I’m writing this from my bed. Not because I couldn’t be naffed getting up and adulting today, but because my body simply didn’t want to. It’s really the culmination of one of those weeks where I have become increasingly reclusive. Those who know me might have noticed that my posts online have grown less frequent and I’ve pulled out of attending a number of significant events using our bad weather as my excuse (although I did aqua-plane twice in the dark trying to get through the storm in the dark early Wednesday morning – now THAT was pretty spectacular “Fast and Furious” driving if I say so myself!)
I have written previously about how I – like many others – am a suffer of an Invisible Illness (in my case, an autoimmune syndrome and you can read that post HERE.) Generally, one takes their meds, hopes for a good day and simply gets on with life. That’s certainly how I operate, yet sometimes things get so overwhelming that the body says “enough” and there is nothing that can be done other than to stop – and so today, I have stopped.
Given my introverted nature which I wrote about just a few days ago – you have a perfect storm scenario. An introvert living with an invisible illness – gosh, can things get any more complicated? Are you going to know when they are suffering and need support? Probably not. Generally I don’t tend to let people know that I am having a high pain week until after the fact. Other than my husband who gets to live with me, (poor man) most people just think I am busy doing other things when I “go quiet” – yet very often I am in pain and therefore in hiding.
Let me insert a disclaimer at this point: I am not writing this as a “poor me” blog post, but because I KNOW that I am not the only one who is like this. I personally know many sufferers of invisible illnesses and would love to give them all a medal of honour for the courage they show in simply turning up and living their lives. Yet those who are introverted are an entirely different species again and as one of those, I feel compelled to write in the hope that it will encourage others to look around and reach out to the introverts in their lives who may have “gone quiet.”
An extroverted sufferer will generally post online or put the word out that they are “having a bad day.” Those around then know how to act accordingly and are aware that their friend is suffering. An introvert on the other hand will generally retreat. If pushed by someone close who REALLY knows them, the truth might come out, but from personal experience, even with my closest friends I am yet to hear the words “are you having a bad pain day?” prior to my sharing that things aren’t well. This is no judgement on them I should add, simply a reflection of how much I tend to retreat and hide the truth from the world.
Why do we introverts do this and what has this got to do with “Rocking Midlife” you may well ask? By midlife we are very skilled and experienced at wearing our masks, and the challenge for us all – especially we introverts – is having the courage to remove those masks and let those around us see our authentic selves – pain and all. I know that I personally don’t want to be a burden to others. My role as a mother, a trainer and motivator is to uplift others, so to reveal that I am suffering feels like such a weakness. My introverted nature is embarrassed that I might be a burden to others and the stinging criticisms of people in the past who intimated that I was simply a slacker still haunt even though I have the medical records to back me.
Whether they are sufferers of an ongoing invisible illness or simply going through a bad time, there are some key indicators that you can look out for when caring for the introvert in your life:
Are their communications with you briefer than usual?
Are you not hearing from them anymore unless you instigate the contact?
Are they posting a lot less online than usual?
Are they withdrawing from events that you knew that they were committed to?
All that you need to do is reach out and ask this person “are you okay?” and you might be surprised at how much they end up sharing with you. Or they might not – but trust me, the fact that you took the time to simply ask WILL be significant to the introvert who would never have volunteered the fact that things weren’t great.
Next time the introverts in your life “go quiet”- ESPECIALLY the ones that you know face certain battles such as invisible illness – reach out. Initiate contact (but NOT by phone lol – we introverts HATE the phone!!) and let them know that someone out there cares. It will make the world of difference to them.
Empowering Women to ROCK their Midlife!