When Introverts Get Overextended

Sometimes you have no choice but to push past your comfort zone.

Posted Sep 26, 2017

Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock
Source: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock

Sometimes life runs away with you.

I know how to take care of my introverted self — how to carve out time for solitude, how to feel comfortable being quiet in a noisy crowd, how to store up energy before potentially draining events, and how to take time to recuperate. I exercise, meditate, and practice yoga to keep my stress under control. 

But the past year has taxed my ability to adequately care for myself. I’ve become involved in a couple of organizations that are important to me, and I’ve found myself taking a leadership role in both. Which is great. I’m proud of these groups, and proud of myself for getting involved and staying involved. I’m doing what I think is right for the world, which matters to me. A lot.

I also want to be sure to have a social life of some sort, because that feeds my soul. So even when I want nothing more than to hole up and be introverty, I make time for friends.

And there's work, of course. I have to do the work to get the money to pay the bills.

It's a lot.

Boy howdy, am I tired.

Burned out.


Every introverted neuron in my body is jangling.

I tell myself that this is just how things are right now, that life is ever changing, and that someday I will be free to retreat to my cave again. And I recharge in increments — an evening of solitude here, an afternoon walk there.

But still, I feel them . . . all my signs of being overextended. They are familiar to me, and distinctive. For example:

  • My brain feels tired, like a muscle. It groans slowly into life in the morning, pushes through the day with sheer willpower, and by evening it feels sodden, overfull, and achy. Eventually, it collapses like a marathon runner at the finish line.
  • My words go rogue as I lose my capacity to string together coherent sentences. “Are you going to the elephant?” I might ask my husband, who is on his way to the supermarket.
  • Perfectly lovely conversations become almost unendurable. I just don't wanna. 
  • Music hurts. Ordinarily, if my car is in motion, music is playing. But now, even my favorite tunes can be like a jackhammer on my brain. I need silence. Blissful silence.
  • I’m annoyed. With everyone. All the time. Including, for example, my husband, who has the audacity to desire conversation with me at the end of the day. And the dear old friend who moved away and is now in town visiting. She wants to spend time with me? Chutzpah! Doesn’t she know how busy I am?
  • When I’m not angry, I feel like crying. Often. A lot. Just sobbing until somebody comes along and rescues me from my own good intentions. “It’s OK,” my savior will say. “I’ll handle it. It will get done. You go and just sit on a mountaintop for a few weeks, and everything will be fine.”

That’s not going to happen. For the time being, I’ll continue bouncing from one commitment to the next, tackling one job after another, fighting off anger and tears, collapsing at the end of the day, then dragging myself out of bed the next morning.

It’s what I’m doing for now, and it’s proof that introversion is neither an impediment nor an excuse for doing things that truly matter to you. And right now, everything I'm doing truly matters to me.

Just be careful not to piss me off, OK? Because there are few who are more hair-trigger than an overextended introvert.

(P.S. Don't worry, I'll get myself to a mountaintop before any violence occurs.)

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