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sensitivity

Sensitivity

I cried on my drive home today. 

I knew it was going to happen. 

I picked up the baby from my parents’  house because they have her on Thursdays and I couldn’t believe another Thursday has come and gone, wasn’t I just there yesterday, and my beautiful baby girl will be 5 months old tomorrow and it seems like  just yesterday that I was newly pregnant, and I love each moment with her but am I enjoying it enough? And time is flying and that is so scary and I try to live in the moment but it’s so hard and how long will I have with my loved ones and what if something happens to them, I will not survive it, what ritual or compulsion can I do to protect them, there isn’t any, I know this, and how do I just freeze everything so I don’t have to worry, and am I a good enough mother and wife and daughter and sister and friend and are my coworkers sick of me and is my boss mad at me, and my heart hurts for the world and for everyone else hurting and lately I’ve been feeling it all (again), feeling everyone’s feelings and feeling consumed by what doesn’t even belong to me and every sight has a feeling and every smell has a memory and there was a dead squirrel on the road and that did me in, and I am happy and sad and overwhelmed and stressed and tired and there isn’t room for all of those in my body and it feels like a million pounds weighing on me, and this is me and this is what happens from time to time but it’s a lot and I couldn’t reign it in. 

So I cried. 

This is part of why I used to not eat, or do other not great things around food. Because everything is scary and hard and I’m the epitome of a hypersensitive person and when all of those feelings and worries and questions became too much and the world was too big I could make it smaller by making it about food and calories and my weight. I could have that to focus on instead of gun violence and cancer and dead squirrels and anxiety and worry thoughts about my loved ones. Food and weight I could solve. Food and weight I could manage. The rest? Not so much. 

I remember how, as a young child, I had all of these same worries and fears and moments but I didn’t know what it was. I just knew I felt scared and overwhelmed and heavy and I didn’t know it was because I was so sensitive. I just thought something was really wrong with me. 

Nothing was wrong with me, though. I just didn’t know it. Glennon reminds us, right – “you are not a mess. You’re a feeling person in a messy world”. 

Right. 

But feelings hurt and worries are scary and everything IS hard when you’re wired this way. 

So sometimes you just have to cry, release the pressure valve, wipe your face, take a breath, and wait for the shift. 

Mixed-up middle

I haven’t written in so long. Maybe a month. I hate not writing for a month. As with anything, the longer I don’t write, the harder it is to sit down and write. I can’t think of the perfect post. The words won’t come. I have nothing to say, even though I have everything to say.

So why not just start right here, somewhere in the mixed-up middle of words and ideas?

Like: I’m puzzling over the little details I’m noticing about myself. I’m thinking so much about my cravings to be busy at work, and my difficulty with free time. I’m trying to gently figure out what each means and be observant without being judgmental.

Like: Some days a sunset brings me to tears that yet another day is over already. Other days a sunset brings a sigh of relief, that a new day will dawn soon.

Like: I don’t fit either early-bird or night-owl. My energy has been shifting and I can’t quite make out the pattern of when I am most energized and why.

Like: My hyper-sensitivity is off the charts lately. Today: my heart hurting when I stepped on tree roots, fearful that I was hurting them. (Notice, don’t judge, I remind myself. I am who I am.)

Like:  “The world is unsafe” feeling is big. I find myself unable to read about, or think about, the events around the world because it’s just too big for my soul to hold right now.

Like: Books have been my saving grace ever since I was a little girl, and the comfort I find from knowing I can spend 10 minutes, an hour, or a day reading, is akin to what a child gets from clutching their blankie.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got for now.

It’s a start, perhaps. A foot in the door at writing again. And this quiet period will end, as it always does, and at some point my fingers will frantically start typing the words again. But for now, we wait.

When Filters Fade

Sometimes words happen, and sometimes they don’t.

Today, they did.


I’m over at Some Talk of You and Me, writing about how raw I have felt lately.

p.s. There is no reason for me to link to Some Talk, other than I highly respect their community and feel grateful to them as they continuously honor, respect, and embrace me as a writer. Check them out, read what they have to say, and consider writing yourself. I can’t even tell you how empowering it is.

Cold.

Did you know that there are different types of cold?

There’s dark, dreary, bitter cold. In the depths of winter, when your body wilts, when it hunches over, curling into itself, trying to conserve energy from moment to moment. This is the cold that wears you down. It’s when you come straight home from work and collapse onto the couch, under a heap of blankets and pillows. You contemplate making tea, but your body begs you, Just don’t move. I don’t have the energy for even that simple task. It’s an emotional, energy-zapping cold.

There’s raw, piercing cold. During a pouring rain in the late fall or early spring. When one moment outside sends stabs of ice into every molecule of your body, no matter what clothing you protect it with. When you’re certain the raindrops will freeze onto your body, forming an ice outline. When the wind shoots raindrops sideways into your face, when the wind and the rain join evil forces to freeze you from the inside out, shattering your Self into zillions of broken ice shards.

And then. There’s beautiful, refreshing cold. This is the cold on a bright winter day. Sometimes after a fresh snow. The sun shines, reflecting off each flake of snow. Your body rises up once again, remembering how tall it can be when it has light. You bundle up, protecting your body, but the cold energizes and revitalizes you. The world is still. The wind has gone to sleep and everything is calm. The only movement is you. Maybe a bird here and there. This is the cold that you breathe in, and it expands into your lungs, filling you with life. The sun and the cold, seemingly opposite life forces, form a partnership that saves you. This type of cold is the one that you crave when you are anxious, when you can’t slow down your mind. You step outside to leave work, or run an errand, or get a change of scenery, and the partnership of the sun and the cold immediately reset you. Rather than painfully freezing you, they gently, but quickly, shock you into an alternative state of being. A reset button. A saving grace. Beauty. Hope. Stillness. Calm.

Last week’s IEP meeting

Last week we had an annual review IEP meeting for one of our 8th grade students. Because he is now 14, he came to the meeting for a few minutes, to discuss his transition plan. This boy is one of the most empathetic students I have. He carries a tremendous amount of anxiety, which I am willing to bet has to do with his diagnoses and learning challenges, but also with trying to figure out how to be such a sensitive soul in this world.

He walked into the room, and took a seat. He looked around the table and said “hi” to his mom, and then quickly addressed every single person at the table and said “hi” to them, too. Our IEP team facilitator greeted him, told him that we would all love to hear a bit about what’s going well for him.

“So, maybe tell us, what’s your favorite class?” she asked him.

“Oh, uh…Science.” he replied. Then, scanning the room, realizing that several of his teachers were there, but not his science teacher, he quickly added, “But, uh, I love Math too. And Reading is okay. And Language Arts. And hey Jen, I like Speech, too.” There were a few smiles, but I felt myself getting teary. I totally got what he was doing. He was terrified of offending one of us. So much so, that, his math teacher responded, “It’s okay. I know you don’t love math. And I would never be upset with you for saying so.”

Our team facilitator moved on. “You and your counselor met to talk about what you’d like to do in the future. You mentioned that you would love to stay at [our school] for high school, and that after high school maybe you would work with computers or animals.”

His counselor jumped in. “Yup, and we talked about way down the road, where you might like to live. Remember, you told me that one day you would like to live on your own, and not with your parents?” he nodded, agreeing with her, and then caught his mom’s eye and froze. Oh no, I could imagine him thinking. What is Mom going to think to hear that I don’t want to live with her? 

“Uh, Mom…” he tried to explain. “I was just thinking that one day I’d like to have an apartment. But, uh, it’s not that I don’t love you. Because I do. You and Dad have been really good to me. But it’s just…” his voice trailed off as his eyes quickly darted from person to person.

His mom smiled, and gave a kind laugh. “It’s okay, buddy. I would hope you want to live on your own some day!”

After talking a bit about his career aspirations, and his love for computers and cartoons, his counselor sensed his mounting anxiety and backed up a little bit. “Now, all of this is going to be a long time from now. And we’re talking about things that might happen. But is it okay if your ideas change?”

“Uh…I guess so…” he said.

“Will anyone be upset with you if you change your mind about what you want to do or where you want to live?”

“Uh…I guess not…”

“Right. Because we’re just thinking. None of these are decisions that we have to follow. We’re just imagining. But just because we’re imagining does it mean you have to do these things?”

“Uh…no?”

“No, it doesn’t. And we don’t even have to worry about those things. Those are your long-term plans, but right now, our main focus is that you’re going to finish 8th grade and then go to 9th grade.”

“Um. Okay. Yes.”

He headed out of the meeting then, after saying goodbye to every single one of us, and giving his mom a hug.

I think we were all overcome with emotion. And I totally got it – I understand that desperate need to please everyone, the fear of what people will think of you if you don’t give equal attention or love or praise. For the rest of the meeting, we talked through his IEP goals, but we kept coming back to his sensitivities and anxieties. Because among his autism, among his language and learning disabilities, sensitivity and anxiety are at his core. They affect every part of what he does every day. And the same is true for so many of our kids. I truly believe – there are times when noncompliance or overreactions, or other behaviors, are just a mask for that panic inside. And I am not autistic. I don’t have a language disorder. And it’s taken a long time for me to be able to identify my anxiety and sensitivity and put it into words. So I can only imagine what it’s like for our kids. And I feel really blessed to get to help them do just that.

A weather analogy

I have said many times in my life, and probably many times on this blog, that I feel people’s feelings. I know that the highly-sensitive people out there know what I mean, know what it is like to have someone else’s emotions permeate your soul. But I also know that for the majority of people, that concept makes no sense. And for whatever reason, the other day, I found an analogy that might explain it better (and we know I love using analogies to understand things!)

So, you know when you go outside? If it’s windy out, you feel the wind. If it’s cold, you feel the cold. If it’s rainy, you get wet. You can’t NOT feel the weather. And that’s how it is for me. I’m wired to feel people’s emotions, such that I can’t not feel them, the same way that I can’t not feel the warmth from the sun on a 90 degree day.

Of course, you might feel the wind but not be bothered by it. Like, it’s there and you notice it but it doesn’t consume you. And that’s what I work towards. Knowing that I’m wired to feel people’s emotions, but, like the wind, I can notice it and move on without letting it become the main focus of every single cell in my body. And it’s hard! If you’re outside on a day where the temperature is 3 degrees Fahrenheit, you are going to feel cold to your core. Your bones will feel cold. Try as you might, you can’t really ignore it.

But you can try. You can feel the cold yet know it will pass when you go inside. And I can feel the emotions of the loved ones around me, without letting them become my own, without letting them permanently take up residence inside.

Does this make any sense? Can anyone relate? Does anyone have another way to explain it?

Follow-up

I feel the need to follow-up, to clarify, about yesterday’s post. After the post published on Facebook, I got a bunch of texts and messages asking if I was okay. And at first, I didn’t totally understand that. Why would people think I’m not okay? I thought. But then I re-read the post and tried to see it from someone else’s perspective. Someone who doesn’t live a hyper-sensitive life, who doesn’t feel with every molecule of their being.

I can understand how, if something isn’t a part of you, or you don’t know that it exists, you don’t know what it’s like. In a simple example: I don’t live with hearing loss. So I might know people with hearing loss, hear stories about it, imagine what it’s like, but I can’t KNOW what it’s like. I don’t live it. And maybe the same thing is with this sensitive soul that I have. The interesting thing is that a few texts and messages that I got were from people who are wired in a similar fashion, who do live a hyper-sensitive life. And their comments were less panicky (Are you okay?!) and more empathetic (Ohhh, I so get that.) Which again, makes sense. If you live it, you get it. If you don’t, it’s foreign, and it’s confusing. 

A few clarifications for those who don’t live it: a raw, porous day is not the same as depression. I do not have depression. I have days where I feel every molecule of the universe inside of me and that fills me up a lot and makes me heavy. But that’s not the same as clinical depression. A raw, porous day Now is not a return to Then. A day like that doesn’t destroy or ruin me. Because it’s a part of me, because sometimes I feel it all, I DO ride it out, even when it feels consuming. I write and I talk and I might cry and I might go out to get some dairy-free, coconut-based ice cream and then it lifts and I get my outer coverings of skin back and I breathe a little easier. So – despite how it might seem, or how I might convey it, it truly isn’t permanently all-consuming. Again, it’s like the weather. The tides. The season. Coming and going. Stronger and weaker. Colder and warmer. Windier and calmer. And it doesn’t really bother me, though in the moment it may be unpleasant. Because again, I live it, so it’s familiar, and not scary. Does that make sense at all???

Also. Sometimes a day like that has nothing to do with feelings at all. Sometimes when the colors are crisp and the temperature is just right and the birds are chirping and the grass is so green and the air is so intense, it’s the visual and auditory sensations that fill me up. Which, again, is why this is not a mental health, depression thing. And sometimes I get filled up from happy things. Because any feeling, no matter what it is, can overtake if it’s felt So Much. A cup is going to run over no matter if it’s filled with water or soda or chocolate milk. The content doesn’t matter, it’s the capacity that does.

I think that’s all the rambles I have for 6:00 in the morning. But I would love to hear thoughts. 

Do you get this? Do you Live It, or do you not understand because it’s not innately a part of you? What do you think?

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