I’m kind of a jerk, but it’s my nervous system’s fault
You walk into rooms and glance around, dismayed. You flip off buzzing fluorescent lights, pull the table out from the wall three more inches, arrange the chairs so no one will have glare in their faces. You ask to have the music turned down or off. You shut the door and open the window just a bit.
You’re happier in a quiet corner than a happening spot. You hate to shout over the music. You sometimes leave in a hurry when you can’t take it. You ask “What’s that smell?” and everyone else says “What smell?”
People say you’re too sensitive. That you’re irritable. That you don’t know how to have fun. That you should learn to deal.
I write this post every couple of years because it was such a relief to me to find out that I wasn’t crazy – that I was a Highly Sensitive Person.
I first heard of Elaine Aron maybe 10 years ago, and read her book, recognizing myself on every page. From her website:
Highly Sensitive People have an uncommonly sensitive nervous system – a normal occurrence, according to Aron. “About 15 to 20 percent of the population have this trait. It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted.” An HSP herself, Aron reassures other Highly Sensitives that they are quite normal. Their trait is not a flaw or a syndrome, nor is it a reason to brag. It is an asset they can learn to use and protect.
There’s a reason I’m always trying to find the cozy spot, the place where music isn’t blaring at me, the seat away from the lady wearing too much perfume. My nervous system can’t take it. Things that, to “normal” people aren’t even noticed are like sirens going off in my head.
It’s never more obvious than when I am out and about in Las Vegas. Vegas is an HSP’s nightmare. In most places where you stand, you can hear two or three different kinds of music playing at once, a fact that by itself makes me itchy. Combine that with crowds, cigarette smoke, flashing lights and it all adds up to Get Me Out of Here.
So I just wanted to let you know, if you are HSP, that you are not alone. And if you find me shuddering from overstimulation, just walk me over to the quiet corner. I’ll be happy to hang out with you there.