I used to consider myself extroverted. This was when I was younger, in high school, and before I acknowledged within myself that my brain experienced altered emotions. Especially in the past few years, I’ve been more honest about my nature and I am one of those people who needs time away from other humans more commonly known as an introvert. While true connection and shared experiences make me feel whole, I also need to decompress. I need solitude to contend with myself. This is why I consider myself an extroverted introvert. My threshold for the energy required to sustain me through social interactions is low. My threshold for stress is low. Time by myself is crucial. This leads to me being a bad friend.
What do I mean by that? When I struggle with my mental health, when I don’t have optimum time to decompress and sort through my emotions, I crumble. When I crumble I engage in bad social behavior. If I’m feeling drained, I will flake on plans. I will “forget” to respond to text messages. I will fail to reach out and do my part in a friendship to keep it going. I become irritated to the point of anger with the idiosyncrasies of people around me. I will become paranoid about everybody around me, even people I’ve been friends with for the better part of the last decade. In my head, I will convince myself they do not truly value my friendship and that they have little desire to see or speak to me. I isolate. I imagine myself as an ostrich sticking my head in the sand.
Interestingly enough, I looked up this phenomenon and learned that ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand per say. They are actually checking on their eggs they carefully bury just below the surface of the sand. To an onlooker, it may appear they are having a rough day and coping in an unusual way, but the reality is entirely different. I worry that when I disappear from my social world, my friends have all sorts of terrible ideas about where I’ve gone, or, worse: they don’t even realize it at all. While I feel anxiety avoiding my relationships, the worst part is the return.
After you’ve been somewhat absent from somebody’s life for a while, it’s an eery and uncertain experience returning to it. There is risk. The risk is that they have become accustomed to your absence and do not want you there anymore. The best case scenario is they welcome you back with understanding that sometimes you need to take care of yourself for the good of everybody around you. These are the kinds of friendships I strive for these days.