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What it’s like to be a highly sensitive person

I was crying. Scratch that. I was sobbing. Ugly, runny nose, red eyes, hyperventilating squawks of despair even the waterproof mascara could not contain.

My daughter was quick to console… until she learned I was intentionally reading stories I knew would break my heart. “Mom,” she told me. “Stop.”

“But… but… but…” I protested, gasping. “She was laboring… and then the baby… and oh the sadness…” Incoherent blubbering, as the crocodile tears fell from under my reading glasses.

She rolled her eyes at me. “Take a B vitamin and suck it up, woman.”

Forget the dichotomy of the right-brained vs. the left-brained, the introvert vs. the extrovert, the optimist vs. the pessimist, the liberal vs. the conservative. The contrasts that most affect my life are the thinkers vs. feelers.

The differences have nothing to do with intelligence or brain dominance or gender or age. Most of us – well, let me put it this way — most of you are thinkers. You watch movies and are simply entertained. You read books and maintain the ability to fall asleep when you go to bed. You meet a suffering friend and are able to be kind and supportive without letting it ruin your day.

You listen to a song and don’t feel your entire life wrapped up in the lyrics. You endure personal loss, and upon reaching the “acceptance” stage of grief, you pick up the pieces, buy a sassy orange shirt and move on along.

We feelers don’t do that. We can’t do that. Believe me, we try. We often think there is something wrong with us because we dwell on everything. We feel everything deeply. Telling me to “stop it” or “get over it” is like telling me to stop breathing. The way I feel things is not a defect in my personality, nor is it simply part of who I am. It is who I am.

Now, some thinkers think you are feelers. You aren’t. Just because you can be emotional doesn’t make you a feeler. If you can reason your way out of an emotion – ever – you are a thinker. And some of you feelers assume you must be thinkers because all you do is think, think, overthink. Don’t be fooled, that’s part of what makes you a feeler.

Feelers can’t shake the emotion, whichever emotion it happens to be. I am the one laughing the loudest. The one using sarcasm to deflect pain. I won’t settle for an answer of “I’m fine” when I know you don’t mean it. I will struggle to break down those walls you build around you. I am the one not gossiping because I refuse to assume the worst about you. I will take all kinds of crap from you and for you because I don’t ever want you to have to feel the pain I have felt. Ever.

Feelers crave passion and connection. We automatically put ourselves in your shoes to better understand you. Sure, we are the criers. But we are also the entertainers. And the huggers. And the empathizers.

This does not mean we are always depressed and gloomy. Far from it. But when we are, there is no shaking it and definitely no faking it.

We take no comfort in “things will get better” or “if it is meant to be it will happen”. We only know it is not better and the thought of living without it is more than we can bear. And we feel this, not only for ourselves, but for anyone whose story we become a part of.

Unfortunately for me, it only takes 23 seconds for me to invest my heart in someone else’s story. By the time the father/daughter duo are dancing at her wedding, I’m sniffling. Before Tim McGraw mentions x-rays as a reason to “Live Like You Were Dyin’,” I’m overwhelmed. When Max grows tired of the Wild Things and wants to be where someone loves him best of all, my voice is quivering. And I am unabashedly mourning when I realize that no matter how much Noah reads to Allie from “The Notebook,” there really is no such thing as a happy ending in a Nicholas Sparks story.

Tears of laughter. Tears of loss. Tears of frustration. Tears of hope. Tears of anger. Tears of joy.

So when you see me, I will probably be crying. Or I will have just been crying. Or I’m about to cry (just give me 17 seconds.) If you’re a kindred spirit, you will give me a hug and shed a tear with me. If you’re a thinker, you will offer me a Kleenex, tell me it will be okay, and wonder what the heck is wrong with me.

Not one thing. I’m just a feeler.

This piece was originally posted on BlogHer.

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