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Sufferings of the Sensitive

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

"The sensitive suffer more, but they love more and dream more." -Augusto Curry

Ah, I see you've met our inspiration for today's post. Of course it's a quote -- what did you expect?! I was flipping through an old journal today and found an entry from 2017 with nothing but this quote scribbled under the date. How mysterious of me to leave behind for my future great-great-grandchildren to find in a dusty attic one day long after I've left this earth. They're going to be pretty disappointed in how simultaneously cheesy and seriously bipolar my journal makes me out to be. I'm trying to be happier and have more excitement in my life, for their sake, but it's not looking great.

This succinct little quote seems to say just as much as the long rambles of confusion and fear I found it tucked between. It basically sums up my entire existence. I am a sensitive human, there is no denying that, and this has often felt more like a curse than a blessing. Not being able to hold back tears when someone is unhappy with me, or even when I make a mistake as trivial as spilling food on the comforter for the third time in two hours (I should note that I'm also very clumsy and grew up with the self-evident nickname of "Spill Queen") is not a quality I like about myself. I would prefer to handle a little sternness without my throat tightening and my eyes welling up with tears, but I simply wasn't made that way. It's on the long list of things I thought I would grow out of. Sadly, at 24, I still look under my bed for murderers and can barely sleep one night in a house alone without checking that each door is locked at least three times. And I still cry when faced with any form of scolding, no matter how mild. Did I miss a crucial step in the process of becoming an adult? This can't be right.

I'm not necessarily saying that my tears at inopportune times and my inability to sleep without first thoroughly inspecting my room for intruders -- ones with an indeterminable motive to kill me, but a motive nonetheless -- make me suffer drastically more than the rest of the world. (Although you must admit, this really is quite unfortunate for me.) But my being sensitive goes deeper than this, if you can believe it. Everything just sits with me on a more personal level. I can't even watch a damn American Idol audition without crying for the people who are rejected, especially if it's a man wearing glasses. Don't ask me why. I have no clue why it pains me so deeply to see a man in glasses feel any emotion other than pure joy. It's a weird soft spot I've always had, among many others. I also feel second-hand embarrassment maybe more than the person actually experiencing the embarrassment themselves. I'm hyper-sensitive to things that probably shouldn't get to me as much as they do, but this is, unfortunately, the way I am wired.

On the positive end of being sensitive, as Augusto Curry points out, it is possible that I love and dream more. I believe this is true, but don't be fooled; dreaming too much isn't actually a good thing. I would almost go as far to say it is the opposite: the more you dream, the less certain you are about the things you truly want, and the more lost in your ideals and fantasies you become. I spend a lot of time in my head. I know we all technically spend the same amount of time in our heads because that is how this whole "being a human with a brain" thing works, but I have reason to believe my time up there drags on longer than most and is more unbearable than that of the average person. You see, all this time dreaming means less time doing; less doing means more thinking, and more thinking means less doing. It's a vicious cycle. Even my night-time dreams are often rooted in reality and leave me with an anxious pit in my stomach the next morning -- and yes, I am distinguishing between dreaming and actual night-time dreaming because that is how much time I spend dreaming even while I'm awake. If something is stressing me out about work, that pesky worry makes its way into my not-so-sweet dreams and robs me of the eight hours of freedom I'm supposed to have from my prison cell of a brain! It's hard enough to spend your waking hours consumed by fears of failure and incompetence, let alone having them haunt your hours of slumber too. After a long day of thinking, I can't even be rewarded with a calm, restful night's sleep?! It is cruel.

Of course, there are upsides to being a sensitive little human like me. While it's inconvenient to take even the most minor put-down on an unreasonably personal level, my being sensitive allows me to really connect to and empathize with people. I don't consider myself a people-person, as we all know. I'm a people-pleaser, but being a people-person is entirely different. I'm simply not someone who enjoys making small talk, and I will panic if left alone in a room with someone I barely know. (Unless I'm drunk. None of this applies if I'm drunk. I'm fantastically outgoing when I'm drunk. Maybe I could get rid of all these problems -- and take on a whole set of new ones -- by simply becoming an alcoholic.) But this is maybe a misconception I have about myself, one that my boyfriend kindly pointed out to me recently. I am so quick to call myself an introverted, shy, and awkward human, but it turns out I'm not quite as bad as I think I am. Sure, I'm not the first one to think up a new topic when there's a lull in conversation, but I love a stimulating discussion and spending time with interesting people. Surface-level talk not only bores me but gives me serious anxiety. Don't get me wrong; I really, truly am dying to know what you do for a living and if you actually enjoy it and if you make decent money and if it's something I would be good at and if you could please get me a job (this all leads back to the whole "I have no idea what I'm doing with my life" thing), but I'm mostly interested in hearing the stuff that doesn't often come up casually in conversation. What is your greatest insecurity? Does it hold you back? What has been your most life-changing realization? Are you truly happy with your life? Do you regret anything? Do you resent anyone? Would your younger self be proud of the person you've become? What makes you angry? What is your biggest fear? Give me the good stuff!

I think, at the end of the day, we all want to feel like we're not alone. We all want to know we have things in common with other humans, but not just that we like the same music and enjoy the same foods, but that we share our fears and insecurities, our regrets and uncertainties, our failures and misfortunes. We want to know that other people have been where we are, or that they are right there with us now. We want to be free of that gnawing, aching feeling of being alone in our struggles. And we will never find that if all we ever talk about is the weather and what Netflix shows we've watched recently. I guess it all starts with vulnerability; we have to be willing to open up about the darkest parts of ourselves to give others the freedom to do the same. When one person is vulnerable, other people feel comfortable peeling back their layers too. We all put on a front -- and it's especially easy to do in this phoney age of social media where you can manicure your online profile to look like you have an unrealistically perfect life -- but when one person speaks up about their inner turmoil, their insecurities, the fears that hold them back, we all feel a little more at ease sharing our own. And that, I think, is the only way to make life feel more bearable in the hard times and more meaningful in the good ones.