Been a while, sorry. Saturdays are apparently tricky for me this month. Well, Friday I actually spent a good chunk of the day in bed. I have arthritis in my lower back. Sometimes it gets a little uncomfortable; sometimes it gets unbearable. Because of the kidney thing, I can’t take any pain killers that actually work for me (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen). Well, I can, it’s just a really bad idea. So, I make do with what I can. Except that by Thursday evening, standing for even ten minutes almost had me in tears. Friday morning, it was just too much.
Neither here nor there. Everyone has something they’re dealing with. Comparing one’s problems to another’s is a loser’s game, and a good way to make someone feel inadequate, and maybe even push through something that should make them rest or take notice. Deal with what you’re dealing with, not what someone else is.
Saturday, after 24 hours of doing very little, I felt well enough to go out with my camera. Had to see how the magnolias were doing. I didn’t hit both parks – I felt better, but far from perfect – just the main one, Eden Park. Ault Park has a bunch of other garden plots that will be lovely in the coming weeks. My focus right now is the short-lived magnolias. There are a few varieties at Eden Park. Smelled delightful.
Back to this Highly-sensitive person thing. Really an exploration more than anything else. I’m sort of working it out in my head, trying to determine where my challenges lie. If I help someone else with their own struggles, so much the better. Not talking about something doesn’t make it go away.
Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
- Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
- Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
- Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
- Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
- Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
- Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
- When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy
The three items I’ve made bold and red seem to me to be related. While the sensitivity isn’t about empathy, per se, it does demonstrate facets of empathy; physical empathy. As I understand it, this is the sort of feeling one gets when they see someone fall and land hard or break something, or when someone does something that makes them look stupid, or is angry or afraid. As with just about anything else, there’s a spectrum, from annoying to crippling. A fairly recent article regarding this “physical empathy” provides a few questions that might answer if you are physically empathic. All of that also sounds an awful lot like introversion, on the high end of that spectrum. High-energy situations, ones where the energy comes from other people, tend to be exhausting for me. I can handle crowds, so long as I don’t have to interact with them. Angry crowds, not so much. Even happy crowds wear me out. It’s a lot to process. On the high-stress days, I need to go away and not talk to anyone for a few hours at least, just so I can unwind and be civil. My weekends are spent at home. Not because I have nowhere to go, but because as work gets more stressful – not just for me, but for everyone – I get more exhausted. I have nothing left once I get home. Family events are a little different – they know me, I know them. If I wander off and don’t talk to anyone for a few minutes (I’m not the only one in the family who does this), it’s not a big deal. Safe, I think, is the word I’m looking for. It’s safe.
I am far from a severe case; I like going to festivals. Alone, usually. I do like going with people, too (okay, person – one at a time is best, more than three, not so much), it’s just harder, sometimes. No, it’s not social anxiety; it’s energy. Dealing with a faceless crowd that I don’t have to talk to unless I want to, I’m good there. Having to keep track of someone else is a little wearing, but if it’s someone capable of entertaining themselves, then it’s almost no stress at all. For example, I have one person with whom I’ve been to our area Renaissance Festival for the past three years – wait, has it been three? Yes, it has! Wow, didn’t even realize that. Anyway, we’ve gone every year since I’ve been back. Low-key and low-demand, I love going with her; we have fun. And no, that’s not the only thing we’ve done together. It’s just the first one I thought of. Nor is she the only person like that in my life. Not anti-social, just easily overwhelmed sometimes.
One of my friends posed an interesting question, one that I’ve thought of from time to time – where does the highly-sensitive person end, and autism begin? Since I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, or physician of any sort, I can only speculate. I don’t know. One suggestion I’ve read – from the HSP website I’ve already referenced – deals with understanding emotional cues of others. Empathy, if you will. Basically, it seems to be saying a person on the high end of the autism spectrum, a person with Aspergers, is incapable of empathizing with another’s emotions. She even provides a specific example. NAMI appears to agree with this as well.
There are others who contend that a person with Aspergers is perfectly capable of empathizing, provided they know a person is feeling something. One source states that a person with Aspergers won’t automatically understand that someone will be upset by the death of a beloved pet, if they see that person is upset, or are told, they can empathize. In either case, the expression of that empathy is a major sticking point. Some even say that while a person with Aspergers might not readily express empathy, they feel it, and more strongly than the average person. All three of these could be considered similar to a person who is highly sensitive or highly introverted. So how do you tell the difference?
The only things I’ve found that really tells me anything is non-literal expressions, where someone says one thing and means something else entirely. A great example is sarcasm. For someone who has difficulty recognizing facial cues and tones of voice, it’s very easy to not be clear when someone is being sarcastic. That’s pretty much a 2nd language for me, sarcasm. Runs in the family like The Force™* runs in others. What does that mean for me? Again, I just don’t know. What I do know is everything I’ve read points to me being a highly-sensitive person, rather than someone on the autism spectrum.
* Since Star Wars™ is now owned by Disney™, I thought it might be a good idea™ to try and not anger The Mouse™. Acknowledging that I don’t own The Force™, or any intellectual property™ derivative of The Force™, Star Wars™, the Sith™, or even a Death Star™ might be a good way to keep me from getting banned™ on YouTube™.^
^But, you know, sarcasm. Second language.