I wish that is how all interactions with other human beings could begin. Would save me a helluva lot of pain.
This should’ve been my first post before writing more about myself and life. I have never actually discussed this with anyone other than the school counselor but the one or two people I have told did not seem surprised at all. If you know me, you probably already know am I an emotional being. Other commonly used terms to describe me are ‘oversensitive’, ‘weak’, ‘overemotional’ and my all time favorite ‘drama queen’. Strangers see me as fussy or completely crazy.
I promise to explain in full detail what this Highly Sensitive thing is and what it means to be one but first, I want to explain why I’ve never actually discussed this with anyone.
Well, first and foremost, I only confirmed it for myself this year. So I didn’t know. I took the test, read the book and knew without a doubt that this was describing me. Since I found out though, I’ve just been afraid that the people I tell won’t believe me or won’t understand. I also don’t want to come off like I’m trying to assert myself as superior in some way. A negative or condescending reaction, mostly from people who matter to me, would honestly be crushing so I’ve been afraid to take the risk. But finding out I am an HSP/ Empath really really changed my life and the way I see things for the better. And everything I’m going to write on this blog is influenced by my being HS, and will probably make more sense if you’re aware of that. Lastly, this has come to be something I am so proud and excited about and I just really want to share it! If I had been taught or talked to about this years ago, would’ve saved me much trouble so I’m not going to be silent. I’m curious to people’s reaction, the effect it might have on my relationships with my friends and maybe I’ll actually get to meet someone like me. I’ve only known two other HSPs in my life, one my teacher and the other my best friend, but I am unfortunately not with either of those beautiful people anymore.
If you happen to not believe me, or not agree with me, then I don’t actually care.( The courage that a computer screen as a shield provides is amazing!) Doesn’t change my reality but it would be interesting to hear others’ thoughts.
“What the hell are you on about Aidah?”
It is hard to understand if you’re not this way but let me explain what I know. I am not in any way claiming that one doesn’t experience any of these things because they are not HSP. I just believe the experience is a lot more intense when you are. Like all aspects of life are tuned into full volume. Also, do forgive all the moments where I sound vain, self absorbed or just plain whiny. I truly am not trying to portray any feelings of that sort. I know for a fact that I am in no way saint-like but still, all these emotions are coming from a place of truth. And I understand that a label does not explain or justify everything. It is not an excuse and there’s always many other factors in play (e.g puberty and possibly bpd :p). Lastly, there is A LOT of information that I am omitting here so if you’re confused or interested, I recommend you read the book, watch the video at the bottom or do more research online.
“Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) refers to people who process external and internal stimuli much more thoroughly due to a biological difference in their central nervous system. This provides greater insight and awareness, yet also consumes energy. Although everyone can refine their abilities, HSPs cannot simply turn off this trait anymore than someone else can turn it on. HSPs may notice higher than average awareness of and sensitivity to emotions, both their own and those of others. Their brains refine data into much more detail than other brains. It is a NATURAL trait occurring in about 15-20% of the population (they are born with it). HSPs tend to:
- Feel emotions often and deeply
- Be highly creative
- Process material to a deeper level
- Posses deep awareness of their own thoughts and condition.
- Be drawn to be of service to others
- Become more easily depressed or anxious due to processing things more deeply.
Other attributes are;
- Easily hurt or upset. An insult or unkind remark will affects us deeply
- We avoid conflicts because the negativity affects us so much
- Not able to shake off emotions easily. Once saddened, we cannot switch gears and “just forget about it.”
- Require more sleep than other people
- We feel deeply for others’ suffering and cannot bear weighty emotions because they drive to our core and stick with us afterwards.
- Being an HSW (Highly Sensitive Woman), you will pick up and process negative messages about women more deeply.
Famous HSPs include; Emily Dickenson, Princess Diana, Mozart, Gandhi, John Lennon and Picasso.”
So there you have it folks. But I want to translate those wise words of Dr Elaine Aaron (from her book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’) into my own terms and experience.
What does it feels like? Too much. You think too much, you feel too much, you love too much, and you break too much. You are always on a roller coaster of emotions, and you wonder at the people around you and their understanding when they tell you that you over think and you need to fix this up. It is actually ‘0 to 100 real quick’.
Lately, I am proud of this aspect of myself and I know there’s nothing wrong with me. I love the perks that come with it, like my creativity, ability to bond with people and my blissed out moments. I am capable of great self-improvement and personal development like few other people are, giving me possibilities to grow. I have developed deep, compassionate friendships because of my trait. I am able to see the beauty in small things about people and I am a good listener.
But don’t get me wrong…it is fucking painful. And quite tiring. When I’m sad, I’m really sad and I feel it throughout my body. Being highly sensitive can make life very challenging and some days I definitely wish I could turn it off.
First and foremost, I simply can’t let go of the past. Painful events that happened many years ago still exist deep within me and cause a lot of struggle in my everyday life, e.g. creating problems with trust in relationships. The struggle has much to do with lost or damaged relationships, relatives that judge me because I’m different, and dysfunctional parents who are “not there”. This can of course cause a great deal of pain for anyone, but especially if you are HSP, I believe.
I used to think I was broken and there was something wrong with me. During my brief stint in boarding school, I remember sitting on the swing in the kids’ playground one night, the unhappiness cutting deep at me. My matron asked me what was wrong and bursting into tears, I told her that I truly believed I was broken by all the things that happened to me. When I fell sick, I was so excited to go to hospital because I finally thought they would find what was wrong with me. I felt like my sensitivity was a weakness and I wished things didn’t bother me so much. I wished my emotions weren’t so obvious to other people and I wished I could let things go and not worry so much. I felt allergic to life, like I couldn’t be in the world like normal people. I felt like there was something truly wrong with me because I couldn’t handle social situations sometimes. Things like a breakup, misunderstanding with my mother, or fall out with my friend cut me deep to the soul and the pain never really goes away.
I get over-stimulated frequently by life. Things like intense school load or failure actually translate into emotional difficulty for me but I am learning to work with this aspect. Regardless, pre sure I cry ATLEAST once every week. Sometimes for no reason at all.
Because I am highly empathic, I take on the miseries of the world. My old best friend’s mother told me that there are few things in this life that I am not going to care about and boy was she right! I think it’s safe to say I don’t really know what indifference feels like. I am like a sponge, seeping in everything around me. As Elena Herdieckerhoff explained it in her TED Talk, The gentle power of highly sensitive people, “It is like being in constant osmosis with world around you, sensing and taking in every negative and happy emotion or scenario.”
I am vulnerable to others. When I have a “low period” it almost feels like I have no defence mechanism, no skin to the outside world or abilities to protect myself. I have had difficulties in romantic relationships, hearing that I take things too seriously and I am too attached. Not becoming attached is just not an option for me. Sadly, I never knew when to walk away and I would take all the blame to heart, actually being led to believe that my sensitivity is bad. I used to give 100% to people and felt like it didn’t even matter to them. Still feel that way, funnily enough.
I find it difficult to say no. Most times, I honestly cannot handle the thought of disappointing or hurting someone, even if my worry is unfounded and irrational. So I’ve found myself compromising my own comfort and preference, for another person who probably doesn’t even notice. This is something that I am still working on.
I am almost always out of synch with everyone around me. It feels like around 3/4 of people are the emotional equivalent of blind elephants, going around knocking things over, trampling each other and not even realising what they do. While most other people may keep wandering through life unaffected by things, I get overly attached, to the good and bad. This leads to awkwardness and disappointment, as well as feeling misunderstood or out of place. A lot of the time, I don’t know who to share my feelings with, because not everyone is as sensitive. I truly wish I had more friends who are HSP so that I can be at the same point with someone.
I absolutely cannot watch horror or action movies. 0 tolerance to torture and violence. But I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything here.
The cultural bias against sensitivity. This is without doubt the worst of them all. I spent all my life thinking there was something wrong with me mostly because I was led to believe so by everyone. From my own family, to my friends, boyfriends, and even complete strangers. The world simply does not favor HSPs and being a sensitive human on planet Earth is quite challenging because being conventionally tough and thick skinned is so highly celebrated. This is also prevalent in African culture, where women have to be the strong backbone and tears are purely for children, sickness and funerals. Hardly anyone teaches that it is okay to be sensitive in school or at home and that’s what annoyed me the most when I found out I am infact Highly Sensitive and it is an actual thing and it is okay!
There are many different things that one can do to become a more empowered HSP and heal the negative effects…but let’s face it…I’ve not yet gotten myself into the groove of doing all of them.
Somedays, I love being HSP. It makes life so full and in the beautiful words of one Quora user, “You don’t turn heads, you turn souls.”
But a lot of the days, it just hurts.
I’m going to drop a good old video here that beautifully explains the experience.
Here is another video that explains it well
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There are no expectations to meet. There are no requirements. You don’t have to know anything. You don’t have to figure it out.” – Aidah Kiirya 😉
SONG OF THE WEEK- Out of Love by Two Friends ft. Cosmos & Creature