Updated: Jul 14
I have a lovely shirt made of black light crepe, that my mother offered me a few years ago, and that I am thinking of wearing to go out. Finally, I no longer want to. The shivering of the fabric creates a sort of sand paper effect. Tying the ribbon of this shirt over my left shoulder makes me cringe and gives me goosebumps every time. Thankfully, this shirt has a false silk lining, because without it, having the crepe on my skin would be unbearable. I will just wear this old cotton T-shirt; the one that is soft. Talking of sand paper, Matthieu and I were revamping a balcony not so long ago. Sanding the bars of the balcony was beyond my capabilities: I felt as if I were sanding my guts. I went and measured some canvases instead. One needs to choose their battles. Time flies. I always fear lacking time to do all that I want to do. I fear lacking time to become accomplished enough. (My husband says that it is because I want to be more-than-perfect. It makes me laugh. Perhaps is he somewhat right, but that is another story.) The words "laundry", "cleaning", "practice", "taking the recycling out", "water the plants", "cooking", "emails", "schedule", "uncertainty" and "grocery" create chaos in my mind. Everything seems like a mountain to me. This is because words are equal in value. It is obvious that taking out the recycling bin takes much less time than practicing, but there are more syllables to "taking out the recycling bin." It seems bigger when I say it. The words resonate more lengthily. There is also the unquestionable volume of this object in the kitchen. The bin is overflowing, is big, tangible and ugly. So everything is a little bit crooked. I go from one task to another, and night falls every day a little bit sooner. My goodness, does time fly. There is already this particular scent of end-of-summer in the air in the evening. The air is lighter on the skin, more velvet like. And I saw a tree yesterday; its green had already begun to change. Just a little bit. A tiny little bit. But it changed nonetheless. I want to catch and hold unto the song of crickets in the night and make summer stay a little longer. When crickets sing, it seems to me that there are little bubbles in the air, just above my head, so close that I could hold the sound in the palm of my hand.
I am an HSP. My world looks just like that.
I will tell you just right now what I am not: a woman with special spiritual connexions, a user of crystals, nurturing a unique relationship with the Universe, which in turn sends me special vibrations and messages. I am not just over-sensitive either. I was told that often, when I was a child: "Don't be so sensitive." No, it did not tease me. It hurt. For a long time. Being hypersensitive comes in all shapes, forms and sizes, and has many a way of expressing itself. About 20 % of the population has hypersensitivity in a form or another. It is not that rare a condition. There are more emotional HSPs, some are more hedonistic, some are more sociable. In my case, it comes in the introverted form. I implose rather than explose. Still waters run deep, as they say.
- Hello, Mom? We are finished eating. I danced twice. Can Dad come and get me?
- Prom is already over?
- No. But I'm tired of it. There is too much noise.
- Ok. As you wish...
And so I was running away from my own prom to find myself surrounded by the comfort of my bed, a good book and Mou-Ton under my chin. Back then, I was seen as a little bit of a nerd. Only a little! I was cool and a nerd at the same time.
HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person, but really, what we have is Sensory Processing Sensitivity. Before they found out it was a sensitivity that was common enough, they called it Disorder, but it became Sensitivity. For me, being highly sensitive is first and foremost a sensory thing. Because it is sensory, it becomes emotional. HSPs notice everything, so quickly that we don't even know how we came to notice those things. It feels like intuition, but it is not intuition. We really do notice those things.
Everything seems more intense (hello BPD friends, you know yourselves.) However, everything is more permanent too. At least for me, it is so. That is one thing I don't understand well: the passing of emotions, the fact that we say something or feel something, and it sort of dilutes itself and fades into our daily lives. People and things leave a deep stamp in me. I get deeply attached. Not easily, but deeply. It makes me awkward because I get attached to things that I should not have normally noticed. And then starts the mental game: I question myself, and tell myself that my impressions mean nothing, and then, I don't listen to myself, and finally, I regret it because I was right and I should have listened to myself. I often have a fear of being "too much", and instead, I really am "not enough" when I should be "more." I never know if the relationship, the emotion, the connexion is something that should move on quickly or not. I don't know if it should pass. It is very difficult for me to determine that. That is the first thing I noticed. The fact that I am awkward. From experience, it takes me about 20 seconds to read the emotional state of a friend when we meet. If they mask it, I will also notice the mask within these 20 seconds. It is beautiful... but I also discovered one day that it can be daunting for the friend. The problem is that I am the way I am, and I can't change this trait. Hello feelings of guilt. And then, maybe my friend is avoiding me. And of course, I do notice that they are avoiding me. "No, no, of course not." And so I notice the white lie. I learnt to keep quiet, but that also makes me awkward. We are turning in circles. In a nutshell: I am just like that.
I took a long time to understand how my sensory processing sensitivity works. It took me a great deal of time and anxiety, a depression, medication and therapy, and many false hypothesis before even discovering that I had sensory processing sensitivity. Since I can't perceive the world otherwise than through my own senses, I had always thought that everyone was just like me. And then, I realized that it wasn't the case. (I often thought that everyone was just like me. Until the age of eight, I also believed that everyone had perfect pitch.)
It can seem a heavy load to bear. It is, sometimes. It has been, at least, but not always. I am learning to make it lighter. The ugly is really more ugly, but the beautiful is also so much more beautiful. I say "more" and "less", but really, I don't have any inner point of comparison. It is only something that was explained to me, so that I could part with the guilt and understand my limits and the threshold of my emotions.
Welcome to my world. It is full of social awkwardness, but so poetic a universe. Climbing the narrow and worn-out steps of a century-old church, towards the organ loft high up there, listening to the sound of the organ rolling on the stone, making that sound come to life, or sweating to impersonate the music in my ballet classes... those things are priceless.
And now, I am heading to the park, to catch a little bit of the crickets' song.