random, Random opinions, The life

Cave syndrome and being a massive introvert


It was sort of strange that I read recently introverts didn’t handle the isolation of the pandemic as well as extroverts. And really you’d think we would rock it because we adore our alone time.

But a recent study suggests the opposite, according to a Forbes article. The study, conducted by Virginia-based research consultancy, Greater Divide, surveyed 1,000 American adults and found that those who scored higher on the measure of extroversion were less likely to be experiencing mental health issues due to stay-at-home or quarantine measures.

EHealth

Some said it was because a lot of extroverts can have traits of optimism and resiliency. But more so they are prone to having extended social networks… and they found ways to Reach out to those extended social networks (think of all the zoom chats and game nights). Whereas introverts have much smaller social networks and are far less likely to reach out to them and so feel the full impact of isolation.

Cave Syndrome and being a massive introvert

I bring it up because this literally was not This introvert. Since I am disabled I have a crapton of resiliency. Hell, I could share half my resiliency and still have a crapton left to handle a little isolation. It didn’t bother me because with chronic pain and chronic illness I deal with a lot of isolation. A whole lot of weeks where I cannot do a thing let alone leave the house to socialize. I am very used to finding distractions in my own environment I am capable of doing, that give me some sense of fulfillment. And we saw many people during the pandemic try this as well when they tried new hobbies. But I have mastered the art of distractions to help me cope with pain.

I have mastered the art of many layered distractions. Of keeping to routines that are necessary even without established routines like work. And I have mastered the art of being Alone.

This is where the actual problem comes into play. I am very aware of how healthy having a social life is, even for introverts. And being chronically ill I maintained a modest social life because I am extremely aware of all the benefits it brings even if it requires a lot of effort to have it. I want to hang around with friends even though it takes a lot of pain management and energy management to achieve.

Clearly, when the pandemic happened it was easy for me to adapt to not having that since I have very limited social interactions and have an established routine at home to manage isolation.

Cave syndrome

And in enters ‘Cave Syndrome‘. This is not a technical psychological term but it refers to the anxiety and fear to return to normal society even when we are fully vaccinated. 49% of Americans stated they were uneasy adjusting back to in-person interactions.

I would put myself into that category. Because there are levels of isolation and mental retreating and alone time:

  • As an introvert, short durations of alone time make me feel great. I need it. I love it.
  • With a chronic illness at my level certain times of being unable to function outside of the house just happen. And it can be days to months. So you get used to large gaps of not socializing and just trying to rest and recover.
  • Necessary pandemic isolation longer than usual and I keenly understood I needed to maintain my mental health. I have depression which is treated but I am aware self-isolating behaviours are common for me when depressed and forced isolation is not cool for someone’s mental state with depression. So I made sure to do all the things I need to to maintain my mental health. Which I did.
  • And then there is a level of isolation where I become very, very Comfortable with it. I am extremely introverted. And I have established a lot of things in my routine to cope with having chronic pain and chronically ill to distract myself and have self-care. So I do More of those things. I get entrenched in routine. In my house for extremely long time frames. I am in Hermit Mode.

Hermit Mode

Once I’m in hermit mode and have this level of comfort with my own routine and being alone… well, it is insanely awkward around The People. My trait of shyness that rarely shows up as an adult, comes out a whole lot more again. I forget my coping strategy for being around people; my regular use of humour as a buffer.

And it is harder to force myself to get out and about because once Again I have to remind myself of the benefits even though it will cause more pain and exhausts me. That is hard headspace to encourage because it Causes More Pain and Exhausts Me. Even if it is good for me mentally and emotionally. Making myself socialize instead of Choosing to do so are two entirely different states of mind. I have to remember that I do enjoy myself with my friends when I am out and about, I just have to get back into a mindset that gets me out doing that again.

Not to mention my not-so-awesome immune system and risk factors mean I have to be more careful than other people than jumping into social gatherings– solo socializing sure, small vaccinated groups, yeah, maybe. But not gatherings of random people indoors. Not bars.

Then telling my brain I want to go socialize rather than reading that awesome book… tricky.

So I get this Cave Syndrome. And I have had it before. When I was working with chronic pain I had the same problem. I stopped socializing because I had to cut a lot of things out of my life in order to sustain work. Work increased my pain and fatigue. I needed ALL I had to endure that, I had nothing left for anything else. So just crashed when I got home. So my social life was nill.

That decade of hellish survival mode was a time of severe depression and self-isolation. When I started to slowly creep out of the house to socialize I did do what is recommended for Cave Syndrome. I did it in increments I was comfortable with. And so I will have to do the same again.

See more

Things to do in isolation during the pandemic
Poem: The year that never happened
Coronavirus isolation prep: How to be a hermit

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3 thoughts on “Cave syndrome and being a massive introvert”

  1. Hey, great post! Interesting how they say optimism and resiliency is more common in extroverts. As an extreme introvert, I tend to have these traits in pretty strong doses. But I also heard that introverts suffered a lot during the pandemic, because our batteries are constantly charging at home away from people and we don’t have much of anywhere to use it. I definitely missed events and concerts. 😦 Can’t wait for things to open up again. To be honest, my greatest periods of depression were when I wasn’t able to have the space and alone time I needed, so this was breeze in comparison to when I had to live with people.

    Like

    1. I definitely Need alone time. And all my hobbies or which I have more than a few, are solitary. But, yeah, I have loads of resiliency. We all develop resiliency in different ways so I don’t think this was accurate to say introverts had Less… when How we develop that depends on such diverse life factors.
      I can say we can socialize a little here with other vaccinated people and I feel weird about it. Like I have gotten back into that awkward mode and forgotten all my introvert conversation strategies. lmao

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes that’s so true, really. We’re all so different. LOL I can relate to that. At one point when I was traveling, I got so comfortable meeting new people and it was so normal to spend time with random people and try new things. Now I feel shy when a stranger approaches me to chat. I never thought I’d revert, but it happens after something like this. O.O

        Liked by 1 person

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