How One Introvert is Trying to Survive a Pandemic- Part 2: How to Save a Life

So. How are we doing?  Doing okay? I figured I’d update you all on how I’m managing and use this time to get through some of my feelings because, let’s be real; this is an ordeal. 

I’ve been feeling mostly tired. My appetite waxes and wanes. I’ve been on a mental health journey that I assumed was failing but then I ate my way through half of a Domino’s pan pizza before realizing that I was stress eating. I was anxious and I was taking my anxiety out on a pan pizza and then I set up an appointment to speak with a therapist online. The therapist said everything I knew already but apparently needed to hear from another more authoritative voice. I was told to keep writing, work out, get some sun, try to keep my appetite in check and to not stop taking my meds. 

Since that appointment, I’ve been doing that. I’ve been trying to write, trying to work out, trying to get sun whenever I can. But this whole thing hasn’t gotten much easier. I guess this gives me an opportunity to check in with all of you and also give myself the ability to update you all on my headspace and how I’ve been doing. 

Well, I’ve been okay. I’ve been talking to friends: my podcasts have been keeping me going. My column keeps me going and this blog keeps me going. I’ve been more active on social media as that is a decent way to feel connection to others. I’m trying to take small bites out of my To Watch anime pile. I’m just trying to stay busy. I’ve been relishing in small comforts like the fact that Domino’s has a delicious pan pizza that makes me feel simultaneously satisfied and emotionally disappointed in myself. Writing hasn’t been easy but I have been trying to schedule out time to do so whenever I get a chance. I guess it’s my concentration that makes writing difficult; I’m still not sure. I also noticed my depression getting worse; mostly what triggered my realization was the vast overeating. My appetite has been up and down for years but after downing nearly an entire pizza and then going back for more I came to realize that I was coping, or not coping at all, by consuming too much food. 

At least talking to friends and family has been a balm from the onslaught of negative thoughts and disappointment that has come from watching large event after large event get canceled. 

Speaking of, I want to talk about a phenomena that I wasn’t expecting: time itself to stop mattering. 

I feel like we’ve been at this for eternity. I was shocked to find that we were only a couple of months into what could be a very lengthy process of returning to normal. To be honest, I’m still not used to the days all running together. I go out of my way to greet my coworkers on Zoom with the day of the week because it helps keep me on track of what day it is. Weekends are particularly difficult for me as those are days I tend to be out of the house the most but now I tend to use them to run errands and get groceries from stores that are just a little further than my local Target. The time in my car is strangely liberating: being able to listen to the music and just not be in the house. I guess the days running together is good in that I got used to this new normal relatively quickly or as quickly as possible considering. I did my best to adjust to working from home and not doing much with my time since I’m encouraged to stay at home. But the slowness of each day is a little worrisome. Day in and day out it seems like the same things happen and even though I have plenty of things to keep me busy; I struggle to start any one project. I’ve been meaning to paint or to work on a collage or to do literally anything that isn’t just laying on the sofa but days like that are incredibly difficult. 

When I do have the energy to do things outside of my sofa I’ve kept busy by making masks and talking to my friends and family. I’ve kept busy by podcasting and still writing and making content. I’ve kept busy with social media and video games. I’m still watching an alarming amount of television: just something to fill the silence, something that is a voice outside of my own, something to give me the illusion of life in my quiet one-bedroom apartment with no other people in it. I’m still playing a lot of Pokemon Sword and still playing Just Dance after work to get my heart rate up. I’m still watching medical dramas and still watching shows about the paranormal because that’s a good idea for an anxious mind. I’m still on calls with friends and still on Discord keeping in touch with those that matter to me. I’ve been doing my best to stay sane. 

It’s been a strange time of going through therapy to help find better coping mechanisms but also trying to figure out which ones just don’t apply to me easily but the ones that I have been able to keep so far have been helpful. It was my therapist who encouraged me to write this Part 2 and to be honest and say that “Hey, I’m doing mostly okay but could be doing better.” sort of post. But I’m doing about as well as to be expected. As well as others are doing. I’m lucky, I can be aware of that. I know I am lucky to be working and to have my friends and to have the luxury of mental health care and therapy. 

It’s actually taken me a while to do this; so it if seems a little disjointed, that’s probably why. But I’m glad that I got it out on paper. The next post, I hope, will be an interesting one. 

How One Introvert is Trying to Survive a Pandemic

These sure are uncertain times, aren’t they? I didn’t expect for us to be in a full pandemic within the first quarter of 2020. But like many in these uncertain times; I’ve been trying to find new solutions to dealing with overwhelming problems. 

Now here’s where I have to say I’m not a doctor, not a professional and little more than a person who has been given a microphone because of the vast power of the internet. So listen to local authorities, listen to experts and all that jazz. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve been coping so I won’t be giving any medical advice or anything whatsoever. 

So: how have I been coping?

Well, routine. 

I’ve been working from home and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do so. But working from home means that I have to be even more strict about my routine. Anxiety loves routine and I had one in place. Get up, get dressed, go to work, leave work, come home, chaos. 

Having that routine disrupted by working from home (which I know is a huge blessing) has not been the easiest on my mental health. So I’ve been getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast and signing into work from my dining area to mimic as much routine as possible. I go to lunch, and I relax as much as I can when I’m done with my work day. 

I’ve also been trying to get out of the house responsibility. I’ve been taking walks. Those walks have featured an old anxiety-friendly favorite: Pokemon Go. The goal-driven game is nice as a distraction as I take small walks around my neighbor to get some fresh air after my work day. 

Speaking of: I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon. It’s nice to just sit and make curry and work on shinies as a means of distraction when I have downtime or am spending time at home over the weekend. I’ve also been playing Just Dance because of course I have. 

I think there’s something about social distancing that I wasn’t expecting which is how instantly lonely I felt. I’m an introvert, sure but I also love human interaction. I spend hours on the weekend at the local card shop talking to friends. I podcast with a dear friend. I go out to eat with friends. I’m out quite a bit considering that I don’t get a ton of power from people. I’m an introvert in that I don’t get a lot of power from random people. But I also love my freedom. I love being able to go to the mall, the fabric store, the card shop. I love being able to leave my home as a means of distraction from when my thoughts turn cruel and overbearing. 

I can’t do that in a pandemic. 

The existential crisis over what is essential has been incredibly distressing and being “encouraged strongly” to remain inside has been less than ideal but let’s go over a few of the things I’ve been doing to fill my time when I’m not working.

  • Talking to friends. Not just online but physically talking. Carlos and I have a standing weekly call and it’s been great to hear his voice and talk about what we’re doing and how we’re holding up. I’m also doing more on Discord and rejoined my friends on Gendou there. It’s like being home again and I love it. 
  • I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Fanfiction, books for the podcast, articles, everything. I’ve just been consuming content and it keeps my mind busy when I start to get nervous about the whole pandemic thing. It’s a good time to go through my backlog which is…too many damn books. 
  • Exercise is something that I hate doing but honestly playing Just Dance and being able to go for short walks has been a glorious thing to do in my down time. I look forward to being able to get off of work and go for a short walk around the neighborhood or change and play a few songs on Just Dance as a reminder that I am very out of shape but it’s still a fun challenge. 
  • I watch a scary amount of television and movies and Youtube videos so here are a few of the things I’ve been watching and I will accept no judgement. This is a pandemic; I’m allowed some questionable watching choices: 
    • ER
    • House
    • Air Disasters
    • Beastars
    • Criminal Minds
    • Deadly Women
    • Forensic Files 
    • Avengers: Endgame
    • Live: PD
    • Law and Order: SVU
    • It’s Alive with Brad Leone
    • Binging with Babish
    • The Take’s deep dives on Game of Thrones
    • Lindsay Ellis videos
    • Gourmet Makes
    • Monstrum
    • Crash Course

I set some goals for this whole thing which was to get back to cooking. I’m doing more shopping than I ever have and eating at home more in my entire adult life. I’ve been talking to friends and staying optimistic. I am trying to stay informed and continue to do the things that make me happy. 

We’re going to get through this. I believe we’re going to get through this. 

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay healthy. 

A “True” Introvert

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. Carl Jung.png

I’m always surprised by what the internet thinks an introvert is. Listicle after listicle will say that an introvert is someone who shuns plans with friends, ignores humanity from days on in and lives in some sort of Frodo Baggins book-filled Hobbit Hole.

Well, folks. Sit down. Today, we’re gonna talk about introversion, being a crappy friend and what it means to get power from the self or power from the crowd.

Here’s a good time to discuss the difference between introversion and extroversion. An introvert as described by the Myer-Briggs Personality Test of Magic and Mostly Nonsense is a person who generally sounds like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

And extrovert is someone who looks a little like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

The main differences between the two is that an introvert gets power from within while an extrovert gets power from the crowd or others.

In the made up land of Myers & Briggs (and I only say made up because it is reductive to say you can fit all of a person into literally 4 letters but like astrology, when it’s right, it’s right) I am an INFP. That is the archetype of the “idealist” and this is what that looks like:

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves.

INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP’s value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same – the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. (source)

I am an introvert and that surprises a lot of people. Many know me from paneling, podcasting, cosplaying, running organizations or generally being the center of attention. None of my friends would describe me as having a small personality and no one I work with has ever been able to claim that I don’t leave an impression.

So when do I have time to curl up in a cocoon of manga panels and mainline Mr. Pibb and ignore humanity in a sea of books I can’t afford and will never finish? The truth is that the Internet Introvert just isn’t real. Introverts aren’t just hermits. They aren’t hobgoblins that shirk away from sunlight and ignore humanity just to read and write fanfiction and sure there are introverts that do that but not every introvert is like that. And the continual perpetuation that an introvert is some sort of silkworm pupae that nestles in and ignores plans and calls from friends to binge watch Netflix is just immature.

If a friend needs me, I’m the first to hop in my car and be with them. If a friend cancels plans, am I sometimes happy? Sure sometimes. Am I also sometimes really disappointed that I’m wasting a full face of makeup and cute outfit? Absolutely and I will occasionally go out anyways if that happens. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t command an audience. Doesn’t mean I hate going out. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like other people. It just means I don’t get a lot of power from those actions. If you’ve seen me panel I’m energetic and vibrant. I adapt to the changes of crowds and answer questions gracefully and with charm. After the panel? Oh, after the show is a whole different story. In the Whataburger at 2 AM after a panel is a very different Amanda. And even after convention I am usually exhausted emotionally for days after. The crowd takes my energy. And sure, sometimes I get perked up from the crowd. Carlos has noted many times that he can see the sparkle in my eye when I’m on stage but the power I get is not equal to the power I give.

The difference between introversion and extroversion is what gives you power and I do not get a ton of power from people. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other people or that I don’t like going out. I also do get lonely and don’t like being by myself for too long.  And the idea that introverts are strange magical bat creatures diminishes all the good that introverts who have to be public do.

You know what real introversion is? Sitting down after convention at Mozart Bakery with Carlos over aloe vera tea and rainbow cake. Introversion is sewing while watching Deadliest Warrior. Introversion is still comforting a friend after a long day. Introversion is late night phone calls despite being tired and firing up an audience only to sit in your hotel bedroom while watching 5 hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

That’s what being an introvert is. And it certainly doesn’t involve being a garbage person who just likes to flake out on friends and shun commitments.

So is now the time that I ask for my book fort, obnoxious blanket pile and general disdain for humanity?

124 Seconds of Silence

 

“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.” -Blaise Pascal

This topic seems to come up more than at times I care to admit. For the record, I’ll state once more: I am an introvert.

Introversion is the tendency towards solidarity. I use that word over loneliness or isolation because despite being an introvert, I appear very outgoing. I talk to people, I am regularly in front of large crowds, I can command a room, demand attention and move people with a Napoleonic-style charisma. The introvert part comes after the crowds leave. I am utterly exhausted by these grand displays of extroversion and much like a phoenix, I exhaust all of my energy into one grand display to crumble into indescribable ash of apathy, leaving behind the tattered remains of my clothes in a desperate attempt, like turtles to the ocean, discard my pants and return to my sofa or wherever I am staying for the event in question.

Despite my tendencies towards introversion are however not always typical in just that fact that I am not a tragic recluse. I am not Dickenson in her White Room. I am not Thoreau on his Pond. I struggle immensely with silence.

As people in a modern era of connectivity, my struggle isn’t unfounded or entirely new. Many of us now are used to white noise or noise in general whether it’s through music, podcasts, videos or audio books; we are bombarded with noise constantly. Even at night, when things are meant to be quiet, we have white noise apps, fans, noise generators; silence deafens and scares us.

I didn’t really become aware of this until in changing agencies, I changed habits. An ad-blocker had been installed into my web browser (yes, please comment on the irony of an ad agency girl using an ad blocker) and at first it didn’t cause much harm. It wasn’t until I went to start up a documentary (my preferred office white noise) that I realized something: I wasn’t getting the video ads due to the ad blocker so I was left with an excruciating amount of silence before, during and after each show. This left an awkward silence in between the noise I sought after to protect me from my mind’s own wandering.

What is important here is understanding that listening is passive. I am by no means ignoring work, it’s just simply easier to work with some form of noise be it music: a podcast or a TV show and I’m quick to pick something that I’ve either already heard or a subject I’m already familiar in so it doesn’t take up too much of my attention. Listening becomes a  truly secondary even tertiary task.The noise is just that: noise. The far more destructive force in most cases is the self-imposed silence that workplaces try to enforce. Most everyone I know listens to something while working.

If you happen to struggle with silence, worry not. I found the silence in the gaps of my videos to be nearly too much. I actually had to remove the ad blocker so I could return to the normal constant barrage of sound I’m so used to. Even in a lack of conversation, there is sound. Even in the absence of speech, there’s noise. Even in the absence of contact, there’s connection.

Tony Stark. Table for 1.

 

“If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company.”

So the title does feel quite a bit like another blog post I worked on. But that was more of a discussion on being a somewhat mostly orphan. This post is about dining alone. I’m a mostly solitary kind of girl. Since moving to San Antonio I’ve kept a few close friends but many are busy and I spend a lot of time in splendid isolation. I eat lunch often times alone. I spend a lot of time in my apartment alone. When I spend time out of the house it’s often by myself. But I don’t say all of these things as a bleeding heart. I’m an introvert, I like my own company. And honestly I’m usually talking to someone while I’m out and about or at home but that person usually just isn’t directly in front of me.

I want to talk about why we are so averse to seeing someone alone.

The first response is usually to pity the poor thing. Oh how tragic, this poor tiny woman sitting at alone at a busy bistro. My response to that is I’m fine. I’m usually fine. I’m either listening to an audiobook, a podcast or reading. The second response is often a morbid curiosity. Why is she sitting alone? Is she okay? Did she get dumped? Was she left at the altar pregnant and without a dime? No no no no no and no. Just sitting alone at Starbucks. That happens. It’s not 1920. Women are allowed to sit alone.

While this seems like the rantings of a very angry tiny woman over a likely imagined threat it wasn’t until recently that I started feeling guilty for sitting alone. Normally, I never let it bother me. I sit alone, it happens sometimes. But it was at lunch recently that I felt the judgemental eyes of the masses upon me in between sips of a soda and bites of a salad made of not the finest greens. I was listening to the Welcome to Night Vale novel and enjoying the story but when people would walk by they almost expected me to be sitting with someone else and when that simply wasn’t the case they looked nearly disappointed. They were almost disappointed that a woman sat alone. And in their disappointment, it seems as those they removed my agency: sitting alone was my choice.

This isn’t high school. I’m not the frumpy comic nerd who eats alone in the library and even when that was me during high school that was my choice: I was anime club president, I spent lots of time in the library donating and organizing the books and manga.

And here’s where I’ll make a distinction: introverts do get lonely. I do sometimes wish I had a partner to eat with. But most of the times I am seen out and about I’m usually okay. What matters is the issue of agency.  And let’s be honest: between my cellphone and friends all over the country and the world I am almost never alone. Just because someone isn’t sitting across from me doesn’t mean that I’m not having a rousing conversation about gender, depiction and diversity in various pop culture artifacts.

If it’s my desire to sit alone and read manga then that’s perfectly acceptable. If I chose to sit and have tea and sake with a friend then also perfectly acceptable. I’ve written about this actually more than once and introversion isn’t a fault: just a trait.

Now if you’ll excuse me…Carlos was telling Cecil how much he loved him and I really really want to figure out what’s up with these flamingos and King City.