Contributing to my recent two fortnight absence was Hurricane Sandy. Though it was nowhere near here, immediately my geoblography kicked in and I began to worry and wonder about my blog friends. There was Cooper in Maryland, Sherri in Virginia, Lucy in New York, Brooke in New Jersey, and Carnealian, Actonbell, and Susan in Pennsylvania. (If this isn't where you live, just go with it. It's where you live in my mind.)
Through blogs, Twitter, and my most common method of communicating -- the playing of Words With Friends moves -- within two or three days, I learned everyone was OK.
But the footage of those who hadn't been so fortunate wouldn't leave me. I felt like "how can I post when so many are suffering, displaced, have no power, have lost property, pets, and loved ones?" Who wants to read about the delicious remoulade I made last week or how ear hair maintenance has become a daily chore for me when something that devastating is going on.
Then I think that I let things like this affect me way too much. Immediately that is followed by a rebuttal, "but how can I not?"
It was during this line of thinking when I remembered an article my blog friend Sherri (in Virginia, or Maryland, or some adjacent state) had linked to awhile back. It was a Psychology Today article on Highly Sensitive Persons
I remember thinking at the time that it fit me pretty well. So I went back and reread it and was even more convinced: I am an HSP.
It's an excellent article and there is so much I want to share from it. For the sake of time and space, I'll refrain. But if there were only one line I could pull out of the article it would be this one: ""It's like feeling something with 50 fingers as opposed to 10."
As with any diagnosis or grouping of people, not every characteristic in the article applied to me. I don't walk around on the verge of tears at any moment. But while reading, I definitely found myself saying "Yes!" and "That's me!" much more so than not.
I hear the slightest noises in the night, noises that would even register with most people. For years, I slept with the TV on at a low drone so other noises wouldn't keep me awake. Recently, I started sleeping with ear plugs.
I'm super-sensitive to smells -- perfumes and lotions and colognes -- to the point that a girl has had to stop wearing a certain kind of body lotion (Marshmallow Fluff, blech!) because it bothered me so much.
At the dentist, I've always required two or three times the amount of Novocaine as a normal patient. I've even joked that it wasn't a low threshold for pain, but rather a superhero-like sensitivity to stimuli. Never did I dream that might actually be the case. Along the same lines, pain pills never seem to dull my senses in their prescribed dosage.
There is an amplified feeling of everything, good and bad. It's life to the nth degree.
Even the briefest unpleasant conversation or hint of discord or strife can leave me feeling uneasy and bothered for two days. Many times I'll have a gnawing in my stomach that something is wrong, yet I can't put my finger on what has caused it. It leaves me to wonder if nothing happened at all or if it seemed so insignificant at the time that I can't remember it.
Of course, it's not all bad. It works the same for life's positive emotions and sensations, too. For example, the beauty of nature often affects me immensely. And now that I think about it, I can recall several less-than-enthusiastic responses from others when I've remarked at how gorgeous or awe-inspiring something is. Although even now, it's hard for me to accept that not everyone feels and senses these things the same.
I think maybe this is a big reason why I rarely watch the news. Maybe it's something I've done as a defense/survival mechanism. I can't just watch the news and move on. The stories stay with me. My sensory volume is on fifteen, and I can't simply mute it or turn it down. It's not that I don't care. But I think I'd be in a continual state of depression if I watched the news every day.
I'm not sure what my point is in sharing all this, other than I've sort of learned/realized something new about myself, and also the article estimates as much as 20% of the population may be HSP's, so maybe some of you are the same way. And if not, then certainly someone you know could be.
And if I get a little misty-eyed while watching Andre Agassi's retirement speech, Mister Holland's Opus
, or Linus explaining to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about, well now you know why: I'm one (highly) sensitive guy.
I imagine there may be a couple of females in existence who would disagree with that last statement. Others would (and have) encourage(d) me to delve further into my psychological, um, uniquities.
"All mornin' I'd been thinkin' my life's so hard / And they wore everything they owned, livin' in a car / I wanted to tell them it would be OK / But I got just got in my Suburban and I drove away..."