I never thought I was a sensitive person. Practical, yes. Reasonable. Down to earth. But sensitive was not how I would classify myself. It is only recently that I have begun to realize that I am sensitive. If you are really honest with yourself we are all sensitive. What happens to us, what people say, what environment we are in does affect us. It is only when you become aware of this effect that you can gain some control over it.
At one point in my life I strove to be a robot. Emotionless, without hurt on anxiety or fear or even joy. I felt that this was a better way to live. Less painful. For a long time I succeeded to an extent. I felt nothing. I remembered nothing. You see, emotions are what make memories and without them there is nothing to anchor memories to. I have entire years of my life missing. A bad way to cope, to be sure, but one that I think many of us do unconsciously or consciously.
After finally having enough time in this manner of living a series of events in my life made me wake up. A new job with new people helped me to understand that my way of life was not normal or particularly healthy. Although I was not quite sure how to change my life I started trying to become more ‘alive’.
It was very hard for me at first. Letting in emotions after suppressing them for so long was confusing. Was I scared or mad? Happy or nervous? When you forget what emotions feel like it can be hard to determine exactly what you were feeling. I tried to be logical about it:
“This is a good thing so I must be happy.”
“This is a hard thing so I must be sad.”
Even being tired or hungry or sleepy seemed like entirely new sensations. It took me quite a long time to understand that when I felt cranky for no reason I could determine I probably needed to sleep or eat.
As strange as it may seem, even pain was foreign to me. I often could not tell when I was sick until someone asked if I was feeling well because I looked pale or fevered or droopy. I would see bruises or be unable to move my wrist and not remember when or how I was hurt.
All this damage was from extreme pain in my past. I had dealt with a very hard part of my life by not really dealing with it at all. I just kept moving, like a wind up doll, without life but with all the actions that go along with it.
To this day I am startled that no one, not even my family, could see how broken my life was. I seemed perfectly normal to them and it was only after I started making changes that they started commenting on how strange I was acting.
To someone who is having trouble coping with new emotions this was very hurtful. I had ripped off an emotional scab and I was very sensitive underneath. However I could not seem to show my hurt in ways they could understand. I got angry. I got distant. I got depressed.
When my depression got to be more than I could handle, when it got to the point of almost not functioning any longer, I decided I needed professional help. It took a few tries but I finally found a person who could help me understand what was going on with my life.
It also helped that I met a very good friend. Letting someone new that close that fast was strange to me. I had never been one to make fast friends. However my friend and I just clicked in that instant way that sometimes happens. He helped me by pointing out what was not normal in my life. He pushed me to speak about what I was feeling instead of holding it in. He even supported me when my family was not happy with the changes I was making.
Between the professional help and the help of my friend I have begun to understand some things about emotions. We are all affected by those around us. Being unaffected is not a sign of strength, but being overwhelmed by them is not healthy either. There has to be a balance.
I had to let go of my idea that being immune to feelings was ideal. I also had to let go of the pain of my past and the pain of my present. It did not matter if everyone understood my needs or was supportive of my growth. I had to heal in the way that was best for me.
Letting go of pain and of control is not easy at all. I was trying to control my feelings by not feeling them. I was trying to control my pain by not feeling anything. However that just covered up the pain, it did not heal the pain.
Letting go can mean different things for different people. In my case it meant talking about my past to my friend, my counselor, and even writing down the things that hurt me.
I found writing to be very therapeutic for me. I started writing down my bad days so that on my better days I could look back and pick apart the problems. Once you can get to the core issue, it is much easier to deal with your problems.
Many times in my life I have felt that my problems were due to others. However as I have started letting go of my past and digging into my thinking I have realized that many of my issues were from inside myself. I did not see things clearly. I allowed others to manipulate me based on my own fears and insecurities.
Two things really helped me when I kept them in mind.
“I am loved.”
“There is nothing to fear.”
Being fully loved meant I was not searching for acceptance, attention or respect from others. When you feel fully loved you do not need anything from anyone. Getting something from others is a bonus, not what you count on to live. You are less needy and demanding, less afraid of not getting what you need, and more able to help others and love them in return.
Having nothing to fear took away a lot of my stress. I did not have to fear my emotions. I did not have to fear failure or hunger or loneliness. Being loved and without fear is the best combination possible and when you can walk in that you have it made.
I am not saying I am fully healed. Far from it. I still have a long way to go. But I have found that if I can stay mindful of these two facts that I will do less reacting and more responding. I won’t lash out or run away or hide. I am able to stand and take what is given to me and deal with it appropriately.
Running from your pain does not work. Hiding from it does not work. Getting angry at it does not work. Dwelling on it does not work. The only thing that does is letting it go. Recognize it, acknowledge it, and then release it. That is the only way to truly be healed from it.