I am an ENFP. According to Myers-Briggs personality tests, I am an extrovert, curious, emotional, a people-person, observant, and a good communicator. I feel others’ experiences and want to know every detail of how they came to be. I am burdened by rigid schedules and lists and tend to live in a state of organized chaos. I am a procrastinator. I am a true free spirit, or at least that is what I am expected to be as an ENFP.
Within the last few months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how cystic fibrosis has chipped away at certain aspects of my personality causing me to morph into someone I am innately not. Altering insignificant detail little by little, I have seen the transformation slowly creep upon me. I look in the mirror and think of the person I used to be, and I see undeniable differences between the two and then wonder what trait will be whittled at next.
The most obvious difference is the amount of time I spend alone now- something unnatural for an ENFP. I once was a person surrounded by people, ideas, and constant motion. Engulfed in various projects, clubs, and positions, my days were always spent “doing” and “experiencing”. Now, my days are focused on smaller but more time-consuming endeavors such as surviving the workday, taking care of myself, and prioritizing what needs to get done before the fatigue sets in. Social invitations are often turned down in order to rest, and yet, the world and its people continue to revolve without me. Comparatively, I am kept company by my other friends- IVs, breathing treatments, pills, and fatigue- that have long overstayed their welcome, and it is a continuous disagreement between my mind whining to go out and my body pleading to slow down.
For any ENFP, the fear of missing out and isolation is a difficult pill to swallow (CF puns, anyone?). However, self-awareness has become my redemption. I know I get lonely in the evenings doing my treatments, and so, the cat habitually joins me, Peter will lie in bed next to me and read because talking over the loud machines is difficult, I text or message my close friends, and I watch TV or write. I do things that I enjoy and that connect me in some distant way to my friends and family who are out there, and in my mind, dancing at some glamorous party that is catered by Chick Fil A. When I get the chance to enjoy social time with actual 3D people, I soak up each moment. I am present and engaged, and my heart is full for a significant amount of time after.
Apart from the amount of time I spend alone, the way my time is organized is different. I am tied to a schedule now, and my mind is a chorus of continuous mental alarms. You try taking 20 different medications a day, hours of vest therapy, and managing finicky blood sugar; you would need a strict schedule too. Naturally, I don’t thrive on a rigid schedule and it has been a humbling learning process for me over the last decade. My mom can attest to this and has numerous stories of middle school and high school Janeil not doing what she was told to do and when. My excuse back then: I wanted to be free. Even now, there are days when I walk over to the massive kitchen drawer (you know, the one meant for silverware and kitchen tools) filled with my daily medications, open it up, and just stare at it. I can feel my body wanting to shut the drawer, erase the responsibility from my mind, and walk away to pursue something else spontaneously, instead of doing another round of therapy or choking down another handful of pills. I also know that if I did this and ignored my schedule, I wouldn’t live. Weeks filled with schedules, lists, and mental alarms are a matter of life and death for me. So, I comply, sometimes begrudgingly and with an ungrateful heart.
This all sounds so discouraging and if I am being 100% honest (which I promised to be), sometimes it is. It isn’t easy to watch yourself morph into an unfamiliar version and accept it without loss. I know that because of these changes, I have been forced to grow as a person and I have been taught flexibility and adaptation. I have been given the opportunity to look inside and become self-aware to the point of knowing my God-given typology and the person I am forced to be in order to survive, while recognizing that those two people often do not match up. It is a continuous learning curve- a process, a failure, and a lesson learned- and I am thankful for grace and tomorrows so that I can get it right some days. Under the layers of CF, tiredness, and overwhelming responsibility, I know who I am: an ENFP who loves people, who enjoys moments, and who has become free in a different sense of the word. My hope is that I will be given the strength to continue to be her in spirit long after CF has taken over my shell.
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