The Struggle of Being an Extrovert with MS
As I troll through social media, and the internet in general, I keep coming across articles and memes relating to introverts and how their “shyness” has an effect on their lives. This got me thinking about my own issues, which are actually the extreme opposite of that. I’ll say now, if you haven’t guessed, I’m not exactly an introvert. I crave being around people and expressing myself (for good or bad) in a public setting. To my many introverted friends, that may seem like a great problem to have, and I’ll admit, for much of my life, it’s been helpful. However, my years with multiple sclerosis have caught up to me. I am stuck at home much more often than I’d like and it’s become quite clear to me that a socially isolating disease like MS can be a special kind of hell for extroverts.
Being an extrovert
I’m someone who craves being around people, even if they’re strangers. I’m one of those annoying people that can (and will) talk to just about anyone, if given the chance. If you’re into the whole Myers-Briggs thing, I’ve been an ENTJ every time I’ve taken it, from high school through my adult years. I’m not saying I don’t need “me time” too because I do. However, I most certainly need time around people more.
The social effects of MS
Ideally, I’m not simply around people, I’m involved, talking with them, even leading the discussion (and trust me, I’ve got stories to tell). It took me a long time to figure out how important this was to me. In fact, it wasn’t until I was considered disabled and started spending most of my time home alone that I really figured it out. I now know that if I go long stretches without face-to-face human interaction, I get pretty down. Enough so that it becomes an MS trigger for me. It causes me stress, makes me emotional, and makes my life even more fatigue-and-pain-filled than normal.
Surviving as an extrovert with MS
Like everything with MS, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Not everyone is as extroverted as me, and even fewer people are disabled and stuck at home for long stretches like me. Also, not driving has made this a much bigger problem for me. It’s not easy for me to simply say, “OK, I’m gonna get out of the house.” Leaving my home is something that requires planning. Normally I rely on the generosity of others to provide me with rides.
Factoring rideshare services into my budget
Aside from that, as I live in an area with poor public transportation, I utilize ride services like Uber/Lyft to get to and fro. As a disabled person with a limited budget, I would often scoff at paying the price for such services, that is, until I realized just how important it is for me to get out of the house. I’ve now tried to work those services into my budget so that I get out of the house more.
Accepting help and getting out of the house more
I’ve also made an effort to accept rides from friends more often (as I’ve mentioned before, accepting help isn’t easy for me). Since making a great effort to get out more, I’ve generally felt better, physically and emotionally. It’s amazing how something as simple as getting to the library or to a happy hour, even once a week, can affect your life when you’re an extrovert.
Social interaction is important
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, I think social interaction is an important part of being a human being. For people like me, it’s obviously a bit more important, but I do believe that everyone can benefit from being around others more. If you have a chronic illness like MS, with so many other issues thrust upon us, it’s easy to lose focus of just how important social interaction is to our lives. You may be missing this interaction and not even realize it. So, I very much recommend taking a step back and figuring out just how often you get to interact with other human beings, in person. Whatever the answer is, is it really enough? Just as it’s important to step back and look at the efficacies of our therapies, diets, and medications, so too should we consider our level of social interaction. It’s more important than most of us realize.
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?