I am an extremely sensitive person. I feel everything. Try as I have throughout my life, I simply cannot put up a strong enough boundary between myself and all the stimuli that come at me every single moment of every single day. This is part of why, come day’s end, I feel I need to retreat. For so many, social gatherings, like going for drinks or dinner, is a great way to unwind. But not for me. Once my kids are in bed, this is “me” time. It’s my time to rest, unwind, connect with myself and husband, and enjoy that beverage I’ve probably been thinking about since 2 p.m.
Nothing pings off me. I feel it all. I feel my own feelings, other people’s feelings, my kids’ feelings, complete strangers’ feelings. I often think I have canine hearing, because – no joke – I hear noises that no else around me ever seems to hear or be bothered by. The slow drip of the faucet two floors below? Yeah, I can hear it. The slight sighing of my baby sleeping down the hall, behind her closed door? I can hear it. The dog barking down the block? I can hear it. But it’s not just that I can hear every single subtle (and not so subtle) sound. It’s that they infiltrate me. Noises, like all forms of stimulation, seep through my soul and creates clutter and chaos in my brain and body.
For a highly sensitive person such as myself, I am often overwhelmed by the world. I have a hard time watching violent and bloody movies, I often have to ask others to turn down the music or television because the decibel is just too much to bear (particularly after a long day), and I find myself increasingly anxious and horrified by the seemingly daily hateful and atrocious incidents happening all over our world. I am a person who needs breaks. Lots of them. I crave quiet, solitude and nature. And all of this is hard to come by in this noisy world…in my noisy house. I often just want to retreat into a calm, safe space, to rest, relax and rejuvenate.
As one can imagine, all of this makes parenting hard. When my kids cry, I am heartbroken. When they are sick, I feel sick. When they endure something painful or scary, I die a little bit inside. Last week, my sweet, innocent child was in the swimming pool at her preschool when a bomb threat was phoned into the building. “Mommy, it was a loud siren,” She explained to me later that day. “I didn’t like the noise…it was too loud for my ears.” From one sensitive soul to another, I could certainly relate. The incredible staff rushed all the children out of the pool, threw whatever clothes and robes happened to be around over the kids, and everyone nearby grabbed a child and carried him/her outside, about a mile and a half, to a safe place.
I was at the gym when all this occurred. My husband called me. “Don’t panic,” he said, as he told me the dreadful news. And in all honesty, at first I didn’t panic. I went into overdrive, racing out of the gym as fast as I could and speeding to get my little girl. I wanted to calm and comfort her, and tell her that everything was going to be okay. But then I got lost on my drive to pick her up. And then when I finally found my way, bumper-to-bumper traffic stopped me in my tracks. And that’s when the panic and terror set in. I began to bawl. Big, heavy, heaping tears. I started to feel everything – everything! – that I imagined my child, and all the other children, may have been feeling: scared, lost, alone, confused, overwhelmed. Was my little girl safe? Was she wondering where I was? Would her innocence forever be lost? I finally arrived at my destination, parked, and raced inside to find her. There she was, with a huge smile on her face. “Mommy!” she said, “Look! I’m wearing my friend’s robe, and baby socks! And it was so silly – I was outside in the snow in my SWIMSUIT! Isn’t that so, so, so silly?”
And there it was. Her innocence. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I realized it hadn’t been lost at all. And it was that very innocence that allowed for her to find the adventure and, in her words, “silliness” in this out-of-the-ordinary ordeal.
For me, my solace comes in knowing how strongly this incident pulled together a community. Everyone banded together to protect and help each other, and to care for all the kids who didn’t have their parents there. I am so grateful to each and every one of those wonderful people. I managed to determine who carried my little girl to safety, and I will forever be indebted to her. When I couldn’t be there to comfort my little girl, this amazing woman did.
My child is okay, physically and emotionally. Thank goodness. But me? I am wounded. My overly sensitive self is feeling, well…overly sensitive. We live in tumultuous times, and it’s hard for me to send my babies out into this world, every day, with and without me. Everything feels uncertain, and at times, unsafe. I feel this deeply, to my core. Just like I feel everything else. But there’s nothing more I, or any of us, can do except for to put one foot in front of the other, and carry on.
My dad always used to say that “life is for the living”, and he was right; I refuse to let fear, or my great sensitivity, prevent my family and I from living our lives. As for my feelings? I will continue to feel them – feel all of them! – all of the time. This will, at times, continue to cause me great pain, overwhelm and strife, but it is also what enables me to embrace and experience life (with all its good and bad) fully and completely.
So yes, I am an exceptionally sensitive person, parent, and soul. And for that, I suppose I am grateful.