Throughout high school, I really wasn't the most social person. I'd much rather spend my time sitting at home binge watching Netflix or reading a book, but occasionally my friends did convince me to go out and do things. Sometimes, that included going to parties. In my town, high school parties are pretty typical-there's a lot of people, loud music, and more often than not there's some form of alcohol being passed around. I've always been a quiet, well-behaved kid, so I wasn't drinking or getting into trouble at the parties. However, I always tried to have fun anyway because my friends were there with me, and I figured I did need to socialize a little more.
Upon arriving to the parties, I was always introduced to new people, pulled into random conversations, and separated from my friends at one point or another. I usually struggled to stay interested in what was going on around me, and at least act as if I was happy. I could stay at least halfway invested in conversation for a little while. But as the crowd grew and people got more excited around me, I just couldn't take it anymore. Usually, I would do whatever I could to get out of whatever room I was in, and slip away to somewhere quieter. I'd consider calling my mother to come pick me up, just for the sake of getting away from everyone.
If you’re an introvert like me, you already know what I’m talking about because you have probably experienced that feeling a lot. If you're more of an extrovert, you might have some trouble understanding this, but chances are you have a friend or two who often feel this way as well. Introverts tend to have limited energy available for socializing, unlike extroverts who seem to thrive off of it. When we are put into a situation that forces us to use up all of that energy and more, we hit a point where we start to feel extremely uncomfortable. For me, the simplest way to explain an introvert "hangover" is the overwhelming desire to be alone and "recharge".
Most people I've met don't understand what I'm going through when I feel this way. An introvert hangover is actually a pretty horrible thing to experience. Usually, I physically react to the social overstimulation. My head starts to hurt, I might get a stomach ache, and I often feel like I'm drowning, unable to breathe. I also have anxiety, so I'm used to the occasional panic attack, but somehow this feeling is different. All I want to do is leave wherever I am, go home, and be alone for a while.
Over time I've learned to leave myself the opportunity to be alone and "recharge" so to speak, but unfortunately that isn't always possible. When I really can’t get solitude when I need it, I start to panic more, and even my anxiety hits me full force. I start to think that maybe I really am no fun to be around, and wonder why I can't just be "normal" and like socializing the way everyone else does. It definitely doesn't help when other people notice my mood and start asking the typical questions. “Why are you being so quiet? Are you upset? Are you feeling alright?” Of course I'm not exactly okay, but I can't explain to them what's going on. And then I just feel worse for possibly ruining their nights, as well.
There is no "cure for an introvert "hangover" (trust me, I've tried to find it). The only way to feel better after so much social interaction is to have some solitude. What my friends and family often don't understand is that It’s not that I don’t want to be around them. I'd give anything to be more extroverted and actually enjoy going to parties often, or even just hanging out a lot. But sometimes I just need to be alone. I need time to readjust, recharge, and prepare for the next social thing.
Normally I don't need much time to "recharge". Often it only takes a little while; watching TV or putting headphones in and ignoring the world around me does wonders. But occasionally I need a lot more time, sometimes up to a day to start feeling like myself again. For example, I recently got back from a week long cruise to Bermuda. While my vacation was fun, I couldn't wait to get home and just be by myself for a while. But I ended up having work the day I got back, so I didn't have the time. Work felt like torture that day, and by the time I could finally be alone in my room, I felt physically sick. For a few days after that, I wanted nothing more than to be by myself, away from friends and even family for the majority of the time.
I've decided that the best way to avoid the "hangover" in the first place is to socialize in moderation. Obviously that's sometimes just not possible, like when I went on the cruise and every day was jam packed of social events. But I still try my best, making sure I don't go over what I know my limit is. If you're an introvert, just remember that it's not the end of the world. You can handle things because you're strong and smart. If you're an extrovert, try to be understanding of your introvert counterparts. We just need some time to ourselves sometimes, and it's definitely not your fault.