Why I Stopped Saying I'm A Highly Sensitive Person

November 29, 2019


Before I started therapy I'd often search the web for answers about how being sensitive would affect my day to day life. It wasn't long before I discovered the HSP community. At last, there was a name for what I was feeling and for what I was going through. I wasn't alone anymore, I wasn't being over dramatic, being sensitive was real. After many years of therapy, that all changed. I stopped referring to myself as highly sensitive, in fact, I became convinced I wasn't like that anymore. The term HSP no longer served me so I had let it go. I let go of a lot of labels in therapy because I learned that they weren't actually a solution to my problems but a symptom of (in my case) childhood trauma. I remember struggling so much with my mental health that I latched on to any label I could find, I figured being highly sensitive was yet another symptom of my experiences as a child.

When an influencer posted on her Instagram stories that she wanted to hear people's experiences and knowledge about being highly sensitive I promptly asked my boyfriend whether, after all this therapy, he thought of me as an HSP or not. To my big surprise, he said yes. I didn't fill in the question of said influencer, instead, I went back to check whether I was actually showing many of the characteristics of an HSP. The answer is yes. I couldn't quite believe it. I'm guessing that maybe I thought that I'd made everything up to avoid taking accountability for my lack of boundaries, or that I had simply outgrown it. I haven't, I'm still highly sensitive. The only difference however, between now and then, is that I don't see it as a burden anymore. Through therapy I've actually managed to enjoy this trait.

I strongly remember always being so overwhelmed by other people's energy. I still have that sometimes but I'm much more aware of how I can manage those feelings and how I can protect my own energy. I've learned to cope, I've learned that I'm not responsible for anyone but myself and that it is not my job to help or fix anything or anyone. It's fine to feel overwhelmed, it's fine to be able to relate to other people's feelings but what's not fine is when you start molding yourself into something you think the other person wants or needs. One piece of advice I will never forget is: feelings are not facts. I no longer bother to react to how a person behaves but by what they say. Of course not everyone speaks from a healthy and happy mind but at least you know where you stand when it comes to what has actually been said. I'm someone who's always had a lot of imagination and in addition to that I'm a little bit of a catastrophizer. No longer relying on what I assume people think has made my mind a peaceful place to be.

In the very beginning, when I had just started therapy, I confronted my therapist over the fact that I thought the delivery of some of her 'conclusions' was outrageously insensitive. I was very mad, disgusted, disappointed and I remember actually feeling deceived. She changed her approach after that. I wrote a blog post about it which I then later deleted. It was clear I was very ill at that point, years of trauma had finally reached their peak. I still go to the same therapist today. I started referring to myself as her piece of art because of all the progress I made, now I have understood that I am my own piece of art. I put in all the work, she helped me get there. Struggling with trauma and depression and anxiety whilst being highly sensitive is extremely challenging. I'm so grateful that I was able to get help. Going to talk to a professional as an HSP taught me how to compartmentalise and put my feelings where they belong. Put my energy where it belongs. Getting to know myself better and therefore know my triggers. I'm now able to listen to my body, take care of myself in the best way possible. Take responsibility for my feelings and set boundaries where necessary. In my healing journey I stopped letting labels define me, I stopped using labels as an excuse for my inability to stand up for myself. I became aware of my needs and that's why I stopped saying I'm an HSP. 

2 comments

  1. *hugs* Been following you for a while now, on and off. My reader is a very cluttered thing with a gazillion of blog subscriptions, so—unfortunately—your posts don't always catch my eye. I do remember that deleted post though. And I am so glad to hear you're in a better place now.

    Been in therapy for a year myself now, to tackle my super low self esteem, procrastination, and anxiety.

    Sometimes it feels like my therapy isn't getting anywhere at all, but whenever I look back, I realize I'm a lot calmer and laid back now, and most importantly: Much kinder to myself.

    The big game changer for me was the recent AD(H)D diagnosis. After countless instances of negative self talk calling myself dumb and lazy for constantly forgetting things, repeatedly making really dumb mistakes (I literally set my kitchen on fire not once but five times and set off the smoke detector on a regular basis ...), not being able to organize, procrastination, no sense of time, and not being able to keep my place tidy and clean even when I had two weeks of vacation days she suggested there might be a neurological reason. (I had considered that because of my extreme forgetfulness, but was thinking more along the lines of dementia or early onset alzheimer's ...)

    Because—and she was 100% right there—I really really *wanted* to clean up and was clearly unhappy I somehow just *couldn't*, so I clearly wasn't lazy. And speaking English as a second language fluently, clearly not dumb either.

    That was the first time I heard that there's a form of ADHD without hyperactivity. Currently I'm in the process of finding a new psychiatrist (mine is off on parenting hiatus until next year at least) and try for medication, as that's the good thing about ADHD—it's very, very treatable.

    But I now know I'm not dumb or lazy, I simply have a brain that's wired differently. A brain that has trouble filtering, that can't really tell the important from the unimportant, comes with a spectacularly bad working memory (duh, sometimes I can't even tell my age, woops), can't direct attention to where it's needed, is always low on dopamine, makes me prone to accidents, has an executive dysfunction which affects the sense of time, and also is terribly bad at regulating emotions. Thanks to this I got 30+ years of way more than the average share of criticism and mobbing, plus self-criticism on top of that. So no wonder my self esteem is, like, shrunken to the size of a pea.

    I'm cool with the diagnosis, as it turns out ADHD is actually very treatable with medication and therapy. Once I get an appointment with a psychiatrist, that is, bad time in the year to be looking for one apparently.

    In any way, it helps immensely I now know what I'm dealing with, and there's plenty of helpful communities offering tools, workarounds etc. while I wait for that appointment to happen in ... two months. *sigh*

    May things keep getting better for all of us.

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    1. This is so beautifully written I read it like 3 or 4 times. Thank you for sharing your experiences, I think there's a lot to learn from what you've said. I'm excited for everyone else who will read this blogpost to read your comment. Good luck with your journey :) I recognised your username, thanks for sticking around ;) Xxx.

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