Pleased to meet you, please meet me

Last time I wrote, I mentioned that I was struggling with Impostor Syndrome, and as a quick update on that front, I have filed the paperwork with the local court to officially change my name to Nicole Ford Thomas. So, progress is being made.

Another issue that has been contributing to feeling out of sorts is my Prozac. I’ve been on it for 8 months now, and it has been a roller-coaster while I adjust to the right strength. What has happened, though, is that, when there’s a bit too much medication in my system, I am borderline manic. To be more specific, I can’t shut the heck up. I can think “Nicole, stop talking, for the love of tacos!” but I can’t actually make words stop coming out of my mouth. And because it’s essentially stream of consciousness rambling, it’s coming out at warp-speed and jumps around like House of Pain. The problem arises when I need to recharge my introverted self, and no one understands.

I’m not going to take the time to explain the differences between extraverts and introverts, but I’m just going to say that if you think introverted=shy, you’re wrong. There are shy extroverts; there are gregarious introverts, as anyone who is close friends with an introvert can attest. You catch us at the right time and there’s no stopping the flow of words. Thanks to Prozac, I have become one of those gregarious introverts who talks a lot, to everyone, at an unholy rate 95% of the time.

What I’ve learned over the last few months is that Prozac makes me push past that blinking red light of warning that is instilled in each introvert’s brain, telling us that we have done too much extraverting and need to go somewhere quiet to recharge. I can see that light blinking, but I now have lost the ability to heed it.

“Yay! You’re cured of introversion!”

Nope. Just because I can outwardly behave more like an extravert now doesn’t mean I don’t still lose energy. In fact, I lose it even faster now. A few weeks ago, I was at a football game with my family and, right at the end of the game, I crashed. It was like those videos of puppies running in circles before passing out. A switch flipped and I went from happy, jovial Nicole to “Nope. I’m dead. Just roll me over and let me sleep for a week or so.” The change was so abrupt and dramatic that my dad noticed and refused to let go of my arm the entire way to the car just in case I literally collapsed. It’s an alarming shift.

Prior to being on Prozac, I had a good handle on how much was too much. I could remove myself from situations that were draining long before I crashed. Now, with this new ability to blow past my threshold, I have regularly done so. That’s one of the drawbacks of antidepressants; getting healthy in one area often causes something else to go to crap, causing you to choose between being depressed or being something else. In my case, it’s being depressed, or being depleted.

So far, this story has just been about the ways I’m running myself into the ground, but here’s where other people come in. Since meeting so many people on campus this semester who didn’t know me before Prozac, they don’t believe that I’m an introvert and don’t understand when I say I need to take time away. Some people don’t hear from me for a few days, and jump to the wrong conclusion that I’m avoiding them, or mad at them. Y’all, I’m 37 5/6ths years old. I’m too old for the sort of drama that brings. Plus, I’m being expected to participate in lots of extra social activities, not just in person, but online and no one seems to comprehend that this just isn’t me. I don’t sit on Facebook all day (If it were up to me, I wouldn’t even have a FB, and to be honest, all of my posts are automated anyway.) waiting to chat, and I don’t drop everything to have long philosophical discussions over text that span five hours. I will leave you on read and not feel guilt. I’ll talk to you when I’m ready.

I can’t stress enough that I’m happy to participate in activities and friendships, but it’s in my nature to do things on my terms. I have to be in control of the output. People who pull at me (literally.) don’t understand that, while that may be welcome to other friends, that’s not something I appreciate. My movements and social output are calculated to maximize what I can do before the crash. Don’t force me to meet your expectations. It won’t go well.

This past month, my Prozac seems to have begun leveling out. I don’t have the weeks of manic highs, followed by a week of super-lows (I’ve called them high- and low-tide) anymore, so I’m thankfully beginning to see familiar terrain again. I’m less Nicole-On-Speed and more like Nicole-before-Prozac-but-happier. This means the people who have gotten to know me the last 8 weeks aren’t going to understand that who I’m becoming is who I have always been, in a good way. I don’t know how to explain this in a way that someone would understand. “I’m an introvert and I need time alone” has been met with disbelief and occasionally scorn, like there’s suddenly something wrong with me that I need to get over.

I know that mentality well. In our Extravert Ideal society, being an introvert is seen almost like a disability that needs treated. I, personally, think of it as a super-power, and I’m happy to have it be coming back. I didn’t particularly like my extraverted alter-ego, and it’s good to be back in control of how that aspect of me comes out. But the challenge now becomes getting new friends and colleagues to understand this is who I am, and I’m not interested in being someone else. If you hear from me once a week, it’s a good week. If you physically see me twice a month, that’s a good month, too. If you see me posting on social media daily, just know that a) I accounted for that energy expenditure and b) it’s likely an automated post from somewhere else.

I love people, but I understand that I have to put my own oxygen mask on before I can help anyone else with theirs. That means being in tune with myself and knowing when to take breaks, and honoring that need. I appreciate the people in my life who respect that this is who I am and don’t pressure or beg me to be someone I’m not. Get to know me. I promise it will be worth it.

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