I'm not the introvert I thought I was...
I once enjoyed parties, being the center of attention and pulling others out of their shells, but these past few years I have found myself wanting to hide from others, dreading parties and agreeing with all the online “test” that tell me I’m an introvert. I even began to find solace in knowing why I was the way I was and was happy to accept it. …but something was missing. If I was an introvert, why did I battle loneliness and depression when I didn’t have friends to hang out with or when not invited to events?
After a church split nearly 3 years ago, my social life took a turn downward. Many who left our church said they still liked me, but while they moved on, I stayed where I was but with most of my social connections gone. I guess somewhere along the way I decided it was better to protect my heart and tell myself I liked being alone because it was easier than being hurt. The more I felt closed off from others, the more I closed myself off, telling myself I was fine…even when the loneliness seemed unbearable. After all, why go through feeling rejected again. That would have broken me completely. Or so I felt.
During the past few years if I did host or attend a social event, I would feel anxiety, only confirming that I must be an introvert. BUT now I see the anxiety was my fear of rejection.
I’ve recently decided to open up my heart more to the friends I do have. I’m not going to allow myself to be afraid of losing them – because it keeps walls up I’m tired of being on the other side of. I’m very blessed to have these women and I’m thankful I can now cherish what I have instead of holding back and questioning the relationship we have and what the future might hold.
I have friends that love me and accept me for who I am – and are there for me when I need it. I don’t have to have everyone I know be that kind of friend, nor be that to them. To be honest, that would be draining and it’s what I tried to do for too many years. I thought that if I had a friendship with someone, I was obligated to meet any need they may have had.
So, while I still naturally slide more toward the introvert side (being alone re-energizes me), I no longer have to hide for fear of what I might lose or if I may get hurt. I want to enjoy what I have now and embrace what could be in friendships.
I hope that if you feel lonely, you consider why you feel that way. Try opening up your heart to those you can trust. I’m slowly opening my heart again and it feels amazing to accept the friendships I have with no more fear of losing them. This is my prayer for anyone who’s had the same struggles. Especially pastors wives – former or current. I know how easy it is to put up walls after being hurt by others. Don’t give up seeking what you need. He knows, hears and cares deeply for you.
Recently I saw a Dr. about how I’ve been feeling and she informed me that I met all the criteria for a person who was clinically depressed and prescribed an anti-depressant. I was confused. I didn’t feel depressed, did I? I was just overwhelmed, wasn’t I? But since I was desperate for a fix to my emotional state, I decided to pick up the medicine…and took one.
As soon as I did, I regretted it. Not because I think it’s wrong - I’ve been on them before and they saved me from myself during a very difficult and dark time many years ago, but, I realized I didn’t pray and ask God what He thought about what the Dr. said - and I didn’t wait to see if there might be another option. I just wanted the quick fix. Once I got out of the parking lot, I immediately started praying and asked God to show me what was really going on - so I would know if I should take the medicine or not.
About an hour later I had a meeting with an old friend who is now trained as a biblical counselor. When I shared with her the same things I shared with this Dr., she said, “Marilyn, you are not depressed, you’re grieving! You lost your church and community; you are without a home and in the middle of trying to build a new life – that’s a lot for any person”.
It was one of those times where words directly hit a spot in the heart that needed to be pierced. I needed that spot to be pointed at to show me what I was pushing down and ignoring. I went through closing our church, loosing that community and selling our home with much reliance on God, but also a determination to push through and fight on my knees for whatever God wanted in my life. I didn’t have the energy, or the mental or emotional strength to give to anything else. I now realize that also meant having to push emotions down in order to show support to my husband and help us get through it all. I guess some would call it survival mode, but now it’s time to process what I stuffed down to survive and thrive during those times.
So here I am being told I’m either depressed or grieving. If I had to pick one, I would say I’m grieving. I’m not entirely sure how to process what is going on inside of me right now, but I can tell you the steps that I’m choosing. I’m choosing counseling to deal with anything I may have buried to survive and remain strong during hard times, and I’m choosing joy.
I’m focusing on joy because I realized I was tired of feeling sad and overwhelmed and I knew God didn’t want that for me either. I want to choose joy, to feel joy, and to give joy to those around me. I can still have a lot of unanswered question, little money, constant hip pain, and temporary housing, but I am not going to let Satan speak death into my heart or head anymore. When negative thoughts come due to pain or circumstances, I combat them with prayer, scripture, thankfulness and joy. I cry too. I’m giving myself permission to cry when things come to the surface instead of pushing those feelings down. Crying brings more joy because I’m letting go of expectations on myself to remain strong or the need to hold myself and my family together. It also releases what has needed to get out for way too long.
If you want joy in your life, I challenge you to fight for it. Memorize scripture that speaks of the joy of the Lord, read the Psalms that give praise to God (Psalms 145 is my favorite), have praise and worship music on at all times and sing along when you can. And of course, read your bible and pray every day (and cry when needed). I have found this to be what helps me and I hope you can find hope and encouragement through my journey.
Psalm 31:24 “Be Strong and Courageous all you who put your Hope in the Lord!”