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Thinking About Thinking

Until the chronic migraine took hold, I was very much an extrovert. I liked to be around people and I got energy from social settings. I was "outward facing". This wasn't a bad thing, for the most part. After all, I was a physician and my days were filled with interacting with other people.

Was I born an extrovert or was I raised an extrovert? I don't know. I suspect that it was some of both. When I was very young, I was rather shy. My parents are both extroverts and it overwhelmed me when I was elementary school aged and younger. My the time I was in middle school, though, I developed a stronger personality and started to imitate their personality traits. Some of my extroversion was "baked in" and was just waiting to come out, but some of it was learned behavior from watching how my parents and other adults interacted with the world.

I'm mostly an introvert now because of my illness. I still like to be around people, but it requires so much more effort. I'm no longer energized by social activity. Instead, it exhausts me. I've developed different behavioral patterns which have become ingrained enough that I think my personality has actually changed over the last several years.

Being an extrovert had some disadvantages. Since I was so focused on the outward world, I paid much more attention to what people thought of me. I was concerned about how I looked and how I acted. It's not a bad thing to be concerned with one's appearance and actions as long as that concern doesn't dominate one's thoughts. And I don't think it did. But, I was generally unaware of the fact that I did pay so much attention to my outward appearances.

As an extrovert, I also didn't spend much time on my inner life. Because I was an evangelical Christian, I tried to read my Bible and pray regularly, but I never got to it as often as I would have liked, and it was more of a peremptory act and not actual introspection and communion with God. My spiritual activities were more performance for God than activities for my own edification.

Now that I have chronic migraine, I spend much more time thinking about why I do things. I do pay attention to what I look like and how I act around people, but I think about why I want to look a certain way and act a certain way. I spend much more time these days working on my inner life. I read for fun as well as for personal and spiritual growth. I pray to communicate with God. I walk with Jesus every day (metaphorically, but sometimes literally).

Chronic migraine has forced me to deal with significant personality change. I like to think, though, that I could have become more introspective as I got older even if I did not become an actual introvert. It seems that even extroverts can develop their inner life more than I had developed mine by my mid-30s.

Just some thoughts on a Sunday night. What do you think?


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