I am a highly sensitive person! or “what I learned on my summer vacation”

I am a highly sensitive person! or “what I learned on my summer vacation”

One of Andrew’s former co-workers had a family at a similar stage to ours – kids the same age, dads working at Theatre Projects, moms former theatre-professionals staying at home with the kids.
They would often swap family-guy stories, and one of my favorites of this family’s was that when they’d get to an end of a paper towel roll, they would hold the empty tube up to their mouths and boom out sentences in a grandiose manner. “Today is Friday!!!!” “I love tacos!!!” and, my fav, one of the little ones declared “I am a very important person!!!!!!”

I’ve been thinking of how to present this next little bit of info without sounding like a little kid booming “I am a very important person!” through a paper towel tube…because what’s cute in a little person is kind of obnoxious in a big person, ya know?

But, here we go.

I am a….highly sensitive person!!!!!!
Or, an HSP.

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Yes, it’s a thing.
Yes, I got there through an online self-test. (THIS ONE in fact).

Yes, I did then consult with my therapist, who actually is the person who originally nudged me towards thinking about HSP and the possibility that it may provide insight into a lot of my overwhelmed people-pleasing propensities.

Friends, the more I read about HSP, the more it was like reading about myself.  Someone wrote this about ME.

(I am a very important person!!!!  Sigh…)

Specifically:

  •  – I am overaware of subtleties in my environment.  I see every detail in the grocery store, in a room, on a screen.  (I can also find stuff in the fridge super-fast – it’s a super-power of sorts).  I process a lot of visual stimuli at once.
  •  – I am highly sensitive to physical touch.  It gets to be too much very quickly.  Tickling is awful – I’ve always hated being tickled.  When all my boys pile on me for hugs, I feel like I can’t quite breathe.  (Isaac being over 100 lbs now may have something to do with that as well).  I can’t sleep if anyone is touching me.
  •  – I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.  Regularly.
  •  – I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.  If I have caffeine after noon, I do not fall asleep that night easily.
  •  – I have trouble falling asleep in general.  Between my inner life being so complex and busy (see below) and my hyper-awareness to physical and visual sensation (see above), it’s just hard.
  •  – I have a rich, complex, inner life.  Alternate storylines to choices I make, that I suss out all the way.  Daydreaming of being a character in a movie or book series I’m particularly taken with.  Conversations in my head with writers or artists or musicians or, usually, with Terry Gross, while I’m driving or walking.  It’s busy up in that head.  Related: I often talk to myself, as these inner words slip out to the outer.
  •  – I startle easily.  It’s embarrassing.  Like full-on start to run away, have to put my hand on my heart to calm its racing, when someone walks up behind me and I don’t know they are there.  Or when there’s a loud unexpected noise.  Or, you know, the doorbell.
  •  – I get rattled when I have to do a lot in a short amount of time.  To the point of tears.
  •  – I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too much at once.  Just ask Andrew about how our weekends go sometimes.  (I’m not READY to do this yet!, I’ll wail.)
  •  – I try hard to avoid making mistakes.  Get it right the first time, or self-hate.
  •  – I make it a point to avoid violent movies or TV shows.  I almost threw up when watching Daredevil.  I couldn’t finish Slumdog Millionaire.  I self-censor a lot.
  •  – I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.  Kitchens during Thanksgiving are the worst thing ever.  Big parties with lots of murmuring.  Walking around fairs or festivals with lots of milling.  Zoos.  It makes me really agitated.
  •  – Being hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.  Hangry.  I get really, really, really hangry.  I’m not nice to myself or others.  Related: I get anxious about when the next time I will eat will be, and what that food will be.
  •  – Changes in my life shake me up.  (Although isn’t this everyone?  Who really likes change?)
  •  – I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.  Multi-tasking makes me exhausted.  I need to take breaks.
  •  – I read the emotions of others easily, and in some ways experience them as if they are my own.  When I disappoint someone, it’s devastating.  When I make someone happy, I get happier.  (This is why we people please!)
  •  – I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid making choices, and to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.  All my systems and routines, and how I choose to shop and make financial decisions – do it once, don’t ruminate, take out having to think on it over and over.  Creates calm, but when those systems and routines are disrupted, creates lots of stress.
  •  – When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.  Took me four times to pass my driving test.  When I drive with another adult in the car, suddenly I bump curves or stall the car, when I never would while alone.  I can’t cook if someone’s observing me.  I don’t like working in open offices.

As with all these types of things, it’s a big picture of lots of characteristics together, not any one thing individually – but seeing myself in this way has been incredibly helpful.  Specifically, I’ve been giving myself lots of buffer room.  More time to commute to and from work (running late/fear of being late is a hard thing for HSPs).  Built in transition time from one type of thing to another (coming home from work and not jumping right into household chores).  Leaving a room and taking a moment when I feel it’s too much.  It’s been good.

I’m also working on culling the schedule, a bit.  What did I say yes to because I wanted to, and what did I say yes to because I feared the emotional reaction of the person I would be saying no to?

This is harder.  Saying no I can’t do this is really, really, emotionally hard for me.  I’m doing a lot by e-mail to avoid the person’s face/to add some distance.  And I’m trying very hard to take good care of myself as I say no, since I know I’ll be feeling raw.

Right now, I’m going through the wringer as I’m stepping down from chairing the Altar Guild at my church.  I’ve been talking about stepping down for 2 years now, and I haven’t been able to do it.  Now I am.  With support of my priest.  But, it’s a process, and won’t be over until November, I think.  Many months of saying “no, I just can’t.  No, really, really, no.  No.” and it makes me a little nauseated when I think about it too much.

But I’m going to do it.  I need more time to create those buffers, to decompress, to give myself space to function so I can do those things I love well.

Don’t eat the baby

Don’t eat the baby

“Mommy, did you eat me?”

What?  My mind floundered for a minute.  I was trying to find the left shoe from my new Stitchfix order – super-cute grey flats – and to then get Kai’s teeth brushed and his own shoes on so we had a shot in heck at getting to church on time this morning.

“Did I eat you?” I stalled.

“Yes.  When I was a baby.”

Oh.  I got it.

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(Me, having eaten Kai and then deciding to teach a Jazzercise class, at 36 weeks pregnant.)

 

“You mean when you were in my belly?”

“Yes,” Kai clarified, “when I was a baby.”

Sure.  Let’s start this conversation for the first time, a conversation I want to get so right, when we’re running late to church.

Only answer what he asks. I reminded myself.

“No,” I say, “I didn’t eat you.  You started as a very small egg inside me right *here*.”  I point to my uterus.  “And then…you grew!”

“How did I fit?” he asked.

“My belly grew too.”

Kai laughs.  “It must’ve been soooooo big!”

“Yes,” I smile, “it was.”

He pats my belly.  “But it went back to small.”

“Yes,” I say, “it did.  Let’s get our shoes on for church.”

I don’t know if age five is late or early or right on time for starting to wonder about how babies happen…but I do know that I showed Kai a photo of his Aunt Elizabeth about a week ago, where a distinctive bump was visible.  ‘That’s your new baby cousin.” I said.

At the time all he cared to know was if it was, in fact, a going to be a boy like him.  But, clearly, he’s been thinking about it more.  May I continue to handle it well.

 

Also of note today:

– Kyla went to church with us today, and sitting in a service as if for the first time (as it was her first time) is wonderful.

– Kyla, who is visiting us for a week to help with the August Madness, has a wonderful superpower…anything seems doable when she’s about.  You think, “I really want to get that linen closet organized” and simply because she is in the house, rather than thinking “but that’s too much right now” you think “so I shall do it today!”  And you do.  And it’s glorious.

– Andrew hung my new clothes line in the backyard from the deck to the garage, and it is also glorious.  I realized soon after, however, that my clothespin stock is a bit under what I need for the now super-long line.  Hello Amazon. Hello cheaper utility bills.  Hello feeling kind of awesome.

– I need new tablecloths.  We have a new table in the new house and my old ones don’t fit.  They are now off to Goodwill (see linen closet organization above), and I get to daydream about new.

– I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.  I don’t want to take Kai for more dental work tomorrow (he’s 2/3rds done with an epic cavity drill-and-fill plan.  It’s horrible.).  I don’t want to get through another 10 days before school starts.  Wah.

Lookin’ Slick

Lookin’ Slick

It was a big car-maintenance morning for the Hagan household.  This morning we all departed at the same time.  Andrew and Kai went off to the Mazda Dealer for a regular X-mile check-in (aka, lets keep those warranties valid, kids!).  Isaac and I headed to the Firestone dealership, where we get all our non-Mazda needs met due to the 6-months same as cash credit card we have with them.  Love that sucker – makes those car repairs feel a bit easier to weather, and since we’ve had the card for approximately a million years, they keep throwing fun coupons and promo deals at us.  My oil change cost $18 today after all the perks – and I can pay it off at a rate of $3 a month if I so desire, same as cash.

ANYWAY.  I digress from the point of this story which is that Isaac is lookin’ slick, apparently.  We were on main street in Danbury, heading to the Firestone,waiting at a stoplight,  when I hear Isaac say, “hello! hello there!” from the backseat.

I glance back, and he’s waving at the car next to us.  In that car, are two giggly tween-age girls, waving at *him*.  When they notice that I notice them they break out into even more giggles.

Their car pulled ahead of ours first – and one of the girls blows a kiss back at Isaac!

“Isaac,” I say, “I guess you’re looking good, kid.”

“Bagel!” he says.  His reward for being calm, quiet, and non-pinchy in the Firestone is we stop at Dunkin Donuts after.

“Bagel.” I agree.

Also in the looking slick department…check out the new blog!  Oooo-Oooooh, am I right?  I’ve been blogging since 2006, and so to celebrate a decade of putting my personal details on this here world wide web for the world to read (which isn’t strange at ALL and seems kind of quaint now that we have the faceypages and twitter et al), we’ve upgraded our look.  I’m still playing with formatting, but so far, I’m liking wordpress a lot.