INFPs and Work-Related Stress

infp girl.jpg

Well, I think—I think—I may just have perhaps over the last week induced a fever through work-related stress.

Yes. An actual fever. A low-grade one of 37.5°C (99.5 °F), to be exact.

I mean, I knew I was wildly stressed-out; after all, not only did the job  entail plenty of draining chit-chat in the form of customer service, but it was also quite physically strenuous, as I was on my feet all day, with only one break in-between, walking around the store. I knew, as the weeks passed, that my stress levels were building. That I was pushing myself too far. That dealing with people non-stop, day after day, would take its slow, but terrible toll, on me, especially wrangling with less-than-polite and sometimes downright sweetly-mean customers.

The signs of stress started off innocently enough. A painful pimple here and there, which I put a little cream on and hoped would go away. Some small, devilish canker sores on the inside of my mouth. Then things started to upgrade themselves, and I woke up one morning with a searing, throbbing pain on either side of the back of my mouth, and discovered my gums had swollen there, become red and painful and inflamed.

By the next sunrise, the fever came on, and I found myself bedridden and calling in sick for work, my body aching all over and a headache pounding at my temples like a hammer.

That was Wednesday. It’s Saturday now, and I have finally recovered enough to be able to sit at my laptop (after buying an extendable keyboard, since the letter “t” has stopped malfunctioning on the laptop’s keyboard) and write. I still feel pretty bad, to be honest—my gums are still swollen and painful enough for me to feel as though my body is quietly torturing me, and I still feel a little shivery—but the need to write came upon me like an insatiable urge, and I had to do it.

Look, let me just say it: INFPs are fragile creatures. What I just wrote about is a clear example of just how delicate people like us can be. And I’m not the only one. Lots of INFPs I’ve read about, or who have reached out to me through this blog, suffer from career dissatisfaction and unbearable, work-related stress because of our gentle personalities and fragile souls. That’s a fact.

We are not as strong as other people, not mentally or physically. And by physically, I mean our constitutions, our immune systems. We are soft, and sensitive. Stress can strike us down just as bad as any virus, and a spiteful word or look is enough to cut us to the bone, or make us feel physically sick. There’s simply no way of getting around it—trust me, I’ve tried.

Actually, you know what, I don’t think I’m making it clear just how fragile a lot of INFPs are. Sure, we have our books, our big, powerful imaginations, but all of that is spiritual, cerebral. Everything else that makes up a human being, in us, is soft and delicate beyond belief. Fear of the meaninglessness of life is enough to exhaust us. In case that still isn’t clear enough—if we just spend too much time thinking about life and death, we get tired. Our souls get tired. Our will to live, and be happy and animated, shrinks. As a highly sensitive person on top of that, places like brightly-lit shopping centres or loud and busy roads add extra stress, bombarding my senses until I want to just curl up under some blankets somewhere and hide, and lose myself in a daydream.

A quiet, simple and slow life is the healthiest life for us to lead. I, for one, when allowed to at my own pace, take everything simply, slowly and quietly. I do not type these words with the crazed fervor of someone struck by the creative muse—in fact, even when struck by the muse, which happens rarely, I still type at a relatively steady pace. When left to my own ends, I am the tortoise, plodding and slow, gentle and soft, in everything I do. Wolfing down food too fast makes me feel ill. Too much high-intensity cardio exercise contributes to stress build-up in my body (which is why I always jog for short intervals, never run at high-intensity for a long period of time). Sunlight after a bad or average night’s sleep is horrific, which is why I much prefer the night, and rainy or cloudy days. I don’t race through books. I read them slowly, savouring the words, sometimes re-reading sentences because they’re just so pretty. I am quite skinny, pale, and perpetually absent-minded.

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Whereas the modern workplace? Bright, artificial lights. Loud voices, raised in chatter and talk. Constant verbal communication, and, if you’re working in customer service like I am at the moment, never-ending false cheeriness. Physically strenuous marching up and down the store, to tackle customers, move from one display shelf to the next. Long hours spent standing on my feet at the cash register. No-one there understands me, so I have to employ my acting skills and pretend I am talkative and robust just like the other employees or run the risk of being told by my boss to “to put in more effort”. Really, if it wasn’t for the money, I would have tossed in the towel long ago. Probably my first week. But I gritted my teeth and stuck with it—I needed to help cover living expenses, and pay for upcoming nursing school fees—and sort of muddled through the whole thing in a kind of painful daze, and then everything just blew up and I found myself lying in bed, feeling like a corpse, and staring at the ceiling.

Am I going to go back to that job after I’m better? Yes. Probably. I don’t know. For a while, I was on government benefits, but that was a pittance, and getting the money involved applying for job after job, engaging in interview after interview, and it was simply not a good way to live for the long-term. I don’t think anyone would want to live on government benefits for an extended period of time. Not only is the money not enough to cover basic needs, not to even mention school fees or supplies, but you feel rotten while you’re on it, with the sense that the government is breathing down your back everyday, nudging you to be a good, hard-working citizen like everyone else, you lazy “dole bludger”. I want to contribute to society like everyone else.

It’s just difficult to find a proper job suitable for people like me, INFPs, that allows us to be both compensated for work and not severely taxed by the requirements of the position.

I am seriously re-thinking my long-term goal of becoming a mental health nurse. At the very least, if I do continue pursuing that path, I can only work part-time. After this job, at a busy pharmacy in a customer service role, I have become all too aware of my limits.

Which brings me to the question: what should I do with my life? How should I earn a living, when all I really like to do is daydream, write and read?

Obviously, being a professional writer comes to mind, but that’s out of the question for now—I’m still writing, but none of the books I’ve sent out have received any replies from publishers. As for this blog, well, while it has built itself up over the years, traffic isn’t high enough for me to warrant buying a domain name and getting any money from advertisements.

I did consider starting a Patreon for my blog, dreamerrambling.wordpress.com, so that people can choose to donate, if they want, for each blog post I put out, even if it’s just a dollar. To somehow try and become self-employed, through the expertise and knowledge I have accumulated over the years about the INFP personality, based on research, personal experience, writing on this blog, and talking to other INFPs. In my imagination, I fancy myself a kind of INFP guru, or fairy godmother, who whisks a magical wand and—writes about secrets inside the hearts of INFPs, the daydreams, the struggles and tears, the love and joy.

These are all possibilities, Tenuous ones, I must admit, because I don’t know if I have the readership to do such a thing, or if anyone would be interested at all in donating or supporting my blog posts. Or how exactly to go about offering services—maybe advice columns?—that would be enough to create my own business and become self-employed. Really, I have no experience in anything of the sort, and kind of find myself expecting it to fall over on its face if I try, like a puppy taking its first steps.

In the end, as with everything in life, and in the healthiest possible way for INFPs, I will take it slow, and steady. I will be quiet, and gentle about things, as I naturally am, and we will see what comes of it. I hope you are all in good health, and doing much better in your lives than I am.

—Dreamerrambling