Why You May Not Be An Introvert After All

For years, I’ve felt I am an introvert living the life of an extrovert.  Finding myself exhausted after social or work activities that required interactions that I found tedious, I rebuked myself for not being able to handle it.  I would make time for little “retreats” throughout the day, finding ways to get away from the group and be alone for a few minutes to re-insulate myself.

My husband, a history buff, liked war movies and even played out re-enactments of war games in miniature with his friends.  I am extremely sensitive to violence and this bothered me.  I couldn’t watch war or horror movies with my family.

After years of this struggle, I was exhausted and felt pretty bad about myself.  Then, I began to meditate and study energy.  That’s when I began to understand that I was not an introvert living a lie in an extrovert world.  Instead, I discovered I was an empath.

An empath is someone who is highly tuned in to other people’s emotions.  Someone who “knows” without knowing how or why.  An intuitive.

Empaths need to recharge and re-insulate was a result of absorbing other people’s negative energy.

Studying what I could do to keep myself from drowning in the sea of other’s energy, I found several ways to encircle myself with positive energy and be a positive force in my environment, instead of a sponge.

  • Cleansing.  I’ve always liked taking a hot bath.  Now, I understand why.  Sometimes a literal, physical bath or shower is what you need to wash off the negative energy you’ve absorbed.
  • Sage cleansing.  Another type of cleansing is by burning sage and being in the presence of its smoke.  This was a common practice of the Native Americans.  Just a minute or two with sage burning around me makes me feel grounded.
  • Meditating.  People tell me they can’t meditate.  Yes, you can!  Meditation doesn’t mean just the “Ohm” meditation.  Sit quietly, close your eyes, breathe deeply and repeat a word you love (mine is “Joy”) or a favorite hymn or Bible verse.  Catholic prayers are a kind of meditation or trance, as they are repeated over and over.
  • Prayer.  Asking for God or the Universal Spirit or Light to give you guidance can be refreshing.  Whatever you believe in, sitting and breathing deeply while asking for the help of the Universe (God, to me) is always refreshing.
  • Essential oils. High quality essential oils are a quick way to ground oneself and re-energize. I like oils such as peppermint, lavender, and citrus.

It may take a little time and experimentation to find what works for you. The first step is to be brave enough to admit that you don’t always want to be around other people!

Old Friends

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to hook up with my best friend from elementary school. We had been out of touch for easily 20 years. I looked forward to seeing her.

As a child, I had not known that she was badly sexually abused by her father. I knew her father was mean to her and everyone else, but I didn’t know about the sexual abuse. As an adult, I certainly realize now the signs were there.

Now, she had a husband and a daughter the same age as my daughter. I drove two hours to visit with them and spend the night.  It was enjoyable, but I was a little creeped out. Her husband and daughter treated her like she was a complete idiot…and she would just laugh it off. I felt like Goldie Hawn in “The Banger Sisters.”  I wanted to scream at them and tell them, “This woman is awesome!  She is smart!  Stop making fun of her.”  But, I didn’t. It was her business.

As time went on, she wanted to come visit me in the city, but there was always a problem caused by her husband, Dr. XXX (PhD, not MD). Something came up and he couldn’t drive her in or her daughter made plans so she couldn’t come. When she finally did come to see me, I had my elementary school yearbooks for her to see. Her father had thrown hers away while she was at college.  We spent the evening going over yearbooks and memories. Suddenly, things changed. She got on Facebook on my computer and spent the rest of the night messaging our friends from elementary school.  It was weird–I thought, “Maybe her husband doesn’t let her use the computer at home?”

Then, I moved out of the area and lost touch. I texted her a few times with no replies. I assumed she was just busy with her life and would get back in touch when she had time.

I finally checked to see if she was still on Facebook and there she was. But, I had been “unfriended.”  Ugh. This is awkward. I sent her a message, “Hey, how are you…blah, blah, blah.” Just ignoring the unfriending.

I received the following reply:  I’m glad you are well. But I can’t help but feel it’s inappropriate for you to contact me after not even letting me know you were moving.You had my cell number & as much as I reached out to you, trying to develop a stronger friendship, you couldn’t even return the kindness with a short call or text.It really hurt & saddened me.Friendship is so much more than Facebook. I wish you & yours the very best.

Odd. Because I had sent her messages. Then it hit me. The husband. She has married her father. A controlling, manipulative man who makes sure they have only one car so she can’t go anywhere on her own without his permission. Who puts her down so that she has such low self-esteem. Who makes sure they move frequently so she never develops any real friends.

The only regret I have is not being Goldie Hawn that weekend. At least I would have felt I had done my part.

You Know Someone

Do you know five people?  Do you have five people who work for you?  Then you know someone who has mental health problems.

According to NAMI (NAMI.org), one in five adults faces mental health issues in any year in the United States.  Of those, 60% did not receive any sort of treatment.  These mental health issues can vary from depression to schizophrenia.

In 2001, a study published by the Harvard Health Publications found that 18% of individuals age 15-54 who were surveyed reported having a mental health issue in the last month (Mental health problems in the workplace).

What are our responsibilities, as employers, to these individuals?  Do we just look past it unless it effects performance?  Many managers and executives would say so.  Let me tell you what is wrong with that:  it is inhumane.

Did you know that people with long-term mental health issues die 25 years earlier than those without mental health issues (NAMI.org)?  That alone should be impetus enough for employers to take notice.  We could help our employees literally live longer.

I work in healthcare.  My first job was in a psychiatric hospital.  Working with children.  Let me  tell you, what some parents do to kids, it is no wonder that there are so many mental health issues.  Those kids grow up eventually and enter the workforce.

Healthcare has its own share of issues.  I think many people who are drawn to healthcare have mental health issues…or develop them while working in the field.  Why?  We see people die.  We see people who need treatment, but can’t get it because of insurance.  We see people diagnosed with incurable diseases.  We see people become not themselves.  People who are drawn to work in healthcare are “caring” people.  The negative outcomes for our patients take a toll.  Yes, babies are born and people are cured.  But, they are eclipsed by that first patient who died in pain while you held her hand.  Or the family that begged you to find a cure that wasn’t there.  Or the insurance company that denied coverage of treatment that was working.

What are we, as employers, to do to help?

  • Make sure your company has an Employee Assistance Program
  • Educate everyone, from CEO to janitor, on h ow the EAP works, so that any employee can help another
  • Ask questions when you see one of your employees struggling–or have their manager do it–just make someone does it
  • You don’t have to listen to the whole story or lose your boundaries–just say, “Hey, it looks like you are having a hard time.  Maybe the EAP could help you.  They have all kinds of help available.”  Then, give them a referral card
  • Talk about mental health issues at staff meetings–you don’t have to go into the warning signs of schizophrenia, but touch on things like dealing with stress, even if it is just a handout
  • Smile and make eye contact with people–haven’t you ever heard the story of the man whose suicide note said he was going to the Golden Gate Bridge to commit suicide, but he would not go through with it if someone smiled at him on the way (The New Yorker)?

It is everyone’s moral responsibility to help people who are struggling.  If you are an employer, you see your employees every day and you know when something is “off.”  Take time to ask.  You don’t have to play therapist.  But, you may be the only one who asks and the one who makes the difference between someone getting help and someone getting worse.