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An introvert gets an ultrasound

No, it’s not the start of a joke (though maybe it should be…).

Last Friday I went to urgent care to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot in my leg. Since Tuesday, I’d been having some weird pain in my calf and right above the knee that would not abate and became pretty severe on Friday morning. I still went to work but couldn’t concentrate well and finally left. Honestly, I think my concern here is warranted. My dad has had two instances of deep vein thrombosis, and given that even when it’s 80 degrees out, my hands still feel cold, I know I have poor circulation. Considering that not everyone has symptoms with DVT in the first place, and that the risk of pulmonary embolism runs fairly high, it’s best to get it checked out. Even if all the advice floating about on the Interwebz wasn’t enough, the first instance of my dad’s DVT was enough for me to conclude that 1) you don’t want to mess with blood clots and 2) if you suspect you have a blood clot, go get it checked out so that you hopefully don’t have to undergo a surgery in which a little balloon is inserted into your vein break up the clot because you’re in danger of having a pulmonary embolism, and even with successful surgery you’ll likely have to stay in the hospital for a week and 3) you don’t want to mess with blood clots.

So I went to urgent care. (In this case, “urgent” means “We’ll get you in a room an hour and a half after you arrive, and the doctor will see you half an hour after that.”) The doctor agreed that with my family history, it’d be best to get an ultrasound just in case. The ultrasound is where introversion comes in, because the tech (or was he the actual radiologist?) was the chatty type. As an introvert, I am not chatty when in a new situation.

I’m going to interrupt myself here to discuss a definition of introversion I find helpful. It comes from Susan Cain’s Quiet, which I’ve referenced previously. Cain states that while all people need stimulus of some sort, introverts tend to have stronger reactions to stimuli than extroverts. Ergo, to reach a “happy place” of stimulation, introverts require less stimulation than extroverts.  I’d previously heard introverts described as people who are able to recharge their own batteries, whereas extroverts are somewhat like parasites, because they recharge on other people. It made me laugh, but I suppose I ought to favor the definition that doesn’t make me equate roughly half of the population to tapeworms.

So: Introverts=people who react more strongly to stimuli. Got it? Okay. Back to where we were: I’m an introvert, not chatty in new situations, etc. Undergoing an ultrasound for a possible blood clot was a new situation. Heck, needing to rule out a blood clot in the first place was a new situation. My brain literally goes through more work in processing this stuff than an extrovert’s would.*

Anyway, I appreciate that the tech had a good bedside manner. I understand that talking to me about where to find the best chocolate cake is meant to serve as a distractor from him needing to check veins that are a little too uncomfortably close to my lady parts, and from the whole situation of Hey! We’re going to figure out whether you might be suffering from what could be a life-threatening condition! I get it. Same with the following:

Tech/radiologist: Do you use essential oils?

Me: (nonplussed, as I do use essential oils on a fairly regular basis, but coworkers never comment on it so I didn’t think it was noticeable) Um, I’ve got a bit of tea tree oil on.**

T/R: Oh, I thought I smelled something like that. A lot of people come in and use them, and I’m trying to learn about essential oils myself. So I usually try to ask about good brands that don’t dilute with mineral oil or something.

Me: (lengthy pause. New situation = overstimulation, remember. Takes time to process things.) Young Living’s a good brand.

T/R: (mumbles something that probably had words in it but what exactly I can’t remember)

I can see how this might have gone differently with an extrovert on the examining table:

Tech/radiologist: Do you use essential oils?

Extrovert: Why, yes, I am wearing some tea tree! What a strong olfactory sense you have!

T/R: Thanks! I’m actually learning about essential oils myself, and because a lot of people come in who use them, I like to try to get recommendations for brands that don’t dilute with mineral oils or something.

Extrovert: Ha, I easily understand your request for information that was not technically phrased as a request! I use Young Living myself, but also sometimes Mountain Rose Herbs, which tends to be a little less expensive but is still one hundred percent essential oils, not diluted at all. After you’re done scanning veins a that are uncomfortably close to my lady parts, and we’ve concluded whether I do or do not have a potentially life-threatening condition, I’d be happy to pass along the websites if you’re interested!

T/R: Huzzah!

Now, I don’t mean to denigrate extroverts. Like I said, I appreciate that this tech/radiologist did have a good bedside manner. And I didn’t really mind his questions; it’s just that, again, as an introvert I was getting overstimulated with all the New Things. And as introverts also tend to think about the future, whereas extroverts tend to think in the present, the following was running through my head (and it also helped to distract me from the a-little-too-close-to-my-lady-parts bit):

  • I need to get out of here in the next hour or so so I can go home and let my dog out.
  • Hmm, if I do have a blood clot, I probably won’t get out in the next hour. Well, Cassia can hold herself for a bit longer than that . . .
  • Wait, if I do have a blood clot, can I still be treated as an outpatient? I mean, it’d be caught early, right, and so they’d probably be able to give me drugs to help break up the clot, rather than having to do surgery or something, so I could still leave tonight, couldn’t I?
  • If I don’t have a blood clot, will insurance still cover the cost of the ultrasound? I think so. It’s a PPO, and they tend to be better about this sort of thing.
  • But what is it with insurance in this country? It’s awful. People should be rewarded for taking action with preventive care. Because supposing I do have a blood clot, but I let it go because I was worried about having to pay for the ultrasound myself. Then it wouldn’t have been found until late, and I could have to be hospitalized and it’d wind up costing the insurance company more than the stupid ultrasound would have been in the first place–
  • Oh, CRAP, if I’m hospitalized who will take care of my dog? Who will get her tonight? If someone has to go get her, my place looks pretty gross right now, what with the stacks of mail all over the table–

And meanwhile: “… brands that don’t dilute with mineral oils or something.” 

So I think one can see how it was a bit difficult for me to be immediately responsive. I had a lot of stuff to cycle back through to process what T/R was talking about. Again, I didn’t mind T/R’s questions. But introverted me would have been just fine with silence and the occasional, “Still doing okay?” (which the tech did ask in between the chocolate cake and essential oils discussions***).

I was perhaps also not as effusive as an extrovert might have been upon finding out that I do not have a possibly life-threatening condition. I was relieved, yes. I am truly happy that I won’t be writing a blog post called “An introvert undergoes surgery for deep vein thrombosis.”**** But my leg still hurt, and I wasn’t about to jump up and click my heels together. And you know what? That’s okay. Introversion is not a defect; it’s another way of being. Cheers on the inside are no less authentic than those outside.


*And lest readers think that being more reactive to stimuli is all-around a bad thing, do check out Quiet. Cain describes what she calls the “extrovert ideal” and details why it’s a fallacy. Introverts tend to be the innovators–if we’re given the space we need for innovation.

**I was thinking of the bit I’d applied to my face to help kill the tiny acne that wanted to sprout up, but realized later he probably smelled my deodorant, which has tea tree as an ingredient. I am now considering switching.

***Term used loosely, as it was really closer to a monologue than a true discussion.

****Or worse yet, “An introvert undergoes surgery for pulmonary embolism.” Shudder.

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