Tuesday, December 16, 2008

not code for "wuss"

once and only once have i read a book and found a character so strikingly like where i am in my heart. (and yet i do be best to protect myself from anyone perceiving this fact) i poured over the pages and for the first time in a long time did not feel foolish or overly emotional but rather now i can say that i am sensitive and not use it as code for "wuss" or "emotional wreck". nothing like that. 7 years ago i was so agoraphobic i rarely left my apartment, i wasted away at college until i was hovering around 100 lbs and suffering the worst misery i've been through. i was diagnosed with agoraphobia and anxiety disorder and tried just about every medication under the sun for insomnia and anxiety. my poor husband. it was not his doing but i think a lesser man would have just left. we were married only a year and it was a victorious day if i left the apartment and made it to the mailbox down the hall. im still fighting those demons, but i certainly feel im winning much more ground than i'm losing. i say all of that to say that i think that while the clinical diagnosis might not have been wrong, the causation of these attacks, the countless days nay! weeks of maddening insomnia, why no daily dose of medication worked a lick to get me out of the red. i think now i am finally able to piece together some things that before i intuited but never had words for.

it's complicated and i'm probably going to sprinkle the following self-diagnosis with a little "christianese" so i beg your pardon if i lose some of my non-believing readers along the way. first my dad always cautioned me against going to therapists because "they only will blame your family". all well and good so long as the family has no blood on it's hands. i think my family was, is and always will be really awesome. we are flawed people and when you have children, when you relate to any other person in the entire universe who is not YOU people are going to clash and conflict. whatever mess was made, it is forgiven. so let's get that sort of thinking off the table.

what i really think it is, and im foolishly, kinda sorta uncomfortable talking about to certain groups of people is that i think i've got certain gifts that predispose me to high internal stress. for brevity ill just link you to a wiki page on discernment - specifically i am strong in discerning people's intentions. i liken this sort of supernatural "stuff" to a mother's six sense when her child is born. you cannot explain how you know things but you do, in your bones you know these things. it is the same in matters like this. i am not claiming that i can see people's deep darkness plainly, though i have had incidents where i have crossed paths with people and felt such a curtain of darkness and attack around them that i had to remove myself from them. in the grocery store ill pass a person and just know that they struggle with pornography or lusting after children, that they have an addiction problem, that they beat up their girlfriend. but almost always it is just a perception of intense sadness or depression, a feeling that this person feels hopeless or angry. these are hard things to feel to say the least. for years the continual prayer on my lips was WHY? why do i know these things? what am i supposed to DO with this knowledge? and until this year i had a spirit of unwillingness, maybe even a healthy level of fear that i might be asked to do something! haha. when the kingdom comes into your life, you'd better believe it isn't going to be farting rainbows in your direction folks. but you've got to be willing to push past yourself and engage. so anyways several months ago a girl at my small group was talking about this exact thing, in a third person sort of way, and she said that it wasn't God always telling you to do this or that and GET IT DONE in some harsh manner but it is very possible that it is one way He just dialogs with me. He is having a conversation with me about the world. that opened my eyes a lot!

so there's that. there i'm out of the closet & no i can't read your mind but sometimes i can feel a presence of a sin and that weighs very heavily on me. i mean sin is awful to bear - even second hand.

ok so the the kicker is something my good ol' buddy lauren turned me onto the psychological term "the highly sensitive person". oh hai, me to a T.

* This trait is normal--it is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and indeed the same percentage seems to be present in all higher animals.

* Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener although they may be (mine DEFINITELY are). But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply.

* Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed.

* This trait is not something new I discovered--it has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited.

* The reason for these negative misnomers and general lack of research on the subject is that in this culture being tough and outgoing is the preferred or ideal personality--not high sensitivity. (Therefore in the past the research focus has been on sensitivity's potential negative impact on sociability and boldness, not the phenomenon itself or its purpose.) This cultural bias affects HSPs as much as their trait affects them, as I am sure you realize. Even those who loved you probably told you, "don't be so sensitive," making you feel abnormal when in fact you could do nothing about it and it is not abnormal at all.

i mean this self test is just utterly & ridiculously me. i used to think i was just prone to being a sleepy person but now i realize that relaxing in a dark, quiet room was my favorite coping mechanism for dealing with stress. there are restaurants that i avoid like the plague because they are too stimulating, am beyond rattled by violent scenes in movies. i feel my stress levels going up every single time i put perfume on because of the constant sensory involvement. like why can't i just listen to moody music on my ipod laying in a dark room? that would be the perfect day for me (as long as i had a bag of doritos). the only way which i am a large departure from the site is that 70% "highly sensitive people" are introverted and if you've met me you know im a jabber jaw.

ok so highly sensitive person + stressful spiritual gifting = KAPOW!

i feel blessed to have such a tenderheart but it gets me into trouble. i am defenseless to cruel people. a tiny prick on their part and i carry a wound home for weeks. i still maintain that it is a gift, i'd not choose another way to be for again, i feel it is God dialoging with me about my world, His creations, but oh a stiff wind a' blows and i'm in that dark room, ipod on to my pensive mix, on my knees.

& i must say i find this one of the most wholly satisfying videos ive seen in a long time. thank you for the link emily

i don't know why i just told you all of that.


Hannah said...

Wow Jenny, that video is so beautiful! My biologist mind couldn't help but seeing an amoeba during some of it.
I also just wanted to say thanks for sharing.. there's no way to say this without sounding kindergarteney "hey, purple is myyy favorite color too!" but I completely understand what you're saying here. I'm definitely a HSP too, as are my sister, mom, and great grandma.

Hope you're having a nice advent.

Queen Bee said...

very interesting! i can't personally relate to the HSP, but i can to the discernment. i too can be near particular people in public and sense things about them, though i tend to sense overwhelming feelings of suffering or cruelty a person has experienced. at times it overcomes me a bit and i will sit and cry in my car. thanks for sharing the thought about it being part of God's dialogue with us-- that completely makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad you posted this. it speaks to me on many levels. I've been reading your blogs for years, first on livejournal and now here (i'm not a creep, I promise!) I am a regular girl who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for many years and I am only now coming to terms with why. Thank you for writing this, I feel a less less weird and a little less alone in the world.

Gerbicks said...

it is good to hear this coming from another person & i share several of the traits you brought up here (sensitivity, discernment, the struggle of having discernment, soft heartedness). it is interesting how others perceive shyness & introversion (b/c you're right, it doesn't mean that i/you won't jabber away with certain people). thanks for writing about this...i know we don't know each other well, but it's nice to know there are some shared traits :o)

mandi said...

i'm glad you shared. because i think the gift of discernment is under appreciated and recognized. i really do. the gift of teaching, evangelism, what have you- look out! we're all about that. but the quiet, sensitive spirit, is often overlooked or mislabeled. i see myself in much of what you shared with the spiritual gifting. i work with teenagers and they always tell me that they feel like i can read their minds. so it's great to be able to creep them out like that. and it's funny how it passes on. one day my 4 year old daughter told me 'mama, sometimes i know what other people are thinking before they say it'. whoa!!!
one more thing. as i child i was tormented about being 'too sensitive' by my family. but being sensitive is who i am, just like my eyes are green. are they TOO green? not sure... and i'm sensitive in lots of areas, especially my body. if one thing is off, i know it. that is why i have to eat so darn healthy! all this to say- you're not alone. there are lots of us walking around, feeling the hurts of others, wishing jesus would just come back to ease it all.

Dan S. said...

Thank you for sharing. your honesty we refreshing to say the least. may God work with you and through you as you discern this gift.

Brooke said...

You just described me EXACTLY. I don't know how to explain it, but sometimes you just "know" about a person before you even speak to them. Upon meeting a person for the first time, I can usually tell what type of person they are, what their life is all about. It's never steered me wrong before, so I trust this instinct. I've heard it called being an "empath" before as well as simply extremely intuitive.

kran said...

love you sis, jason

Anonymous said...

Just remember, dear one, that 'we (you) are perfectly made'-I love you beyond words-Jane A

JVH said...

Your honestly beams from your words . No Doubt you have a gift from the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you...I am so glad you isolated this trait for me...I knew I was sensitive, but to hear it spoken of the way you speak sure helps me. I too ask God "why, why do I have be so sensitive" - I've been told it's a good thing, but I don't know sometimes because it's kind of torementing...Kind of bad when you come back from and antique shop and weep because you feel all the memories and the saddness of those lives overwhelm you so, and you have no idea what it is...specifically, just sadness. I travel places, and I feel something in different towns, I can't explain it, for lack of a better term "an ora"...it's a sadness, but no place is the same, it's an overwhelming feeling for me, like a flavor, but I have no way to tell others what it feels like and how it differs from place to place. I appreciate you putting it out there, because I just love your blog (and I don't love a lot of blogs)...I am so encouraged by you. I guess when I read your "about me" section, I related, and now I see why. Thanks for helping me understand, I also just realized one of my children is "HSP" so I need to adapt for him...I was being too rough on him. Thank you.

Margo said...

Woah. Thank you for this, I have felt..inadequate for years for being HSP and didn't realise it is a real 'thing' that other people have!

I too cry easily, and some say it is a gift, those being those who cannot cry at all, even when losing a parent.

I suffered from PTSD for a while and went off anti depressants after a month to make my body as healthy as I could for as long as I could before making babies, and now that I've had one, my anxiety is back - I think because so many people want a piece of you once you have a baby...it's too much.

I want to sell my car, be with my babies, do uni by correspondence and lead a simple life of organic food, cloth diapers, love and laughter. I'm not interested in 'keeping up with the Jones''

The disdain of mother-in-laws/ other mothers at playgroup when they see you parenting as they wouldn't (AP)- that has been my hardest adjustment - not taking things personally. While I lay there breastfeeding, I can't help but argue with these people in my head and wishing I could just let go of this, be the role model for my son...but I can't.

Sigh. I feel intense relief/emotion now. I think I will be processing this for a few days now.

Thanks Jenny. I think I need to get back to blogging....

Erika Harris said...


I don't know why you shared all that either, but I'm so so glad that you did :-) Your tender heart is a lighthouse, too!

Deepest thanks,


Anonymous said...

hi there :)

i came across your blog through a friend's flickr page. i just had to tell you that this was VERY moving to read. i feel so similar to the ways in which you've mentioned, and yes, it can sometimes feel like both a blessing and a curse. but in my heart of hearts, i know it's truly a blessing. thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. i would love to be your friend.