Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lately...

...I've been feeling way too much. 

For years I have felt guilty about needing alone time, not liking to be in big crowds of people, preferring authentic one on one relationships with others, and being vulnerable to emotional and sensory overload. My parents and my dear husband have always been very understanding, supportive and accepting of this part of me--yet always encouraging me to grow. I am so grateful for this.


As a teenager, I went to a private boarding school, and I will never forget the one 'report card' I received and the Resident Dean's note included something to the effect of, Iris is very conscientious in her studies, has a few very close friends, and seems to spend too much time alone in her room. This statement was like a knife to my heart. What was wrong with me?


In my teaching career, I had a principal who knew that I was sensitive but didn't hold it against me. I had joked that I cry when I am happy, sad, proud of my students, broken for them, and when I am angry. So, the times I needed to meet with him, he would jokingly place the kleenex box in the middle of the table, knowing I'd probably need it. To me it was one of the most accepting and kind gestures anyone has ever done for me. He didn't judge me for my sensitivity or tell me to 'buck up'. He accepted me for who I was and didn't make me feel any less of a professional teacher.


When Mikail passed away, our family doctor (at the time) said that if we weren't done grieving by the one year anniversary of his death, we would have to look into medication. Although there is a time and place for medication, the finality of this statement showed us that he clearly knows little about loss and the non-existent timetable of grief, but that little comment put pressure on me to 'get it together' in one year. The reality of our grief is that year one was a piece of cake compared to year two.


Over the span of my life I have heard the comment, "You're just too sensitive" or "You're one of those sensitive people" many, many times. In the past two years these comments have stung the most and left me deeply wounded, even though I believe they were never made maliciously, just out of a lack of understanding and perhaps fear.


All of these deep feelings leave me filled with guilt and shame, as though there is something innately wrong with me. There's this deep pressure within me to be 'normal'.


In the past six months all of these things have been magnified by grief, depression, and disappointments, leaving very few places that feel safe for me.  All because of this 'feeling too much' thing I am battling. 


Sometime in the past two years, Jason and I were talking to one of those few people, who is never afraid to ask those 'hard' questions that most people steer away from. We were talking about our grief and I was sharing how I feel so guilty about needing time away from the noise of life to re-fill my cup. I feel like I need too much of that time according to the 'norm' I see of those around me. He encouraged me to take the time, without guilt, and spoke about the concept of being wired as 'highly sensitive' and that there is nothing wrong with that. I didn't look into it further until recently when Jason and I were visiting family one Sunday afternoon and I was sharing similar thoughts with a dear, dear aunt about this journey of 'feeling too much', being so exhausted, my mind feeling numb, and my body physically aching. For the first time I wasn't met with a confused blank stare or given the 'buck up buttercup' speech of 'encouragement. She hear my heart and recommended the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Eileen N. Aron and for the first time in a very long time, I felt understood. I ordered the book and took the little self-test online. It claims that if you score 14/27 or higher, you are most likely a highly sensitive person. My score? A resounding 27/27! Wow!


As I am reading this book, there is an amazing sense of self-recognition I have never experienced before. 






 My whole life, I have loved this passage:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. 
Psalm 139:13-16

It confirms that God did not make a mistake in how He created us. We are 'fearfully and wonderfully made'. No matter how much we try to meet the expectations of the world around us, our frame was not hidden from Him. He knows the way we think and feel-- better than anyone does. There's a reason God created each one of us the way He did and He is continually shaping us to become a better version of ourselves (if we allow Him to). I have always known this to be true, in my soul, yet the following quote describes how the world has left me feeling less than 'wonderfully made':


“ Our trait of sensitivity means we will also be cautious, inward, needing extra time alone. 
Because people without the trait (the majority) do not understand that, 
they see us as timid, shy, weak, or that greatest sin of all, unsociable. 
Fearing these labels, we try to be like others. 
But that leads to our becoming overaroused and distressed. 
Then that gets us labeled neurotic or crazy, first by others and then by ourselves.” 
Eileen N. Aron

To me, this book is confirming with current day examples, that I am okay. There may only be 15-20% of us who are wired this way, but...

...we are God’s handiwork, 
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. 
Ephesians 2:10


And now that I have all of that off my heart (teeheehee), maybe this little place on the big wide web will feel like a safe place to share my thoughts and share encouragement for you once again.

                                   Courageously yours,
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3 comments:

  1. You are amazing!! I remember hearing a very wise pastor share about her need for time alone, for time in nature...she shared that we all worship the Lord differently and she is most free to worship him when she is alone with Him. "it is the way He wired me". Love

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  2. This book has been pivotal in my own journey, even though I did not find it until I was in my 50's. It really helps to explain me to understand myself. There are times however in which it feels like a curse mixed with blessing to have this trait.

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  3. I too am a hsp (highly sensitive person). And it took a while for me to accept that this is the way I am, no explanation needed. This book also sits on my shelf and has been super helpful.
    May you find comfort knowing you are not alone.

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