Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Are you down with HSP?

Contributing to my recent two fortnight absence was Hurricane Sandy.  Though it was nowhere near here, immediately my geoblography kicked in and I began to worry and wonder about my blog friends.  There was Cooper in Maryland, Sherri in Virginia, Lucy in New York, Brooke in New Jersey, and Carnealian, Actonbell, and Susan in Pennsylvania.  (If this isn't where you live, just go with it.  It's where you live in my mind.)

Through blogs, Twitter, and my most common method of communicating -- the playing of Words With Friends moves -- within two or three days, I learned everyone was OK.

But the footage of those who hadn't been so fortunate wouldn't leave me.  I felt like "how can I post when so many are suffering, displaced, have no power, have lost property, pets, and loved ones?"  Who wants to read about the delicious remoulade I made last week or how ear hair maintenance has become a daily chore for me when something that devastating is going on.

Then I think that I let things like this affect me way too much.  Immediately that is followed by a rebuttal, "but how can I not?"

It was during this line of thinking when I remembered an article my blog friend Sherri (in Virginia, or Maryland, or some adjacent state) had linked to awhile back.  It was a Psychology Today article on Highly Sensitive Persons.

I remember thinking at the time that it fit me pretty well.  So I went back and reread it and was even more convinced: I am an HSP.

It's an excellent article and there is so much I want to share from it.  For the sake of time and space, I'll refrain.  But if there were only one line I could pull out of the article it would be this one:  ""It's like feeling something with 50 fingers as opposed to 10."

As with any diagnosis or grouping of people, not every characteristic in the article applied to me.  I don't walk around on the verge of tears at any moment.  But while reading, I definitely found myself saying "Yes!" and "That's me!" much more so than not.

I hear the slightest noises in the night, noises that would even register with most people.   For years, I slept with the TV on at a low drone so other noises wouldn't keep me awake.  Recently, I started sleeping with ear plugs.

I'm super-sensitive to smells -- perfumes and lotions and colognes -- to the point that a girl has had to stop wearing a certain kind of body lotion (Marshmallow Fluff, blech!) because it bothered me so much.

At the dentist, I've always required two or three times the amount of Novocaine as a normal patient.  I've even joked that it wasn't a low threshold for pain, but rather a superhero-like sensitivity to stimuli.  Never did I dream that might actually be the case.  Along the same lines, pain pills never seem to dull my senses in their prescribed dosage.

There is an amplified feeling of everything, good and bad.  It's life to the nth degree.

Even the briefest unpleasant conversation or hint of discord or strife can leave me feeling uneasy and bothered for two days.  Many times I'll have a gnawing in my stomach that something is wrong, yet I can't put my finger on what has caused it.  It leaves me to wonder if nothing happened at all or if it seemed so insignificant at the time that I can't remember it.

Of course, it's not all bad.  It works the same for life's positive emotions and sensations, too.  For example, the beauty of nature often affects me immensely.  And now that I think about it, I can recall several less-than-enthusiastic responses from others when I've remarked at how gorgeous or awe-inspiring something is.  Although even now, it's hard for me to accept that not everyone feels and senses these things the same.

I think maybe this is a big reason why I rarely watch the news.  Maybe it's something I've done as a defense/survival mechanism.  I can't just watch the news and move on.  The stories stay with me.  My sensory volume is on fifteen, and I can't simply mute it or turn it down.  It's not that I don't care.  But I think I'd be in a continual state of depression if I watched the news every day.

I'm not sure what my point is in sharing all this, other than I've sort of learned/realized something new about myself, and also the article estimates as much as 20% of the population may be HSP's, so maybe some of you are the same way.  And if not, then certainly someone you know could be.

And if I get a little misty-eyed while watching Andre Agassi's retirement speech, Mister Holland's Opus, or Linus explaining to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about, well now you know why:  I'm one (highly) sensitive guy.

I imagine there may be a couple of females in existence who would disagree with that last statement.  Others would (and have) encourage(d) me to delve further into my psychological, um, uniquities.

"All mornin' I'd been thinkin' my life's so hard / And they wore everything they owned, livin' in a car / I wanted to tell them it would be OK / But I got just got in my Suburban and I drove away..."


  1. I think I'm the opposite, I hear the woman howling at the funeral, and I think "it can't be THAT bad".
    New Jersey got a direct hit, like we did from Hurricane Ivan. New York was far far away and only got flooding. But (as I predicted) NJ is quietly rebuilding while NY is crying like a baby, and NY will cry for years about Sandy but NJ will hang tough.
    I have more of a nose hair problem than ear hair.

  2. Oh, how your words resonate...I'm exactly like you with watching the news. And with my awe of nature's beauty that I try to share with others (and get blank And being that I'm a girl, the emotions are even more heightened. Smells, noises, bright lights, sleeping sensitivity...oh yes. It's as if our sensitivity furnaces are set to emergency heat at all times. It's both a curse (every day living) and a blessing (poetry, art, creativity)! Bone, I feel kinda proud that I helped you realize something about yourself...and I offer both my congratulations and my condolences on being an HSP. :)

  3. This is real hard for me to comment on as though I no longer live in NY I saw what Sandy did--and things will remain in perspective for a long long time

    And that's what I have to write about in PT to be popular? God I can do HSP in my sleep!!!!!

  4. A few of the characteristics I can relate to: sensitivity to smells & noises, and emotional responses to certain things (if Mr. Holland's Opus doesn't make you at least well up, come on!). So maybe it's good that you were concerned about me during the hurricane. Thanks!

  5. I've gotta check out that article!

  6. MarkD - That's interesting. I kind of had just the opposite view, thinking that if any city was equipped to handle something like this, it was New York. And one entire neighborhood in The Rockaways was destroyed by fire -- over 100 homes, I think. That's pretty devastating.

    Sherri - I can't thank you enough for sharing the article. And as with most things, it helps to know there are others who go through the same thing.

    Congratulations and condolences? What, am I getting married? :)

    Pia - I understand. I can't imagine how it was for you to go back there after the storm.

    Susan - Well, see, that's what I thought, too. Darn that Richard Dreyfuss! Gets me every time.

    Mama Zen - Do! It's a worthwhile read.

  7. My boyfriend frequently tells me I'm overly sensitive...

    The article was very interesting. Especially as most men seem to bottle up their emotions... I thought it could perhaps have gone more into how that affects things in the long run, versus someone who is encouraged to share their emotions. I also found the statements about "talking themselves down" from an emotion interesting - is that done through therapy and training? Medication? I think I have more questions than answers :)

  8. I live in a house of HSPs. (I don't have any Seinfeld for this)

  9. My father is what I'd consider HSP, and I have an aunt, an economist, who reads trash magazines in her spare time instead of news journals because "real news upsets her". I'm not even close, I'd rather feel the pain of all the misery....madness I know.
    I can see you as an HSP Bone, yes indeed. I think of you as a gentle soul.

  10. This is just another lovable quality about you! Thanks for your sensitivity and concern! Your words resonated as I too am hsp. My heart is breaking for those STILL suffering from the devastation of sandy. My son lives in rockaway and sees a war zone every day. Ny did not 'only get flooding.' Homes/ businesses/ LIVES lost.
    Tragic! I understand why your friend offered u her condolences, it's not easy to go through life hs, but bone I would rather surround myself with hsp like you then isa any day! (Insensitive assh****)!
    I haven't visited blogs in too long but I am so happy to read you again. Your writing,warmth and sweet sensitive soul makes this a place I want to come back too! Hugs!

  11. Also... Thanks for the link to the article... Off to read it and then wwf moves!

  12. Lucy I was so angry after reading Mark's comment I almost couldn't comment

    I hope your son's life returns to normal soon

  13. That's really interesting... I think I'm one of you too - or at least, sometimes and partially. I'm also highly skilled at being oblivious to things, which seems kind of contradictory. I'm certainly very smell-sensitive and very unsettled by things being wrong. Going to read that article now...

  14. weirdly, you and I have discussed the combo of Andre Agassi's retirement speech and Mr. Holland's Opus before.

    I like it.

  15. I find that as I get older, I'm more inclined to cry at sappy things.

    Also, I'm sorry that NYC and NJ went through everything they did with Sandy but I feel like they should've been more prepared than they were considering they had Irene just a year before.

  16. Well, I sure as hell hope you've had the news off these last few days, then.

    Because even ear plugs won't give you a decent night's sleep if you've had it on.

    Anyhow, on the positive side: I will long remember (and use) the idea of keeping up with the health and safety of friends through Words with Friends moves. Yes.

  17. That is indeed a very interesting article. I am not a HSP, but there are some traits I certainly identify with. Anyone who doesn't is probably not normal. And Bone, I wish you all the best for coping, lately. There have been so many sad, sad stories. At the beginning of last week, it was the tragic suicide of that UK nurse who fell for a cruel prank, and now all this horrible violence against little children. It's not normal NOT to want to cry.

    And thank you for thinking about your geoblographical (?) community during Sandy. That's very sweet of you :)