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Did My Introverted Nature Help Me Transition Better into Chronic Illness?

Did My Introverted Nature Help Me Transition Better into Chronic Illness?

There’s no way to sugar-coat this: having a chronic illness means I spend a lot of time on my own. Before I was diagnosed I was a very social, outgoing person but when Rheumatoid Arthritis changed my life I became a very solitary, “anti-social” one. Did this change hurt me? Depress me? Not really…

…Which begs the question…Did my introverted nature help me with this transition?

Am I an introvert or an extrovert?

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. People always talk about each as an absolute and I never fit into either. At the beginning, I thought I was an extrovert because people always exclaimed, “You are so confident and not shy at all” and “you love being around people”. I was social, loud and always the center of attention. Every indication pointed to extrovert.


I am an only child. My parents put me in nursery school when I was two and socialized me properly. However, there were plenty of times I had to occupy myself with “solo” activities like puzzles and books because there was no one to play with.

In June 2010, at age 20, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Everything I knew, everything I was, just fell away. I didn’t feel disabled or understood how my RA/RD affected my life. I chose not to disclose my condition to anyone except family and work. However, as I navigated new meds and other changes, I retreated. I didn’t rock-climb as often, socialize the same way (like going to parties) or even work full-time. I communicated primarily through text and social media and nobody really noticed I was not physically present.

I did not find it difficult to distance myself from other people, even from the beginning. I preferred solo activities like crosswords, Sudoku, writing and coloring. I even started blogging to pass the time. And, as all things do, it became easier to stay alone. I didn’t even give going out a second thought.

Sure, there were times I wondered what my friends were doing or I craved a good climbing session but I sat and thought about all the spoons I’d use and then I was happy taking a nap or playing with my pets.

Did my introverted nature finally win out?

I often thought about my life before Rheumatoid Arthritis but I never mourned it; at least, not the more social parts. I didn’t miss spending money frivolously on dinners, brunches or bars. I didn’t mourn getting into the car and driving all over the city and sitting in its traffic. I didn’t even miss seeing my friends face to face when I spoke to them on the phone (okay, this was easier because we’re now scattered all over the world).

You know what I missed? I missed rough-housing with my dogs, running the length of the house with my cats, climbing all the hard climbs and enjoying other outdoor activities. I missed my “solo” activities.

But, I replaced them with other solitary activities like, crosswords, Sudoku, coloring and blogging. I wasn’t unhappy with the changes.

I didn’t find it difficult to adapt.

Would someone more extroverted have more difficulty with the transition into chronic illness?

In support groups, a common complaint is that friends and family distance themselves from the patient because of x, y and z reasons. The person with RA/RD feels isolated and unhappy.

I don’t…For the most part.

Sure, it would be nice to get a drink or go to a house party or even enjoy an outdoors trip. But more often than not, I choose to be by myself.

Does being an introvert make the transition into chronic illness easier? Does someone more extroverted have more difficulty with it? Let me know in the comments. I am very interested in how you cope with these changes!

 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • tanyae
    1 year ago

    I have always been an extrovert. Being on full disability has been difficult for me. Sometimes when the depression gets to me because of not being able to work and interact as I was once able to, it gets really tough. The daily interaction and feeling of accomplishment from my previous job is sorely missed. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes. My “work friends” are not really available any longer and after you’ve been away from it, you lose touch with the events that are happening. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful support group of women in my bible study group that are always available to talk.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hey tanyae! Thank you so much for commenting on my article and sharing your perspective as an extrovert. That part of me completely understands. I thought you might enjoy this article I wrote about losing friends and appreciating the “true” ones. https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/friendship-how-my-chronic-illness-helped/comment-page-1/#comments

    It sounds like the women in your study group are your true friends and I am really happy you have that support group. Please know you always have support here as well when you need to talk and never hesitate to reach out to us. We may not be speaking face to face but we are here for you!

    Thank you again for commenting on my article!! ~Monica (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • CaseyH moderator
    1 year ago

    Hey there tanyae, thanks for your comment! I’m so sorry to hear that being on disability has taken such a toll on you. We hear you, and want you to know that you’re not alone in these feelings of frustration and sadness. Please reach out to us anytime you need a hand in dealing with these feelings. we’re here for you. It’s often easy for all of us to forget that going to work is filled with social interactions. Without it, our social lives can dramatically change very quickly! I am so glad to read that you have such an awesome support system in your bible study group. That makes me so happy! Please keep us posted on everything. We’re thinking of you! -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Ann B Wall
    1 year ago

    I have adapted to me RA over a period of time,initally I kept trying to do everything I used to do often , leading to collapse. I’m odd combo of introvert and extrovert much as you describe. I miss going places and seeing friends but most of my energy goes into working. i was full time until 2015, i developed pulmonary hypertension that year and had to go on medical leave as I kept getting sick. I have my twitter community, my family by phone and visits and friends at work. Do i miss social activities YES but i have many less flares my resting and staying alone. I hope to do limited gardening on my balcony this year. We give up so much due to RA ,I find solace and inspiration in our online community. Thanks for a thought provoking article.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hey Ann,

    The same thing happened to me. I pushed myself too hard thinking I could still do everything and it led to more flares, more symptoms and overall an unhappier quality of life. After I took a step back I felt better and I was then able to integrate a few social interactions here and there.

    I am so glad you reach out to online communities. It has also helped me stay in contact with people when I can’t leave the house! I hope you get to garden this year. I want to as well but our weather has been up and down all month! What do you like to plant?? ~Monica (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • CaseyH moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Ann B Wall, thank you so much for opening up and sharing that with us. It sounds like you really understand what your body needs and what you are able to do and when. I’m glad to hear that you’re having less flares, although it may have come at the expense of a more active social life. As you said, you do still have a support network, including us! Please feel free to reach out anytime you need a friend. I hope you’re able to garden on your balcony this year as well! -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Introvert
    1 year ago

    As my ‘name’ indicates, I am an introvert. While I mourned for quite a while over losing my ability to paint, draw, play piano and guitar, the upside for me has been that I have an excuse for not socializing. It’s so much easier to admit to being in pain than to tell people I just don’t want to hang with them. After a while I too got ‘ghosted’, which was fine by me.
    I do still talk by phone to my fellow introvert friends a few times a month, which meets my social needs. I never get bored with my own company, and I’ve always been able to entertain myself. I still have my books, computer, cats, local wildlife and a creative mind. I cannot imagine what having this illness does to an extrovert.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hey Introvert! Thank you so much for commenting on my article!!

    I completely get what you’re saying. Sometimes, I also just say I don’t feel well enough to go out because I just don’t want to either!!

    I am really happy that you also have found ways to entertain yourself. Sometimes, all we need is ourselves and just a few outside interactions.

    Thank you again and all the best ~Monica (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • CaseyH moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Introvert, thank you for taking the time to share that with us. I so admire how well you know yourself and needs. I’m sad to read that you painting, drawing, and playing piano and guitar are no longer options for you, however, I’m so glad to read that you’ve been able to find an upside through all of this. I so love how you phrased this comment, and that you’re finding joy in so many things. Please know we’re here for you whenever you want or need a friend to chat with online! Thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way! -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    1 year ago

    I was also an only child and an introvert. I chose a career that required that I be an extrovert and in all sorts of social situations. I was terrible at it, at first, then I had to flex the muscle of socialization. I failed at first and did better as time went on. Before I knew it, I was a playing that role perfectly.

    Later, however, when I was DX’d with RA and had to stop working, that muscle went soft. I was losing my confidence. Still, I have some of the extrovert in there. Today I am a mix. Sometimes I can be outgoing, and it feels good. But other times not so much.

    The muscle is still there, and sometimes I flex it. It is true I flex it less these days, but I love how it feels when I do. I hope you get to flex your social muscle as well. I promise no matter how out of practice it may feel, it is still there, but now we can use it how and when we want. That is the best muscle of all.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    1 year ago

    I completely agree because the less I use my social muscle the more comfortable I am not using it. But boy, do I love being social when I am!

    This is unrelated but kind of not, I work with kindergarten age children and when I speak to actual adults I’ve completely forgotten how to speak to them!

    What do you do to stay social? Especially if you’re not feeling well…I would love some ideas!

    Thank you for always commenting on my articles, Rick!! I really really appreciate it!

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