Calling all HSP and HG Ladies!

I have suddenly wondered about the correlation between Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and Highly Sensitive People (HSP). I am so sensitive to many stimuli – I don’t enjoy driving at night, for example, because I am dazzled by the lights, and of course I also have Misophonia. I am wondering if those of us that are HSP are more predisposed to suffering with HG – it certainly makes a lot of sense to me!

Therefore, I have decided to do my first ever poll! Please let me know if you noticed a connection between the two!

Introvert in Denial

ID-100236307

 

I have made a whole heap of discoveries about who I am in the past year.  I’m talking really huge, monumental realisations that have absolutely smashed to smithereens all previous theories about who I am, and who I thought I was.  A dawning of such magnitude doesn’t come cheap;  it causes the world as you know it to shake at your feet in a terrifying earthquake,  forcing all earlier conceptions to tumble to the ground,  leaving rubble where solid thoughts once existed.

It sounds terrifying,  and in many ways it is;  it is certainly life changing,  make no mistake.  But the overriding sensation is one of relief:  I am not odd:  I’m just in the minority.  I am not an intolerant bitch:  I struggle with Misophonia.  I am not an attention-seeking drama queen:  I am merely a highly sensitive person.

However,  one aspect of my personality is still a mystery.  Am I an introvert,  or not?  Many HSPs are introverts,  and it’s true that when I have taken online personality tests,  I invariably come up with introvert.  But while I enjoy my own company, I also love a good party.  I am loud and opinionated, which are a far cry from classic introvert characteristics.  Although I often shrink from attention,  there are times when I am most comfortable being slap,  bang right in the middle of it.

The bottom line is,  I don’t want to be an introvert.  There,  I’ve said it.  I am more than willing to admit that I have introvert traits,  but there are just as many extrovert ones, too.   When I consider the possibility of being an introvert,  I want to fight tooth and nail against it,  every fibre of my being screaming “that’s not ME”.

Why would this be?  I honestly don’t know.  Or perhaps I do,  and I am just being coy.  It’s stigma.  The stigma that is associated with introverted,  shy people.  God, I hate that word.  Shy,  shy,  shy,  SHY.  As a child,  I was always described as shy.   I am not shy at all,  and never have been.  I am wary,  and cautious and sensitive,  that’s it.  Nobody really looked close enough to see the real me,  to bother enough to realise that I wasn’t shy.  Hey, ho.  Common mistake:   quiet equals shy.

Perhaps the problem is that I see shyness and introversion all entwined and entangled,  with my mind unable to separate the two?  Or,  maybe,  it has more to do with how our society treats introverts:  the butt of poor jokes,  ridiculed and misunderstood,  seen as second class citizens that nobody remembers or cares about.  I am a highly sensitive person,  and as such,  I CRAVE acceptance.  This is closer to the truth;  this,  I believe, is the real reason why I can’t think of myself as being an introvert.

Although I have many unequivocal extrovert tendencies,  I think I may be a closet introvert: an introvert in some serious denial.  I’ve seen me walk into a crowded room and rather than show I was intimidated,  I have become the loudest person there.  I’ve had public speaking jobs,  where I felt a fraud,  sick to my stomach before every meeting I held.  I’ve worked in customer services positions where a jovial,  sociable  and out-going personality was a pre-requisite,  and gone home exhausted due to the effort it took.  I felt like a fake,  an interloper,  and just waited for someone to discover it.   That’s denial.  That’s pretending.  That’s not who I am.

And it makes me sad.  Why should I deny such a huge part of who I am?  If,  indeed, I am an introvert? Why should society dictate what is acceptable,  or not?  I might ask why should I even care;  but the HSP among us will know why.  We just do.

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Understanding Your Limitations

 

Before I start, I want to emphasise that I love my kids. Really love them. The love I feel for them is the purest and deepest emotion I have ever experienced, and will undoubtedly always remain that way. Some may not believe me after they read my post, while others, hopefully, will be able to closely relate.

I have been thinking about writing a post on the subject, when this popped up on my feed. I felt such a deep resonance with the words; it seriously could have been written by me, about me. Among other things, it broached the somewhat tricky subject of when you need time away from your kids; when they become almost enough to drive you insane, seriously. Most people are frustrated by their kids at some point, but sensitive people really struggle at times. Like the poster, I also had such a hard time when my first child was born; I used to say it was because I was selfish and set in my ways, which to some degree is probably true, but I think it is more the fact that I could never escape. He was always around; if I went somewhere, he came with me. It was suffocating.

I have spent the last two weeks in our family’s idyllic summerhouse. It’s by the beach, in the middle of a forest, and I love it here. The first week was amazing – we were here as a family, and there was the opportunity to dive into a book and lose myself for a while. This second week it has just been me and the kids. To be honest, this idyll has reverted to a living hell. The kids go to bed the same time as me, and wake up the same time. They are there every second of every day. I have seriously not had more than a minute to myself for a week. Yes, I hear the non-sensitive among you saying. That’s what parents do; that’s what you sign up for. But, to a sensitive person, it is akin to torture. I can’t think straight, I am grumpy, snappy and quite unforgivingly horrible to the kids. Things that wouldn’t normally bother me are sending my emotions into a devastating maelstrom. If nagging was an Olympic sport, I would win gold.

In reality, I don’t want to get away from my kids. What I do want to do, is get away from the noise, from the inane childish chatter, from the constant questions. I want to sit quietly for five minutes to settle my thoughts. It’s the inability to do that, even for just a few minutes, that puts enormous pressure on my whole being.

None of us feel good; that I am sure of. My eldest is very sensitive and also feels the need to get away, but can’t either. At home he escapes to his room with his iPad, but with a poor internet connection, he doesn’t even get that luxury here. So, we are constantly butting heads, with ever-increasing abandon. For the first time ever, I put them to bed last night without giving them a cuddle. I mean, the first time EVER in their lives. Their crime? Silly, childish hysterics and behaviour. How horrific, eh? But, in my defence (and I am feeling the need to defend my actions, probably because I am so aware that it is me in the wrong) it came at the pinnacle of a very stressful and frustrating day, and it was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back. I always tell them that no matter what happens, nobody should go to sleep sad or cross. I broke my promise last night with a cold and uncaring heart. I needed to get away from them, and the only way I could do that was to sleep. I must just point out that I am not Cruella de Ville; my kids didn’t wail themselves to sleep feeling abandoned by the only person they could depend on. They went to sleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows, but even so. It’s the principle that matters (and hurts in the cold light of day).

I am trying to be magnanimous about this; I could easily allow myself to slip into a quagmire of self-flagellation, as I have done numerous times in the past, but I am trying not to beat myself up about something I literally have no control over. It isn’t about me getting a grip, or needing to stop stressing. This is who I am; how I am made. When forced into a situation where there is no escape, even if that is from my children, I became claustrophobic to the point of distraction.

We’ve had a better day today. We’ve been down to the beach, and I have dipped in the refreshing Baltic. It’s swept away lots of negativity and frustration; it’s re-charged my batteries. I’ve survived to live another day.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (plus Buses) – Why Travelling is Torturous for a HSP with Misophonia

ID-100126122

Travelling is rarely fun at the best of times,  but it can become pure torture for a Highly Sensitive Person with Misophonia. There are loads of reasons for this (perhaps too many to mention here),  so I will provide a brief taster of what it is like when I travel,  and why being around so many people,  for so long,  can leave me jabbering away in the nearest corner.

1. Space Invaders:  When travelling,  especially on budget airlines,  you are forced into the very close proximity of strangers. This sends my highly sensitive personality into a tailspin of abject terror.  On both legs of my flight,  I sat next to a man (not the same one – I don’t have a stalker);  and both times,  they sat with their legs wide open.  Yes, guys.  I get there’s a reason why you can’t close your legs completely,  but do you have to sit with them so far apart?  Is it some kind of macho,  non-verbal communication?   We are talking small kiwis,  not huge melons,  so let’s get some perspective and quit with the wide leg gape.  Their chivalry was extended to space hogging,  too.  They kindly sprawled their arms over the mutual arm rest,  and never budged. Touching the flesh of a stranger is pretty tough going for a HSP,  and I was left with no alternative but to twist my body into contortions a Russian gymnast would be proud of,  just to avoid physical contact.  On my return journey,  I got brave (scratch that,  I got so pissed off that he was so seemingly unaware of how cramped I was)  that at one point,  when he moved his arm to itch his chin,  I flung my arm on the arm rest,  thinking that he would get the hint,  and relinquish the spot to me for a while.  Sadly,  he was quite oblivious,  and pushed his arm back into the coveted spot.  I scrunched up my eyes,  took a deep breath,  and began to battle it out. I lasted all of 30 seconds before bailing.  Just couldn’t take it any longer.  Strange, inconsiderate man:  1,  odd,  frustrated HSP lady:  0.

On my bus journey home,  the woman beside me suddenly leant right across me.  I wouldn’t have been any more startled or bristly if she’d jabbed me with a pitchfork.   She wanted to take a picture of the view.   Yes,  it was pretty, and yes,  I get her eagerness and excitement.   But rule number one for a HSP:  never get closer than you have to.  If you do have to (or would like to take a picture),  always politely ask first.  It’s not hard.  It’s respectful.

2. You are forced to listen to people:  People with Misophonia are very sensitive to noise, sometimes any kind of noise,  although it is often specific to the sufferer.  My worst trigger is people eating loud food,  such as crisps or apples.   However, I am also very sensitive to people’s voices.  I am from the north of England,  and we have some lovely,  melodious accents; but we also have some ear-splitting dialects that leave me begging for mercy.  The cabin crew on my flight yesterday loved the sound of their own voices,  but one had a  Blackburn accent that was enough to make your eyes water (if you have no idea what it sounds like, Google it). I was sitting at the back of the aircraft like I always do (I am scared of flying, and feel safer right at the back – despite my 9 year old gleefully told me that I am more likely to die if sit there),  and on what was obviously a quiet day,  I was forced to endure a voice that was like nails down a chalkboard.  I am now lucky enough to know more of her life history than her mum does.  Like how she has three kids,  her eldest is just about to start secondary school and needs to catch a bus there.  She’s a bit concerned about that,  but you know,  she’ll soon settle in.  Her husband is a great help,  but well,  if he doesn’t go to work he doesn’t get paid,  and she once spent a whole day ironing clothes (she now hires someone to do it, and it costs £30).  She’s been to the Maldives:  lovely place – she could walk around her island in 20 minutes,  but it wasn’t too quiet,   just perfect. And on, and on,  she went.  Thankfully,  the flight was only and hour and thirty minutes,  otherwise I might have been flinging myself out of the emergency exit.  On the outbound journey we were serenaded by a member of the cabin crew that sang the same line of a song,  over and over again. Badly. Very badly indeed.

3. Checking:  No, I don’t mean “check-in”,  I mean checking.  As in checking everything five million times. This is another highly sensitive trait,  but I also think I have certain OCD tendencies.  I had a bus journey that spanned only ten minutes,  and in that duration,   I jumped three times in fright wondering where my suitcase was.  It was in the hold,  where I’d handed it to the driver.  All three times.  I checked for the whereabouts of my passport every two minutes, with military precision,  just in case it had fallen out of my tightly zipped bag.  Could have done. You never know.  The writing on my boarding card became almost illegible,  due to how many times I had taken it out of my bag to scrutinise it;  just in case I had missed something the first hundred occasions I’d looked at it.  During my time in the UK,  I went a bit overboard with the shopping,  and now have the arms of a navvy,  due to the fact that I repeatedly picked up my suitcase trying to judge how heavy it was (panicking that I might be charged excess baggage).

4. The increased possibility of looking foolish: A highly sensitive person does everything they can to avoid being the centre of attention in public,  especially if that attention is perceived as negative.  I live in fear of falling over (which almost never happens,  probably because I am so careful to ensure it stays that way),  or doing something that makes me look like an idiot.  Being in unfamiliar territory,  and experiencing situations that are not every day,  dramatically increases the likelihood.  Before doing something,  I weigh up the odds like a bookmaker, watching carefully to see someone else do it first.   For example, taking a luggage trolley.  Now, you might be wondering how hard that could be,  but at the airport they had a new-fangled system where you put a coin in a machine,  and it releases a trolley.   Normally, I would stand and assess the situation,  and watch someone else take one.  But I was obviously feeling confident and blazed in.  Now,   there were two lanes, and for some reason,  I thought the red light signified it was the lane I should use.  Because, of course red signals GO,  doesn’t it?  After tugging,  and pulling, and increasingly aware that I was becoming the centre of attention,  I looked frantically around for someone who could help me.  Thankfully,  a man did come to my painful rescue (albeit somewhat reluctantly,  and with ill-disguised smugness as he pointed out the green light in the other lane).  It made me cringe.  It made me want to curl up in a ball.  It made me feel like clod-hopping,  idiotic buffoon.  A slight over-reaction, wouldn’t you say?  After all,  it could happen to anyone.  And I would absolutely agree.  Welcome to the world of a HSP.

5. You worry. All the time:  I planned every inch of my trip with mathematical precision,  even down to studying the menus of restaurants I would be visiting.  I was particularly anxious about finding space for my luggage during my two hour train journey (it is notoriously limited).  So much so,  that I’d reserved seats nearby luggage holds.  However,  this didn’t ease my panic. In fact, it probably heightened it, because I was worried that someone else would be sitting in my reserved seat, and I would have a fight to get them to move.  Oh,  my imagination knows no bounds.  I was forced to put my large suitcase on a shelf where it was over-hanging slightly.  Utterly convinced it would fall off in transit,  I badgered two innocent young Americans into putting their smaller bag on top of mine.  I didn’t ask them;  I ordered them.  I developed a case of repetitive strain injury due to the amount of times I turned my head to see if the case had fallen off (it never moved an inch),  and the woman behind me must have thought I was spying on her,  because every time I looked back,  she caught my eye.

I’d managed to jump on an earlier train,  but this meant that I didn’t have time to weigh up everything,  and doubted that it was the right train. I’d accosted an elderly couple:   “Is this train going to York?  Are you sure?  Definitely going to York?  Where are you getting off?  Oh,  it must definitely be going to York then”.  Yes,  it was going to York,  which is what they’d said when I first asked.

6. You have to conform:  As a HSP I live a quite controlled life,  and I guess by default,  this can mean that I have the ability to be controlling,  and a need to be in control.  This,  I have realised,  is just a way for me to stay on an even keel;  if I know what is going to happen,  it doesn’t jerk so much.  I am also very set in my ways,  and although I enjoy the company of family and friends, this can only be for limited periods,  dependant on the person.  So, when you travel and stay with people,  you are often dragged kicking and screaming from your comfort zone.  You have to do what others want to do.  I don’t like it.  I spent a lot of time during my week away almost apologising for who I am,  despite the fact that I promised myself I wouldn’t.  This year has been a huge awakening for me,  with hard-hitting realisations,  and dawning truths about who I am, and why I do the things I do.  It’s brought relief and acceptance that it is okay for me to be just me, odd little foibles and all.  But I have never been more conscious of being in the minority (only 20% of people are HSP) during my travels this time.  It made me sad, scared and happy,  all rolled up together.  As a HSP,  I am always second guessing myself,  and why make a quick decision when you can spend hours analysing every little detail, eh?  You can’t do that when you are out for a meal (even if the choice of menu is overwhelming, even to a “normal” person),  so,  being forced to stray away from what makes me comfortable is never easy.

Phew! It’s a wonder I go anywhere!

 

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / Free DigitalPhotos.net

 

A hatred of noise…..

Well, this is exciting.

The first post, in a brand, spanking new blog!

Where to start? Well, why not with the reason for starting this blog: the realisation that at 46, I am still learning more about myself every day (often hard to accept for the girl who thought she knew everything at 17). I want to share my take on the world, including experiences, opinions and beliefs.

In the last six months, I have made two startling, and life-changing discoveries. The first was that I have something called Misophonia (the second I will save for another post). This is a very little- known condition (so much so that my spell check fails to recognise it), that is often described as a hatred of noise. I wouldn’t put it that simply; to me, it is fairly complex, and doesn’t only involve noise (peripheral movement, such as jiggling legs, is also a trigger for me, and many others). The cause is unknown, but it is classed as a neurological disorder. I am not going to explain it in detail, but here is a website that has more information: http://misophonia.com/symptoms-triggers/. The reactions in Misophonia sufferers are unique, and causes a fight or flight response. With me, it has usually been fight.

My earliest recollection of Misophonia was at around 12 years old, which is a common age for it to begin. I would (and still do, to some extend) become literally enraged by certain noises, such as my family eating crisps or apples (although this is not an exhaustive list). I would lose my temper, scream obscenities, throw things and just generally behave appallingly. It only happened with people very close to me (the external display of anger, that is; the triggers were all around, but I managed to control my reaction). At that young age, I never thought to remove myself from the situation, and would just stay and shout; I would literally shake with rage. My mum’s reaction was just to condescendingly state that it was okay for me to make a noise eating, but not for them; therefore, I always assumed that it was because I was an intolerant, nasty, and aggressive piece of work. Although it has always triggered anger, I never really associated the noise with the anger, if that makes any sense? Of course, I knew the noise had made me angry, but I think I just believed that I was an angry person who just so happened to be annoyed by noises.

However, everything changed a few months ago. By chance, I stumbled upon a link to a Misophonia website, and for the first time, I discovered that not only was there a name for the emotions and reactions I experienced, but that I was not alone. There were thousands (actually, an infinite amount) of people just like me. The realisation hit me extremely hard. At first, I cried at the realisation that other people felt the same way as me, and that I wasn’t evil and intolerant. And then I cried for the 30-odd wasted years I had punished myself; guiltily recalling events over and over again, where I had screamed at my mum, when she had done nothing wrong. And I also cried with absolute, abject relief: this was NOT my fault; this was out of my control; this was down to a neurological disturbance. It was tough to realise, but so liberating at the same time.

So, how does Misophonia affect the 46-year-old adult? Well, before realising there was a name for what I struggled with, it was hard. Do you know what it feels like to scream at someone because they are making a noise eating? To see the look of hurt and confusion in someone’s eyes? It tears at your soul; that’s for sure. Over the years, it has eased somewhat, but looking back; it has always played a huge, omnipotent part in my life. Knowing it is Misophonia helps beyond words. Now, it is easier for me to remove myself from a potentially fraught situation before it spirals out of control. I am also able to tell my family when I am in the early stages of being triggered; facing it is therapeutic. It’s like saying: “I can feel it approaching, but that’s okay. I have the power to control it”. Of course, I can only control it to a certain extent, but acknowledging it (and understanding that my reaction doesn’t make me a bad person), really helps.

So, I’m getting there. Not all picket fences and roses, but getting there. I still feel guilty, though. I took my children to the cinema last week, and they had popcorn (just the thought of this is hell for Misophonia sufferers). I mentioned to my nine-year-old a couple of times that he was crunching, and moving the popcorn around loudly, but I felt bad. I didn’t want to spoil his fun, so I stuck my fingers in my ears, thinking he wouldn’t see me. I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and he whispered “sorry”. I asked him what he was sorry for, and he said, “that my noise is making you sad”. Wow, that’s hard to hear. It’s hard to know your behaviour is having that kind of effect on your children. I’ve talked to them about Misophonia, and I think that on a basic level, they get it, but kids this age often blame themselves for things, and I don’t ever want them to believe that they are doing something wrong. This is MY problem, and it hurts to land it at their feet.

As well as the obvious relief I feel, recognising I have Misophonia has also brought embarrassment; it is something that many sufferers are not willing to share with others.  When I sit and think about Misophonia, it sounds ridiculous in my own head; how could noise make me react in such a violent way? I have told very few people about it; I feel like a fraud, trying to make up a disorder to cover my intolerance.

There has been a fair amount of exposure lately, with several newspaper articles being written. Unfortunately, a lot of negativity and ridicule have arisen from it;  sadly, in today’s society, if you don’t understand something, the easiest thing is to belittle it. The main reason for this is that many feel annoyed by crunching, people eating with their mouth wide open, sneezing, breathing and so on.  What they are failing to understand is that Misophonia sufferers do not feel slightly irritated. They feel agitation, anxiety, rage and often have an acute fear that at any minute, they could completely lose control.

Hopefully, one day they will truly know what causes it, rather than speculation and guesswork, which is all they have now. Perhaps, they may even find a cure. We can live in hope.

If you’d like support, please check out (you don’t need to be from the UK): https://www.facebook.com/groups/25590393130/