A few years ago, I discovered that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. In a flash, all the years of being told I was weird made sense. Relief rushed through me as I realized, for the first time ever, that I am not alone. I am different, yes. Unique, yes. But not weird.
Eager to share my revelation with others, I published an article to get the word out. I include it here for the very same reason. To bring awareness to you and to the public:
- So mommys and daddys can see their own HSP children through different eyes, in the hope that they might encourage, rather than squelch them;
- So teachers can recognize these gifted students in the classroom;
- So adults, like me, can stop apologizing for being sensitive and rejoice in our heightened awareness and abilities;
- And so others can know that they, too, are not alone, nor weird.
Following is a reprint of the original article.
“Yesterday, while researching one of the characters for my new book, I discovered something. I’ve always known that I am different. What I didn’t know, is that I am not alone. Seems that about 20% of the world’s population have what I have. Or are what I am.
Highly sensitive people. Or HSP, for short. Ha! They even have an acronym for me. Who knew
In fact, research has shown that I (we) process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in our nervous systems. It’s biological!
As a child I couldn’t be still. I was always fidgeting. Not much has changed in that category in the last 52 years.
I am one of those people who are so sensitive that scratchy clothing bothers me. Sock seams irritate me. Crooked seams drive me bonkers. I have a pair of thermal pants that I can’t wear. After an hour, the seams start twisting around till I can’t take it any more. I won’t wear uncomfortable shoes. This includes most sneakers and hiking boots. They just don’t fit my feet right. Either the foot pad is misplaced or a seam rubs, the instep’s too tight. Always something. If there’s a hair inside my shirt, I will peel it off to find it. I can’t wear wool. Two seconds against my bare skin and I’m squirming like a loon. After five seconds, I rip it off. My bed sheets must be soft and high thread count.
I have always related to Hans Christian Andersen’s “Princess and the Pea”. In case your grandmother never read you those stories, she was the one who slept on top of umpteen mattresses with one tiny pea under the bottom-most…and could still feel the pea. Yep, that’s me. I fidget even in bed. The covers have to be just so. And do not lay on top of my covers and pin me down. I will fight you.
There are other manifestations of this condition. (I like to think of it as more a state of being.)
My senses are heightened in every way, not just touch; but also smell, hearing, taste, and sight. Strong smells irritate me, including most perfumes and colognes. Some irritate me, some I can’t handle at all. If you sit next to me wearing Opium perfume or men’s Polo, I will get up and run. Exhaust fumes gag me. Chicken houses…omigod.
I love music. But if it’s too loud, it hurts. Literally. That goes for televisions, movie theaters and loudspeakers. If I go to a concert, I take cotton to stuff in my ears. Loud voices, especially arguments, make me cringe, even cower. My friend Ivy recently described sitting in the bleachers at a NASCAR race, and just reading her description made me squirm. That fingernail on the blackboard screech? Through the roof. Now I know that these things ramp my nervous system to the point of explosion.
You would think with sensitive eyes, I could see better than normal. Not. But my eyes are very sensitive to light. I have to wear sunglasses, in fact, I don’t understand people who don’t. Coo coo, coo coo. Bright overhead lights are even too much. I recently had to don a baseball cap to be able to watch TV with the overhead light blaring. Seriously.
There is another side to being a Highly Sensitive Person. My ‘skin’ is very thin, emotionally. Things that don’t bother 80% of the people, bother me. Sometimes intensely. I feel deeply. And, I am very in tune with other’s moods. When people I’m close to are having a bad day, I tend to have a bad day, too. I can’t watch scary movies. Or violent ones. And these days, even heavy drama is too much.
I pick up on very subtle nuances. For instance, most people, especially men, aren’t in touch with their feelings. I tend to know when something is wrong. Or different. Or whatever. Usually before they even know it themselves. Don’t step out on me. I have radar.
Most of us HSP’s are loners. Why? We find solace in quiet. In nature. Outdoors. Or alone in our rooms, playing quietly. As you know, there’s not much silence when others are around. Plus, I’m compelled to make small talk.
There is an up side to being a Highly Sensitive Person. We’re extremely intelligent. We tend to be creative geniuses. And we’re very intuitive.
Of course, for a person whose heart’s desire is to be loved truly, madly and deeply (and without condition), intelligence, creativity, intuition and genius are cold seconds. Even if they don’t mind you fidgeting in bed.
For more information on Highly Sensitive People, or to find out if you may be one, or know one, or have one as a child, check out the first three links below. If you find (or know) you are an HSP, the last three links are for you.
Excerpt taken from HighlySensitivePeople.com:
Pearl S. Buck, (1892-1973), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938, once said about highly sensitive people:
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create —— so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
—Pearl S. Buck
Photographs of famous HSPs in order from top: