If I’m Happy and I Know It, I Don’t Write (But I know I should…)

(clap, clap)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

That title has been rolling around in my mind for the past few days; and I’ve been waiting to have enough time and focus to park myself and write.  Part of the reason I’ve kind of slacked off is that I’ve been feeling better about several things lately.  I don’t think I’ve had as many strongly HSP moments as I had been having.  So, it seems that I’ve been subconsciously believing that I don’t have anything of worth to say, if it’s not about being a Highly Sensitive Person.

Hopefully, that is not the case!

It is also helpful to remember that, although the HSP trait is a huge part of who I am, it does not define me.  Though I often feel like an exposed nerve walking around, my life is not meant to consist of merely existing from one HSP “event” to the next. And neither is yours, fellow HSP!

Since the last time I posted, the number of views to this blog exceeded 1,000.  It took nearly a year, but I’m still pleased.  Many people have ended up here by way of search terms such as “Christian HSP,” or “sensitive Christian.”

As a matter of fact, this blog was birthed from my doing the same types of searches.  When I couldn’t find much biblical information on being an HSP, someone suggested that I write something.  So, here we are.

As always, it is my prayer that whoever finds their way here – HSP or not – will find some sort of encouragement, will be able to relate.  (I really hope someone will relate, so that I won’t so feel crazy!)   Hopefully, in some way, the Lord will be glorified, too.

My greatest and only hope is in the Lord Jesus.  And to be sure, I would be a completely broken-down wreck, if it weren’t for Him and a desire to live as He did.  Though the high sensitivity is still very present, having an increasingly biblical perspective on life and circumstances definitely takes the edge off.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Perhaps that’s why I have felt that I didn’t have anything to say.  On second thought, I think that this hope and joy should provide even more to say.

How have you sought the Lord in dealing with a highly sensitive personality?  

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Down the Twisty Slide – and Up Again

Yesterday was a highly emotionally charged day.  I like to say that I had what I call an “HSP flare-up” yesterday.  It began the night before, with someone telling me what a group of people whom I serve in ministry thought of me.  I admit, I did solicit this information. The answer was what I had expected, but not at all what I actually wanted to hear. *steps onto the spiral slide*

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling miserable; questioning my whole reason for being.  I resolved that I wanted nothing more to do with this people group.  Ever.  *sits down on the spiral slide* This would be a tall order, considering that I have been involved with this group for seven years.  They are my community.  Cultural differences and misunderstandings abound.  But they are my community, and I love them.  And I can’t stand them at times.

I spent the morning questioning the Lord:

  Why did you put me with them? 

        Or did I really put myself with them, and you didn’t want me with them in the first place?  

        Have I wasted my time with them?  Learning their language? 

        If I’m not working with them, what purpose will I have in my life? 

    Is there anyone is this community whom I can still trust? 

        Where will I find community?  

        Who? What? Why? When? Where? How!?!!! 

Suffice it to say…this is not an exhaustive list of questions and thoughts racing through my mind.

*pushes off and begins descent down the spiral slide*

There was a catch to all of this:  A woman from this particular people group had invited me over for my favorite meal from their country.  I’d have to put my resolve on pause long enough for me to enjoy the delicious lunch.  (Don’t judge me!)

When I got to my friend’s home, a woman whom I (most likely unfairly) suspected of being one of my “most-(un)wanted” list was also there.  She spoke to me in their language, and I informed her that I would only be speaking English on that day.  I never have English-only days, even if I’m alone all day! In any case, seeing her started priming the pump on my tear ducts and got my heart all twisted up in knots. Fortunately, she left after just a few minutes.

Really, friends, if you saw this woman, you would never-ever-ever believe that she was on the list.  I don’t even believe it myself.  

The meal itself was straight out of an HSP food nightmare for me.  You see, there are two ways of making this soup.  The kind I like is the clear broth. This one had a generous amount of rice flour, which added a creamy, slippery feel to the noodles in the soup.  In textural anguish, I ate half of the bowl.  The hostess was very understanding, a fact of which I am very grateful.

She could see that I was not okay, so while making all efforts not to bawl in front of her, I explained what had triggered my emotional state.  I didn’t go into the spiraling details, though.  She was understanding and attempted to offer some insight.  Earlier, I’d received some other helpful insight, but I was still upset.

At this point, the “most (un)wanted” lady returned.  Since I had least allowed a few tear droplets to escape, I managed to act somewhat normally with her for the rest of my quick visit.  She actually needed me to help with something; and I was able to suggest to her next steps to take in solving the issue.  *pause mid-spiral*

Feeling a little better, but not completely cathartically satisfied (yes, I just made that up) and definitely gastronomically dissatisfied, I rushed off to work; with no time remaining to grab something a bit palatable on the way.  In the parking lot, I hastily dashed out yesterday’s post on my phone app.  Then, I read some of the blogs I follow.  One of the blogs had a particularly touching post, which I could not even read all the way through for fear of, ummm, catharting (made that up, too) too much right before work.  *resume sliding*

On the way into the building, I got stopped in my tracks by an intriguing – but dead – group of flower blossoms.  This resulted in an impromptu pre-work photo session.  *pause again*

During work, I usually listen to Christian songs in the (un)wanted language.  Yesterday was not an exception, and I continued to listen on my drive back home.  As I approached my neighborhood, I started singing one of the songs that I’ve sung in church before.  The next song is a song about looking back on the mistakes one has made, in the interest of building friendships.  Then, it implores God to lead back onto the straight path.  This song perfectly fit the situation that had me so upset.  I envisioned myself singing the song and giving a testimony in church – sort of a confession and an apology. *sliding mode: on*

Singing this song with all of my heart, I pulled into my driveway.  And the dam was broken.  The tears flowed.  All of the pain that had been imprisoned in my heart all day finally made its escape.   *destination end of spiral:  reached*

Following this much-needed catharsis, I somewhat expected to retreat into a state of self-pity on the sofa.  I did.  And I finally also did what I had needed to do from the very beginning of this awful day:  I took some time with the Lord.  I read from the Bible study I’m doing now.  Ironically, we’re going through the book of Job right now.

In a complete contrast to yesterday, I felt a renewed sense of joy and purpose today – even with regards to that community.  Yesterday’s despair hardly seems reasonable, or even real, anymore.  How does this happen?  How could I spend a night and an entire day in complete mental torment, and then have it dissolve the next day?

To be clear:  I much prefer this renewed state.  I prefer to be at the top of the slide, but not even planning to go step onto it.

How can I stay here?  And if I happen to start down, how can I prevent myself from reaching the bottom?

That remains to be seen.  I want to learn how to, at least, shorten these rides.  While I’m in the midst of them, I can’t even conceive of there being any other way to look at the world.  Afterward, I have no idea how I possible allowed myself to sink so low – even if only for one day.

The Lord.

The Lord is with me.

The Lord knows that I am an HSP.

The Lord is unchanging, even though I am ever-changing.

The Lord is faithful, and He always does the following:

 

      3He restores my soul;
       He guides me in the paths of righteousness
            For His name’s sake.

      4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
            I fear no evil, for You are with me;
            Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:3-4

Torn: Highly Sensitive and Highly Self-Centered

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

 Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker…  Does the clay say to the potter: ‘What are you making?’ Isaiah 45:9

While reading and learning more about HSP, I have noticed that it is considered to be a gift to be grateful for.  After all, the Lord made us this way. Just days into starting this blog, however, I composed an entry in which I expressed doubt that there could possibly be anything positive about being an HSP.  The only use I could see for this trait was to make me cry or become very angry and tense at what would appear to be inopportune moments.

Much of the literature I’ve read on Highly Sensitive Persons mentions that HSPs are very in tune with other people’s feelings and thoughts.    Intuition and insight into others’ feelings and thoughts are part of the gift.  This is why HSPs often find themselves in helping/human services, I’d imagine.

In all my reading about HSP, my life has basically been flashing before my eyes.  So many aspects of my life started to make sense through the lens of my Highly Sensitive Personality.  Hurts, heartaches, mistakes, embarrassments…

There was a glaring exception, though:

The bits about being sensitive to what others felt and needed did not resonate with me.  At all.

How could this be possible?!  I am a model HSP in so many ways!  How on earth did I miss out the empathy part?

Then, it came to me.  My greatest downfall in life has been self-focus, or self-centeredness.  Let me be clear:  I never, ever had the thought, “I’m more important than everyone around me.  Therefore, I will put all my needs first and expect them to do the same.”  That may have seemed to be the case, but it simply is not true.

Looking back at my childhood, I can see some ways in which I could have become this way.  Though I am not an only child, I was one for several years before my mother had a second child.  As an only child, and after my brother was born, I was given most of what I wanted.  I was taught to think highly of myself from a very early age, with regard to physical appearance and intellect.

(side note:  if I ever have an academically gifted child, this child will not be made aware of high standardized test scores and percentiles.)

These circumstances are a breeding ground for conceit and self-centeredness.  Let’s also not forget that every, single person living on the planet is a sinful human being who, to some extent, is inherently selfish.  It’s just that some of those humans grow up in situations that teach them to think more highly of the needs of others.

I didn’t.

But can God redeem that time?  Of course, he can!

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten….”  Joel 2:25

In hindsight, I only remember very few situations in which I was very open to sense another person’s feelings.  Mostly, I remember being so wrapped up in my feelings and needs that I (unknowingly) built a wall between myself and the other person.  This wall prevented me from recognizing their needs and/or intentions on deeper levels, and possibly prevented me from being able to speak life to a person who may have needed encouragement.

Again, God can and does redeem our lost time!  Even before I began to learn about HSP, I’d been working to be less self-centered and to focus more on others.  It is a work in progress, let me tell you!  Still, God has been changing me step-by-dying-to-self-step.

How can I make the most of this part of my HSP “gift”? And if you also experience the sensitive/self-centered dichotomy, how can you? 

I’ve actually composed a list in answer to that question, but I’m going to take my own advice and pray before posting it.  It just doesn’t read right; and I want to step back and think it over.  Maybe even rewrite.  Let’s see.

 

A Sliver of Hope: I’ll take it!

The other day, I was in an unfavorable situation that has made me cry a few times in the recent past.  I was with a group of people, who, because of some cultural differences, make me feel left out when I am with them.  What I mean to say is that the cultural differences make it appear as if they are trying to leave me out, but that’s not their actual sentiment.  However, I still have to be in this situation from time to time.

On this recent day, some of the cultural differences were in play, and I noticed their behaviors were pretty much the same as usual.  But something was different:

It didn’t make me cry.

My heart didn’t feel like it was being ripped out and stomped on, by an evil group of me-haters.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!! 

I don’t take this to mean that I am no longer an HSP.  But I do take it to mean that I can have victory in situations that seem hopeless.

It was several weeks ago that I learned how this particular cultural difference meant that this social distance would exist with this group.  It just took me a while for my mind, heart and nervous system to come to terms with this fact – and also not to be angry or resentful in light of it.

This little milestone gives me so much hope!

Have you had any similar milestones? 

A Little Setback

Well, today kind of got derailed.  It started out okay, even though there were a few unexpected things this morning that could have brought me down.  Fortunately, I had a bit of time after my morning errands to get in a quick, nerve-soothing nap before getting ready to go to work. The start of the work day was decent.  Then, I saw that a certain person had posted something on Facebook.  Enter downward spiral.  This is a person who would really not be healthy to have in my life, yet I want them there.

Anyway.

I started thinking of “why” I am so drawn to this person.  It’s because my heart goes out to them, and it wants to save them.  Why am I saying “them?!”  It’s not a “them,” it’s a “him.”  Anyway, wanting to “save” a person and mend their broken places is not the same as actually having feelings for a person, with whom I could actually have a healthy relationship.  It seems that I fall into that trap a lot, without realizing it.

Well, now I’ve realized it.  But guess what?  That doesn’t mean I just stopped feeling like that.  However, it does mean I’m in a place to begin to work on getting past this tendency!  But it still doesn’t mean I just stopped feeling like that.  (Thank you, overly-active nervous system.)

Later in the evening, he sent me an inbox message out of the blue.  It was casual, but then I asked him about something that I guess he didn’t want me to ask.  It was just something I’d observed on his Facebook page.  At that point, he stopped answering me as quickly, and really wasn’t answering at all.

Do you think for a second that I was just like, “Well, whatever”?  If you do, you might want to reread this.  🙂

What did I do?  I felt horrible for the rest of the night.  As has usually been the case lately, I completely rationalized the situation.  There was no need to be surprised at his behavior.  And anyway, why should I be worried about his behavior, since I don’t want to communicate with him in the first place.  I want, but you get the picture…

From this point on, my only thought was: “get home, get on sofa, feel sad.”  I did force myself to finish loading the dishwasher and then started running it.  Major accomplishment, since the sofa was singing its siren song.

I did land fairly quickly on my sofa.  Even before we started exploring HSP, my counselor had asked me to keep a daily record of feelings and issues that come up each day.  So, I wrote about this.  Immediately, I started to feel better.  Then, I mindlessly watched some videos online, which honestly, also made me think less about this.  I realize that there is pretty much no spiritual value in these activities.

And here I am now.  I have forced myself to write, because I want to be consistent here.

So, my issue in all of this:

Why can’t I just bounce back?  Why does it take this whole feel awful forever thing?  What if this would have happened much earlier in the day?  Then, how would I have found the wherewithal to function for the rest of the day?

Lord, I need your strength.  I need you to help me push through from day to day.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

Please tell me:  how do you respond when there is no chance for “downtime”?  How do you manage to “push through?”

Gift or Torture? Hard to Decide

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with who there is no variation or shifting shadow.  James 1:17 NASB

One of the spiritual gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit is the gift of discernment.  So, I suppose that’s one way it manifests itself: through HSPs.  But I would like to know how some of the other aspects of HSP can be used to God’s glory, and not as personal torture devices.  Am I the only one who sees certain traits as tortuous?

From where I stand right now, I’m failing to see a lot of this as anything other than that.  I’m just sayin’….

Getting all worked up and not being able to settle down – even when I know perfectly well that there’s nothing to be worked up about?  Crying at the drop of a pin?  Feeling like I need to retreat every 20 minutes, in order to recalibrate?  It’s like the birthday gift where several boxes and a lot of tissue are nested inside of each other.   The gift is way down inside in a teeny-tiny box.  “I know that gift’s in there somewhere!!! I just haven’t dug deep enough yet.”

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh,a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NASB

Ah, ok.  Well, I guess God just answered my question.  I just wanted to include the “I pleaded with the Lord…sufficient grace…” but when I looked up the passage and read it all, I was convicted with the answer to what I had said before.  Maybe this will be my thorn.  But Lord, please  don’t render me unable to cope with life, because of this!  Being on edge and wanting to cry a lot of the time is not  conducive to functioning well in society, I’d say.

In what ways have you seen your highly sensitive personality as a gift and/or burden?