Three Things Being Quarantined Taught Me about Introverts

Learning is one of my superpowers. I enjoy discovering something new in this “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1: 9) world. I’m entering the fourth week of mandatory “stay at home” orders during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine and decided it’s time to share a few early lessons.

First off, I hope this quarantine will end on April 30. That would mean the number of new cases has stopped rising and the risk of new infections is less. And it would mean I can “move about the cabin” freely.

What is an Introvert?

It’s an urban legend that introverts are shy and don’t make eye contact when they meet people and scurry into a corner when introduced to a new setting.

I’m not a fan of the definition on my usual defining website either. It says an introvert (definition two and according to Psychology) is a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings (opposed to extrovert).

Nope. The wider more accepted definition is a person who is energized by being alone and is drained by interacting with too many people at one time. That’s me.

In light of that definition, a quarantine with my husband and three cats should be totally energizing, right?

That’s what I thought.

Why This Introvert Went Stir Crazy

This is what happened. It rained. So I couldn’t get outside.

Then it was Tuesday. I wanted to go to my bowling league, but that was cancelled because our members are conscientious citizens. This was actually the week before the order to “STAY HOME” came down from our governor.

Fine, but we’re still going to have church because our congregation is small, and we can practice social distancing.

But we didn’t.

There were no trips to the coffee shop with the ladies I meet the first Wednesday of the month. I couldn’t hold my newborn grandson. I had to wave from the porch to friends who were walking by the house.

Maybe it was the fact I couldn’t do the things I wanted. After all, that certainly rubbed me the wrong way as a teenager. But I thought I’d outgrown that tendency.

Truthfully, I’m not much of a digital correspondent. Texts are for quick messages not for connecting in a deep or meaningful way. And Zoom or Skype are fine in a pinch, but they didn’t fill the craving for human contact.

According to this Healthline article, we need eight hugs a day to maintain our emotional health. I’m really NOT a big hugger, but I started glomming on to my husband every other hour. The man thought I was going crazy.

I was. Stir crazy that is.

So what did all this teach me about being an introvert? Here are three things.

Three Things

1. Choice is Important

Most of the time, I choose to stay home. I have a few things I leave home to do each week – shopping, bowling, church services – but for the most part, I’m happy to be home with just a quick walk to the mailbox and a jaunt around the block to stretch my legs after lunch.

Staying home because I have to is like being grounded as a teenager. Most of the time, I happily cocooned myself in my room reading and writing, but occasionally my friends would have plans and I’d plot how I could escape the punishment or sell the event as something my mom would allow.

2. Interactions are Heartening

I’m thankful for technology. What would I have done without it? Certainly, I would have been irritable much sooner if I had to go three weeks without seeing my beautiful grandchildren and talking to my kids.

But chatting via electronics is not the same as being there. Those Facebook Live video services I watched for three Sundays gave me an excellent dose of truth, but they lacked the personalized interactions my heart craves.

Yes, the introvert doesn’t despise people. She wants to see who she wants to see in limited doses. (Sounds a bit like a cat, doesn’t it?)

3. Mandates Cause Claustrophobia

Then came the dawn of the face mask. At first, they told us only to wear one if you were infected. Why the sudden switch?

More rules? Isn’t it enough that I only leave my house to go grocery shopping once per week? Alright, I take daily walks when the weather permits, too, and that’s part of the permissible activities. As long as I maintain social distancing. The better the weather gets, the more difficult that becomes.

But now that someone has restricted when and where I can go, my lungs are tightening. It’s being locked in the closet by my older siblings all over again.

Let! Me! Out!

What things has this quarantine taught you about yourself?

5 thoughts on “Three Things Being Quarantined Taught Me about Introverts”

  1. I think there are two aspects to introversion/extroversion. One is what energizes/de-energizes you, and the other is how you process – all in your head or bouncing ideas off someone else.
    I am drained by people-contact but I need someone to talk to in order to think things through properly. I have a friend who is the complete opposite: does her processing entirely internally but goes stir-crazy if she is deprived of people for more than a couple of days.
    I had a great time for the first couple of days in lockdown, then there were the flurries of emails, online meetups etc. Very tiring! Even more tiring than chatting to people in person – and much less efficient.

    1. Deborah-
      Excellent point about needing to process things aloud. I do this too (which is one reason you might find me pacing the house and talking to myself) but I assumed that was because I’m an auditory learner. I know I can process things internally, too, but it depends on the depth of the problem. Do you know if there are any studies on this aspect of introversion/extroversion? I would be interested in learning more.
      Emails and virtual meetups weren’t efficient? (Laughs) I am still analyzing why I prefer in-person meetings (even for training and church services) over the virtual kind. This gives me something to think about.

      1. There was an article on the BBC News site today about why Zoom meetings are so tiring – so it’s not just you (or me)!

        I’m definitely a visual learner, but I need to talk through my ideas – though I sometimes do that on paper. I find ideas that stay head-bound tend to be forgettable or just plain unworkable (because, for example, my brain doesn’t feel a need to apply the actual laws of physics to my visual imaginings, which results in some rather unfortunate sewing projects).

        On a similar but related note, have you heard of aphantasia? It’s very interesting to find how differently people’s brains function, even if they’re producing the same results!

  2. I have realized how often we run to the store or go to town for something. It is after all only a few minutes away. Now we go shopping once a week. My husband goes to the post office only a couple of times a week instead of daily and chooses slow times aka before or after hours. If I didn’t go to work in the district meal program I would be stir crazy staying home. It has taken five weeks to rein myself in to my previous healthy lifestyle. To much time at home means lots of baking and cooking comfort food. I miss my regular coworkers and coaching my swim team !

    I have learned that I am not anywhere near ready to retire or go on an extended vacation. I have learned that I not only like to have my days scheduled but I need it! I feel fulfilled by my jobs and I need people interaction more than I realized! I realized that worshipping together in person is a huge part of my Sunday morning church experience. A virtual service is not a replacement.
    I realized that my husband and I make a great team and I am very thankful to be with him!

    I hope this ends soon but don’t want to go through it again with a second wave of new cases.

    1. Yes, we need other people. You’ve discovered you need to be involved in things outside the house. Virtual is not a replacement for anything, not in church or family, but it works for short-term stop-gap measures.

      Here’s hoping the restrictions will be lifted slowly but surely and we can head to the beach whenever we feel the urge.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.