Wednesday, 14 March 2018

How Being a Highly Sensitive Person Affects Me.

Ever since I was a kid I've been super sensitive. I never really understood why small things would play on my mind so much, why I felt so much empathy for people and things I'd never even met or knew, why loud noises made me jump so much, and why category 12A horror films made me cry so much and scarred me for life. My parents always used to say how psychologists would have a field day with me, and I always thought I was just a bit odd. Until I got some sort of answer for why I'm so sensitive.

It was a couple of years ago that a friend sent me an article about highly sensitive people, and was like 'this is you!'. And she was so right, every single thing was me, and it made me feel more normal to have an answer as to why I was like this! Apparently the medical term is 'Sensory Processing Sensitivity', which is when people have nervous systems that process stimuli more intensely.

So, I thought I'd just do more of a little 'lifestyle' post on how it affects me and what exactly goes on in my head at times. The thing is, Sensory Processing Sensitivity isn't a medical/psychological disorder that can be 'fixed', it's a personality trait that has to be accepted just like any other trait, and apparently up to 20% of the population have it! 

Personally I try and see the good side of my deep thinking and emotions - it makes me a better human, and it makes me a devoted and very loyal friend, partner, and family member. It does mean that I try to please everyone though, which sometimes means I spread myself to thinly. But, I'm a good listener, I genuinely care a lot, I'm great at showing empathy, and I think that's something to be proud of. Rather than seeing my sensitivity as a flaw, I see it as a strength and a superpower...I try and own my unique way of thinking as much as possible, even if I seems a bit crazy sometimes ;)

Warning: this post will make me sound completely and utterly mad. I PROMISE I'm normal *ahem*, I'm just super sensitive! 

I can't deal with horror films

Because of the amount of empathy I feel, when I watch horror films, or anything that involves violence and people being hurt/dying, I struggle massively! I literally spend the entire movie - and days after - thinking about the character as if they were a real person and thinking of how that death or violent act would affect their family and friends. My friends used to think I was crazy when I would cry on the floor of the cinema during horror films. It's been about 15 years since I first watched Thirteen Ghosts, and I will never wear sunglasses indoors because of that film. I've also never had a television in my bedroom because of The Ring. Oh, and then there was the time I vomited when watching Battle Royale, and fainted while watching Inglorious Basterds.

Loud noises make me jump and my heart skip a beat

Any time a door shuts unexpectedly, or someone walks behind me, or speaks to me from behind without me knowing they're there first, or any sort of noise that is a bit loud...I literally jump in fright, gasp in shock, and my heart skips a beat. My mum always used to say I had a 'nervous disposition' lol, it's actually just because I'm a HSP.

I'm the most forgiving person you'll ever meet

A few of my friends have pointed out over the years that I forgive too easily. The thing is, I think deeply and I think of the good times more than the bad. I think of the good aspects of that person and what they bring to my life, the happiness they've made me feel in the past, and even if they've done something awful to me, I can't help but forgive them because maybe they were going through something bad that made them lash out or be cruel to me? Everyone has bad days and makes mistakes, and am I really willing to let a friendship/relationship go just because of a couple of mistakes that person made?

I see the smallest little details that others don't notice

This happens a lot, but this is a really great recent example:

*Walk into Peter's mum's kitchen*
Me "Oh, those decorative black tiles have gone? And the counter-top is new!"
Peter "The counter-top is the same, it's just the tiles that have gone"
Me "Nah-uh, the counter-top is new"
Peter "Dad is the counter-top new?"
Peter's Dad "Yes, we changed it"
Peter "Oh"
Me "I told you so"
Peter "But you couldn't even see the counter top before underneath the tiles!"
Me "No, but the edge is different"

I also have this weird ability to feel when a room or house is haunted. My family and I once went to a nuclear bunker, and in the TV room I walked in and immediately felt like I was going to be sick. I can't even explain it but this overwhelming sense of there being something wrong with the room just hit me out of nowhere. I had to leave the room because I went all dizzy and faint, and one of the staff members told us that the room is where they used to torture people, and every so often they get someone who has the same reaction as I did.

Large crowds overwhelm me and I have to escape ASAP

This may seem crazy because I LOVE clubbing, but I actually regularly have to leave clubs when they get too busy as I can't deal with crowds. I'm that person who gets to a club as soon as it opens and leaves around 2am as soon as it gets too busy. As long as there's a small amount of space around me I'm fine, but as soon as I can't move and people are pushing, I literally feel suffocated and really overwhelmed so have to get out ASAP. Same with concerts - I had to leave in the middle of Jay-Z concert once because I couldn't deal with the crowds pushing and shoving. I'll happily have a great time and sing and dance and have fun, but when I have to leave, I HAVE to leave.

I feel too deeply

I feel way too deeply about absolutely everything. I've lost count of the amount of times people have told me I'm too sensitive and feel too deeply about something. For example I once accidentally broke a glass Christmas ornament and got REALLY upset because all I could think about was the deeper meaning behind it and the person who gave it to me. You actually have no idea how deep this goes (you'll find out below in the next point), which leads me nicely onto...

The empathy I feel for everything is overwhelming

Animals, insects, people, plants, food, things. You name it, I feel empathy for it. Sometimes I wonder how I'm not vegan. It's only since living in Australia that I've learnt to kill cockroaches and mosquitoes. You're probably wondering how on earth I feel empathy for plants and food?! Well. As a teenager I once cried because my friend picked a leaf off a tree and tore it up. My reasoning? "But a plant is a living thing! You hurt it when you tore it up and killed it!" I also cried when I couldn't keep my Mint plant alive and it died. I still feel guilty about it one year on.

And food? I've always had this thing where I can't leave 'one' thing of food, I'll either eat it, or I have to leave 'two' things so they're together and the one thing isn't alone. Also, I drive like 5mph from the motorway to my house at night because I'm SO terrified of hitting and killing a fox. London to Guildford? Takes me 40minutes. Driving from the Guildford turn-off 2 miles down the road to my house? 20minutes.


Music makes the my hairs stand on end

Certain music makes me cry, other music makes the hairs on my body stand on end, and other music makes me heart literally feel as though it's soaring. I don't know why. I always assumed this happened to everyone, but apparently only certain people get this?

I worry about other people's feelings too much

If I'm ever having an argument with someone (ya know, like a boy), I ALWAYS think of the other person's feelings rather than my own. I never put myself first and am always worried about how the other person feels and how my actions and words have affected (or will affect) them.

If I do ever say anything bad in the heat of the moment, I'll always be the first one to apologize because I literally spend every hour of every day afterwards feeling like the worst human being ever. Even words I said to people 10-15 years ago, or things I did, I still feel awful for saying/doing them and still think about it every so often. 

I often remove myself from a party for a couple of hours

My friends often make fun of me because I'm always the person to 'peak too soon' at a party. Aka, I usually have to remove myself after a few hours to have some alone time for an hour or so. A lot of people assume it's because I'm drunk, but it's actually because I just need some quiet and peace. I literally go to a quiet room in the house and have a nap or just lay on the bed and take some deep breaths to relax me before going back to the party.

Even at my own house parties, I often leave my guests when it's in full swing because I find myself really overwhelmed by the crowd of people and the noise. I just need some time out to relax myself, de-stress, and have some quiet time before heading back to the chaos. I've also been known to go to sleep at 3am at my own house parties, and allowed everyone else to stay and continue partying downstairs without me... lolz. One time I woke up and everyone was still there at 8am.

I cry over the smallest things

A beautiful piece of art? Tears. A song that makes me feel deeply? Tears. A film with a scene that is the slightest bit emotional? Tears. A beautiful poem? Tears. A beautiful building or church? Tears. Someone else's heartbreak? Tears. A dead animal in the road? Tears. (HELLO. WHAT ABOUT IT'S MUM OR PARTNER OR KIDS!)

When I was about 14 years old I once cried and got REALLY upset because we watched a caterpillar fall down a bottomless hole in the ground, and while I was trying to explain to my mum "but what about its family! It's mum won't know where it is, or what if it has children?!" she laughed and started singing the Circle of Life to me. Now every time anything like that happens and I start with my 'Oh no! What about it's..." my family still sing the Circle of Life at me...despite me being 26 years old.

If someone says something that *could* be a criticism...HA

Even if it isn't a criticism, and is just a careless comment or observation, I will take it as a criticism and over-think and over-analyse everything about it. It will play on my mind for days/weeks/months and I'll go into a spiral of self-doubt. Even if I'm driving and another car beeps their horn at me, I panic and think for hours about what I could have done wrong to make them beep at me. On the plus side, this often makes me determined to correct something I think could be the issue, which ultimately makes me better myself.

Likewise, someone else's mood can affect me massively

I'm really good at reading people, and if I can sense when someone's mood is off or different than usual, this can rub off on me. So if I can feel that someone is unhappy or pissed off, it makes me automatically assume it's my fault and because of something I've done...even though it isn't. I then go out of my way to try and right that wrong...when I've done no wrong. This sometimes drives people a bit crazy, especially if it's in a relationship scenario. 

Grief affects me super strongly 

I've experienced a lot of loss and grief throughout my life, and it's always affected me really badly. My feelings for everything and everyone are so deep that when I lose someone, even if they've had a small impact on my life, I struggle hugely with dealing with that loss.

I'm also really open when it comes to dealing with grief and feel much better when I talk about it. Which goes against everything that is British. British people find it awkward when people are emotional or having a hard time, so I feel like I have to internalize it all and I get locked in this circle of needing to talk but not feeling able to. I'm super lucky that I have a few friends who are amazing at dealing with me when I'm like this and say all the right things to me to allow me to feel comfortable getting it all out to them. Guys, if you're reading this, I love you so freaking much <3 

I'm sensitive to weird things 

Lights, smells, the feel of clothing, and temperature all affect me. Bright lights give me headaches, and if an item of clothing is just a teeny bit scratchy it drives me mad and I literally feel like I have to tear it off. I also get really creeped out and the hairs on my neck stand on end and I feel genuinely uncomfortable if someone invades my personal space and stands too close to me  or behind me (but I'm pretty sure this happens to most people!).

I'm also super sensitive to smells; I've vomited in Hampton Court Palace numerous times over the years because I find the smell of the tapestries there too overwhelming. I'm also really sensitive to temperature, and if I'm slightly too hot I get really panicky and restless and feel as thought I'm suffocating - I need to have some sort of fresh/cool air around me. Which is funny considering I live in Australia...

I can't do 'favourites' and making decisions is a struggle

When people ask me to choose a 'favourite' I can't do it, this is mainly because I think of every outcome and situation that that decision could impact. So if someone asked me my favourite colour, I would say, "Well sometimes it's blue because I love the ocean and blue sky, but then it's also sometimes yellow because yellow makes me happy, and then it's also red".

Likewise if someone asks me my favourite food, "Well it's lasagne because I never tire of eating it, but I also love cake - but what type of cake depends on how I feel that day, and then it's also guacamole when I feel like something lighter. But what if I get bored of guacamole or suddenly decide I don't like it? Then I've TOLD someone it's my I then tell them it's no longer my favourite months/years later so they don't tell someone 'oh guac is Catherine's fave food' when actually it isn't anymore?" 

Same with other decisions, it often takes me forever to choose a new laptop/camera/food in a restaurant, because I'm SO worried a decision will be the wrong decision. I have to research every little thing first (even in a restaurant, I weigh up everything from the ingredients used, to the freshness, where they're likely to be sourced from, what is the most likely thing that could give me food poisoning, what's the healthiest option, which item has the least sugar, have I eaten too much red meat already this week, is eating red meat another time going to increase my risk of bowel cancer, etc etc). 

Yes, being me is exhausting.

I love fiercely and am the most loyal person ever

But. Despite all the craziness going on in my brain 24/7, because I feel so deeply I love fiercely, and once you're friends with me I'm the most loyal person ever. The guilt I feel when I think I've let someone down is immense (I once threw champagne over a friend because I was so pissed off at something they said to me, and 3 years later I still think about it often), and I will do everything I can to apologize and make it up to them. 

Reading all this you're probably thinking, she runs away from crowds and parties, is this girl a secret introvert? Nah. I'm actually an extrovert. Usually 'HSP's' are introverts, but I'm one of the odd ones. I do need time out to be by myself sometimes though, but it's nowhere near as much as normal introverts. Also, despite what all the above might suggest, you really don't need to tread on eggshells around me. My closest and dearest friends and the ones I love the most are the ones who literally point blank say to me "I love you but you're being ridiculous about this" or "It doesn't really matter that much" or "Take a day to think about this and we'll talk about it tomorrow if it's still upsetting you". I need people to tell me abruptly when I'm being overly ridiculous, but also be understanding about WHY I react the way I do to certain things.

Yes I'm a bit cray cray, and my friends and family are all CHAMPIONS for putting up with me and my quirkiness and loving me anyway, despite the fact I might get all emosh if they say something even half-nice to me! As you can imagine, all of the above can sometimes make relationships tricky. I'm just hoping that some day I'll find someone who understands and appreciates my deep thinking and quirkiness (*ahem* craziness), and doesn't get scared off by my crazy intense ways of thinking.

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  1. We love you C1. And it's because you're you!

  2. Oh C, this post explains a lot for me too. I genuinely feel the same way about quite a few of the things you listed. I sometimes just at people coming out of lifts or walking around the corner, even though you expect them to, like you I just thought I was odd all this time...

  3. I could totally resonate with so much of this! Keep being you! Xx

  4. Ok, literally EVERYTHING you just talked about here is stuff that I experience too! I can't handle horror films at all, I consider other people's feelings in everything (even if they're being rude to me) and I regularly get overwhelmed by the 'too-muchness' of the world! I don't think I experience things quite as strongly as you do, but I've definitely felt like (and have been told that) I'm 'too sensitive'. But I agree that being this way means that I'm also really thoughtful and empathetic and always do my best to consider people's feelings.

    Thank you for sharing! I can 100% relate.

    Georgie xo

  5. No worries, SO glad I'm not the only one! It's such a weird thing, I just always assumed I was a weirdo until my friend found the article haha.

    C x

  6. Yeh you are definitely similar to me Aftab, haha. It's ok, we can be odd together!

    Miss you!!

    C x

  7. Love you guys too!! So excited to see you again in June!

    C x

  8. Hahaha, we are definitely very similar in our sensitivities! x

  9. I can relate to so much of this! I've always been emotionally sensitive but now get really irritated by crowds, overly-loud noise and extreme temperatures. Not great for living in a big city!


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