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!