Tag Archives: HSP

Can there be a more positive “sensitive” term for HSP’s?

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Once I was ‘diagnosed’ as an HSP, it provided me with answers for physical problems that the medical community shrugged at and went “you’re just unlucky”.  Even doctors used the term ‘sensitive’ to describe my iffy immune system and intolerance to medication, totally unaware of the concept of an HSP.  I never doubted that this was who I was, but when I started talking about it to friends and family I came up against a huge stumbling block.  ”Sensitive.” While the word ‘sensitive’ is great as a technical description, there is a lot of stigma attached to it.

‘Sensitive’ is often associated with discomfort and pain – sensitive teeth, sensitive stomach and sensitive skin.  Looking at definitions online, ‘sensitive’ conjures up images of someone taking offence easily, being too serious, overly emotional, readily affected, neurotic, highly strung, difficult, over dramatic; in essence, someone weak and irritating.  Do a search on Google images and the prevailing image is someone looking pained or wan, with their arms shielding their head.

Even those closest to me would often say ‘but you aren’t really sensitive’, clearly with a definite picture mind.  It seems that sensitive people aren’t allowed to be sarcastic or snarky or like loud music! I also have quite a few friends who are HSP’s but it’s the label that puts them off from exploring it.  If I hadn’t had such concrete, medical proof of being an HSP, I’d be like that too.

The term ‘sensitive’ doesn’t empower the people who need it most, the people like me who don’t naturally fit into the expected role of a ‘sensitive’ person.   In fact, I am the product of a world where sensitivity was seen as weakness or failure; where pre-HSP, I had to cultivate a shell to protect myself from a world that was too harsh for me to cope with, even though I didn’t know why.

Some people seem to find peace with their sensitivity and are able to grow and evolve regardless of the negative connotations, but I am not really that kind of person … and there are others out there like me too.  How can I live life openly as an HSP when the term ‘sensitive’ is so restrictive?

In the past, HSP’s were the shamans; the people who created the plans of action, whose instincts and insight protected the community.  Our sensitivity was regarded not only as beneficial for society, but essential for its existence.  Now, the world is harsh and aggressive; it’s a vicious cycle where people are becoming more desensitized to it, continually requiring more stimulation which doesn’t bode well for HSPs!

However, whether you are an ‘open’ sensitive who is comfortable with who you are or like me, sensitivity doesn’t mean weakness.   HSP’s have an inner strength and continue to be intuitive and compassionate regardless of the harshness of the world.

So, do we reclaim the word ‘sensitive’ forcing the world to see us in a new light?  Or do we find a better term, if so… what is it?

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Living the life you have, not the one that you had hoped for

It is my 10 year anniversary of getting sick and at the moment I feel like I am the physical embodiment of the term ‘my nerves are hanging out’.  The simple fact that ten years has passed since I got sick is frightening.  I tend to live in the moment dealing with one hour at a time because if I think about the reality of it, it scares me.  At the moment, I am feeling more of everything, the pain, my emotions, the world, even the air around me hurts my nerve damaged face, stinging like a slap.

Through all the pain and fear, I know that this illness had to happen, I was like a rubber band that was stretched well beyond its limit so it was inevitable that I’d break.  If it wasn’t shingles, it would have probably been something far worse.  Like a forest fire, it completely wiped the slate clean; friends, plans, job – all gone.  Yet in doing so it allowed me to rebuild even if I had to battle with pain and side effects of the drugs to do it.  I had the luxury of being able to figure out who the hell I *really* was, without my old life competing.  Not only had a turned over a new leaf, my new leaf was a completely different species!  I have met great people who are in a similar situation as me, I am slowly accepting my body and I even have an awesome cat who is saving me on a daily basis.  See, it’s not all bad!

That doesn’t mean that I don’t look at my contemporaries and feel a stab of sadness or even anger.  I see them with their job, house, partner, family and children – everything that I am deprived of and it hurts.  Yet I know that there is nothing wrong with feeling like that, I wouldn’t be human if it didn’t affect me!  Once again, my small victories seem insignificant and the weight of it all threatens to crush me.  This is part of the reason why I do my best to remain quiet and calm to avoid the pain – both emotional and physical.

I am slowing making my peace with it all, an uneasy truce.  I mourn for the life that I had and the life that I had planned for as that young 27 year old before the it came tumbling round my ears, but what it boils down to is that you need to live the life you have, and not the one that you had hoped for.

 

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Somebody Check My Brain?

Pain Specialist “You go to a therapist every week – you actually have enough to talk about every time!?”

Me “Yes” and trying to avoid being too sarcastic or dropping f bombs “ between you and me – this illness has f… screwed me up”

Before I talk about the stuff that goes with pain and all that jazz, I wanted to touch on something that has really helped, which is therapy.  Four years ago I would have refused any talking therapies – a private person and highly introverted, I was absolutely convinced that I would get better and move on, if I needed to re-train my brain, I’d do it with books thankyouverymuch.  So having my opinions completely changed about it shows how much it has helped.

Then my pain specialist, after exhausting every option several times over, said that the only thing left was counselling at the local pain clinic – and as a Good Patient, I went along with it. I had a brief initial consultation where I said that my pain strategy which was to push myself until I crumbled, to which she said ‘that sounds OK’.  I was then told that I could do to group therapy (which makes sense as it is more cost effective for the NHS), but for me? even if I could handle the length of the afternoon session (which is unlikely) as an introvert, INTJ and not exactly a people person, the whole thing would have me climbing the walls.  I abandoned my ‘good patient’ manners and said that I would rather wait the 18 month waiting list for a one to one session.

Less than a year later I was struggling with another illness and full of steroids and their side effects.  The pain was spiralling out of control despite an increase in medication, I could feel I was slipping into a depression and needed help before it took fully hold.  My options were to see the doctor and go on anti-depressants (which I had already tried and made me very sick) or find a counsellor and see if that could help.  I spoke to three therapists.  One was into alternative therapies (“Have you tried reiki?”), the other was religious and the last one was just right.

From the first session she seemed to understand that it wasn’t just the pain I was struggling with, but all the crap that goes with it  and the whole ‘pushing myself until I crumble’ attitude was not helping at all.  There was something else.  Something that was the hidden key that unlocked all the why’s.  I’m Highly Sensitive.  Now, this is an unfortunate term that conjures up whiney images of ‘delicate flowers’, but as a term it does what it says on the tin and is a real condition.  My brain works in a different way.  I feel more – smells, textures, sound, light, medication are all heightened for me. I am more intuitive and empathetic towards everything (which can cause anxiety) and perfectionistic – in short, sometimes the world is too damn much.  On the plus side you are more creative and it is not a surprise that so many artistic people are often HSP’s.  The stress I put on my body – to be in a career that didn’t fit me, among people that I couldn’t gel with, in an atmosphere that drained me, all added to the final melt down of my immune system.  It was amazing that I lasted that long without falling apart.  But more about High Sensitive People later.

Now, two years on, I am still going to therapy.  It’s a long term thing and I understand that, layers of behaviour need to be torn down and new ones built.  It isn’t all fluffy chats, it’s hard and demands that you work, for it to work; but it helps.  And until a new magic pill is made that will make the pain go away, it is all that I have.

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This is me, an HSP with neuralgia. Yippee

When I first became sick I decided to set up a website.  At that point I thought that I’d get better, every doctor that I saw said that I was young and that I’d recover from the Post Herpetic Neuralgia (nerve damage as a result of shingles), but as the years went on I didn’t.  The website grew e-cobwebs and while I wrote a lot, I could not bear to read it back and face my reality in black and white.  I would simply turn the page or close the document and try and get through the next moment.

The years passed and I went from being certain that I’d get better with a positive outlook; to hopeful that I’d get better because the doctors still said so; to being so frantic that I *had* to get better with an almost obsessive passion.  My slow road of acceptance of having neuralgia as a permanent companion started after a weekend of tears when I started to entertain the idea that I might not get better – and I decided to see a counsellor.  So for the last two years I have been trying to come to terms with the fact that I might not get better. There is no new treatment in sight and to quote my former pain specialist that other than my existing treatment it is best ‘to leave well alone’.

Now I am finally learning that having nerve damage and the resulting chronic pain isn’t something to be ashamed of.  I used to struggle to be and act ‘normal’ which didn’t help me nor fool the genuine people around me.  I still feel betrayed and angry about the illness, but hiding it doesn’t help which is why I wanted to start writing about this.  Maybe it’ll help someone else.

In the course of the counselling, I have also learnt that I am an HSP – a Highly Sensitive Person.  It is pretty much what it says on the tin.  I am sensitive to lots of things, medication, smells, certain foods, bright sunlight and have a sensitive immune system, which is probably why I ended up being sick.   It also goes hand in hand with my introversion.  Something that is continually talked about is being ‘overstimulated’ that the world is often too loud, too bright, too noisy and intense to concentrate.  As an HSP, I am more sensitive to pain, so an already chronically painful condition feels intolerable and the regular medication often comes with horrible side effects, leading to a delicate balance between the pain and medication.  There are benefits of being an HSP, greater concentration, creativity, intuition, being able to notice the small things and the emotions of other people  Essentially, what it boils down to is that some people were the hunter gatherers and went off after woolly mammoths, others stayed at home, worked on the small details of the society and became the shamans and leaders.

So in an attempt to fully accept who I have become and what I am now as a ‘sick’ person, but also as an HSP, I am waking up the blog, dusting off the cobwebs and chasing away the spiders.

Hello, I’m Nicola and I am an HSP who suffers from chronic pain.

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