On 7th March 2018, the BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show covered the topic of HSPs; Highly Sensitive People.

I fall into the category of a sensitive person (based on tests online and my own understanding about myself) and could relate to a lot of the examples of this type of person, but I think the issue runs deeper than was discussed. At the same time I think I carry a fair amount of self-confidence; although maybe that can be easily knocked.

Not only can sensitive people struggle with certain situations, such as crowds noisy situations, or find distressing scenes or occasions to have a lasting impression on them, but they can be sensitive to foods and drinks also. Some might have allergies as part of this overall sensitivity.

Of course we can all build up an intolerance to things, so we can get more used to drinking coffee or alcohol, up to a point, just like we can get more used to public situations. Having hayfever has lead me to spend more time outside throughout the year in preparation for the period of high pollen counts, and I believe this is what has lead me to suffer less. Based on this idea it seems it can be wrong to endeavour to cut out completely those things we have an intolerance towards; lest we can become more sensitive towards them.

Later on, after that radio show, as if to make a point, Youtube presented me with a video about someone who got injured at a club. The Youtuber kindly included pictures of the victim’s injuries, without forewarning. I couldn’t avoid those (“What has been seen cannot be unseen”) but he also had CCTV footage playing in the corner of his video and for this I made the conscious effort to not let my gaze wander there, since I knew it wouldn’t be something I would want to see. Thankfully the images I did see weren’t too gruesome for me, but they did plague my mind and since sleep wasn’t too far away those images still played on my mind throughout the night.

Then one of another day’s topics on The Vine Show was about particular accidents on the motorways, and following a link from the relevant page on the internet I’m presented with a news article of the particular incident in question, however here the BBC were thoughtful and there was an option to view video footage of the incident with the statement “(G) Contains some upsetting scenes.” Alarm bells rang but I was tempted to go ahead and watch the clip out of curiosity, but heeded the BBCs warning on the clip and restrained myself:

For me, in the life I live, I don’t consider sensitivity to be an issue. It’s not like am prone to crying or passing out at the sight of blood (although I have almost passed out while donating blood!) but anything distressing, such as someone not treating me as I’d like, or getting confrontational with me, can unsettle me for days, if not for months… or years; I find it hard to forgive and forget, and the idea that “time heals all wounds” gets stretched a bit thin with some emotional stuff, and I get frustrated with persisting negative thoughts.

As a youngster I can remember shying away from or avoiding certain situations, perhaps I learned this tactic from my mum. This may have been only because of shyness, but now I wonder if it was just my natural tendency to avoid those things which I expect (consciously or unconsciously) will make me feel uncomfortable (have a sensitivity to), but it’s not a snap decision in isolation, it’s one surrounded by anxiety due to me (over) thinking about what the situation will be like. As a young adolescent it was probably more about “fitting in” or not; I think as young adolescents we can be terribly judgemental about how others are dressed, how they have their hair, or how they talk or walk, often leading to bullying on one level or another. I never really felt bullied; I was happy within myself, but others who received the same treatment weren’t so practised in just ignoring it (something I learned from having an annoying brother!)

These days I feel like I really don’t care too much about what people think, although deep down, if someone shows a dislike of me when I was keen to be liked then that can cut deep. I feel like I am me (take it or leave it) and all those times I “tried to fit in” was, from a young age, just me “finding my feet”, as we tend to do, but was ultimately fake, and any time that fellow youngsters wanted me to be more like them (such as through playful-bullying tactics) was just an expression of their own insecurities. Moving through into adulthood, if anyone questions why I am the way I am, such as not being outgoing, how I have my hair, or not being as muscular as they think a guy should be, then I just think they have a narrow-minded or even delusional view of the world. However, I also wonder if years of essentially “shying-away” have lead to me resigning myself to being more of a hermit!

As mentioned, sensitivity can go beyond situations because there is also the addition of sensitivity to certain foods and drinks, and I wonder if this works both ways. This has come about through recognising how different foods or drinks in the evening before bed can effect my dreams that night, or even invoke certain thoughts and feeling as I’m falling asleep. I might find negative thoughts such as imagined confrontational and defensive situations creeping into my mind and I wonder “where did they come from!?” because I might have been feeling fine some time before. Therefore, was it something I ate that’s causing this certain reaction within my body, that in turn is affecting my mood? This can work full-vicious-cycle because we might then turn to certain foods depending on our mood; depression and binge-eating of unhealthy (sugary) foods or drinking too much coffee (caffeine) being a case in point. Diabetes Type 2 possibly being a potential result of this.

I find it difficult to comprehend how others can behave insensitively, or inconsiderately towards others; sometimes I wonder if they’re just pretending not to care when really they do and are just not confident to show it, or, perhaps they just don’t care – I think I’m quite good at imagining myself in the shoes of others, in their mindset, due to my own empathy, but not this uncaringness. Sometimes we get caught up in our own heads and fail to look outwards and make someone else a little more of a priority.

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