Depression as an Extrovert
I'm an ENFJ. For those of you not familiar with what that means, it's a personality code, and I happen to have the same one as Barack Obama. Future President alert??
Among the many things that each letter stands for, the one letter I'm focused on for the purpose of this post is the E. My E stands for Extrovert.
Now, as a Gemini and a naturally outgoing person, this diagnosis doesn't surprise me. For those of you that have known me just for 30 seconds, it shouldn't surprise you either. I consider myself the life of the party and the leader in professional and personal settings. Being an extrovert comes naturally to me.
What this personality code doesn't tell you, however, is that depression hides in the E diagnosis--- and it hides very well.
For most of my life, or as long as I can remember, I've had depression. My worst and most severe symptoms manifest as a lack of motivation and social anxiety. At my darkest, I refuse to be put in any situations that require me to try, even if that means talking to someone. I have missed birthdays and weddings because there are some days I just can't get out of bed. The problem is that no one would ever know unless I told them.
Extroverts naturally draw people to them. They start parties and stay until the end, laughing and making others laugh with them. They are the ones whose voice can be heard above everyone else's and they tend to make the decisions in a group or relationship setting. That person I just described couldn't possibly be depressed, right?
How many of us extroverts have been told by friends and family that "You're not depressed! You're always smiling and laughing and happy!"
See, that's the problem with the stigma that surrounds extroverts and depression in our society. What those of us facing these issues know all too well is the misunderstanding from those we love most and the lack of listening and support that we crave and need.
Depression is a beast. It is all consuming. Just because we are smiling and laughing and joking with you doesn't mean that it doesn't exist inside us. It's important that when we talk about depression, we do a few things:
Treat it with the same severity as you would a broken ankle or the flu. People with depression need time and healing to get back to their normal.
Just listen. You don't always need to offer solutions to the person going through depression symptoms. They likely just want someone to hear them
Don't assume someone isn't depressed because of their outward actions. As a rule of thumb, never assume anything about anyone, but definitely when it comes to mental illness. Slow down and stay in your lane.
For those of you extroverts living with depression, never ever stop taking time to be alone and to self-care. Without those pieces, you won't be able to find peace of mind when you need it most.
It's important that you remember that while your extroverted soul might want to do it's thing, you always need time to take care of yourself. Don't forget that.