to understanding how to help each other.
I’m still on my journey, my illness will never go away and I’m still learning how to manage it without all the synthetic chemicals I was putting into my body before, but I believe I’m on the right path now.
Recognising what makes you tick, how you recharge and making sure you do that is vital to a healthy happy life.