A few days ago I received an email from a lovely soul from the Philippines. Her words struck so dear to my heart as she expressed how much she related to me. After reading my journal entry post from November of last year, she reached out excited to read more.
My dear friend Marisa Conte also wrote in a recent FB post:
I challenge you to speak more, to talk about what it is you are feeling, and to never feel denied of your voice. The world needs to hear you now more than ever."
This blog post is inspired by these two women. Thank you for inspiring me to move forward.
When I first started this blog, I was absorbed in labels I had been given. My blog was going to be a look into the life of a student with an anxiety disorder; a mental illness. When I see my blog now, I am unsure how to categorize it. I am totally ok with that, and the reason why, is because I am in the smack dab middle of self discovery! I am no longer obsessing over what is "wrong" with me. Instead, I am facing the truth about who I really am, and it's all positive.
My world has revolved around my anxiety, because for the longest time that was all I was able to recognize it to be. My sleep, my eating, my mood, my behaviors, my fears- all have been affected by anxiety. I haven't known it any other way. This past summer someone said to me, "I don't doubt that you suffer from anxiety, but what I also believe is that you are a highly sensitive person."
To hear someone else point that out honestly surprised me. How could they tell?
A highly sensitive person? That isn't a label you want to introduce on a first date..
What I learned is that it is an actual 'thing'- a thing that I am, and so is 15-20% of the population - and it is actually pretty cool.
"(HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity." - Elaine N. Aron
HSP's are more creative, and conscientious. We notice things others may overlook.
As a child I was very quiet, but I noticed everything. I would take in every subtle detail and study it.
I feel things deeply.
I have the ability to take in other energies.
What I thought all along was a social anxiety disorder, and a depression, may just be the fact that I am sensitive to my environment, I care a lot (compassion fatigue), and I can become easily overwhelmed.
Now, I am seeing these qualities as gifts, and I don't want to be ashamed of them. I want to bring them into my blog and embrace them! Someone needs to give sensitivity the power.
I'm going to share another childhood memory to promote the healing I suggested in my last post.
My very first “goodbye” ever to be said. My 2nd grade teacher. We were her last class before she retired.
I remember the parents organized a small party for her in our classroom at the end of the year. She sat at the front of the class and all of her students including myself stood in line taking turns to go up and thank her, giving her a flower, and a hug. I have no idea whose [awful] idea this was..but one of the parents had a radio playing Sarah Mclachlan’s “I Will Remember You” in the background as the line was moving.
That hit me like a bullet- haha. I remember standing in line holding my flower and crying as I took steps forward. I remember trying to hold it in too, I didn’t want her to see me cry. I couldn’t hide it though. I was so sad, and though I knew she wasn’t..it felt like someone was dying and it was the first time I felt so scared to not see someone again. I did not like that painful feeling. From what I remember I was not the only one of her students who cried that day, but for me personally, I was 7 and sensitive, and it was the first time I felt the pain of being so attached to someone.
I had said before that I get very attached to people. I don’t think it is an attachment 'issue', as I value my independence. I think it is just something about me that can feel like a strength and a weakness at the same time. It is because I love people, and I love deeply. And I realize it doesn’t take much, it doesn’t take something crazy or someone to save my life. Often times my love for others is a reflection of what I admire in their hearts. A person who allows you to feel safe, nurtured, to be yourself. I love those who are genuine, authentic. And so it isn’t a question why I have always loved things like movies, music, old photographs, and poems. I am moved by a story.
I am not one for small talk, but knowing someone else's passion, personality, laughter, that is enough story for me to feel connected to them. My Papa shared his heart, his story, and charm with me and I lived his story too. It makes sense to me now why I hurt so much. Sometimes I hate that I feel so deeply, because I hate the pain that follows. I hate the grief of goodbyes and distance. Or knowing not everyone feels the same way..to the same depth. But I also see it as a strength that I am able to hold people so dear to my heart, that people can make me feel that way. That not everyone can feel the little things like I can. The very fact that people can make me feel that way, inspires me to want to be that person for someone else. The way I get so attached to people, and distraught when they’re gone- does not mean I was never loved, or nurtured enough, it doesn’t mean I had been abandoned, and it doesn’t mean I had experienced childhood neglect. I think that’s what people think when they hear how often I think of someone, and how the tiny things mean so much to me.
I am highly sensitive, and sometimes it hurts, but I also think it is privilege to be able to love this much. It is hard to compare myself now to 7 year old me, honestly, because I still feel overwhelmed when I experience empath overload. It is rewarding every time, but I still try to shove the feelings back in, and wonder why this pattern always happens. I am still learning to accept this part of me.
I can't write an inner child work letter to 7 year old me and tell her some massive discovery about how she can detach herself, or no longer have those feelings, because I still do.
The healing part is that 7 year old me did not know that what she was feeling was a lovely human quality that would bring her good things. It was just an uncomfortable emotion.
When I share this part of me, it feels weird, and I call myself a dork, or a sap to acknowledge that. It is something that my friends would read and go "gee Haley that's so deep" or make a joke that I have a lot of feelings. But, there are people out there who feel the same way, who feel ashamed of their sensitivity too. There are those people who recognized I was an empath and an old soul before they recognized me to have anxiety. There are people who won't make me feel like an alien haha.
Empathy, sensitivity, and vulnerability are mental health too. They are human superpowers that unfortunately also have stigmas attached.
I want to challenge the idea that loud is strong, quiet is weak, and feeling too much is something to hide.
By doing so, I shall share the most authentic and vulnerable parts of me.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.