No Longer Broken

I’ve always believed myself to be a little different from the rest, but I never thought too much of it until recently.
Not until my differences seemed to be the source of all of my anxieties.
Not until my differences made me start believing that I was broken.

By the time I started meeting with my therapist, I felt completely unraveled. I can recall telling her so as I explained that every day felt like a fight to just get by.
My health had been deteriorating for months and my immune system was completely shot as a result. Despite being a young and fit twenty-something, I would get colds that would last for weeks at a time and I had experienced two shingles flare ups within 8 months.
My anxiety seemed to be at an all-time high, and when tracked on a scale of 1 to 10, it rarely dropped below a 6.
Nearly everything seemed to trigger me, even things that hadn’t before.
And it led me to started wondering what was wrong with me.
A few months after we’d been working together, I found my answer.

One day, while scanning the spines of books on the shelves at Chapters, one book jumped out at me.
The Highly Sensitive Person – How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Dr. Elaine Aron.
On the back cover of the book there are a number of questions meant to identify whether or not the reader might be a Highly Sensitive Person. Having answered “yes” to each one, I was intrigued.
Truthfully, I was more than intrigued.
I imagine the grin that spread across my face as I read those words could have lightened the mood of anyone watching.
I started reading right there in the aisle, and continued reading right through the author’s note and preface until I came upon the self-test.
I didn’t have any doubts at this point, I was an HSP!
Sure enough, after I got home and took the test, I had responded yes to each question except for one, “I tend to be very sensitive to pain.”
Apparently every single part of my being is sensitive except for my pain tolerance, lucky me.
To find something that so thoroughly explained my struggles and sensitivities was literally life-changing.
I had always known that I was sensitive, but I guess I had kind of viewed it as something that could be changed. I had thought that I just needed to “toughen up” and that this was something that I could achieve with the help of my therapist.
But reading this book and learning that high sensitivity is something that we are born into and have no control over, that changed everything for me.
Broken” was replaced with “Sensitive”.

When I think about explaining this revelation to my therapist, it always makes me laugh.
We had talked about my being sensitive numerous times.
I had even used the term “HSP” in describing myself before.
But, despite using the term, I had never understood what it was.
Of course, I knew that I was sensitive. I always have been.
But now, being sensitive meant something different.
I was giddy with excitement as I declared to her, “I’m a highly sensitive person!”
And she looked back as me with a confused look on her face and said, “I know.”
I was baffled by her confusion, and she was baffled by my excitement.

The reason this recollection makes me laugh is because our interaction was so innocent.
My excitement was pure and unfiltered, a result of my recent research and new understandings. And her confusion was more than warranted given our numerous discussions on the topic.
What she didn’t know was that, although learning about high sensitivity didn’t teach me anything about myself that I didn’t already know or that we hadn’t already discussed, it had allowed me to embrace my sensitivity.
My excitement in learning about high sensitivity illustrates the significance of belonging and empowerment that can come from identity.
I no longer viewed my sensitivity as a hindrance or a weakness.
My sensitivity is just part of who I am.
Sure, it can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but more often than not, my life is enriched as a result of my sensitivity.

I still feel and believe myself to be a little different from the rest.
I hear, see, and feel things that go unnoticed by others.
I feel physically ill when I witness violence or injustice.
I become easily overwhelmed by stimuli, such as lights, sounds, and touch.
But I don’t feel broken because of these things anymore.
Instead, I feel grateful.
I’m grateful for the way my sensitivities have softened me and made me a more compassionate and caring person.
I’m grateful for being able to easily empathize with others, even if I don’t know them.
And I’m grateful for the way I find beauty in things that go unnoticed by other people.

The reality is that we’re all different.
Learning how to embrace these differences in ourselves and others is the key to living peacefully.
Because regardless of all of the ways that we’re different, in so many more ways, we’re the same.
This is a lesson that I hold close to my heart, and one that I hope can have a positive impact on others.

Are you highly sensitive too?
Have you ever struggled with feeling different or broken?
How have you learned to accept and embrace these differences?

To take the Highly Sensitive Person self-test, click here.

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