Okay, okay—for all of you who opened this up with shock and awe, and the word “sinner” came to mind, take a deep breath and relax. I’m not talking about that kind of hangover. Now that I’ve disappointed and lost about a third of you, let’s continue…. This is the kind of hangover only a minority of people understand or experience. I’m talking about the relentless headache, inability to concentrate, progressive irritability, severe exhaustion, muscle-tensing, stomach-churning, anxiety-ridden, self-silencing, extreme desire to be completely and utterly alone that an introvert experiences after they have “extroverted” too hard. This is the “introverted hangover.” And it is agonizing.
We’ve probably lost another third around this point—all extroverts. That means I am probably left with a handful of introverts, who are nodding their heads in agreement to the intense reality of this hangover, and a few straggling extroverts, who are wondering if this may explain why I or another introvert they know acts so weird sometimes. While I probably can’t explain all the eccentricities of myself or anyone else away, I can shed some light on this all-too-familiar topic.
I am actually working through one of my worst hangovers to date at this very moment. What’s worse, I saw it coming. I knew it would happen eventually. Months ago, I looked ahead at my calendar and felt the anxiety building up inside of me as I flipped through the months. Nearly every little square box on my phone’s calendar was illuminated with a color coding of some sort to alert me to events happening on those days. My breathing quickened, and my hands felt shaky as I added yet another necessary task to an already rainbow-colored day. Now, I completely understand that for most people, this doesn’t seem like a big deal—I’m filling out my calendar, not buying a house. But for me, seeing my calendar fill up makes me that more cognizant of the fact that I will probably not be getting that all-important “me time” that my body and brain require of me to recharge.
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with family and friends, and most of the time, I thoroughly enjoy myself. But when I’m already running on empty, it’s a hard pill to swallow that I may just run myself to breakdown. What I dread even more than the hangover itself, though, is the person I am during it; I am grouchy, short-tempered, annoyed by everything, and generally, not very nice. I can say this is a side of myself I genuinely hate and, try as I might, I can’t seem to fight it when I am to this point. That may sound like an excuse—trust me, I wish I had one—but the truth is, I saw the needle on the gas gauge falling and didn’t take enough care of myself to prevent the breakdown.
This past summer, I foresaw the inevitable hangover my schedule was progressing towards and knew I had to do something. We had been going full-force all break. The schedule was jam-packed for nearly the entire month of July, and as it was coming to a close, we hosted my son’s 7th birthday party at our home. The week following was just as busy and was ending with us leaving for vacation with my husband’s family. I love my in-laws—okay, like, LOVE them. I genuinely enjoy spending time together as a family. We all have a great time whenever we are together, and I knew it was going to be a great week.
But I also knew that no matter how much I love them, 12 people (half being under the age of 10) living under one roof for an entire week would be enough to make any introvert panic. I was mostly worried that my already-drained self would slip into the hangover stage during that week where I became that oh-so-pleasant version of myself. I needed a game plan if I had any hope of saving myself, and everyone else, from that misery. So, my husband and I strategized. Every morning, without fail, I would get up and go for a run. Thirty minutes of complete solitude to energize myself for a day of extreme extroverting. During my runs, I prayed, I worshipped (silently in my head, of course), and spent time reflecting. It was amazing and just what I needed. That week turned out to be one of the best and most memorable vacations of my life.
You’d have thought after that vacation, I’d have figured out the secret to keeping my tank filled up. But here I am again, right back at that big red “E.” I think too often, we feel pushed to just go with the flow and be like most of the world. We feel selfish for taking time out of our day to just be alone. We tell ourselves to suck it up and that we can handle it. When, in reality, we will break down eventually if we aren’t careful.
Instead of trying to putter through this most recent hangover on my own, I decided to follow what the Bible tells me in Matthew 11:28:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
When I looked closer at the Word of God and the example set forth by Jesus Christ, I discovered something I had never noticed before. See, I’ve always slightly felt that being introverted meant there was something wrong with the way I was wired. I tell myself there’s nothing wrong with being different than nearly everyone I know, but fighting the feeling proves much more difficult. However, in turning to the Word of God, I have found Scripture to repeatedly confirm that there is nothing abnormal with solitude, reflection, and the “me time” I hold so dear to revive myself. Even Jesus took time to be alone.
Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God.
Matthew 14:13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
John 7:10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.
However, I found that Scripture is also flooded with examples of Christ’s extroverted-ness. He was followed by multitudes and was the most relational being in history.
Luke 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus…
Mark 10:1 …Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Luke 8:45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
Matthew 8:1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.
So, what does that tell me? Is it normal to be introverted? Yes. Is it okay to be extroverted? Absolutely. But what it really speaks to me is that if my ultimate goal in this life is to grow more to Christ’s likeness, I need to be both. We all need to be both. Whether our flesh is fueled by one side more than the other, introverted or extroverted, our spirit needs us to balance both.
We need times of quiet solitude to pray, reflect, and meditate in order to connect with God. But we need occasions of social interaction, community, and companionship so that we can connect with people. And honestly, isn’t that what it’s all about? Connecting with God and connecting with people?
While knowing these facts may not protect my schedule from becoming bogged down by all the “people-y” activities, it does change my perspective. I am becoming more okay with guarding my “me time” and not allowing the guilt to creep in when I step away to refuel and avoid hitting empty. I am also pushing myself to find enjoyment in and anticipate the social activities on my calendar instead of dreading the draining. After all, what’s the point of filling up the tank if you’re not going to ride in the race?
Only by grace,