HSP? What is this thing you speak of? I get it, it’s okay. There are a million and one issues in this world, big and small, begging for your attention. And this is no more or no less important than whatever you’re thinking about right now..
..But it is a pretty big part of my world, in the way things like being a girl or needing oxygen are – you don’t notice those things about yourself 99% of the time, yet it still matters, and comes up now and then in your decision-making process during your day to day life…(Which toilet do I go to? Can I hold my breath for longer than 60 seconds?) And so it needs to be talked about. Right now.
Here goes – The HSP Story:
I’ve always felt a little different growing up. *Cue tiny violin.* But of course, having no insight into anyone else’s experience, I assumed my way of being was just the way things are for everyone else. But that obviously proved not to be the case – struggling to reconcile my sense of alienation with a deep desire for acceptance as an adolescent and teenager (I mean, there’s really nothing that a teenager wants more, right?) I took the path of least resistance: I learnt to hide my sensitivity, my awkward, too-astute or pointed observations about the truth or reality as I saw it, and just shut down the sensitive part of myself in order to blend in and to be as unobtrusive as possible. Because being different attracted attention – and attention tended to overwhelm and overstimulate me. (Not that I really knew what was going on then…)
Example of my burgeoning sensitivity: being cautious, and thinking about the consequences, or just plain thinking too far ahead as an HSP obviously spoiled my cool cred somewhat. Because spontaneity? Went right out the window.
For the same reason, I mostly disliked school and how it was structured – even though I did pretty well academically, I was either super bored and detached, going through the motions or just completely overwhelmed and exhausted by the 8 hours or so I had to spend around people every single day. I had eczema, felt depressed – and probably wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around – though I mostly managed to hide it pretty well, in hindsight.
Behold: my artistic interpretation of what it’s like to be an HSP.
I mostly continued operating in that mode beyond my teenage years, as it served me pretty well. But in my early twenties, I noticed that my sensitivity seemed to intensify. Bright lights, loud noises, sleeplessness and hunger irritated, overwhelmed and exhausted me greatly. And having just graduated from college, I felt adrift. But I just took it as a typical quarter-life crisis thing, and proceeded to try out a series of jobs to get a feel for what would suit me.
While each and every experience was beneficial (and probably a story in itself!), and led me to what I currently love doing, more importantly though, that period of time truly tested and brought to light my sensitivities: I realized I didn’t do well in a cubicle farm-type office, I could sense the energies of everyone around me, scratchy and as irritating as a wool sweater, grating on my nerves. I could no longer ignore my sensitivities.
Seeking relief, I found myself in my place of solace – yup, the library – and as luck would have it, picked up a copy of Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. And that was when the lights came on for me – for the first time, I read something that I felt truly described me to a T. I would love to say that all the pieces fell into place immediately, and I suddenly learned to embrace everything about me, but that really wasn’t the case – instead, it’s still a conscious choice to recognize it in myself and all the ways it affects my life every single day.
But it does come with some pretty good, but totally not-so-obvious perks…
To be continued!