Tuesday, 11 March 2014

One thing that happened

One last post and then I'll stop the introspection, I promise. I've recently come to the conclusion that I'm what is known as a 'highly sensitive person'.  If you want to find out if you are, you can do the test here. If you score over 14 (out of about 22) you are. I score 20.

Now the problem with this is that it might sound fine when said with a sincere American accent. For a Brit, try saying that without either sneering or rolling your eyes. Synonyms aren't much better - highly strung (it's her nerves, mother), tightly wound (HER NERVES, I SAID), over stimulated (fnaaar). It doesn't get better. I'm tending towards 'easily irritated' because that describes me in so many ways.

For those of you who didn't click the link, it basically means that my nervous system is slightly overtuned, with the result that I over-react to stimuli, be they sensory or otherwise. It appears to be a genetic flaw.That means more than one conversation going on at a time, a noisy office, background music, pubs, clubs, barking, the radio on in the background, neighbour noise, stray smells, crowds, fireworks and so on make me feel very unwell indeed. As you can imagine that doesn't make me a bundle of laughs to be with or around. Or as a neighbour, partner, colleague or friend. Equally, it doesn't make the inside of my head a great place to be either most of the time.

I'm curious if anyone else here is too. I came across the concept a few years ago but got derailed when I tried to discuss it with a mental health professional and was told that I was autistic. Now people on the spectrum do share quite a lot of those traits too but it's not the same thing. It's only recently that I've started doing some reading about it and it really feels like me. The books by the woman at the above link actually make me feel understood which is not the case most of the time. I do not however recommend the book by Ted Zeff on the subject which is largely a paeon to camomile tea.


  1. I ticked about half of them - it was difficult to evaluate in some instances. When I was younger, I'd have ticked a lot more. I certainly don't suffer as you do and I'm so sorry that you have such difficulties. I've thought a lot about my extreme shyness, introspection and insensitivity to other people when I was a child and considered the possibility of a degree of autism, but I don't think that was or is the case. Where I completely differ from you is that I love to be involved in several things at once and believe that stimulation is good for me - the reason for that is that my natural inclination is to be quite reclusive and I know that's not good, it drags me down. I get very anxious if I don't have regular time to myself, though. I think that the recognition that other people feel the same as you must be very helpful.

  2. Yes, it's comforting. I'm not a complete hermit I must say, as some readers know. Oddly enough I quite like things like conference speaking. But I do have to limit what I do. If I'm with people for work during the day, I must have quiet time in the evening and I generally don't feel up to doing much at the weekend. it's counterproductive because I still get lonely but I really want someone to be quiet with.

    It's also getting worse as I get older. I've stopped being able to listen to music at home which is disappointing.

  3. The other thing is that because alcohol is a depressant (in the stimulus as well as the mood sense) I can't really do social events without booze because it calms me down. A couple of weeks ago when the smoke alarm went off at 7am and it took me 40 minutes to find out how to switch it off, I ended up needing brandy for breakfast. Which meant I had a hangover by lunchtime :(

  4. Not long ago, the smoke alarm started beeping infuriatingly - on the assumption that it needed new batteries, I got it down, only to find that it wasn't possible to change them. In the end, I put it in a sinkful of water. It was intolerable. I didn't think of brandy, but I did consider throwing things.

  5. 30 of the 40 minutes were spent wondering why the **** changing the battery hadn't stopped the beeping. It was then that I remembered that I have 2 smoke alarms and it was the other one causing the problem...

  6. The HSP book blew me away when I read it in 2007. For the first time I could say 'I'm just like this' instead of 'I'm weird and different and possibly broken'. It helped me a lot. Nowadays I tend to explain it as 'overly absorbent' rather than 'highly sensitive' which does sound a bit wanky. I too find the overlap with autism fascinating. Of all the people I know, HSPs (introvert or extrovert) are always without fail the ones I love the most.