I keep meaning, wanting and in truth, NEEDING to write about being highly sensitive but never seem to get there. I don’t know if I should explain it all first while my other thoughts disappear, or if I should just start somewhere and let you fill in the blanks. It’s been pressing on me lately, that I need to share all this that’s swirling through my head. So after some encouragement from twitter (thanks guys), I just figured it’s better to start somewhere than to not start at all. Hopefully you’ll keep reading and I’ll put some of these pieces together for you as I go. (Side note: I would LOVE to hear your experiences and your questions – so please! Email! Comment!)
This might be the first post on being what is called a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP), but it sure as hell won’t be the last.
There are a few things that I’ve really become aware of as I’ve started accepting the fact that I’m highly sensitive. It’s been helpful on one hand to understand parts of myself and be aware of them and yet still a little frustrating to feel so unique and ‘delicate’ at times. The best days are when I can just accept that this is who I am and work WITH these things. On the days when I fight it? When I get frustrated by being wound up or fighting back against the fact that I need some peace and quiet? Those days are awful. I suppose fighting your nature in general is a shitty thing in general.
When I’m spinning over what to eat for lunch and I start explaining ALL THE THINGS that I’m thinking surrounding that decision (much like some insane brainstorming web of hell), I watch the person’s eyes glaze over and realize – they aren’t thinking the same thing. For some reason this realization really shocked me! I realized that I’ve been going through life, frustrated that no one understood, when why the hell WOULD they? They might think about what they feel like eating, what’s closest or quickest. I’m thinking about whether some type of Asian food would FEEL good. How much will it cost? Where is it located? Will it be stressful to get there? Maybe tough to park? Do I feel like warm food or cold food? Is the menu huge and will it take forever for me to decide and narrow down? Do they have food I like to eat? Will I try something new? Is it a dark restaurant and I want sun? Is it busy at this time and will I have to wait? Can we afford it? Am I dressed appropriately? And on. And on. And on. One of the first and biggest things that I’ve realized is – not EVERYONE thinks this way. It seems like such a normal thing to say, but it really does change how I communicate.
I have always just figured that EVERYONE is thinking that very same way and only recently have I realized that they really, really are not. It isn’t ‘normal’ to spin SO much over what to have for lunch or other, similarly mundane things. I don’t always spin like that, but it’s a decent example of what seems like such a simple decision, but one that can spin me up into a tizzy and then freeze me in what SEEMS like indecision. So, I have started trying to outline what is in my head in that stressful moment. Let someone in so they can hear it. It’s been really freeing to realize that they aren’t just not giving a shit about my feelings, but that they truly do not understand the complexity of things that are going on inside me. Letting someone into that inner monologue has helped to communicate, express what I’m feeling and to get help in the end.
I have also started to notice, be aware of and work with the fact that as an HSP, I simply get easily over stimulated. One of the biggest things about those that are highly sensitive is that while something is moderately stimulating to most people, that same thing can sometimes be positively frazzling to an HSP. It can often happen in an instant. One moment you’re completely fine in the shopping mall, having a good time – the next moment? You’re crumbling. Crashing. Something didn’t fit right, there were too many people maybe, lots of jostling or loud music. It all was adding up on you without you realizing and suddenly it was too much and you just can’t make a decision, feel wound up and you’re just out of it.
I used to get so frustrated at myself for getting that way, translating it as pure indecisiveness or hypoglycemia, but now I have come to realize it was just too much stimulation. In the last couple weeks, I have been learning to stop and think about an event or outing and really critically think about whether it is too much stress or might be. I’ve gone to the mall twice now and walked out as soon as I started to feel like I was pulled in too many directions with too many choices. I COULD have gone to just ONE more store – but I didn’t and it saved me.
It’s been an insanely important realization and that step of pausing and thinking about what I’m doing has really saved me in a few situations. I have felt PROUD of myself when I’ve been so self aware. Instead of hating myself for being so sensitive, so delicate, I’ve just tried really hard to be aware and work with what I’m feeling and how I respond. It’s not easy and I still melt down regularly, but to feel more in control has done wonders for my self confidence and my heart.
The nasty side to this is that I’ve always felt like no one has understood me. I’ve felt like a burden to those I love and have found it tough to keep good friends often because the truth is? I got hurt too easily and would back away. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did and couldn’t explain it. Half the time it may not have even crossed their minds that I got hurt and now that I’m realizing this, I’m slowly, very slowly starting to re-frame parts of my past with this new knowledge. Not everything was my fault. I didn’t fail as often as I thought. I just didn’t know how to succeed yet.
This has become quite the ramble, but I suspect that they will be like this for a while as I capture my thoughts about myself. If I can help one person understand, one person realize who they are and thrive, one parent or sister to help their sensitive family member…it’ll be worth it. I’ve found it so hard to find people talking about being an HSP from a day to day standpoint. There are articles on how to thrive, scholarly studies on the sensitivity trait itself – but what about people fumbling through it themselves? Maybe I’ll fill that void just a little bit with these words.
Thanks for sticking with me so far. It means the world to me.