Picture The Great Gatsby in the mountains. My man and I traveled to Montana for a spectacular weekend of lavish meals, sparkling socializing, serious hiking and serene fly-fishing. The first two days were mind-blowing. My brain buzzed joyfully and my body happily went along for the ride.
By the third day my bright-eyedness started to wane. The constant presence of people (eight of us) and the steady flow of activities had me feeling a little drained and fuzzy brained. Recognizing an impending need for solitude, I called a personal time-out and read and rested in our room for a little over an hour. *Note to self: an hour is never enough recharge time.
That night we attended a huge blowout Oktoberfest. There were hundreds of people there. Hundreds of loud, laughing, boisterous people, some wearing lederhosen. Every guest received a monster-sized stein, hat, scarf and enormous pretzel. There were raucous games, food, beer, a German oompah band.
We had a blast but I involuntarily absorbed it all deep into my cells. By the time we got home, my coping skills were toast. I was sensitive to touch, smell and sound but that didn’t stop me from trying to prolong the amazing rush of the evening. What better way to end the night than making love?
Did I mention I was sensitive to touch? Too sensitive it turns out. I could barely take anything beyond a gentle caress. My skin was electrified in an electric chair kind of way. I called off the sex event within minutes of starting, causing a cascade of fallout.
What’s wrong? I didn’t like that.
Why not? It was just too much.
What do you mean?
I mean, I just want you to hold me in your arms until we fall asleep. I mean, please don’t be mad I don’t want to have sex. I mean, I’m sorry I don’t have the energy and fortitude to go all night. I mean, please talk with me instead of asking for more physical attention.
Sadly, I never said aloud the above thoughts that swirled in my head and heart. I blurted out other inane comments that only camouflaged my real worries.
If I just had a little more energy
This incident set off all kinds of triggers for me. Shame for not being able to be fun, active, quick and energetic enough. Fear of frustrating my man one too many times. Frustration for not being able to express myself clearly.
If I was just a little less sensitive
Which then set off emotions that for me always reside close to the surface. I worried I was too emotional, sensitive and difficult. I need too much space and rest. Why couldn’t I just be one of those simple women who laugh and charge on through life, effortlessly doing and doing? Everything rolls off their backs.
There will always be someone doing more
In fact, one of the sweetest women on the trip was one of those care-taking doers that I admire but also find slightly irritating (mostly because I’ll never be like them). She did laundry every day. She charmed and looked after our host’s temperamental Chihuahua. She was always asking if anyone needed anything and happily serving others.
I unwisely compared myself to her throughout the day. Compared to her, I was not doing enough.
Finding mature love
I used to wonder if I was capable of being in a long-term relationship. Was it possible for someone else to understand and value my nature? Do I have enough energy to be the kind of attentive mother, writer and lover I want to be?
As my current relationship nears its one-year mark, I believe I am capable of making love last. I’ve learned it is necessary to be vulnerable and brave enough to talk about sensitivity and not feel weak or flawed. My partner needs to be (and is) mature enough to understand and appreciate rather than condemn or embarrass me for my way of being.
Why we are valuable
In order to receive respect, we need to respect ourselves. For a long time, I did not value my way of being. I saw it as inferior to the endlessly outgoing, energetic and productive types. Eight years ago, I met new people who helped me see myself in a different light. I was shown the positive facets of being sensitive and introverted. Below is an incomplete list of those quality traits:
- Internally deeply caring
- Deeply committed to the positive and the good
- On a mission to bring harmony to the world
- Strong personal morality
- Often make extraordinary sacrifices for someone / something we believe in
- Rich inner life
- Vivid imagination
- Never bored
- Rarely lonely
- Foster deep relationships
- Know ourselves
- Help others filter and slow down
- Able to concentrate for long periods of time
Keep this list in mind when you start to feel less than.
As I navigate the waters of a committed relationship, I am learning and expanding. My man is patient, loving and mature enough to work and grow with me. Because of him, I am learning to communicate more directly without getting overly emotional. I will never eliminate the undercurrent of emotions. It’s innate for me, but I can learn how to express myself more effectively thanks to his nurturing, rather than condescending, approach to personal development. I think he is getting something out of this too. Slowly, I am giving him awareness of what it is like to feel so deeply. Plus, it is tough to beat an empathic person at minding emotional well-being. I will always be highly aware of his feelings and emotional needs and do my best to comfort him and show him where he shines.
Ebb and flow
Another way to handle sensitivity so that it does not hinder our health and relationships, is to learn to recognize the situations and signs of an imminent meltdown. Intellectually, we know highly stimulating situations are going to deplete us, but in order to please and impress others we may suppress that knowledge. We push ourselves until we crack, not leaving enough space between activities to recover and prepare for another round.
This is what happened in Montana. We went from activity to activity, not taking any time to catch our breath.
Introverts and especially HSPs, must honor our need to work and rest, ebb and flow.
After being home by myself for one day, I was completely recharged from the trip.
Stop being so internally focused and look up
Because I was so busy rushing from one activity to another and comparing myself to the über care-giving woman, I went hours without noticing a card with my name on it placed on the mirror above my sink in the bathroom. I washed my face, brushed my teeth and washed my hands in that sink all afternoon and did not notice the card. That tells you how internally focused I was. Finally, just before bed that night, my man asked if I was ever going to open the card on the mirror. What? Oh! Wow. Yes, thanks. Inside the card were words of forever and love, that steadfastness I need to trust and believe I am lovable.
Do you worry no one will be able to understand or handle you?
Do you know how beautiful you are?
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