A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a human with a particularly high measure of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). It is a personality trait characterized by a high level of sensitivity to external stimuli. An individual with HSP has an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
A High Sensation Seeker (HSS) is a personality trait defined by the search for experiences and feelings. These individuals are characterized by the readiness to take physical, social, legal and financial risks for the sake of experiences. (Again, Thanks wikipedia)
So, I’ve always felt a little different from most of the people around me. I always thought that there was something wrong with me. Or I would look at other people around me and wonder why they couldn’t see things that seems obvious to me. Either way… it wasn’t a good feeling. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I happened to come across the term Highly Sensitive Person… which also lead me to find High Sensation Seeker. After reading more about this personality trait, I felt validated. I could finally start to understand why I felt the way I did. I immediately shared this information with my husband, who also felt the same as I always did. We were very excited to discover this and it was the main topic of discussion for a long time.
I find myself to get overstimulated… sometimes quicker than others but, eventually I’ll always feel like it’s just too much. Anytime I would talk about this to others they would say, “Oh, you’re just an introvert.” In a negative context, like I had some sort of social anxiety to be out and about. No, I don’t have anxiety to be in public or large crowds… I just don’t like it and I tend to get irritated. The mall for example… Hate it! It’s a building generally filled with all the types of people who just irritate me, the air is a weird stale mix of food court and smells radiating out of Hollister, there’s music coming from everywhere, people who spread out and walk SO FUCKING SLOW and you can’t get around them… it’s just too much. I digress. I notice that it’s worse sometimes than others, if I’m stressed out I tend to get overstimulated faster than normal. I feel like I tend to pick up on social ques quicker than others or be able to see through someone’s bullshit when others can’t. There’s a big list of things I can ramble on about but basically the definition of HSP is definitely me.
Along with having HSP, I have HSS. I find myself getting overstimulated by things and needing to decompress but, I find myself needing to push myself out of my comfort zone, make changes in my life, go big or not at all. I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I wouldn’t go bungee jumping off… anything really or swim with whale sharks (makes me sweaty and nervous just typing that out). Maybe that’s the HSP part of me keeping my HSS part in check.
As I said before, in the past I had always felt something was wrong with me. I felt like something was wrong with my life because I was unhappy. Turns out I was just overstimulated and I was unhappy because I was trying to fit into the “normal” life of everyone else. Now I feel like having a better understanding of myself helps me figure out how to cope and navigate this better. I feel lucky to be married to someone who also has HSP/HSS. Sometimes living with both HSP and HSS does feel a bit like a battle but, I feel like I’m figuring out how to balance the two. Or just not get so down on myself.
Some things that have helped me out quite a bit are being aware and controlling my environment. My home is a good example of an environment I can control. I’ve found that white, clean walls without a lot of clutter on them is helpful. Basically at home is kind of minimalist when it comes to a lot of things. When I do go out to say the grocery store (does anyone like going there?) I try my best to make a list of what I need, get in and get out… especially if I’m a little on the stressed side. And just figuring out my limits, knowing that build up and when I’m starting to feel a bit overstimulated, irritated… acknowledge it and do my best to make my way out of the situation. Taking time to really decompress and just be. With the HSS part of me… changing little things when I’m unable to do big things helps. Working towards my bigger goals and allowing myself to take a risk to step outside my comfort zone… being productive and not letting my mind go numb and stagnant. It’s a work in progress… that is life though.
What will be interesting is bringing a tiny human into the mix. I feel like learning about HSP and HSS can help me with my parenting. I’d like to take some of the things I’ve learned about myself and apply them to raising a tiny human. I may write something else on that topic… but for now I think I’ve rambled on enough.