On Feeling Different
When I realised I was Highly Sensitive, everything started to make sense. Even as a child, I had always felt different, as if I didn't quite fit in. I used to think it was because I was half Chinese/half Finnish, so naturally I wouldn't 'fit in' anywhere. I developed coping strategies, telling myself that different was good.At work, I couldn't help but be conscientious, and didn't understand how some of my colleagues could coast along doing the minimum, not really caring about what they were working on. I felt things deeply. Relationships were hard. Something always seemed to be missing, so I spent a year travelling around the world searching - for the right person, the right place. When I didn't find either, I started the search within and studied Neuro Linguistic Programming, Shamanism, Yoga. My Personal Development journey helped enormously but ground to a halt when I finally met my husband and had children. Becoming a mother was one of the most amazing, but hardest things I've ever done. The sleep deprivation, the crying, dealing with my children's emotions and my own, being on call 24/7. It was and is, relentless. I remember sitting on a beach on Boxing Day one year when the girls were still very young. It was my birthday and I should have been happy, but what I remember most was the guilt & frustration I felt at watching my girls playing in the sand and feeling just too darn exhausted to join in.
I was clearly in overwhelm and needed time to recharge, but not realising this I struggled along. I turned to crafts in an attempt to do something for myself and it worked a treat for a while. Being creative was my therapy, and I got to meet lots of wonderful people along the way, but my family life was suffering. I was away a lot of the time at training courses and conventions, and while having a life outside of being a mother and wife was so valuable for me, I realised that I was neglecting my family. We were having problems with my older daughter who seemed to have frequent meltdowns over the most trivial of things. Getting dressed in the mornings for school could be a particular challenge, and usually resulted in tears from both my daughter and myself. Things got so bad that I honestly thought I was going to have to ask someone to step in and look after my daughter for me.
A friend pointed me in the direction of Elaine Aron's book on 'The Highly Sensitive Child' and overnight, it all made sense. My daughter was Highly Sensitive and so was I. We were part of the 15-20% of the population that processes things deeply, feel things more intensely, notice subtle differences and become overwhelmed more easily than the rest of the population. No wonder I had felt different all my life - I was different! Understanding that I am Highly Sensitive just about explained everything that I've experienced in my life and the choices that I have made. I now know that I am prone to becoming easily overwhelmed and need to take steps to prevent it from happening. I also recognise when I am going into overwhelm, and know what I can do to cope. Taking care of myself is a priority. I have been in that place where I put myself last, behind my children, my husband, my work, and it wasn't pretty! I know that if I stay up until 4am preparing for a craft fair, I will collapse. My body will protest. As it will if I don't eat foods that are healthy for me, exercise enough, or get out into the sunshine. And it's not just my body that lets me know it's unhappy when neglected. I feel out of sorts if I don't do things to feed my soul, if I'm not doing work that is meaningful for me. I believe this is the double-edged sword of being Highly Sensitive. If you're not being true to yourself as a Highly Sensitive Person, you're going to know it, whether it's your body reacting with illness, or your mind reacting with anxiety or depression.
If you relate to what I've shared in my story, maybe you are one of the 15-20% yourself. If you are Highly Sensitive, I hope that it helps knowing that you are, just as it did for me. I can honestly say that the knowledge has turned my life around - and in a good way. I now feel passionately about helping others that are Highly Sensitive recognise their many strengths, as well as teaching them the supreme importance of self-care. My mission in life is to empower you to put yourself first. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will flow. I challenge you to try it and see for yourself! I'd love to hear from you in the comments - do you already practice extreme self-care? If so, what works best for you?