Let me start with a fact: the image I chose to top this post is nightmare inducing. I hate crowds and avoid them like the plague. Yet, this is how I currently feel, day in and day out. And it is messing up with everything that I am in a very difficult way.
No, this is not a cry for help, for help I will continue to get (and will ask my family doctor to up my medication because this is what I need to feel better and I know it).
What it is is the depiction of my living my worst nightmare.
I am an introvert. Yes, I can function in society, but I’m clumsy and awkward and I know it. I am not sorry for that, because that’s who and what I am and it took me a long time to accept it. My closest friends know and respect that. I don’t see them often, but that’s because it is my choice, especially when there is work involved. Then I need time alone to regroup during the weekends.
That is: when I also have some time to be alone during my work days.
Many have talked about the mental toll that the pandemic has taken on people during the confinement, about how difficult it was for the social butterflies not to see anyone, how difficult it still is for social butterflies not to see many people or go to bars and coffee shops and the likes.
For me, the start of the confinement has been difficult, but for completely other reasons: money and paying the bills. Otherwise, it was complete heaven. I was alone, I did not have to socialise, and I could simply be me. I had books and a computer. That’s all I needed.
So why do I feel worse now that I am working full time? It has nothing to do with my job, because I love being a teacher, I love teaching, I love my class of first-graders (heck, I chose to take a contract for my own safety and because I wanted to stay with those 19 little ones), and I love the school I’m working at.
No. What stresses me out even more than the already stressful job I am doing (and if you’re not a teacher, you cannot understand the constant stress we are living under, which is increased by the current measures) is the fact that I can never be alone during a work day!
Yes, I did build my teaching task in a way that I arrive at work super early in the morning, but with three different schedules (one for each cycle, mine being the latest start and finish), even that means that I am not alone, even when I am working in my classroom.
Lunch time? Nope. The kids eat in the classroom so the staff room is full of socially distancing teachers. The restaurants and coffee shops are only open for takeout, which means that I cannot isolate somewhere with a book surrounded by strangers.
In short, despite being where and doing what I love, I am living my worst nightmare. Two months in, and it’s been taking its toll on me. The moment I arrive home on Friday night, I can barely muster the energy to eat supper and I collapse asleep. For the last two weeks, this means that between Friday supper time and Sunday afternoon, I average 14 hours of sleep per day. Yes, per day. I’ve gained weight, more so than the little I had gained during the confinement, because I have started eating my stress again, not to mention that I am often way too lazy to cook.
Right now, it’s Sunday mid-afternoon and I know that I still need to wash this week’s dishes. And I don’t feel like it. I have to do a couple more loads of laundry. And I don’t feel like it.
Where am I going with this? Only to say one thing: talk about the introverts also living a mental health nightmare. We may not talk about it, but we are also having our own issues.
I am also writing this to tell my fellow introverts being thrown into a world where there is no more alone time during a crowded day that you are not alone. We are many like you.