how the highly sensitive person (or ‘psychic’) shuts down

Today was the perfect example of a day where everything piles on top of each other and aligns perfectly to get me to realise something.

I am very grateful for today. I will take you through it with me as I try and demonstrate some things I have learned today, with the much-appreciated aid of Laura Ansell.

I woke up and went back to sleep again a number of times before waking up fully. It was sunny outside, so my first emotion was happy and optimistic. Spring is in the air, how beautiful. My boyfriend was still sleeping, so I grabbed my phone to reply to messages and went on social media. Bad decision number 1, a total relapse.

Already, within moments of my wake, I decided to opt for the easy option of giving my energy away and observing the outside world before I even connected with myself and asked ‘what do I want to do today’.

I gave up on the day before it began, making the excuse of ‘well I don’t know what else to do… I don’t have space in the kitchen… there is no living room…I have nothing to get ready for…’.

I affirmed to myself that I needed stimulation, I could not give myself that stimulation, and that the world and my relationships with people are more important than myself.

Stay with me, because it truly is that deep.

My boyfriend woke up. I smiled at him and announced how sunny it was.

I was optimistic about the day, but unsure of how I would spend it and therefore subtly disheartened about how fulfilling the day would actually be.

I ate some leftover naan bread from last night for breakfast, which brought me happiness. My boyfriend got ready to leave, which I didn’t really want him to do as I was unsure how I would entertain myself. My Dad left his old laptop on the stairs for me to have (because mine is on the way out).

I was so happy at this! It’s a much nicer laptop than my (trusty but crusty) 3 year old refurb that I got for roughly £200- which may or may not be breaking due to water damage.

It’s been a fast paced, stimulated morning. Had I of checked in with myself here, I might have noticed that I needed some balance. Cheeky bit of meditation to remind myself of how endless to possibilities for today are.

My boyfriend and I hugged and he left. Without asking myself what I wanted to do, I got up my laptop and had a feeling of happiness in my heart. A new nice thing! The sun is shining! Optimism is in the air! Something about this morning felt fresh.

I began setting up my new laptop, logging in to all my accounts. This feeling of optimism and excitement carried on as I began catching up on some videos from beloved content creators teaching me new things.

This is when I watched Laura Ansell’s video titled “Why HSP are getting sick”. (HSP being highly sensitive people- those who are often labelled ADHD, Bipolar, BPD, etc.).

This video is perfect timing for me because I am currently recovering from Glandular Fever. I finally got a diagnosis after around 4 years of mysteriously getting really sick every few months- where before I went through my entire high school and college years not being (physically) ill once.

In my spare time (which has been sparse) I’ve done some research into which organs are affected, what minerals and vitamins I am deficient in, looking up foods with benefits to these areas in attempt to shift my lifestyle and cure myself. I am also lucky enough to have been linked to some anti-virals which is set to give me my energy back.

This video gave me lots of shiny new exciting information to chew on, I resonated with a lot of it and enjoyed sitting in this energy for the duration of the video. It filled in a lot of missing pieces in my consciousness and collected a lot of dots for me.

When the video ended, I looked for something else to watch. There was nothing else to watch. So I kept searching, and in the searching I lost this happy feeling in my heart.

This is what happens when you don’t sit with yourself in the morning. Your happiness and stability becomes depenent on what happens to you in the day- and you lose inventiveness and motivation to create the day as you go along.

I decided, funs over, I need to write my essay.

It’s possible to have fun writing an essay- but I didn’t come at it from that angle.

I began reading original texts about the 8 hour work day from the 19th century, which wasn’t too much fun. I was switching between research and social media, while still in bed, in my pyjamas. The only thing I had done for me was brush my teeth.

I spent hours trying to collect primary sources for this essay while getting more and more fatigued, frustrated, and getting brain fog.

All of a sudden it was time for my sociology seminar, which I listened to without having the capacity to really fully engage. I put some text messages in the chat which were misunderstood by my lecturer, adding a feeling of fatigue and upset that had amassed over the last couple of hours. I continued trying to collect some sources for my essay, and about an hour after the seminar I finally had to shut my computer down.

I was feeling a horrible sense of fatigue and block. I felt like I needed to cry. Because I had listened to Laura Ansell’s video this morning, I recognised what was happening to me. I had ignored myself and it contributed to me feeling progressively worse.

I covered my eyes with the black of my sleeves and curled up. Just allowing myself those moments of nothingness, I concentrated on myself.

I had not been listening to myself, or putting myself first, or worrying about myself at all.

The obligation of this essay was looming over me as if me being in university was by force and not by personal choice. My body has been neglected by me for so long.

I realised a lot of things in the 3 or 4 minutes I had my eyes closed, they came and went.

Something about me taking the pill without even knowing much about it at all. The way I never check in with myself, the way I am so regimented, the way I punish myself.

I had a couple of tears creep out, and felt such relief.

I reminded myself that I am in control of my life, and the responsibilities are there because I want them. I want to fulfil these responsibilities because that is what I have chosen, not because I need to prove myself or do it for anybody else.

I took some time away from the screen just being still and soaking up that feeling of relief. I read some of my (non-uni related) book.

I had a shower, chilled out a bit, and returned to my essay in a clearer headspace because I decided this is an interesting topic that I have chosen, and I will be relieved to have it out of the way.

I planned the whole thing.

When I think about the way I have learned to disconnect from myself, my feelings, my intuition, my needs- it messes with my head a little bit.

As a highly sensitive child, I numbed myself a lot to fit into my surroundings. My nervous system was in a constant state of unsettlement due to the circumstances I lived in, it was a high intensity environment with not much stability. I had really strong feelings of upset and affection which I was shut down for having, “Oh Rebecca shut up” really had me feelin foolish.

So of course I learned to just grab a coping mechanism to numb out these feelings and stop identifying my needs. Like many children, I didn’t learn that I was the one able to provide for myself and give myself the feeling of stability.

Not being listened to as a child means you stop being able to identify your needs. Other people decide your needs for you, and you go with it to be easy. To not be considered a ‘burden’.

You learn to look outwards for inside fulfilment.

How can I get attention? How can I win these people over? How can I gain recognition? How can I disconnect from my feelings? How will these people accept me?

You develop addictions and habits that repress your sensitivity.

Drugs, social media, unhealthy relationships, smoking (does anybody ever start smoking for themselves? Or is it a bid for inclusion?).

You build relationships with people out of familiarity, not questioning if this person accepts your authenticity. You have friendships where certain topics are just out of bounds, and you have to be careful about what you say. You compromise your sensitivity for these people. What the heck is that about?

And that’s how you get to a point where despite having knowledge of self care- you still have this habit of acting on autopilot and wondering why you have this feeling of emptiness. When this subtle adaptation to self has built such momentum over the years, you find it harder to identify.

It becomes a pattern.

I haven’t truly been in tune with my sensitivity since my last toxic relationship. After that I completely shut down because my sensitivity made this person uncomfortable. This was a big epiphany.

Sensitivity is such a power. When I allowed myself to be truly sensitive, my career was booming. I was calling in opportunities left right and centre, manifesting friends, networking, making money. Knowing what I wanted.

I’ve been a little dull since then.

Laura talks about how this disconnect manifests as illness, how it presents differently in boys and girls, she goes really in depth about how this wound is formed.

I can see clear as day how me neglecting myself has manifested as illness.

The thing I wanted to draw on is the excuses we make.

I’m forever making excuses.

We all are.

I cant do x because I need to do y for them, I can’t accept this knowledge because it gets in the way of me doing this thing that I don’t even want to do but have convinced myself I have to do. I cant do this until I’ve done that because then I might never get that done.

We build momentum in the excuses, and it’s at the expense of ourselves.

As we transition into post covid life, I for one will be really trying to embrace myself for who I really am. A highly sensitive person that has a lot of feelings all the time. As an adult, I can hold space for these feelings and I can embrace the responsibility of them. I can process them and put them to good use, and I can step into the most fulfilling and happy life as a result. It will take research and a certain amount of effort to rewire the old neural pathways, but it’s been done before and will probably be done again.

It needs to be something I do all day everyday. “how do I feel right now? Where do I feel it in my body?”.

Why do we live lives we don’t truly want to live? Why do we persistently choose to see our authentic states as a burden to other people?

All these questions.

All I know now is that living life putting on a different face for different people will literally make you sick. It will also lead you down a path that just isn’t fun to live.

That’s the ramble.

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