There are so many things that I have joked about in this lifetime that are turning out to be core truths about who I am and how I relate to the world. from “like all things I swing both ways” (hello bipolar/bisexuality) To “I’m a delicate f*cking flower” (Hello sensory processing sensitivity) It has also come into my understanding that the very things I feel shame over and have been ridiculed for are part of the very nature of my being. (OH wow self-worth much?) This is the basis for so many of our anxieties, for our depression, and certainly our unhealthy coping mechanisms. In the world of neurodiversity we refer to hiding our traits as masking (or camouflaging) . Coming to recognize that the stranger, the very things we are hiding away from others and ourselves, that is our inner truth, our inner voice. We’ve silenced so much of ourselves for so long, sometimes not on purpose but out of trauma, that we don’t even know ourselves, that is the feeling of unrest and discomfort that too many of us feel.
For me specifically this is my sensory/sensitivty levels. We didn’t have words for Sensory Processing issues when I was a child, heck we barely talked about ADHD or even spectrums of autism. Being born in the late 60’s I was in elementary school in the 70’s and to top it off I was in Catholic school – there was definitely no room for individuality in those halls. What I do remember more than anything is being bullied and teased for being shy, withdrawn, and SO SENSITIVE. It was said to me like a curse – you are just so sensitive. Too sensitive. And I learned to see it as a moral failing, a weakness, an assassination of my character. My mother gave to me a love of musical theatre and she introduced me to the fairy tale of the “princess and the pea” via “Once Upon a Mattress” and would call me Winnifred, later in life we have come to refer to me as a “delicate f*cking flower” because I can feel things, hear things, and definitely smell things that others can’t yet I’m tough and loud and brash. (spoiler alert I LEARNED to be those things to mask my too sensitive self.) Life has been, if nothing else, an assault to my senses from day one. It’s exhausting. Gee I wonder why I have chronic fatigue (my “shocked” face)
These days we also refer to my nose as the “super sniffer” (thanks Gus from Psych) but it’s not always cute in my life. It means when you use bounce on your clothes and I’m near you I get a headache and sometimes sick to my stomach. I am overpowered and smell things that others can’t,I’m like a canary in a coal mine all day every day, and honestly I thought I was losing my mind until an episode of castle taught me that hyperosmia is a real thing. (played by the ever glorious Stephnie Weir) Yeah I have genuinely lived my life presuming I was a bit crazy because no one else seemed to be troubled by the smells (sights, sounds, touch, emotions of others). I even inadvertenly self medicated as a smoker for years because that killed my smell and sometimes I still miss that part. Although once I got smoke free and could smell the smoke it is one of the most hated smells and I can smell it from 100 paces on you and everything you own – even if you have washed, breath minted, and spritzed. Sure the average person can smell strong smells, but I smell the faded ones and they effect me greatly. But the problem isn’t really the smelling or hearing that the TV is on, or the buzz of lights, or the way that lights hurt, or the fact that I can read a facial expression that no one else even saw – no it’s how people treat those of us who are more sensitive, that’s the real problem. Like we are making it up, or we need to “toughen” up. Knowing now that I literally feel different from other people is helping me get in touch with my true nature and rather than suppressing my feelings and reactions I’m learning to process them. (If you want to know more learn about HSP or SPS this person’s story is very similar to mine) I used to believe I was an “empath” but I now see that was just part of my sensitivity combined with hyper vigilance born of trauma. (spoiler alert a lot people are dishonest and think they are hiding their true feelings but some of us see that shit)
Trying to fit in is literally killing people. Want to understand the rise of auto-immunity, chronic fatigue, mental health issues? Take a look at how a faster, louder, brighter world is effecting 15-20% of us. It’s a evolutionary gift in the right circumstances but in a modern world it can be a real curse. Finding your place has to consider what works for you! Everyone has a sensitivity, I truly believe this and we beat it out of our children (especially our AMAB children), we cookie cutter it out of us in schools, we lose our super powers by seeing them as inconvenience or as wrong and “not normal”. But it’s our sensitivities, our uniqueness that guides us that makes us, well US. So the next time you feel you have to hide who you really are ask if that person, place, or activity is worth it. As we say around here #BeYou #BeReal #BeExtra. Only when we are allowed to fully be ourselves can we find peace. We are killing the very things that are our gifts. The world needs your love of your special interest (Hello Greta Thunberg) it needs your sensitivity. When we get in touch with that Inner Voice we can change the world and find happiness. Let’s stop chasing other people’s happiness and find our own. (spoiler alert you may need to unlearn some BS and you may need help, but that’s OK, listen. you know your truth. We just have to find a way to accept it and embrace it) End the epidemic of self-loathing that fuels so much hatred.