If this is your first time here, you might want to start with the prior post. I’m not saying you should, maybe you want more of a Memento vibe from your blog excursions. But this will make more sense if ya do. Fuck, I really hope it does make more sense, otherwise, it’s going to cause a tremendous amount of self-reflection on my writing skills (or lack thereof). Gonna move on quick, lest I fall into another tangent or crisis.
If you’d like a piece of music to listen to while reading, here’s a piece I did up earlier.
So, with the last post, I went into the introvert and the socially anxious. What I feel the differences are, especially in how they affect your day when a social event is on the horizon. I think I’m both of these things now. Maybe even three, the third being somewhere between both.
To me, this seems contradictory.
I’m in two, possibly three social circles. My work social, a hobby based social and finally, one with my long-term friends. Each one makes me feel like I’m one of these different aspects. In the hobby based one, I feel like an introvert. The long term friends one now makes me feel anxious. This whole idea as a subject actually came to me because friends arranged a day to hang out. Not a few hours mind you, a literal WHOLE FUCKING DAY. I feel like I’ve been slowly crashing ever since. I know I’ll go, I just wish it wasn’t another 3 weeks away so I could be done with it by now. And while I’m sure people might relate to that, I have a wealth of guilt in me as a result.
Anyhoo, without much further ado, I’m gonna wrap up these posts (Episode III) with a personal account on anxiety, so before I treat you to that verbal clusterfuck, let’s talk about the more positive trait.
Let’s talk about being an introvert.
The Journey to Introversion
Somewhere in my 20’s, socialising went from being effortless, and what I would describe as part of my standard living day, into something else. Beforehand, I would generally be the one who makes the plans, sends folks invites, tries to get things going basically, as I hated just staying in. I guess for a time, I was an extrovert. I still have some of those traits. When talking about topics I’m excited about, I get WAY loud and I do still try to make sure people are having fun, but the thought process behind such feels vastly different. It’s a slow, gradual change from one to the other but looking back, I can definitely see the broad strokes of it.
We’re going to go back in time here, which means…
The year is 2013
I am 25 years old.
And I am feeling, tired.
My son has just recently turned one, and by Christ what a tumultuous time this was. There are several shake-ups in this period of my life, the biggest being that kid I just mentioned. He’s such a happy kid, absolutely unreal, and seriously, the most handsome child you’ve ever seen. Now, I know we all tend to think that about our kids, I just have the good fortune of being correct about mine.
I’d put up a picture but, ya never know who’d be doing some perving. You’ll just have to trust me on this.
I suppose there is some crucial information currently missing that I need to fill you in on here, so you don’t misinterpret my feelings. My birth father is not in my life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful relationship with my step-father. He has all the traits you think of when you think “Man” without the negatives. Loyal, dependable, a great teacher and beyond kind.
Growing up, as I’m sure many of us bastards are wont to do, I’d think why didn’t my father want me in his life. Regardless of what happened between my parents, there is always that singular thought that comes around every so often. Could be months to years between its visits, but it always finds its way back to ya. That thought?
Why didn’t he fight for me?
A lifetime of that is bound to have a certain influence on my style as a father. Needless to say (I’m not looking for a medal here), I am very hands on.
There was a chunk here about dads and the challenges of parents but I was quickly past a thousand words and felt I had more to say, so I’m just gonna cut that out and maybe make it my main post for next week or something. In the meantime, please stick around.
The next part to know is that for as long as I can remember, I’ve fucking sucked at getting up early, but I can operate late into the night with no issues. Been working on this quite a bit in the past year. Getting older certainly helps as I feel decrepit by 9pm BUT for a time, a wafer of sleep is all I’d need to go about my day. As a result, when it came to a feeding schedule, I took the bulk of night feeds. That system suited us just fine, except every other night, my son would flat out REFUSE to sleep. You could set a watch to him. If he was fed at 1304 hours, then you’d expect him to wake up hungry at 1604 hours. And in the same regard, If he slept all through Monday night, that meant he’d be up all Tuesday night. Now, he wouldn’t be screaming or crying, he’d just be awake. But I’ve never been able to sleep if I know he’s up.
Just in case, y’know…
I’d get up out of bed as I didn’t trust myself to stay awake if I was all snuggled up and cosy. Carrying him off into the sitting room, we’d just binge-watch TV until the sun rose, at which point he’d nod off. If I was lucky, I would too. This went on for 6, maybe 7 months. I operated on roughly 4 hours of sleep daily. This would be my first (and worst) experience with major sleep deprivation. There are roughly 6-7 months of my life that I have scant memories of. I would sometimes share that with people and it usually gets a laugh, which is nice, but it’s true.
There is roughly half a year of my life that I have no memory of.
During those 6 months, I finally watched Doctor Who, which became an obsession of mine ever since! So yeah, the 6 months got me a healthy son, which is fine and all, I’ll take it. But at the same time, Doctor Who! So, when you look at it like that, the memory loss was worth it.
I think this is an easy place to put the starting line on my own journey into intro-conversion. As well as that, my partner and I had a fairly unhealthy competitive streak here. We both began to see going out as, an attack on the other. As if once you’ve committed your social contract, you are now indebted to the other parent until they’ve had a night out. When approached from a healthier mindset, this works. Did we approach this with that healthy mindset?
Oh sure, you head out, again.
I’ll just stay in with your son for an evening, without you.
*insert snide, biting remark of your own here*
We fucked each other up, is what I’m saying. If the intentions were good, the results were anything but. Another notch on the intro-conversion (and possible start of my own anxiety) here as socialising begins to become an event that needs to be “earned”.
Again, here’s another bit that I could feel I have a mountain of words to share with you. Maybe some other time? As usual, please, PLEASE, stick around…
Which slowly but inevitably leads to me seeing hanging out as a chore.
Now, near the start, I try to maintain my social routine. I use to have social meetups (varying from grabbing food to real shit like Magic the Gathering) possibly 2-3 times a week. As the tiredness creeps into my bones, I stop being the social ring-leader. Every few months I might try to arrange a meet-up, but I slowly but surely begin to bail on my friends.
Ahh, to be honest lads, that ain’t my scene.
Gonna give this one a miss, but I’ll catch you next time.
Sorry, I just don’t have the time this week.
I begin to withdraw.
Notch the Two’d
The second notch is I get a new job I got when I turned 27, which for a time demanded my full attention. Again, I was quite a vocal person in any group chats. Usually, the lad who starts the daily chats and generally the last one to sign off. In retrospect, I was definitely too available, but that was just the way I was. In the new job, 10-hour shifts or more were the norm. I didn’t have data on the mobile and the place did not let us use its wifi, so I was cut off from my everyday socialising. By the time I got home, I’d be absolutely withered. All I wanted was sleep, a wash, food and bed. The job kept me like this for roughly 3 months or so before the whole place begins to crumble.
So I entered a new cycle. One where I avoid chatting, late night replies and begin just flat-out ignoring messages. Because if I replied, they would reply and I felt I’d just be getting stuck into some conversation or discussion when what I wanted, heck, what I needed, was to slow my brain down.
Now, I’m still eager to hang out on my days off mind you. I simply cut myself off from being so readily available. A change, that even now I feel is for the better.
The third notch is my current job. A call centre. The one I actually discuss here. I think that covers much of it in a fun way so might be good to check that out and then come back, but if not, I’ll give ya a quick brief. Again, the other job was a short stint, so this covers from ages 27 up to now, which is 30.
The Brief “brief”
I immediately leave the other job for this one, and here is where the journey completes. Call centres take way more from you than just you’re time. That constant inane, fruitless, empty conversation saps at you. It leaves you with a craving, a primal hunger for one thing, and one thing only.
So at this point, I pretty much go on social blackouts during workdays. All group chats muted. I do not want to speak NOR be spoken to. Once my son is down to bed, all I relish is reading a book. And so, with the final notch struck, my way of recharging or collecting myself becomes rather personal, as I how I recharge has fundamentally changed from the person I was all the way up to my mid-20’s. Now, to an outside perspective, I suppose this could be interpreted as anxiety. The only thing telling me it’s not is that I know I wasn’t unhappy during this (bar some parental ugliness) time period. At this point, I’m doing well, just my method of staying well is now seen quite a departure.
Socialising now as an Introvert
Isolation can be good, rewarding even. I doubt anyone would tell you that you need to be able to find comfort both in your own company and especially when by yourself. But, it’s also addictive. Because whatever you do, you no longer have to take other peoples feelings into account.
Isolation, is all about you.
I began to see the danger of it. I wanted MY time, as we all do. Yet long term, it would be irresponsible if I only socialised or went to meet-ups once every 4-6 weeks. “Irresponsible” feels like too tame a word in this instance. “Hazardous” might be more apt?
So, from the age of 24, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons on and off. Like anyone, when you first find this marvellous game, it’s quite sporadic. Maybe a get together between friends every few months or so. Now in my late 20’s, my social calendar had long gone down the drain, I knew for myself, I needed a hobby, and maybe a change of social scenery. I figured I’d try to get back into RPGs, and this time I would challenge myself to find a group, instead of just playing with my buddies. I was trying to find a game of DnD to join that would give me what I want. Some gaming, with a much sought social aspect, and potentially some new friends, as it had been roughly half a decade or so since I made a new one.
Not to get confused with an acquaintance! A friend is someone, who if you bumped into on the street, you’d genuinely want to grab some food or a drink with. An acquaintance might be someone you talk to often, but any offers of food or drink are said purely so ye both seem polite.
Trying to find a game certainly took time. Maybe 3 to 4 months. I could have sped this up and ran a game, but like I said, I was trying to strike up friendships, and I was never going to have total strangers in my home.
As luck would have it, I found two games in quick succession and had a larf. Ok, not quite a larf. Some shit went down that was GOD AWFUL, but to stress, I mean that in as nerdy a way as possible. DnD is great for fictional drama, I would quickly learn it’s not so fun with actual drama. Oh, the rants I could have about this.
But again, I feel I should save that for another time. This topic seems to have given me access to a fair few ideas. GO INTROVERTs!?! As always, please, please, PLEASE stick around.
A year or so later, I say fuck it. I’m gonna run games myself. I’ve found new peeps whose company I enjoy and decide to host games and have em over. So what goes on now is I run a game, roughly once a week. It’s good for me…
For the most part.
I’ll cover the negatives in the final chapter. Do stick around!
It’s good in the sense that at least I have some fun social gatherings in my month. Once a week, the gang will come over and we’ll have a fucking blast, but Christ is it draining. Some of it comes from the pressure of hosting and running the game. As the GM, I have the main responsibility of making sure they are all entertained and feel cool. Honestly, I fucking love it. I have never gotten comfortable with praise so every time they tell me how much fun they have, I feel like a genius. I cannot recommend enough that you give it a shot, as it can be a hugely rewarding experience.
On the day of though, I feel like I have no energy at all. The thought of having the group absolutely kills me every Tuesday at dawn. They convene at roughly 7pm till 11pm. I greatly enjoy the company, yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel tired during it all. Every conversation feels like a skirmish. Every hour in itself, feels like a war. Once they leave, it’s hard to really get this across, but I feel re-energised. Like, totally fucking reinvigorated!
So that’s a healthy 4 hours a week, which equates to 16 hours a month! I think that’s not bad, right? A part of me always asks is 16 hours in a month good? The younger me would be aghast if he knew, if not outraged! To him, such a faint amount of time would be fucking tragic.
At face value, it sounds poor to me. Mathematically, it sounds even worse. You have 730 hours in a month, so I’m only using 2.19% of my time to socialise. When you look at it that way, it causes one to ask some questions.
Between that, exorcising my demons on this blog and my personal writing, I feel my mental health has been better now than it has in years.
And yet I can’t shake the feeling that this is wrong.
And there it is. The contradiction.
What I’m was trying to grasp at here is this. From the outside, or even to you, I probably just come off as withdrawn, which would categorise me as anxious, right? Yet in my own head, I know what I’m doing is working really well for me. I’m not gonna say I’m happy, but I do feel that I’m getting there. And if that feeling isn’t something to strive for, what the fuck are we even doing?
Not sure how well this flowed, if I’m honest. It’s the first time I’ve done a trilogy of pieces so I’ll take what lessons I can from this. The hardest part is accepting that the piece itself isn’t an individual and I was really struggling to conclude this when I know full well there’s another part to go!
As always, thanks for reading.
To stress, there are definitely moments in this journey that weren’t healthy. I’m aware of that, believe me, I’m aware. But I was the loud-mouth, so the change to being an introvert was never going to be quick, nor painless. It’s pretty much a 5-year journey. I guess the key here is that I’m doing well now, as I hope you are too.