The Vicious Jawbreaker
The other day, my friend and I were sitting at my dining room table, companionably working on our laptops. My daughter was sitting in the other room, reading. AND licking a giant jawbreaker. I silently endured the quiet mouth noises as long as possible, because I hate “putting my stuff” on my kids. After a few minutes, I had to ask her to go do that somewhere else. She already WAS in another room. My friend looked up and asked what she was doing. She hadn’t even noticed the noise that was grating on my nerves and raising my hackles and preventing me from concentrating on my work.
I’ve learned in recent years that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. The trait of being Highly Sensitive is found in 15-20% of the population. Many HSPs are introverts, but 30% are extroverts. This trait is innate; my brain works a little differently than others. I just notice things more and more in depth. I don’t try to; it’s simply the way I work. (Statistics from http://hsperson.com/)
Life as a Highly Sensitive Person
Life as an HSP looks like being overwhelmed driving on roads where there are a lot of billboards because I read them all without trying and they come too quickly to fully process each one. I crawl out of my skin at certain sounds, especially repetitive ones, even if they’re quiet noises. I regularly need to retreat to my quiet, dim bedroom alone at the end of the day. My heart races and temperature rises when the kids are being loud in the van, even when it’s happy loud. I can get a hangover from drinking one entire drink. I physically cannot go in stores, or aisles such as the cleaning product aisle in stores, where there are a lot of artificial smells.
My blood pressure goes up, and I feel nervous when I hear people talking loudly, or in German or Norwegian, because I feel like they’re mad. It is really hard for me to be in a restaurant with a group of friends, because not only can I not tune out the other conversations at my table, I can’t tune out the other patrons conversations or the music playing. I had to move away from another parent at a meeting because her perfume was too strong. I could be doing five things at once to get the kids ready to get out the door and notice if my husband’s misbuttoned his shirt. Visual clutter truly makes me feel out of tempo and I physically need my home to be tidy. I have had to turn down jobs because the environment was too chaotic.
I have six kids. Yes, SIX. We homeschool. Chaotic is in the job description. This can be really detrimental to my family because as a Highly Sensitive Person, I am easily overwhelmed with too much stimuli. As my husband says, “You literally notice everything! It affects us all!” It can interfere with my ability to be the kind of mom I want to be, because kids are, well, kids. Their job is to learn and grow, not to help me cope. Even if I am irritable because of the chaos around me, I am still called to parent to the best of my ability. I don’t have ADD, but I get continually distracted from what I set out to do since I notice all the details and function best if my environment is not filled with things to notice.
Being an HSP can be really positive as well. I feel things very deeply and can empathize with a backstory about my friend’s husband’s second cousin’s near-fiance dying to the point of tears (that really happened). Because I notice everything, I am very in tune to the surroundings and am the first to notice a killdeer on the side of the road or the hawk on the fence post. I can usually put my finger on what would make other people more comfortable in a situation and serve them by doing it. I am connected to my creativity and embrace new ideas with open arms.
This year in my life, I feel as though I have been asked to thrive, not just cope. I have had to figure out realistic ways to still succeed in my life. I’m a busy woman; I don’t have time to meditate for two hours every day or take a walk in mountains on a regular basis.
My girlfriends love me for who I am. They completely accept that I tear up at everything and enjoy life large. I feel safe and loved. Those relationships are restorative to my soul.
I have created a retreat in my room. It is decorated just how I like it, and kid clutter and laundry are not allowed (in theory) to accumulate. I can go there at the end of a day of crazy and snuggle into my cozy bed and just be.
I ask (repetitively) for what I need from my kids to help me. I ask them to stop chewing with their mouths open, quit making “that noise”, to sit further away, and to tidy up the house daily. I ask my husband to take over bedtime when he’s able so I can have some quiet time. I say when I’m feeling overwhelm, and while it’s no magic cure, it helps my family to know what I need. They can’t just guess.
My Ear Peace
I ordered some ear plugs called “Ear Peace” a while back and they have saved the day many times. I mostly use them in the car, but occasionally I need them in the house too. They muffle the sound so that it is not so loud, but don’t make it difficult to understand or to actually hear.
Nature. Preferably with Water. I need it. I live out in the country, but it’s almost all cultivated fields. Thankfully, we have a small man made lake a smart walk away from my front door. I rarely walk it, truth be told, because the sunshine reflecting on the white gravel roads, and the gritty gravel dust blowing in my face is too much for me, but I do stop regularly on my walk home and just drink in the water with my eyes. I also try to go outside at night after the wind has died down and breathe in the night sky.
My Lifestyle Choices
I need to be careful with what I put into my body, making sure I eat very little to no sugar. It really matters how much sleep I get. I need to watch how busy I am. It is exhausting having to be certain places at certain times every day, so I need to allow myself time to decompress. I’m extroverted so I like to be around people, but the wrong kind of people can be a major stressor for me.
Even though I have the trait of being a Highly Sensitive Person, and very real needs because of it, I still need to not use that as an excuse for losing my temper, or for not trying to meet the needs of my family. Generally, I love how I interact with my little universe, and know that I was created this way purposefully and lovingly. I think that being a Highly Sensitive Person, while challenging me in many ways, is a gift, both to me, and my world.