Sensitivity

On place, time and feeling

Having moved, I feel in tune with the way places affect me, the way I feel in tune with how certain times of day influence my mood.  Maybe my sensitivity is what causes my brain to connect the two (synesthesia).  I love making these connections.  For instance, when I was younger I thought certain years had colours.  1991 felt pink, 1993 was green, and 1995 seemed yellow.

Walking through my mom’s suburbs the other day, I felt the same heavy, draggy feeling that I get whenever I walk through suburbs.  It struck me that it was similar to the feeling I get during slow afternoons.  And it occurred to me that my feelings about place mimic the feelings I have about time of day.

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Saint John River, August 2007

Mornings are like nature.  Fresh, new, and ripe with possibility.  There’s a quiet energy about them, and a sense of restorative hope.  It’s no coincidence that humanity’s “morning,” their beginning, also took place in nature.  Nature and mornings both give me creative inspiration.

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My old house in England, May 2006

Afternoons are the suburbs.  It’s no secret that I dislike both.  At best, they are a place/time to retreat and relax from the world.  Mostly they feel stuffy and confining.  There is little energy about them, just weary resignation.  It feels like nothing can change, and everything must conform.  It is like having a crappy filling between two delicious slices of bread.

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New York from the Empire State Building, April 2008

Evenings are the city!  I absolutely love evenings and the city is my favourite place to be.  After supper everything comes alive again, shaking off the doldrums of the afternoon.  Work is over, now it’s time to play!  It’s all about socializing with friends, having dessert, going to the theatre or movies, or enjoying a concert.  In ancient times, this is when we would cluster together around the fire, telling stories.  Laughter, friends, and fun, what could be better?

Disagree?  Have you own time/place associations?  Let me know!

Anxiety · Depression · Sensitivity

A (negative) HSP week

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Source: Introvert Doodles

I really needed this comic this week.  It has been a bad few days, where nothing seemed to go right.  It rained all week, everyone called in sick to work, library patrons were extremely demanding and I felt miserable and full of PMS.  I am back to having an upset stomach and tight chest at the end of the day now.  I found the noise from people just unbearable: the screaming, whiny kids, the obnoxious teenagers, the loud cell phone talkers, the constant allergy sneezes.  I just wanted to stuff cotton in my ears and retreat to a private, quiet space.

I am really looking forward to leaving this all behind.

Healing · Sensitivity

Journeys

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Cruise ship, California, April 2017

I have been away for most of this month.  I took a much-needed vacation on a cruise ship that traveled the California coast.  Something that would have been impossible for me to do six months ago was suddenly attainable.  I survived.

Here are things I enjoyed about the journey, and helped me heal:  being away from stress and responsibility.  Spending time with people I cared about.  Being around others (more difficult to think dark thoughts).  Eating lots of delicious food.  Swimming and going on long walks every single day.  The feeling of the ship’s engine and the swaying of the boat lulling me gently to sleep every night.  Warm, dry, sunny weather. Getting to see places that I have only ever dreamed about seeing.  Listening to classical concerts on the ship and letting the music sweep me away.

Here are things that stressed me out: Feeling bored and restless during the late afternoons on the ship.  The constant crowds: oh my lord were there crowds, everywhere.  Having to wait in line all the dang time.  Really boring rich old people on the ship.  Worrying that I wasn’t enjoying myself “enough.”

But I made it.  I came back a bit tired, mostly relaxed, and more confident in my ability to navigate the world and survive outside of my routine (something I find very stressful).  I did enjoy being spoiled a bit, and having everyone wait on me hand and foot, although not without a lot of guilt over my first world privilege. (I at least treated the staff with courtesy, unlike a lot of my fellow passengers).

I didn’t feel a lot of creative energy on the ship and I couldn’t muster up too many daydreams.  The closest I got was having a cocktail  in one of the lounges while listening to classical music and pretending I was in an Agatha Christie mystery.   But I did form memories that will provide inspiration for the future.  Plus, I got to see dolphins playing one morning alongside the ship!

Before my husband and I left, we got our house ready for sale.  It was an extremely anxiety and depression-inducing week before the trip, as travel always makes me anxious and selling one’s house is no picnic.  This week has been stressful, too. I’m still jet-lagged and haven’t been able to spend time in the house because of all the viewings.

There is also the anticipatory anxiety of moving, which has been plaguing me ever since the start of my mental health episode.  Part of the reason I am moving is to get away from my current work/life situation and return to my hometown after ten years of being away.  I already have a job lined up (which happened for me on my trip) so that at least is a weight off my shoulders.

I am also slowly weaning myself off my medication.  I was initially hesitant to get off it at all, thinking I was better off just taking it forever.  But at my doctor’s advice I am going off it at a glacial pace.  I am currently at 5 mgs every other day, down from 10 every day this winter, and I plan on spacing them out to every three days soon.  At first going to a half dose was horrible.  I felt a similar level of anxiety to what I felt in the fall, with racing thoughts, nightmares, flu-like symptoms, etc.   Now at least I know what is going on and am able to account for it.  The transitioning gets easier every day.

I will be glad when my house sells and I don’t have to worry about strangers traipsing through my house all the time.  I have to keep trying to carve out relax time for myself, but it is difficult.  Sometimes all I get is a quick nighttime bath or ten minutes with the bunnies.

Sensitivity

The sound of silence

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Maybe I’m just aware more now of my sensitivity, but boy, sounds seem to bug me a lot lately.  I’ve really been noticing music in public places and it always grates on me.  But the people sounds are worst.

Today I had a few errands to run at the Dollar Store and Wal-Mart.  (I know. Wal-Mart on a Sunday.  Bad idea).  Everywhere I went, there were moms and their kids.

Now, I don’t have children.  And today just reinforced why.  I honestly don’t think I could put up with the constant noise of them.  The constant high-pitched whining was awful.  “Moooommmmyyyy.”  It never ended.  And those were the good kids.  There was also the classic, “I’m BORED, can we go now?” and the screaming and tantrums.

I couldn’t wait to get in my car.  The radio was on, and I couldn’t find a station that didn’t bother me.  So I switched it off, enclosed in the quiet, happy bubble of my car.

Aaaahhhh.  It felt like a little piece of paradise.  The sun was shining, all I could hear was the faint sound of my engine, and I had left behind all the noisy people to go home to my peaceful house and peaceful bunnies.

Quiet: it’s good for your mental health.

Anxiety · Sensitivity

This Week Sucked

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This alligator also thinks this week sucked

I have a friend, he used to have a lot of anxiety and depression.  Now he doesn’t any more.  He says he never has bad days anymore.  HE NEVER HAS BAD DAYS.  Wow,  I thought.  I want to never have bad days again, either.  What an inspiration!  If only I think more positively I, too, can achieve this awesome state of being.

Alas, if only it were that easy.  If only my work were perfect all the time.  If only I never had to worry about the future.  If only I never got sick again.  If only I weren’t a woman, living in a man’s world with PMS and hormones and being patronized constantly.  If only I weren’t a Highly Sensitive Person.

Willpower can only take you so far.

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Here’s the cheerful thought that’s been running through my mind all day.

The anxiety and depression I’ve been feeling today didn’t come from nowhere.  It came, largely, from the fact that this week just sucked.  I went up to Toronto by myself for a conference, and I hated it.  I hated feeling alone and wandering around the city lonely and feeling small and meaningless.  I hated having to push through the crowds to get anywhere.  I missed my bus connection and didn’t get to do what I really wanted, which was sketch the passenger pigeons at the museum.  I came home tired and with a headache.  I hurt my back this week and it’s been in pain since then.  I have been hunching my shoulders at night, causing me more pain.  The temperature dropped and I feel cold all the time.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  Work was tiring and stressful, and patrons were extra rude and demanding and I couldn’t get a break from constant interruptions.  My thoughts were racing and I couldn’t turn them off. I wanted to take a poker to my brain today.  And there was a beautiful cardinal dead on my driveway on Friday morning.

Fuck you, week.  Seriously, fuck you.

I am wondering in a case like this, is it so wrong to feel down and depressed when things go genuinely badly?  Is it wrong to admit that some days are worse than others, by any objective measure?  Should we try and be cheerful and happy all  the time? Maybe acknowledging when things are wrong, and getting upset about them, isn’t always a bad thing.  It’s what starts civil rights movements, protests, and revolutions.  It could be my body once again saying, “Slow down you crazy woman, you’re getting battered by life again!  Just draw a picture and watch something silly on YouTube.”

I am waiting for the tide to turn.

Healing · Sensitivity

Sensitivity

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Spring flowers, 2016

My education in myself continues.  I am reading two very interesting books about introversion and high sensitivity.

Introvert Power is an excellent book if you’re an introvert, as studies have shown almost half of us are.  It discusses the ways that introverts are viewed with negativity in our society and why this is wrong. I really like the chapter on retreating, and how to take time from your stressful, busy life.  It has inspired me to take my own mini-retreat to work on my art this coming week.  I hope to chronicle the outcome here.

Of particular interest to me is a book I found when I visited Toronto at New Year’s.  Highly Sensitive People in an Insensitive World has given me so much insight into myself.  I wish I had read it years ago.  I always knew I was a highly sensitive person, but I never really understood what that meant for me.  Suddenly I am seeing my life in a whole new way.  The pieces are falling into place and I make so much more sense now.  If you are an HSP, you have a rich inner life filled with daydreams.  You are also much more prone to depression, anxiety and mental health issues.  This was a huge lightbulb moment for me in terms of viewing what happened to me last year.

Thinking back on so much of my life, being highly sensitive explains my personality and experiences perfectly.  We take in more of the world, which is why our memories and dreams are so much clearer and vivid than others’.  We get overstimulated easily by things that other people wouldn’t notice.  It actually causes our stress hormones to skyrocket, making us upset and angry.  This explains why a sudden, loud noise makes me cranky, why when I was little uncomfortable socks would make me cry, why music I don’t like being played in public spaces makes me moody.  This book goes a long way in explaining why we feel the way we do, and how it’s actually perfectly normal given how our nervous systems are built.  More than just giving insight, it also offers some good suggestions for how to cope.  Not surprisingly, expressing yourself artistically is high at the top of the list.  HSPs are particularly artistic, given how quiet, thoughtful and observant we are.

Reading these books helps me to not be quite so frustrated with myself, which leads to depression.  It helps me see that I am who I am, and I need to take care of myself to flourish.