As a highly sensitive introvert and INFJ, I had to learn to connect to my own body and emotions in order to heal my depression.
First of all, if you’re going through depression, I am very sorry — and I believe you can get through this! Keep in mind that, although this article is written from an INFJ’s perspective, other personality types will relate to it as well.
I discovered I was an INFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, when I took an online MBTI assessment. Reading all the articles on this website about this rare personality type, I started crying: I am not alone! Like many INFJs, I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong, like I was the odd one out. I even thought I was crazy for a long time.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
Life has not been easy for me, and as a result, I got trapped in a severe depression for many years — dare I say I’ve even struggled with it for much of my life. As I’m writing this, I’m still going to therapy four days a week. The healing process takes time, especially for an INFJ like me who struggles to open up and often feels misunderstood.
Here’s what my INFJ battle with depression was like, and my path to healing.
My INFJ Battle With Depression
Let me start off by saying that depression is different for everyone, just like the healing process is. Even if you’re an introvert or share the same personality type as me, your experience may be different from mine (and that’s okay).
I’ve been going to therapy for over a year now. It took me more than six months to gain enough trust in my nurse and psychologist to open up… even just a little. At first, I couldn’t speak about how I felt, and even when asked directly, I could only talk about how others felt. Instead of telling the nurse about me, I gave her all the details of my observations of other people, because that was all I knew. I didn’t know how I should or could feel, being so in tune with other people’s emotions (which is typical for highly sensitive introverts and INFJs) but completely detached from my own.
This was a problem I’d struggled with for most of my life. I was stuck, not knowing whose emotions I was feeling: mine or those of everyone around me. Before therapy, I spiraled downward into a mayhem of emotions until it got so bad that I shut down completely and couldn’t feel a single thing anymore. Nothing got through to me, nothing could move me — and that’s a scary place to be, especially for an INFJ who is used to feeling so much.
Talking to people became overly stressful, as I was scared to give away how I felt broken inside. As a result, I closed off from others, pushing away even the few people who were closest to me. I was afraid that if I opened up about how I truly felt, I would end up being the cause of other people’s unhappiness — and I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
At work, I pretended like everything was fine, and I poured all that was left of me into being the best teacher possible for my students. At one point, my pupils were the only reason I kept holding on. Needless to say, I exhausted myself because I wanted to live up to other people’s expectations — or at least the expectations I thought they had of me. It pushed me to the point of having to take several weeks off work. Eventually, I had to quit my job because of my depression, and that was something that kept me awake at night. I felt immensely guilty for — what felt like — abandoning my pupils and colleagues.
At that point, I decided it was time to get professional help, if I ever wanted to get out of this extremely difficult situation.
My Road to Healing
Now, what does the healing process look like? The road to healing starts with opening up, but one of the most important ingredients is this: time.
Like many highly sensitive introverts, INFJs are very compassionate human beings, but we often forget to be compassionate to ourselves. It takes a lot of time to open up completely and heal, so if you’re an INFJ experiencing depression, please take all the time you need to gain trust in the professionals you’re working with.
From the start of your doctors visits or therapy sessions, it helps to be honest about your struggle to open up. What helped me was to write down everything I wanted to talk about in the session ahead of time, as I’m a better writer than speaker, like most introverts. Writing was my way of opening up. Letting someone else read my words was a big step out of my comfort zone already. Although it took me several months, I knew that sharing my writing with my therapist would be a big milestone in my healing process. And it was!
The Power of Connecting to Your Body
As INFJs, we’re very mindful of everything happening around us, but what I experienced during my depression was that I completely forgot about myself. I was mindful of my surroundings, but not mindful of myself. Through music and dance therapy, I learned how to listen to my own body and to feel a healthy connection to myself again.
When something was wrong, I learned to become aware of where in my body I felt the emotions bottling up (which for me is my stomach area). The next step was to accept those emotions and try not to push them away. (Here are more tips for INFJs to stop bottling up their emotions.)
Music was my biggest help in learning to accept my emotions, as it has always played a big part in my life, and is something I deeply enjoy. While listening to music, I sought that connection with myself, felt the emotions, accepted them, and just let things happen as the music continued to play. I let myself be carried away by my music, picturing my emotions as a big wave moving toward the shore. Once I reached the highest point of the wave, I let out my feelings, whether through crying, laughing, or even punching my pillow in anger… until the wave reached the shore and I felt at ease and calm again.
Of course, as an introvert, I preferred solitude during these moments. Showing strong emotions in front of others is complicated for me, as I am constantly overthinking and worrying about how my feelings might affect others.
Like many people, I put myself second, feeling like I’m always responsible for putting others in a good mood and cheering them up whenever I notice or sense something is wrong. Through dance therapy, I learned a technique called “authentic movement,” which helps me connect to myself. Authentic movement is a form of mindful movement between a mover who turns his or her attention inwardly and a witness who observes the mover and encourages self-awareness. Mostly done with eyes closed, the mover explores in movements and gestures, following his or her own impulses in the present moment.
Another thing that helps is thinking I can create a bubble around me that filters noises, emotions, visuals, etc. from affecting me too deeply, as I am very sensitive to those things. I close my eyes and turn inward until I find a safe spot within myself. Using that strength and my imagination, I create an imaginary bubble to shield me from various stimuli.
Sometimes I imagine a fierce wolf lives inside me. By feeding my inner wolf, I feel stronger than before, feeling like I can take on the world. Listening to music, sitting alone in a room, I close my eyes and pretend I am this wolf. This imaginary creature is a powerful animal, but still treats others with respect and compassion. Yet she is strong enough to set boundaries, and when someone doesn’t respect those, she shows her teeth and defends herself. Imagining myself as this wolf makes me feel stronger and more secure, and it gives me the courage to get out of my room and face the world.
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The Power of Self-Care
Helping other people and being very conscientious is a trait many INFJs share. In and of itself, it is a beautiful trait, but it can be overwhelming at times and difficult to deal with. That’s why it’s necessary to find a good balance between this trait and the self-care you deserve and need. Always remember that the right people will love you for being your extraordinary caring and authentic self. This thought might encourage you to look after yourself the way you look after others.
During my healing process, I discovered how important it is as an INFJ, an introvert, and a human being to practice self-care — and loads of it. I learned that it’s okay to take time to myself and do what I need and want to do — even if I need three times as much alone time as others to recharge. Most importantly, I’ve learned to see my highly sensitive and INFJ traits as a blessing, not a curse!
INFJ, if you’re struggling with depression, know that I understand what you’re going through. It’s not easy, and there will be dark moments, but through acceptance and support, you can get better. I believe you can!
Do you experience depression? What helps you? Let me know in the comments below.
Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?
Sensitive people have certain brain differences that make them more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there is a way to train your brain so you can navigate the challenges of sensitivity, access your gifts, and thrive in life. Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland will show you how in her popular online course, HSP Brain Training. As an Introvert, Dear reader, you can take 50% off the registration fee using the code INTROVERTDEAR. Click here to learn more.
You might like:
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- Here’s What Makes Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Personality Type Angry
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