Why Being Labeled Sensitive is Bullshit

I think everyone has heard this at least once. You may have even said it. I know I have. “You’re being too sensitive. You need to lighten up.”

I’m here to tell you those words are utter bullshit.

sensitivity

Think about every time you’ve ever been called sensitive. Chances are, you took words that someone said to heart and it hurt you. Maybe you called them on it. Maybe you withdrew a bit to protect yourself. Maybe you just changed the way you dealt with them. Or maybe you started to question yourself, and your reactions. Maybe you blamed yourself for feeling hurt.

Let me be very clear: we are not always right in our interpretation of others’ words. Our feelings, however, can’t be wrong. How you feel inside when you hear someone’s words is never invalid. And when someone tells you that you are too sensitive, that is exactly what they’re saying. Your feelings are invalid; my right to say what I want is more important than your feelings. So suck it up.

Bullshit. Don’t let them get away with that.

I’m honestly the worst with this. People don’t even have to tell me I’m too sensitive; I just naturally think they think that about me. So if something that someone says hurts my feelings, I hide the hurt and make a joke. Or I just smile and nod. I bury it and keep it with all of the other things that poke at me at night when I can’t sleep.

It’s time to stop that shit because my insides are beginning to feel like a worn out pin cushion.

Yes. I am a sensitive person. I feel deeply All. The. Time. And you know what? That’s a goddamn super power. If I tell you I love you, you can be sure I feel it from the tips of my toes all the way through every inch of my hair. If I believe in a cause, I will support it with every fiber in my being. And if I don’t like you, well … I guess we’re done then. Because I feel that to my very core as well.

fucks

I also apologize for myself pretty much constantly. I caught myself today. I was walking into Wawa (a local convenience store for you non-PA people out there) and a gentleman held the door open for me. As I walked in, I nodded and said thank you. And then, almost immediately, I said, “I’m sorry.”

Sorry for … what, exactly? Walking into the store? Taking up space? Existing? Seriously, there was no reason to apologize, but I did out of habit. It made me think about how many other times I apologized for no good reason. Let me tell you, it was a lot.

This all ties into being “too sensitive.” I’m not sure what it is in our culture that makes some of us feel the need to apologize for our very being, but it is there. I have a number of friends who apologize when they give an opinion, when they missed a phone call, or when they didn’t find something funny. Why are we so eager to apologize away our very existence?

If you are a sensitive person, like I am, and someone tries to make you feel bad for feeling bad, put your foot down with me and say enough. You don’t have to be mean, but offering a small education would do all of us a favor. Instead of laughing with them, next time say something like this: “Actually, that hurt me. And you probably didn’t mean to hurt me, but you did. I’d really appreciate it if you could find a different way to say that.”

And DON’T apologize for requesting that they respect your feelings. You’re going to feel exposed and vulnerable. Trust me; I know from experience. But if the person is your friend, I genuinely believe that they will understand. It might open up a dialog that in the end will benefit everyone involved. And if it does offend them? Maybe that tells you all you need to know about them right there.

I’m going to try to do this right along with you. I say try because, honest to god, I’m having a minor anxiety attack just thinking about speaking up. But I’m going to give it a go. I encourage you to do the same. Let me know how it goes!

In other news, I’m running a weekend contest over on my Facebook page. If you’d like to participate, head on over to the page, like it, and then comment on the contest post with something that makes you happy. It could be a picture or a sentence. At the end of the weekend, the comment with the most likes will win a $25 Etsy gift card for a little bit of Retail Therapy! Hope to see you over there!

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How an Internet Quiz Changed My Life

Scrolling through facebook this morning as I was avoiding getting up for the day relaxing, I saw about fifteen friends who’d recently taken quizzes. These ranged from “Which Disney Princess are You?” (I’m Mulan, bitches) to “What is your Patronus?” (Phoenix, baby).

I like quizzes. I like things that attempt to take information from seven questions and diagnose my entire personality. And by like I mean I find them funny as hell. I’d really like it to be that simple; and when I see a part of myself in those results, it makes me feel like maybe I’m not as fucked up as I sometimes feel. Often, however, I get such varied and ridiculous results that it just makes me more confused. Maybe that’s why the results of a test that I recently took had such a profound effect on me.

tom

this is me. i’m tom. different from the crowd… except i give a shit. lots of them actually.

A friend posted a link to the Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBTI for all of you psych nerds). I’d never heard of it before, but it sounded really interesting. Answer seventy odd questions and they’ll tell you four letters that define your personality. Being a quiz nut, I was in like Flynn.

The questions were strange; they weren’t probing queries into my inner soul, but more statements about my habits. “You are more interested in a general idea than in the details of its realization.” Yeah, pretty much. “Your actions are frequently influenced by feelings.” Can I get a HELL YES? “The more people you speak with, the better you feel.” Good God, no. And so on.

I was anxious to see where this would lead. I took my time, weighing each of the answers and being more honest with this test than I usually am to most people I talk to. In the end, it took me about a half hour to wade through those seventy-two questions. When I pressed the “Score This” button, I eagerly awaited the result.

INFJ: Introverted iNtuition Feeling and Judging.

infj2

the storm amid the calm. i’m confusing like that…

The words were familiar, but the combination was foreign to me. So I did what I do best. I researched the hell out of it.

INFJs are the rarest of the sixteen personality types, accounting for less than one percent of the entire population. We’re considered by many to be the most extroverted of the introverts, enjoying and often even seeking out groups of people (of our choice). We’re dreamers who focus on doing, and we are considered the most empathic personality type out there.

The more I researched this personality type, the more I saw myself in it. All of the quirks that I couldn’t explain, the strange curse ability to take on others’ feelings as my own, all of it was described as normal for this personality. Normal.

I’m not saying that everyone who takes this test will find meaning in it. But I am saying that for me, it was exactly what I needed. INFJs seem to be the most misunderstood personality, maybe because there are so few of us. We are often mistyped by others because we appear extroverted and very often adopt the characteristics of our closest friends. We want to be noticed and understood the way we notice and understand others, but we also hide like champs. We are a walking dichotomy.

infj1

Understanding more about my personality type has really helped me understand how it plays into my daily life and my battles with mental health. I’ve only recently begun to honor the empathic side of myself, and a lot of that stems from the understanding I gained in this test. I’ll give you a for instance.

I really dislike crowds. Always have. The noise, the extreme closeness of so many bodies, all of it combines for a truly uncomfortable experience for me. If I go to a crowded area with a stressed out friend, I find that I am more likely to suffer a full on panic attack than if I were to attend with someone more laid back.

I always dismissed the correlation, focusing more on the panic attack than the cause. But it makes sense now that I know about this empathic side of myself. It’s not just that I notice people’s discomfort; I actually feel it. If someone I care about gets hurt, I physically hurt for them. If someone is sad, I am sad. And so on.

I’m not trying to be dramatic or exaggerate. I’m just somehow more tuned in to the energy that others provide than most other people. I experience that energy in a very real and palpable way. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can approach people better. I don’t always look inward when I begin to feel sad or stressed or hurt; sometimes I need to look around me and see where that energy is coming from.

I know all of this sounds like New Age crap. And believe me, when I first started reading about it, I thought the same. The truth is, it isn’t all about crystals and auras and shit.

There is an energy to a room full of happy, celebrating people, yes? You feel it the moment you walk into the room and it carries you into their revelry. The same can be said of a room in mourning. The somberness is palpable as you walk in and without even thinking about it, you become more subdued. More quiet.

Every person carries that same energy inside of them. Some of us are just more in tune to the little changes than others. Whereas it might take 50 or 60 happy people to create that joyous energy I spoke of above, I can feel it from one person sitting next to me on the train. And it affects me. Happy or sad. Knowing that about myself makes me more careful of who I choose to be with when I’m not in a good place and it helps me take care of myself in much healthier ways.

This link is to the best, short explanation of INFJ I’ve ever found. If you’d like to know more about this personality type, start here. If you’d like to type yourself, you can go here. If you’d like to talk personality types, visit me in the comments section. I adore talking about this stuff and I love to hear from my readers. 🙂

Battling Invisible Wraiths

As I poured the second tall glass of whiskey into my tumbler last night, I knew I was in for a long one. I’d been here loads of times before: mind rushing in fifteen different directions with no end in sight. Anxiety, man… It’s a bitch.

Yup.

I don’t come across as the anxious type most of the time. I’m a laid back mom when it comes to my kids’ choices, electing to let them make their own mistakes as long as they don’t break their necks in the process. But I have a monster inside of me, nonetheless. Or perhaps monster is too big of a word. Wraith might be better.

 

It’s so quiet, the way the thoughts take over. One minute you’re having the best time with someone you love and the next, this insidious voice in your head has convinced you that you’re a stupid buffoon who no one wants to be around. It’s the same voice that keeps me smiling and laughing at a party long after I’ve exceeded my delicate introvert tolerance for people and noise. And the same one that keeps me from calling up old friends because “why in hell would they want to talk to me?”

 

The combo of anxiety and depression is a double whammy that so many people live with. I’m not here as an apologist for my quirky behavior, or even to make you understand other people’s behavior. They truth is, everyone’s experience with these illnesses is unique. I am here to write about my experiences with this disease and try to understand my own recovery process. And if my journey toward recovery helps someone else, all the better. If, perchance, my experiences help you to understand me or someone you love better, I will be thrilled.

 

What we want

 

I know I can’t speak for everyone here. Hell, I barely know what I want on a day to day basis. But I think I have a generally sound idea what depression suffers most want from people they love. And it isn’t a cure, surprisingly. It seems that everyone assumes that, because as soon as you tell someone you’re depressed, they give you a laundry list of things you need to change in order to “get better.”

 

It probably seems to those on the outside that we don’t want to get better. After all, you hand us these nuggets of wisdom about positive thinking and the power of choice and we just stare at you as though you are speaking a foreign language. The reason I look at my “positive thinking” friends so deridingly when they say things like this is because I fucking am being positive. You see me standing here, right? I’m out of bed! I’m dressed! There’s something that resembles a smile on my face! Do you have any idea the amount of positive thinking I had to do to accomplish that? I want a damn medal.

 

What we want, what I want, is validation. When you feel like everything inside of you is being held together with pins, needles, and a little bit of week old duct tape, you can’t see that on the outside everything looks normal. You feel on the brink of falling apart. You feel like you are two steps from the hospital because everything hurts, nothing feels good, and you just want to curl up in the dark and let it all fester. So when we reach out and say, “I am hurting,” all we want is for someone to tell us that they can see the pain, it is valid and true, and that their friendship won’t go away.

 

I know what you are probably thinking right now. If I tell my depressed friend that their pain is valid, that it is ok, they will just continue feeling that way. I need to fix it.

 

Newsflash: we’re gonna keep feeling that way whether you validate it or not. Chronic depression is not something you turn a light switch on and magically make disappear. It is not something you can tickle out of someone. And despite what you may think, it doesn’t go away just because the sufferer is smiling and happy. It’s a cancer that eats at us, as real as any disease that eats away at a human, just silent and deadly invisible.

 

The greatest gift a friend ever gave to me was acceptance. I struggle terribly with feeling weak. Most people do, but I pathologically fear appearing weak in front of people that I value. So the decision to let someone inside these walls, to show them just how bad it can be, takes weeks of indecision and anxiety. I have about two people on my inner circle. And it was the last person I told who gave me my greatest gift.

 

I expected pity. I expected to be met with understanding and perhaps sympathy. I never expected the words that I received. “Jen, I know you’re fucked up. I’m fucked up too. And I love you because of that, not in spite of it.”

This is lovely.

Do you see what they did there? “I love you because of it.” Holy shit, they love me because of my depression and anxiety! What a jerk!

 

No, not exactly. They love all of the parts that make up me: the quirky, inappropriate humor, the indecision, the fear of being forgotten, and yes, even the depression. They love me because those things make me into the person that I am. And they saw that and accepted that. It was a first, and it started me on this long journey toward finally accepting it in myself.