When I was 17 I was diagnosed with and treated for hypersensitive nerves.
When I was 19 I was diagnosed with and treated for depression & anxiety.
When I was 22 I was diagnosed with and treated for obsessive compulsive & obsessive compulsive personality disorder.
All of these things are still with me, although a lot more controlled than at first and now, at the age of 25, I have been told my genetics make me too sensitive. Yep, apparently being highly sensitive, both physically with my nervous system and mentally/emotionally is a ‘thing’ and is most likely the reason I have experienced bouts of all of the above.
I have been learning and dealing with these personal matters for 8 years now although I can remember having my first panic attack 12 years ago at the age of 13. In this time, I have been offered different counselling, theories and medications and have been on the receiving end of very different perceptions. These perceptions range from those who do not understand, believing you can simply ‘choose to be happy’ to those who sympathise to those who empathise.
You can read a bit more about what makes a person ‘highly sensitive’ on psychologist and author Elaine Aron’s (Ph.D.) website The Highly Sensitive Person. I responded with a resounding yes to questions such as ‘are you highly sensitive to pain?’, ‘are you made uncomfortable by loud noises?’, ‘are you deeply moved by the arts or music?’ and ‘does being hungry disrupt your concentration or mood?’. I have, in the past, been on medication specifically designed to numb my nervous system as pain prevention, have had a panic attack if someone accidentally slams a drawer, have burst in to tears at a 10 second clip of Titanic during a news program and have become irrationally hostile when hungry.
I have also been told I exhibit signs of someone with obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) which is probably the hardest part of me to explain to others and I think is linked to being sensitive. OCPD has to do with perfectionism and the feeling of dread that I associate with breaking the rules.
Maybe it is because I am forever trying to understand these things that still confound me, that I often feel overwhelmed at all of the medical diagnoses for why I am the way I am. Perhaps I’m that way because that’s just me and the world needs sensitive souls to balance out all of the other personality types. I don’t believe that depression is a gift or that there is such a thing as functional anxiety… well not for me anyway. I do believe however that facing it has made me stronger. It has made me a better listener too, knowing that the ears I was lended in harder times made all the difference. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about myself, which in turn gave me the strength to take directions in life that made me happy as opposed to trying to always make others happy. For that I am thankful.
I would rather be highly sensitive than not to feel at all. I want to read Shakespeare and have tears streaming down my face and I want to smile so big it hurts when I hear that someone I know got that job they wanted, has fallen pregnant or is newly engaged. I want to feel my heart break when I lose someone dear to me and I want my skin to soak in every hug from my parents and every touch of my partner. I want to take in every smell of summer. I want all of it, good and bad, because I can’t imagine living my life and not feeling things as deeply as I do.
Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love.