Well, I kind of realised that despite this blog being called Stories of a Highly Sensitive Introvert, I haven’t been writing much about being a highly sensitive person or an introvert! So here’s a post about being a highly sensitive person (HSP). 😛
As a HSP, I’m quite sensitive to, well, everything. It’s not because I want to be; we HSPs just process information (sensory, thoughts, emotions, etc) more deeply and thoroughly due to our brains being wired differently. Others may say, “Just ignore that noise!” but tuning off stimuli is not as easy as non-HSPs might think, because it’s like we’re living life with everything turned up to “loud”. Of course, it’s not something that is necessarily bad; a non-HSP telling a HSP to “suck it up” is like chastising someone for liking blue colour more than red!
There are loads of things a HSP is sensitive to, though we aren’t all the same, and the below are what I experience. 😀
Noise & Loud Sounds
I’m usually fine with the amount of chatter in a semi-crowded shopping mall, so one might feel surprised that I’m sensitive to noise! To be precise, I hate loud sounds that interrupt my train of thoughts, which include but not limited to the following:
- The scream of a child throwing a tantrum or yelling at the top of his/her lungs in play in an enclosed space like a restaurant. I’m sorry to say this to parents (and I understand it’s hard to take care of children) , but in an enclosed space these screams vibrate and really rattle my brain. 😅
- Construction sounds, especially the terrible drilling that travel down the walls and into my apartment. It really bothers me and it feels like I can do nothing but wish it was over, and if I actually hear it long enough (like 30 minutes), I actually get a headache that sometimes turn into a migraine. 🙁
- A group of people chatting and laughing loudly in a cafe (even open air ones), especially if they’re at the next table. When possible, I’d move further away from them or just leave as soon as possible.
- An over-sensitive car that seemingly unable to stay quiet for more than 2 minutes before its alarm triggers yet again. There’s one such car parked that the apartment across mine, and it always happens at night and interrupts my train of thoughts. 😞
- The TV as background noise! No, thank you, I don’t want any background noise when I’m trying to write something on my computer.
I just hate loud sounds in general, and I especially hate loud booming music that forces my heart to beat the same time as the music beats! With the strong beats piercing through my heart, it always feels like I’m going to get a heart attack and die. Needless to say, I avoid clubbing like a plague. 😅
My favourite places that aren’t home are those quiet cafes or coffee shops where people talk quietly. 😀
Yep, I can’t stand bright lights. I’m sensitive to car headlights in my direction at night, and even on a not-so-sunny day, I put down the sun visor when I drive to block out the bright sky so that it’s less glaring for me. I love gentle yellow lighting, not too bright but not too dim. 😀
Recently I realised that I’m hypersensitive to fluorescent light, to the point I get a brain fog, exhaustion, irritability and a sudden need to return home. I’m fine in a kitchen with under-cabinet lights, but I really can’t stand those super bright places like supermarkets or hardware shops. That makes grocery shopping difficult. 😅
I’m usually all right with a passing scent (like a passerby with perfume), but I really hate strong smells that linger and the need to escape grows more the longer I smell it. One example is those souvenir shops in shopping malls that are drowning in perfume; I can usually smell them from 2 – 3 stores away and I’d take the longer way around to avoid them. 😅
Also, I really, really hate cigarette smoke! The moment I smell it, I won’t be able to focus on anything except that darn smell, and if I’m in a social setting, I’d go dead silent. I’d move if I could, though. The problem is that smokers are everywhere in my city, and there’s even one upstairs of my apartment whose cigarette smoke always enter my bedroom at 11pm. Heck, even my dad is a smoker, though it’s a good thing he tries to smoke away from me or outside at the balcony with the doors closed. 😆
I live in a tropical country, so hot weather is a given and people here try to go to places with free air conditioning like shopping malls. My problem? I hate feeling hot, but I can’t stand the cold. 😅
Whenever I feel hot and sweaty (like when I’m cleaning the house), my neck becomes super hot and I’d become super cranky. When I get too hot, I even get rashes around my neck!
Yet I can’t stand the cold, even with the air conditioning set to 24 degrees Celsius. My fingers and toes become cold and stiff and I sneeze if my nose gets cold enough. Even when I don’t feel cold inside, my skin feels it very much and even the hairs on my arms will stand on end. Because of this, I try and sit in the outside section of a restaurant / cafe where it’s warmer (much to the indignation of my husband), but then I get the smokers problem again because they smoke anywhere that isn’t air conditioned. 😅
If I were to drink coffee (a latte, cappuccino or mocha, can’t stand black coffee), I’d talk like a bullet train for the next half an hour and then crash! I’d suddenly feel tired, my eyes are heavy, and I feel the need to go home and do nothing. 😅
On the other hand, I’m perfectly fine with tea that has caffeine! I can drink black or green tea right before sleeping and I’ll still fall asleep quickly. 😆
If there’s one thing I need to do on time no matter what, that’s to eat. If I get too hungry, I get “hangry”; that translates to: “Feed me or I’ll beat you up!” I get really irritable, angry and way less friendly in hangry mode, and I start getting desperate for food (even if it’s like 1 – 2 hours after the missed mealtime). 😅
On the other hand, I’m not able to eat anything if I’m not hungry enough (like within 3 hours of a main meal), so mealtime for me is a delicate process of making sure I’m hungry enough but not too hungry. 😆
I’m one of those people who prefers to sit with the back against the wall in a restaurant / cafe; I really hate the feeling of someone looking over my shoulder. Especially when others are “evaluating” me. Public speaking and performance fall under this category too, because the audience would be watching me… I get chills at the thought. 😱
Though I’m fine with it if I’m the one initiating it and it’s a super small audience, like teaching a colleague something or playing video games on TV with my husband or a friend watching. 😀
Ergonomic seats are important for me! If it’s too straight or too high or too low or too slanted or too anything, I’d get a lower backache that lasts until I get to a massage therapist. Luckily my office chairs are adjustable. 😀
It’s a current problem with my car driver’s seat too; I can’t sit too near or my ankle’s angle is too sharp and gives me ankle-ache, the wheel can’t be too high or it’s tiring for my shoulder and arms. I wish I have a car that has electronic seating memory. 😛
Slanted Picture Frames
This really drives me nuts every time… inevitably, every restaurant that I go to has a picture frame that’s a little slanted, that I’d notice immediately and that distracts me constantly! And I’d be internally screaming, “Why hasn’t anyone notice it?!”
I know I’m not supposed let it bother me, especially when they’re everywhere, but I can’t unsee something I saw. 😅
Touching Story Scenes
If there’s one person who always tears up at every touching scene, that’s me! Happy or sad, movies or comics, I always tear up at these scenes and eventually it turns into a “Whyyyyyy?!” crying session. 😭
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means I’m easily moved! That must be why I enjoy video game soundtracks, with all that musical storytelling. 😀
And that’s the list of what I’m sensitive to! I’m sure there are more, but these are just the ones that come to mind now. 😆
Whether or not you’re a HSP, what are you sensitive to? Do comment below!
P.S. This post is scheduled to publish while I’m on vacation, so I might be a little slow to reply to your comments depending on the internet connection and time+energy available. 😛
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter
It’s great that you acknowledge and accept your sensitivity as in! Just because others say you’re too sensitive doesn’t mean you are. 🙂