I’m a very sensitive person. I have been ever since I was very little. My father is also very sensitive, and so is my aunt Joni. They are the people in my family I am closest to and the ones I feel I am the most similar to. I am extremely emotionally sensitive – too much so – but also very physically sensitive, especially to loud noises, bright lights, cold, and touch.
I love massage therapy because it helps me feel better. I feel relaxed and better able to manage my daily stiffness, pain, and inflexibility. There are times when massage really hurts, partially because my body is very sensitive. Two days ago, I felt dull straining in my right leg; I don’t know what I did to it, but it hurt to walk. I had my massage therapist work on it this afternoon. The treatment itself hurt and, though my leg felt a bit better after, it wasn’t entirely better. I understood then that it might take a few more treatments to treat whatever it is that I have done to my leg. My therapist told me she could tell that I was sensitive. It didn’t surprise me. This also extends to my emotional self.
My father often tells me that I need to develop thicker skin. He has told me that I don’t have a ‘bullshit filter’ and that I hold onto things that others have let go of or forgotten soon after they happen, like a rude remark from a stranger in passing. What other people easily dismiss, I hold onto and agonize over. This has nothing to do with my impairment; it’s just an element of who I am and a part of my personality. I just blogged about the work I do to change my emotional self. My father isn’t the only person who has told me that I need to toughen up and be less sensitive. I agree – and I believe it’s necessary for me to do in order to survive in the world – but, honestly, this is a part of myself that I don’t want to lose. I don’t necessarily enjoy being as sensitive as I am, and I’m certainly a lot tougher and more independent than I was, but I don’t want to lose my sensitivity, the same way I don’t want to lose my creativity. They are cornerstones of my identity and shape how I move through the world and experience life. Those are things I don’t want to rid myself of, even though I can work on becoming less sensitive, especially to unkindness or rudeness that comes from strangers.
One of the hardest things about being so sensitive is that it’s very hard for me to hide my emotions and ‘put on a brave face.’ It’s hardest when I am struggling and I want to deal with things alone and have some privacy, to keep things to myself, but people can tell that something is wrong because I can’t hide it. There are many many times – especially in the last few years – when I have been desperate to keep things to myself, to be private, and to go through things alone, but people draw them out of me because they can sense that I am unhappy and frustrated. I work to maintain my composure, keep things to myself, establish my boundaries and be mindful of other people’s boundaries, but it can be hard to do when I am so easy to read.
I can’t really ‘work’ on my body’s sensitivity because it just ‘is what it is.’ Believe me: if I could ‘do something’ about how visibly and strongly I react to cold, loud noises, and sexual touch, I would definitely ‘do’ whatever it was I needed to do. But I can’t. I can certainly – and do certainly – work on certain elements of my emotional sensitivity. Living in London has certainly had an effect on my sensitivity. I recently told my mother that – though I am uncertain as to whether or not I will be able to stay here – I wouldn’t trade the experience I have had for anything. I am so glad that I have actually ‘lived London’ because I would be nowhere near as self-reliant, independent, and strong as I have become if I hadn’t moved to London. These are necessary things that I needed to come into, and staying at home – or even moving back to Toronto – would not have hardened me as London has.
I don’t think I can ‘find a balance’ between being sensitive and tough (the way other people have encouraged me to find a balance between being open and being private). I just have to accept that, in some ways, I will always be physically and emotionally sensitive. It isn’t a bad thing and it isn’t a failing on my part. It’s just who I am.