Can Suffering Make You an Introvert?

Last weekend I posted this on my OTM Instagram and Facebook page:

This is the full text:

Once upon a time, I was an extrovert, but that feels like a distant memory. The change may have begun as a slow draining away as we dove into parenting kids with lots of trauma, but our accident was the final blow. I’m not the person I was before.

Maybe it’s grief, fear, sadness – I’m not sure. I’m so bad at small talk now. I could have died, and my daughter did – I have little use for shallow chatter.

But I love people. I pray more, think more, write more. I fight my enemies of worry and anxiety. I think this may be the new me – no longer an extrovert but still a lover of meaningful relationships.

I’ve been changed by trauma and grief – I think about it every day. I know God has me in the palm of His hand. Nothing in my life, my mind, or my heart surprises Him. My world feels smaller and quieter right now and that’s okay.


So many women reached out on my OTM FB page and Instagram to say they feel the same. As messages poured in, I was comforted to know I’m not alone – not by a long shot.

I also realize this is a significant issue for so many of us.

As many women said, they haven’t lost a child, but there is grief nonetheless as they’ve gone through seasons of suffering.

In our circles this suffering may have come as the family you once were disappeared in the wake of parenting children with early trauma.

Suffering requires us to reach deep into our souls, and for many of us, to fall desperately at the feet of Jesus. Pain and fear drive us to seek strength and comfort.

This costs us everything, leaving everyday life seeming trivial. Who can think about anything extra when it takes everything you’ve got to get out of bed and muster the courage to be the mom you want to be?

So many things fall away as your life is pared down to the essentials.

Which leaves me with the question of how this seems to have changed my personality. I used to love being with people and would choose going out for coffee with a friend before staying home alone any day.

Now I crave time alone. In part, it’s the nature of my work. I can’t write when lots of people are around, and when I can’t write, I don’t get my work done. But it’s more than that.

I would never have dreamed I would need (and want) so much time alone. I find it disconcerting sometimes – who am I?

Things I used to love like book group, supper club, and Bible study seem too hard now. I avoid going to the grocery store as long as possible and find it hard to answer phone calls. Thank the Lord for texting!

I still love having a friend or two over sometimes; I want deep conversations. I just don’t have energy for much else.

An added factor is that I now have quite a few adult kids and communicating with them is high on my priority list. When energy for people is limited, they need a lot of what I have.

A doctor told me that the average 45 year-old man has zero friends.

Zero.

I wonder how many real, authentic friends most mid-life women have? Or how many moms of kids from “hard places” have?

This post is more questions than answers. Do you wonder about this too?

Have you been changed by suffering? If you were an extrovert, do you wonder if you’re an introvert now?

Know that you are not alone, my friend. Fellow sufferers hold a special place in my heart.

I would love to hear from you. Will you leave a comment?

Have you downloaded Hope for Your Parenting Journey? I created this free guide to help you identify ways to regain hope and remember you’re a good mom, doing good work.

with love,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

24 Comments

  1. Janice Yoder
    August 27, 2018

    As one who is going through a season of loss and much change right now, it takes too much effort to reach out and do more than you absolutely have to. I tell myself it’s only for a season, it’s okay. Plus parenting children who were not born to me has it’s challenges. Then dealing with an emotional pre-teen daughter, who is my birth daughter. God is faithful to give wisdom if we ask. Our children see if we take life gracefully, or kick and rebel.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      Yes, take it a little at a time, day by day. I have to believe loss and suffering can draw us closer to Christ. We need him so much.

      Reply
  2. Jenn
    August 27, 2018

    Oh Lisa, this was perfect timing! I used to be such a “people person” that I never went anywhere alone. Now, after 3 years of watching my peaceful, easy family be scarred and worn down amid the struggles of adding a child with trauma, I am not who I was. I’m about to leave alone for a couple of days to be with the Lord and reset, and some of my family think I’ve lost my mind. They have no idea how much I need some solitude and peace, without the fear of it being interrupted at any moment….how much I just need to feel like I can breathe again.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      Jenn, I’m so glad you’re getting away. Time alone, quiet and space to think, is so helpful!

      Reply
  3. An Unwilling Introvert
    August 27, 2018

    After 10 years of crisis after crisis after crisis, I am definitely not the “always smiling, bubbly extrovert” that I once was. Grief and loss have changed me. I miss my past life; I miss the “big happy family”; I miss the fun and laughter that we were known for.

    I am lonely. I have never felt so alone . . . abandoned by our friends, our church family, and even our “adoption support group”. I am closer to the Lord. I know that He is the only one that I can depend on; the only one that loves me unconditionally; the only one that can give me the strength to make it through each new day.

    I, too, prefer being alone . . . yet at the same time crave the old friendships. I take vacations by myself, but wish that I had friends to camp with. I go to the coffee shop alone (just me and my computer) . . . but wish that I had friends to sit and chat with. Yet, I am no longer a “chatter”; conversations need to be deep and meaningful.

    I miss the adoption blog world that I used to be a part of (taken from me by unimaginable and vicious online stalking). I miss writing, but have no outlet since I had to shut down my online presence. I miss my speaking ministry (but that was my old extroverted self).

    I don’t like being an introvert; but have no idea how to get back into my extrovert world (a world that I miss so much).

    Reply
    1. Heather
      August 28, 2018

      I don’t know you, but we have lived almost identical lives. I could have written your comment word for word (except we were foster parents and not adoptive ones). The betrayed by “Christians” has actually been more painful to me than our actual 2 ENORMOUS trials.
      I once had more friends than I could keep up with, now…. I miss my past life. I hear you, you are not alone and you are loved by the most high God.
      I too am an introvert now, my family laughs at me saying it’s a phase and a personality can’t change. I love them to pieces but I disagree. I NEED to be alone. I crave alone time, I dread the grocery store, and people, and I never ever want to get to close to anyone new in church again. Ever.

      Reply
    2. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      Maybe it will be a slow process of healing and finding ourselves again? I don’t know the answer, but God does.

      Reply
  4. Shonni
    August 27, 2018

    Man! This post…you spoke my heart!! I had no idea other moms felt this way also.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      The response has been significant, Shonni. You (we) are not alone! Talk to you soon.

      Reply
    2. the Unwilling Introvert
      September 3, 2018

      Shonni . . . Oh how I have missed you! I am now “the Unwilling Introvert” who commented above. But, in my previous “always smiling, bubbly extrovert” life, my “big happy family” and I visited you on a family road trip. You are one of my blog friends that I miss dearly, and I think of you and your family often.

      Reply
  5. Moscow mom
    August 27, 2018

    I cannot say I was ever an extrovert. I think I am in the middle, half introvert, and half extrovert (that’s what a personality test said) 🙂 I am changed lately because of various circumstances. We are empty nesters our 4 children are living in different cities. Our house is very quiet. My buddies for activities were my daughters. I’ve found that I need close friends now more than ever, but that takes time and effort. One daughter has a serious health condition such that my thoughts have gone to the possibility of losing her. I
    I would say that I am fragile. I easily cry. Yes I am different now, but it has made me very sensitive to others in similar situations. I feel the Lord directing me to reach out to those who are lonely, left out etc. The Bible says to give your burdens to God. I think I have, but I am still fragile

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      These things do make our hearts fragile. I love that you feel led to reach out to others who may be lonely. God can always use our suffering.

      Reply
  6. Karen
    August 27, 2018

    Yes. People used to fuel me, now they drain me. I wonder if it’s the disappointments and grief that have put up walls, or if I am just so weary. But I too am now a reluctant introvert

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      Karen, I think fatigue impacts all of this, and sadness. I wonder what we’ll feel like a few years from now?

      Reply
  7. Sarah
    August 28, 2018

    Lisa,

    Just know that you are not alone. At age 25, I know loneliness all too well due to disability. God (and Jesus since that is your religious language) has you in his hand and is carrying you. Good luck my friend.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 28, 2018

      And you, Sarah, right in the palm of His hand.

      Reply
  8. Amy
    August 29, 2018

    WOW! You mean I am not the only one???! (Except I was never an extrovert to begin with, so I am that much more introverted.) Five years of this hard journey, and the hard part is not knowing how many more, until my challenging kids are on their own. How to survive when there is so much to do, and no time or money for running away to be alone. And our story has so many hard pieces as the result of older kids not wanting or accepting any help from us as parents. How do we provide for them, while protecting our other kids, our marriage and our sanity?? I know Jesus is faithful and still working, but just getting through today can be so hard. Thanks, Lisa!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 29, 2018

      I hear you, Amy! You are definitely not alone – our families are complex and have huge needs. We need to get beyond survival, which takes more creativity than we can muster up sometimes. Love to you!

      Reply
  9. Bev
    August 29, 2018

    There is definitely something about being in trauma that takes away your trust in other people, and your desire for group gathering. When in the midst of struggle, you need safety, and any chance of comments that will increase your pain can be enough to make you stay home. Although some see me as a people person, I recharge alone. Groups are draining. I do love ‘real’ conversation that involves a depth of sharing beyond small talk, and I have the kind of friendships where that happens, but I still need alone time to regain strength.

    The idea of trauma changing you from extrovert to introvert seems to be true for many kinds of trauma beyond the kinds we are most familiar with at this site. One of the most extroverted people I know now avoids people, withdrawing even from friends, because of a very different kind of trauma than the kinds I’ve lived. Betrayal can change things in such painful ways.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 29, 2018

      Bev, such great insights about safety in relationships. I completely agree. This is my first day with the kids in school and I love every moment of quiet – but I’m also meeting a close friend for an hour before picking up kids. It’s a good balance.

      Reply
  10. Joanne Peterson
    August 29, 2018

    Lisa, thank you for writing this post, it completely resonates with me. I also because I’m an older mom with our second of children who have been traumatized, etc. have just so much energy mentally, emotionally, and physically than I did the first round of family. (We’ve adopted grandchildren.) We also have health issues we didn’t have the first round of kids, and other situations that have been long standing. I long more for deep also, and understanding, and understanding laughter from joy and peace that surpasses understanding.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 29, 2018

      Joanne, I think being a later-in-life mom adds complexity as we have aging parents and adult kids/grandkids. Yes to joy and peace that passes understanding!

      Reply
  11. Mindy
    August 30, 2018

    I almost don’t know how to write anymore, through this suffering. I used to be bubbly, peppy, and full of joy, now, I’m struggling to get out of bed some mornings. The Bible reminds me my suffering is not in vain, and it’s Jesus who carries my burdens. Somehow my knowledge and my heart seem to struggle with this. Nonetheless, the struggle is what has drawn me deeper with Jesus. He is what gets me out of bed in the mornings. He is what helps me take one foot in front of the other. He is what I live for, not for myself or any of these other little people shuffling around me all day every day. I’m learning to enjoy the peace in the quieter places. To be satisfied in the living water that flows from the Word to the deepest parts of my soul. I’m learning that my only satisfaction will depend on the saving work of Jesus in my life. Sharing too much with many people has it’s downfalls too. A close friend, near and dear, one who will not judge, who will point you to Christ, who will pray fervently over your broken and weary soul…that’s the kind of people we need to search for. I have 1 of those friends for sure, and for that one dear friend I thank God for His mercy in this gift. They will fail us too, but the reminder for my heart every day is, “I’m never alone.” Introvert used to seem more lonely to me, now it’s seeming more like a place of rest. Blessings to all of you as you journey this road of suffering and sorrow, may your mourning turn into laughter and your sorrow into joy.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 30, 2018

      Yes, yes – I was just thinking today that it’s not a bad thing for me to feel introverted. For this season I’m just quieter and my life reflects that. I love so much of what you wrote, Mindy. I’m not angry with Jesus for all that has happened; I need Him even more.

      Reply

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