Coming out of the closet and into the world

Have you ever jumped from an airplane? Have you ever been on a roller coaster that threw you around in all directions at high speeds? Maybe when you jumped from that plane or rode that roller coaster, you felt your stomach in your throat, your adrenaline rushing and a sense of fright! What if I told you that I feel this way in a normal vehicle or even on a school bus. Our cars, buses and road systems have been made so that we don’t sense the speed at which we are traveling. Many people easily sleep on buses or in cars, but most of the time my heart feels like it is going to explode.  Imagine standing on the side of a busy highway, watching cars zip past you. As an static person, you are able to feel and sense the high speed at which the vehicles are moving on the road. You feel the energy of the wind, the sound vibrations and you realize that you wouldn’t want to be the moth hanging on for dear life on the windshield of the vehicle.  This is how I feel on the inside of the car. This is how I feel on the inside of a plane. I sense the speed, movement and other qualities of the experience as if I were sedentary, watching a plane pass me at several hundred miles per hour. I sense the movement as if each time I stepped into a moving object, I was skydiving, with my stomach in my throat.

As a young child I would cry. I dreaded taking the bus to school.  It was bumpier than a regular car and my senses were constantly overloaded. I could smell the plastic book-bags, the smell of the bus seats, the different shampoos of all the kids and the food inside their lunchboxes. Kids would laugh and scream at the top of their lungs and there I was huddled in the corner of my seat as I tried to protect myself from this wild sky ride. I obviously didn’t know what this all meant as a small child. I was just absolutely terrified and I knew that I felt less vulnerable riding to school in my mom’s vehicle as I was familiar with its sounds, bumps and movements. I could be more relaxed at school having not gone skydiving so early in the morning. If I broke down, I wouldn’t get made fun of by the other kids if I rode with my mom.  Most of my childhood years were spent in terror and sensory overload, which led to great anxiety and finally depression.

As I grew older, I recognized that I was different.  I noticed that other people weren’t overwhelmed by sounds, sights, movement, tastes and feelings. None of the other kids reacted the way I did on the school bus, not even my twin sister.  I felt alone most of the time because my own family members didn’t realize how much I suffered each day.

In high school my mom noticed that I was pulling out my hair. She was greatly disturbed by this, yet I was not. I pulled out my eyelashes, eyebrows, and other spots on my head. It was the only thing that brought me relief from my pain. I would enter a rhythmic state and focus entirely on the task at hand. I was soon informed that there was a name for what I was doing. The name was Trichotillomania. It sounded like such a long, scary word. I didn’t feel sick or disabled because I soothed myself by pulling out my hair, yet I knew deep down inside, I could be dealing with my emotions in a healthier way. The only problem was that I couldn’t put words to how I felt. I only knew that pulling out my hair was a byproduct of my sensitivities, yet I couldn’t understand why I saw, felt and interacted with the world so differently than others. It was no different than being distracted by drugs, alcohol or food.  So off I went to a Trichotillomania conference in Boston, MA, where I was greeted by over a hundred people at that conference that all had one thing in common…we pulled out our hair. In hindsight, I can now say that we have one more thing in common and that is the fact that we were all Highly Sensitive Persons.

My college years were especially difficult. I was a caregiver for two very sick family members while  going to school full-time, working the night shift at a coffee shop to pay for school and attempting to come to terms with the tumors that had begun to manifest in my uterus.  All of this, on top of the life I led but did not understand, led me to consider death as the only option. I had suicidal thoughts, which led me to drop out of college for a year. I was heavily drugged with dangerous medications that would take years to leave my system.

I eventually learned some tools to manage my ability to deal with sensory overload. I began studying Ayurveda,the sister science of Yoga, which beautifully acknowledges the subtleties in our environment. Through deep study, I began to learn how to antidote any emotional, physical and environmental sensitivities. I started to become empowered and I noticed that my confidence was slowly returning.  Without the distraction of my fears, I began to understand that I was highly intuitive and that my sensitivities were a gift. I was able to work at ease with autistic children, traumatized or abused adults and animals. I often felt frustrated that other people couldn’t see how they were adding to the trauma or sensitivity of a child or animal.  I connected with strangers over their missing eyebrows and eyelashes and I knew what this meant. I began to come to terms with the fact that I could feel and know things about a person before they could know  those same things about themselves. I began to tune into my keen sense of smell and most of all I began to understand that there is such a thing as a Highly Sensitive Person.

I must admit, for the last six months I have been in Orlando, Florida. It is everything quite opposite of my nature and what feels good to me. I struggle daily to co-exist in a city that is the epitome of air pollution, environmental pollution and noise pollution.  I smell, hear, taste and feel everything and everyone. It has been a trying time. I’ve realized that while HSP’s can all gather tools to manage sensitivities, sometimes considering your physical environment really is that important. Sometimes it is your intuition telling you that you need to move forward on your path.

Just yesterday, Erin Bentley, Total Relationship Coach posted a story on facebook that reminded me of triumphs and challenges that I continue to face as an HSP.  I realized it is time to come out of the closet and share more about who I am. For those of you who are wondering, yes, I also live with a Highly Sensitive Dog. We work together daily to increase our trust, appreciate our sensitivities and to help others in the process.

I hope you’ll join me as a participant in this upcoming free webinar on Highly Sensitive Persons that will be live at 5:30pm EST on Tuesday April 21st!

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Please stop by my website to learn about my life’s mission! ~Elizabeth

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4 thoughts on “Coming out of the closet and into the world

  1. Elizabeth,

    I thank to for sharing your story. I knew you from the school bus in high school and I never would have guessed you were going through all of these things. I am so inspired by your story. I’m happy to learn that you have been able to find peace and your own normal, even though I’m sure each day brings new challenges and struggles. I think it’s wonderful that there are so many resources and findings on all of the negative effects of poisons and chemicals that are present in so many of the foods and day to day products we use, so that making these changes in your life can help remedy some of the problems you have dealt with and still deal with. I can’t imagine what it has been like for you, but I’m glad you’ve opened up. People need to be more aware and sensitive to all of the differences we all have, no matter how great or small!

    • Lianne,
      Thank you so much for your kind words and support! I agree with you wholeheartedly. You were such a kind and grounding presence. Sitting next to you on the busy always eased my anxiety. You provided me more comfort than you will ever know!

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