In my late teens and early 20s, I did everything to keep up with the fast-paced world I was living in – I worked as a server, went to college full time, and spent every other waking moment socializing with friends, being there for my family, and spending time with my boyfriend at the time. I felt pulled in every direction. I never spent time alone and I paid no attention to my inner life. The few times that I did try and look inward I became utterly confused and scared.
I didn’t know who I was because I was so busy trying to be like everyone else and live a “normal” life.
Finally, after months of living in a state of anxiety and stress, I had a panic attack at school one day, and I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I was so afraid there was something seriously wrong with me. The psychologist I went to see was the first person who told me about the trait of high sensitivity, and that I was probably an HSP.
An HSP who doesn’t give a sliver of thought to their own needs will burn out quickly, and their mind and body will scream louder and louder, until it is heard…
It was suggested that I start taking time for myself by going for walks in nature, and writing in my journal. I remember at the time it felt so funny and strange to me. But I managed to do it, and my anxiety got a little better, so I carried on with my life understanding that I was sensitive, but seeing it as sort of a setback.
At age 25, I remember having what you might call an epiphany one summer afternoon. I was lying on the couch struggling to plan out the day in my own head, becoming more and more overwhelmed as I added tasks to the list. I felt defeated and confused, lost in the world…why couldn’t I manage the same types of things others could? Why did I always have these deep, analytical thoughts? What was wrong with me?
That day, somehow, the term “HSP” drifted back into my head after not really thinking about it for quite some time. I felt something urging me to learn more about it, and I remembered that there were books written on it…
After about 20 minutes of contemplating, I pulled myself up off of the couch, got into my car, and drove to the Chapters Book Store four blocks away from my house. I remember I was so insecure about feeling “different” at the time, that I was embarrassed to be seen in the self-help section of the book store.
Regardless, I bought “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron.
That evening I began to read the book that was written about me.
And all HSPs.
I was totally awe-struck.
For the next two weeks I came home from work every day, went into my room and read it, highlighted it, taking it all in (I laughed a bit, nodded my head, smiled, cried, everything….)
I also noticed that I enjoyed taking this time for myself alone, just to read. No wonder…. I was a full-on 25-year-old Female HSP…. and it meant something to me this time.
Since then, living life as an HSP and understanding the trait, and in turn myself, has been an INCREDIBLE journey. I understand so much more now – about past relationships, my relationships with my parents and friends, my childhood experiences, and my choices in life, successes and struggles in my career – everything makes more sense.
Over the past three years I have been reading and researching and reading more, and practicing being an HSP daily by recognizing when I am feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated, and working to modify my environment in those moments whenever possible. Here are some examples:
I take a walk alone at lunch when I have had a hectic morning at work, I keep snacks in my purse for when I am hungry (I am an HSP who is very affected by hunger), I say no to a night out if I have been busy for the past two days and am feeling the need to recharge.
Now, when I get upset or angry or annoyed “for no reason” I think about why, and find that I have the answer, the reason, I can attribute so much of the way I am to being an HSP.
And my journey is continuous, and constant. I know who I am more and more each day, and I embrace it now instead of ignoring it or wishing it away.
Developing a true love for yourself and all of your traits and qualities is the key to happiness.
I want all HSPs to love themselves! And I feel for all of them who have struggled at some point in their lives like I have.
Most of them have probably also been called sensitive in a negative way, and told they should change and “stop being so sensitive.” This is not possible, totally unnecessary and, well, it would be a shame if HSPs could change their innate trait! We are so needed and important!
Recently, I have come to a place where I feel compelled to share my knowledge about the HSP trait with others. I am not ashamed of it anymore, and I don’t want anyone else to be, because there is no need! I want to help others learn about the sensitive trait; HSPs and non-HSPs alike. I truly believe that HSPs are an asset to the world, and more of them need to be identified and acknowledged. They have so many gifts! (though they will be the first ones to under-credit themselves).
I am so thrilled to see this community growing, stick with me! We will all go far on this journey.
XO Chelsie, your fellow HSP.