Recently I’ve come across a website called The Quiet Revolution, a site that has many helpful posts about how to live in this extroverted dominated world as an introverted person. It’s important to me to really embrace my introversion because for a long time I have been trying to really push it away and become a more outgoing person. I even have had it taken away by going on medication for my ADHD so now it’s important to me to really return to my more natural state of mind, who I was before all these medications started to interfere with my brain.
Firstly, let me start off by telling those of you who don’t know I’m also autistic and identify myself as a severe introvert because not do I only thrive in solitude but prefer it and can be very stubborn to come out of it. I seem to become more withdrawn around a group of people due to my sensory sensitivity and the fact that I often do not share the same interests as other people, and am rotten at small talk. Although, because of the dramatic change to my brain on Ritalin I was able to have time to really learn and practice social skills so these days I’m probably 30% better than what I was before. I’ve become impulsive and use that impulsivity to help me start conversations with people. A conversation with an ADHD person does not last long though. It starts, derides, jumps to some other subject randomly and then wanders away. One autistic symptom I’ve managed to completely reduce is talking only about my interests and not notice when people weren’t interested. I wish I could have that back. My trick is now to surround myself around people who have the same interests as me.
Introversion is like my default programming and as I’ve mentioned I had it taken away when I went on Ritalin. I became extroverted and I still at times can become temporarily extroverted. I know what it’s like to want to seek anybody out to talk to or just be around them. Some nights at home alone were painful because I just wanted to hang out with people. For the most part though I can be alone for hours and not miss a single soul. In my current living arrangements I’m not always able to be alone so I really yearn for that moment when I am.
Lately though the extroverts have outnumbered the introverts in this house and I’ve kind of felt like I’ve got pressure on me to talk more and not just that – to change to what seems normal to them. Introverts may want people to change for the better but we can still be content if people just stay the same. If it’s really something that’s annoying us we can confront people about it but we really rather not. Remember, I am speaking from the perspective of an autistic introvert so not all will agree with my interpretation of an introvert.
Introverts and extroverts are almost like two different species and are each annoyed by each other’s differences, but we need to remember that extroverts can’t help being outgoing just like introverts can’t help being quiet and staying at home but that doesn’t mean that we should allow them to change us. Extroverts can seem like they’re trying to control you but you just need to let them know that you’re introverted and will stay that way. It’s who you are naturally and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Introverts can give just as much to society as extroverts can. We ought to tolerate each other’s differences more, because it those differences that make us interesting. If we were all outgoing and chatty I’m sure we’d get bored with nothing new happening and if we were all quiet and stayed at home then we’d never meet each other. And I’ve tried to make a quiet friend – it is very hard. The person did come off as disinterested to me and that’s how some people see shy and quiet people. I’ve probably been seen that way many times. Once a housemate’s son came over to the house and in greeting offered his hand but I didn’t shake it. I’m not used to such a thing so didn’t expect it and couldn’t just do it once I realised that was required of me.
These past three years I have been really pushing my social skills development and taking any opportunity to practice what I’ve learned on people, or just taken another opportunity to pick up some more tips from them. When I went out to see bands I would try and meet them after a show and spit out whatever words I could. There was one band member in particular that I was so desperate to meet and talk to but I never got the chance so I would always say ‘next time I will do it, I will push myself right out of my comfort zone just to do it.’ But now it doesn’t seem that important to me. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won’t – but who really cares? I’ve stopped obsessing about it and stopped trying to act as normal and social as him just so we could better get along. I hope no one is offended by my use of the word ‘normal’ – to me normal is average and average is boring, uninspired, unoriginal and other things I’m not. I still think that musician is pretty cool though.
For so long I have tried to go against the grain of who I naturally am. I’ve pushed this brain so hard to be good at maths, to play a musical instrument and other things that I just don’t have the skills for. But I do have other skills and so all my time will be spent on pursuing work in that area than in an area my brain really has no clue about or passion for. Even the social skills learning is starting to feel like a futile effort; for every new skill I learn there’s one other thing I’m confused by, or accidental offend people about or just had no idea of the existence of. Maybe I won’t push myself as hard and accept the fact that I am autistic and will always struggle in this way. As long as I try to be polite and helpful then people should understand I’m not using my autism as a crutch.
As for the extroverted part of me, yeah, I’ll embrace it when it comes as long as I remember who I am the majority of the time: a quiet but deep reflector who seems to accept things as they come but is not afraid to stand up for herself once in a while, especially when it comes to people trying to push me out of my shell. No, I quite like my shell. Leave me be.