PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME IV
In November 2018, I started a project, where I collect stories from emotionally intense people from around the world.
I am overwhelmed by your generosity and feel incredibly moved by your courage to be vulnerable, the poignancy in your stories, and the poetic beauty in your words. This is a continuation from page one of this project.
Life can be a precarious and lonely journey, and I am glad we can find each other in this space.
I hope you will land on some resonance and encouragement in the stories and recommendations from your fellow travellers of life.
To contribute, please click here.
(The images alongside the stories are added by me, unless stated otherwise or are a part of your offerings.)
ANDREW, 19, Milton Keynes
‘I've been walking a long, confusing, and unfinished maze since I was as little as 10. The questions that I still don't have an answer to were thought of when I started to notice inconsistencies in how I processed information compared to my peers.'
My Name: Andrew Docherty
Who am I:
19, born in Kingston Upon Thames, I moved to Australia for one year when i was a child, only to move back to England again. Currently I reside in a place called Milton Keynes, in Buckinghamshire. My favourite activities heavily consist of technology, if i'm not on my phone, computer or laptop then i'm probably buying more tech. I work at the fast food franchise McDonald's as a temporary money maker, I work here while I pursue an apprenticeship in software development. What matters most is becoming self-sustaining.
I've been walking a long, confusing, and unfinished maze since I was as little as 10. The questions that I still don't have an answer to were thought of when I started to notice inconsistencies in how I processed information compared to my peers. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned the differences, and the causes behind them. it wasn't until i was in the 2nd year of my secondary education that my queries really manifested. Being older, I noticed more things, more traits, more social standards, repeated attitudes, analysing every reaction, response, body language, tone of voice, every social nuance you can think of and the meanings behind them. I took the liberty of creating a mental library of all of these different things i had noticed, and internalised them for any future reference I needed.
Things became forever more confusing when I met people who were not fitting these definitions, not reacting the same as the rest, and not processing in the same way. Their inner world spoke more volumes to me then the average person, and it was only made more clear this was the case the more I was with them. These people, while few in numbers, made me realise there are people out there with some of the traits that match mine. Although they were not picking up things as well as I could see, they were more able than our other peers, and that was enough evidence to prove to me that this is something that's been observed and catalogued before. I started my search online. I had no idea what this state of mind could be called, so being 13 years old, the only rational name i could come up with was "elite thinking", while it's funny to look back at that now, it was my desperate attempt to get some, if any, answers. As you'd expect, it was fruitless, and I lost hope for a very long time. As I developed and kept growing a stronger perception of the ones around me, I left the identity of this gift alone for a long time. A good couple of years later, I started college.
College was my golden years, I had great friends and the flow of work wasn't too bad to cope with either. I suffer over being unable to relive these days, the memories and nostalgia still overwhelm me to this day. Once, in the library, I was feeling bored and decided to take a stroll through the aisle of books that were there. By pure chance, I noticed a bright yellow series of books, the eye catching colour was enough to make me want to stop and take a look. In the middle of these books, I found one that took my breath away. This book was titled "Emotional Intelligence for Dummies", i was very taken back, as the name implied it held information that I gave up on finding so long ago. I flipped through the pages, scanned the index, and tried to do a quick, summarised read as I didn't have a lot of time left before class started. As i went through each section, I saw the use of the word "intensity" and "emotional intensity" being used a lot. This really struck a deep, untouched cord that overwhelmed me. After countless hours on an ever-expanding online search engine, I found exactly what I was looking for in a small book, tucked away in my local college. It still baffles me to this day, but I'm forever grateful I found that book.
When I arrived home on the same day, I immediately looked into every resource I could find on emotional intensity and emotional intelligence. I could not find much, but there were a handful of resources I found, although most of them were about children/raising children with emotional intensity, there was still a place I found that changed my life. It was none other than this place, right here. Eggshell therapy made me feel, for the first time in my life, like I was actually from the same planet as everyone else. I read through every page on this website with tears rolling down my eyes, this is really what I was looking for this whole god damn time, an answer that was far too long awaited was staring back at me on my computer screen. Ever since, I've been living my life knowing that there are people out there that experience the world in a similar way to me, and it's improved my quality of life significantly. Every so often, I come back here to re-read everything and comfort myself that I am not alone, that there are people who know and care about this. There are still some questions that are yet to be answered though, for example, how many people are really out there? Is there a place for me to meet any of these people? Will I ever talk to someone else who understands? While answers would be amazing, I at least feel fulfilled that I now understand what I have, and my profound appreciation for it.
The references I stated above are my true inspirations. The book that broke the lock, "Emotional Intelligence for Dummies" written by Steven J. Stein, this website, Eggshell Therapy, and your beautifully written masterpiece of a book, "Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity" written by Imi Lo.
People who have influenced me:
My uncle really influenced me by exposing me to technology, which shaped my interests I hold today. I have no influences written in literature or in history books. I only have my family and the resources that led me here today.
Some written words:
“We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us — -how we can take it, what we do with it —- and that is what really counts in the end.” —- Joseph Fort Newton
“When awareness is brought to an emotion, power is brought to your life.” – Tara Meyer Robson
“Use pain as a stepping stone, not a camp ground.” —- Alan Cohen
A life advice:
Don't stop for anyone. If you have a drive, let it be free. If there's something you're passionate about, exercise that ambition. But most importantly, only prove the people wrong with action.
In my own words:
Your answers won't find you immediately, don't hinge all of your happiness on the answer that you want to find, and don't convince yourself you're alone. You will naturally learn how to live in your own way, and with that, you may stumble upon what you've been looking for the most. Build yourself with your intensiveness, not against it, a constant fight with your unknown feelings will only hold you back, let yourself develop these traits to your advantage. You WILL figure out what you are, but for now, be happy with who you are.
‘I was considered dumb by a lot of teachers, they thought I could not follow instructions, but I just needed to repeat things and I asked a lot of questions.’
My Name: Anayu
Who am I:
In 5 years I’ll be half a century. So far so wonderfully uncertain. I’m the daughter of a Chinese father from Toronto and a mother from Ronda, Andalusia, Spain. I’m the owner of a food truck serving San Juan Puerto Rico: I specialize in spring rolls and empanadas. I’m finally learning to trust my Intuition to help me support myself , I’ve always struggled to find and keep a job, and the paradox is that I love to work! But employers could never quite pinpoint my polymath interests—calligraphy, tango, music composition, gardening, improvisation—and to be honest I never quite managed the art of writing a resume to sum up my life, but I’m learning: I’m good at cooking and driving, and so far the people of Puerto Rico have delighted in my fusion cuisine, gracias!
I was considered dumb by a lot of teachers, they thought I could not follow instructions, but I just needed to repeat things and I asked a lot of questions. My parents wanted me to be popular, especially when we loved from Canada to Philadelphia, and they thought I’d nosedive into the American scene, the way my cousins did, they couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be a cheerleader or why I sat with the goths and morbidly obese kids at lunch. I love my parents but resented them comparing me with my cousins in Minnesota, who seemed more together, mum and pop didn’t want to accept that these cousins were mean girls , I think they saw my kindness as a weakness and could get why I—such a pretty teenager—didn’t aspire to be more socially mobile. Why do people assume that just because you’re pretty that that’s all you should aspire to?
Draco Rosa! Love that he lives on a farm and harvests the most delicious Puerto Rican coffee. Would love to visit his Estancia. He inspires me, because he overcame drug addiction and cancer and always remained true to himself. A loving husband and father, loves a traditional family life while also being an avant garde Rock Star, I was a huge fan of his when he was in Menudo, he inspired me to pack up and move here to Puerto Rico, will stay here forever.
People who have influenced me:
Gloria Venderbilt, because she wasn’t happy just being an heiress
Kate Upton, I want to rock and curve my bikinis too
Josephine Baker—she left her tribe and lived abroad
Liz Taylor—always her own person, Badass
Some written words:
Do all things, especially little things, with great love—st Therese of Lisieux
A life advice:
The Flying Wallendas—people laughed at them, didn’t think that was a real job, to be circus acrobats and trapeze artists, but they valued and appreciated the gifts God gave them, and took leaps of faith, flying in the air. You don’t need to please anyone but the Creator.
In your own words:
Be like a horse and put blinders, look only ahead
Pretend that you’re Beethoven, compose your 9th Symphony, be deaf to all negativity, listen only to the divine music guiding you forward
Laugh at yourself and the world, our lives are just for rent
‘the most beautiful, tearful and meaningful (moments) are the ones of silent connection with a stranger who sees me as I see them but we do not speak.’
My Name: anon
Who am I:
I don't find it meaningful to share where I am from or my geographical footprint because it's incidental and doesn't tell you what I am. I'm 38 at the time of writing. I connect the most to fast paced cities because of the anonymity within large crowds and mute purposelessness of 'going about' as far as anyone else is concerned; as I am there I am simply 'on my way'. I do like riding the bus and sitting at the front on the top deck.
It's deeply lonely being sensitive and introverted and hoping always to meet someone willing to talk about it all. The infrequent moments to me that are the most beautiful, tearful and meaningful are the ones of silent connection with a stranger who sees me as I see them but we do not speak and do not become each others' burden. Otherwise I just hide it all and fake being 'ok', which I'm better at and worse at on different days. It's a constant challenge.
The Online Newsletter: Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, numerous podcasts including On Being by Krista Tippett and Help Me Be Me by Sarah May B and, most recently, the online Newsletter titled 'Our Quest For Love What Are we Hungry For?' by you Imi
People who have influenced me:
People brave enough to call out inequality and act against it, thoroughly inspire me. Leaders and Fighters for change, who do not accept the status quo show me that there can be different ways within society.
Written words that have resonated with me: from limitation comes innovation
A life advice:
Find your tribe. Everyone is equal and that includes you and me, everyone should be treated equally and that includes you and me, we can treat others as we treat ourselves, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, it's enough.
My words to you:
We are the product of our training/education/life experience and we create a lens for ourselves, through which we see the world. When that lens stops serving us, when we survive but do not thrive it's time to practice new training / new education and new life experience to foster a new lens so we can thrive. It's hard work and we owe it to ourselves and our tribe, who understands us, not just to survive but thrive.
CLAIRE, artist, business owner, mental health advocate
‘There is a monster in me that would eat me alive if it could, telling me I am alone, unwanted, useless, and completely invisible. I talk to that/those monsters often, it helps a lot to separate myself from them and be able to get angry at them for causing me pain.’
My Name: Claire
Who am I:
I'm Claire, oldest of three...well, from my batch. My father had three batches, one of five, another of five, and us three before he died when I was 15 of a heart attack. Thirteen kids, though I grew up with only us three in close quarters. The others were just funny family stories, distant and older. I only really know one of the previous 10 siblings, my older brother, because he decided to stick with my father through all this for some reason, and was around while we grew up. Everyone thought he was my father because of the age difference and since he was taking care of us so often.
My father was a gregarious, warm, smiling, laughing, creative, smart and by all accounts now that I am informed and older a manipulative, narcissistic, deeply independent man. I remember at one point that he told me how proud he was to have shared his gene pool so far, because it was the best one, he was doing the world a favor. I loved it, I was 8, and I was related to this prolific man who loved me. To me he was the amazing dad I couldn't access enough because my mom and dad divorced when I was 4 and hated each other. They fought hard for custody until I was 15 and he died. Bring it up and they would rail about the trash that was the other one. My father bribed us constantly, giving us 20s and 100s if we could "get something" on our mom. I stole her diary to give to him when I was 9, and when I got caught they each yelled about it for a long time. They were always reworking the custody arrangement, my father fighting for visits and my mother always angry he got any access to us. My mother would lecture us about how he was an alcoholic and abuser, but since I never saw even a hint of that it was deeply angering and confusing, though as an adult now I don't really doubt it since he had lots of time without us.
One time my father brought my best friend, really my only significant attachment figure since it certainly wasn't my parents at that point, to court on his behalf. I don't know how he managed that. She spoke in court in some capacity, and while nothing really changed afterwards I felt so angry that they would listen to her but not me, they never let us speak or know what was going on if possible. My mother was always tired, always having a very hard time, and I always felt like I needed to take care of her but couldn't or didn't want to. I still feel deep, strange, choking guilt. A few years later when my father died suddenly it was confusingly mostly a relief. I had no interest in either of them at that point, and was never home.
As I am now 31 I nearly cry every time I think about it all, resorting and ordering the whole confusing, sad, ridiculous story in my mind. Because back then I was so mad at her, at him, and now I am so sad for her, a little for him, and starting to be for me. I start with all of this backstory because I don't usually get to and telling it is a way I am learning to empathize with it and process it. I ran far and hard in my teen and adult years and didn't look back. I don't usually tell my story. Like most people who come from trauma I downplay my pain any chance I get. I don't think it's special, or unique, I think it's common and heartbreaking in a way I will live with my whole life.
But when I was 28 this whole story and the story of my infancy, sorted and examined through different lenses as an adult, changed my life. I had never taken my history and experience seriously. I knew everyone had problems and if nothing else I had a roof, clothes and food growing up, two parents that, well, in their own way loved me I suppose. I ignored them and read books constantly, most of my day to day was just boring and alone. Compared to many of the kids I grew up around who were always losing their housing, or had much smarter and therefore meaner mothers, I figured I had it easy.
At 28 I started going to therapy after a traumatic breakup and learned that I have anxious attachment, which really helped me understand a lot of the pain I had been through. My therapist suggested I ask about the specifics of my infancy. So I asked my mom. When I was born a few significant things happened. 1. My mother was miserable, living in a bus (which she hated) traveling all the time (which she hated) and starting to want to leave my father, who was controlling and abusive. So, between all this and her own significant and life-long reoccurring PTSD and trauma, she had post-partum disorder. She didn't feel for me, didn't want me. It's not her fault, but I've learned that this does things to an infant.
2. My father, who had forcefully driven her across the Canadian border to give birth so I would be a dual citizen like him, then pulled her out of the hospital early. She couldn't yet walk. I was in an incubator since I was too cold. He pulled us both out and moved us to a hotel down the street, because he didn't trust the hospital and didn't want to pay. 3. this is where the story gets particularly strange, but it's all I've got. My father had a friend who lived nearby, maybe why we were staying at that hotel. She was a woman with a daughter from a different marriage who was 8 or 9 at the time. This girl is Danielle. So, while we stayed in that hotel for the first month or so of my life, I was held, fed and cooed at most often by Danielle, who would come over after school to see me. My mother couldn't walk from tearing and didn't have it in her to do these things. My middle names are Danielle Angel, to thank her. My mother went back later and added Angel later on because she believes I am one, and she loves angels.
Over the next two or three years things got worse. My father got more abusive, my mother trapped and scared for our lives. She tried to escape several times and couldn't. She recalls that there were several times I may have been screaming but there was no one to notice. On one occasion she ran through a desert nearly naked with me in her arms looking desperately for a pay phone before he dragged her back. She finally got free, got into a women's shelter, when I was four. This was after two more babies, my siblings, and that's when the custody battles started.
This is significant to me these days. I don't think I have written it all in one place before. When I first heard the whole thing I was analytical, interested but detached. Could have been worse, could be exaggerated. Though, as I continue to metabolize all this as a successful, capable, well loved adult with a deep interest in mental health I realize that I am starting to feel different. I feel a deep pain for that infant. I feel empathy...for me. It's a slow blooming. It's not something I learned to do, and not something I am used to feeling.
I am also working to rebuild my relationship with my mother on my own terms. We don't talk much, I have too much anger and processing to do over my childhood these days. To throw another twist in there, my mom recently told me she has late stage cancer. She is choosing to not seek western treatment, since the medical establishment has done her no favors. She has insisted we do not mention it, and refuses to acknowledge anything but a positive outcome. I understand, I am a child of her trauma and I know how she works. Personally I am learning about grief work to get through this, and it is intense. I feel my place is to witness her journey as compassionately as I can, but I can't fix anything.
So who am I? My story? Well, on paper I am a prolific business owner. I sell my own jewelry designs, I am a successful small time artist and well known in my circuit. I have the will and passion to get impossible things done and have been doing so since I was a teenager, something that feels normal to me but intense to others when I tell them my years of experience doing extremely unusual stuff. I have been a circus performer, a juggling teacher, a wild partier. I can weld, speak in Japanese and sign language, firedance and street perform. I have been a sex worker, one of my favorite jobs in my 20s, where I met the smartest, most inspirational women in my life. I recently converted a bus to a solar powered mobile tiny home and maker space to travel in. I am a maker, I love the bleeding edge of technology. I am a passionate advocate for queer, trans, disabled and minority rights. I am currently switching careers and going to an intensive programming bootcamp, and I want to work with social justice advocates. I do cool stuff, I buck tradition, and I create.
These days I am riding the waves of processing my story, and waiting for the next chapters. Oh, and trying to find a good therapist XD.
Along with anything else I do I am a passionate mental health advocate. I have learned that I am highly sensitive, as well as high sensation seeking. Learning that was a game changer for sure, it was the added dimension to my trauma work that really brought it home. I have also been depressed and anxious on and off my whole life, though I didn't take that at all seriously until I was in too much pain to bear and started reading, reading, reading about it. I now attribute it to my CPTSD and that work helps with depression and anxiety.
I am polyamorous, but I require very stable partnerships due to my anxious attachment and learning that helped my love life enormously. I don't have much sex anymore, I had too much that I didn't want to have when I was younger to try to bring people closer to me emotionally. I'm working hard to be patient with myself there. I have serious relationship anxiety and building a kind, supportive, loving relationship with myself will be the most important work of my life. There is a monster in me that would eat me alive if it could, telling me I am alone, unwanted, useless, and completely invisible. I talk to that/those monsters often, it helps a lot to separate myself from them and be able to get angry at them for causing me pain.
I have CPTSD and practice exercises from Pete Walkers book often, trying to calm my raging inner critic, trying to find peace where I can. I struggle with CEN (childhood emotional neglect), a concept outlined in the book Running On Empty, and I practice exercises on that as well. I write about these things often, usually on social media, and I hear echoes from people all around me. What I feel rings true in people, the depth of it, the pain, and the realness. So I try to talk about it often to beat back the stigma around mental health.
Part of my passion for learning how to code is because I previously wanted my masters degree in mental health, but now I see a niche where mental health and technology meet, and how tech could amplify these amazing works, these things that have changed my life, a thousandfold. And I want to help, to reach people like me.
I distinctly remember asking everyone, everyone around me about these things I was feeling in my early 20s. I knew something was very...off, I was so depressed, and I needed answers. Nobody suggested therapy, or anything at all. Not even the doctor that gave me medication at one point. No one knew how, or what to say to this offbeat, smiling, very sad, very independent girl. In high school it was always ADD, every problem I had came down to ADD, but I knew this was wildly off the mark. When I self harmed after terrible breakups in collage I had med friends who would fix me up, but not a one knew the term anxious attachment. Not a one had heard of CPTSD and I certainly didn't have traditional PTSD. If I had gotten any of the books I have now a few years earlier....well. I have a passion for it now, that's for sure. And I am grateful for all of these works, I know several of them are relatively new in the world.
Books. Holy moly, my life has been saved by books.
Attached (a wonderful and validating primer on attachment styles) by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
The Jealousy Workbook (I do highly recommend this one to *anyone* even though it is for polyamorous couples, it provides a basis and a language to discuss a super shame based and important topic that means different things to everyone and weather you 'feel it' or not I find this book to have essential knowledge for healthy relationships and really good workshop pages!) by Kathy Labriola
Buddha's Brain (for mindfulness) by Rick Hansen
Come As You Are (for sex) by Emily Nagoski
C-PTSD from Surviving to Thriving (THE primer on CPTSD imho.) by Pete Walker, he also has a useful website with free resources.
The Body Keeps The Score (for trauma) by Bessel van der Kolk
Running on Empty (for childhood emotional neglect) by Jonice Webb, she has a website with free resources.
The Wild Edge of Sorrow (On grief. When all is lost, read this.) by Francis Weller
I have also gained an immense amount from two websites:
One is Elaine Arons website about her research on High Sensitivity, https://hsperson.com
And the other is this website, Eggshell Therapy. It is the first resource I have found that seriously ties together threads from SO MUCH I have learned above and that feels real and true to me. It feels like home when so little has, and even helps me understand why I feel so alone and different. It has been an immense gift.
People who have influenced me:
I have a hard time with role models. Intensely recalcitrant, thats me! Since I didn't have any adults around me growing up that didn't essentially act like children in my eyes I gained a fairly strong anti-authoritarian streak. It takes a truly unique person to gain my trust and respect. That said, I have always loved the writing of C.S. Lewis and have several other authors I admire that don't come to mind at the moment. I also follow several artists online that are deeply creative and admired in their niches, and I hope to meet several of them someday.
Some written words:
The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people--and this is true whether or not they are well-educated--is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations--in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.
-The Constable, "The Diamond Age".
Courage, dear heart
- C.S. Lewis
May you live in interesting times.
-purportedly an ancient Chinese curse.
A life advice:
Try to be gentle on yourself. It DOES get better. It gets better with experience and age. We live in a time where basically everything is frightening, everyone is on edge, and it feels like the whole world is on each of our shoulders sometimes. Learning to let go, be free and calm and joyful and come back to the stress of it all later is essential for survival.
I have always hated appearing weak in any form. I am a small, young looking female with a giant barbarian warrior attitude and it's been a long road to liking myself in a world that hates strong women. If I could I would just give past me a lot of hugs, and reassurance that I am doing well, I am enough and being "weak" and ok with it is one of the strongest things I can do. Being gentle, soft and quiet requires enormous strength.
In your own words:
If you have found this website then a giant high five for you! The world is what we make of it in our minds, so training our minds to be gentle, strong and clear is the most important work of our lives, and starts with being able to sit with ourselves in peace.
If you don't feel like you fit, if the world feels dull and boring and not enough for your wild dreams and intense passions, well, it's the world that is wrong. Not you. Be picky and hold your boundaries. You have good taste, and while it's mostly lonely your people will find you. You have more time then you think. It will be ok.
DH, 41; CEO OF AN ENERGY COMPANY
‘WHEN PEOPLE LOOK AT ME TODAY I'VE BEEN TOLD "WOW YOU REALLY HAVE IT TOGETHER", IT'S STILL HARD FOR ME TO HEAR THIS.’
MY NAME: DH
Who am I:
I am a 41 year old male currently residing in the United States. By day I am the CEO of a small private energy company employing about 60 people. What matters to me most in life is growing and evolving as a person, not only for myself but also helping other people grow and evolve as humans as well. The most joy life brings to me is when I'm able to help someone else see as aspect of themselves that supports their growth, but it feels to them like they did it all themselves. I have a general disdain for the way companies treat people, more like objects than actual people and I endeavor to grow a company that actually treats people like humans. I suppose what matters to me most in life is growing within my consciousness to every bit of my ability no matter how difficult it may be. I don't like the way this world works, but I understand I have to play within some of it's bounds, but that doesn't mean I don't intend to push the bounds and ask the questions that need to be asked.
I used to cry myself to sleep with regularity as a child, I was never allowed to express myself for who I was as the environment was not safe. The only emotions that felt comfortable for me to express were my mother's emotions, this is the only thing that felt safe. I was never allowed to have my own emotions, they were never deemed acceptable or permissible, this led me to not understand any part of who I actually was. I've gone through much of my life experiencing others’ emotions as they were mine, feeling responsible for other people's emotions as I felt responsible for my primary caregivers. Up until recently, I could never walk into environments as the first person, I can feel the way the room feels, I can feel and see what's going on beneath the veil that lays over the vast majority of people. Life for me has been wrought with intense emotions on all fronts, the highs, the lows of depression, crippling anxiety, and anger, which just happens to be the only emotion acceptable for males to express in the environment that I grew up in. About 3 years ago my ego cracked, the perfectionist part of me that was seeking love through an attempt to be perfect cracked. I went through a period of crisis that I"m truly thankful occurred, this broke me out of my shell. The crack took me to the brink, but I broke and I broke in the most beautiful way imaginable, I began to question who or what I actually was and began finding my way home.
One thing that used to drive me particularly crazy is when everyone would tell me how intense I was, how serious I was taking things, "you're so sensitive". This conditioned me as a child to interpret the way I was experiencing life as something I shouldn't be experiencing. So what did I do? I pushed everything down, I tried with all of my energy to keep it hidden and not to show those sides of myself. This eventually led to a lifetime battle with addictions sought for escape, I sought outside substances to escape my inner reality, I had disowned who I actually was, this in turn created a volume of self-hate.
When people look at me today I've been told "wow you really have it together", it's still hard for me to hear this, life for me on the outside has really been extraordinarily easy as I've always excelled here; however, the inner pain and discomfort that I have experienced from my perception and my vantage point is something I would hope nobody else on earth has to go through.
I've named much of the downside but one extraordinarily pleasurable aspect of the type of sensitivity I experience is that I experience music in such a pleasurable way! I'm so thankful for music, I can feel it, it runs through my entire body, I remember music, I write music, music means so much to me! Walking through the airport with my headphones in I"m not in the material world, the experience is profound and I"m so thankful for it!
The Pathwork Foundation material changed my life, it's not for everyone I"m sure and I actually have only met a few other people on earth who can relate to this material but for me this material changed my life and continues to do so today. I have found material from Sri Aurobindo to be very helpful to me as well, along with Jung. I journal almost daily and have for much of my life, it helps greatly with perspective, if I think I'm crazy today all I have to do is read back a few years and it doesn't seem so bad now! I also create music which helps me express different emotions that I have.
People who influenced me: Pathwork Lectures have had more of an impact on my life than anything else.
Some written words:
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” Jung
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him… A touch is a blow,
A sound is a noise,
A misfortune is a tragedy,
A joy is an ecstasy,
A friend is a lover,
A lover is a god,
And failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create… So that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
A good advice:
Figure out who you are, and love yourself. Realize that we ALL have lots of different parts, we have lots of different "selves" many of them conflicting. Bring all of them to the surface, become aware of all the parts, know that the darkness is not you, but is a part of you, don't look away from it, accept it.
The more I become myself, and accept myself for who I am the more unique I realize I am and the more people are drawn to me, I am genuine and people don't have to be told that they KNOW.
My words to you:
Figure out who you are, accept yourself with all of your imperfections and it's beautiful on the other side. Remember that thoughts and experiences ALWAYS pass! And let yourself experience those emotions, they are only frightening when you run from them, best way to remove the shadow is to turn into the light! (not my quote I think that is Jung) Love yourself!
EMILY, 34, NYC, LICENSED THERAPIST
‘I AM AN EXTROVERTED INTROVERT, SO A LOT OF THE TIME PEOPLE PERCEIVE ME AS "HAVING MY SHIT TOGETHER”’
My Name: Emily
Who am I:
I am from Syracuse NY. I am 34 years old. I am a adoptee. I enjoy the arts, theater, music, concerts, poetry, and travel. I also dabble in photography. I am a licensed therapist who works with children and families. My friends, family, husband, and cat Mia are most important to me.
I am an extroverted introvert, so a lot of the time people perceive me as "having my shit together". It was a big struggle as a child. I didn't know what anxiety/highly sensitive was until I got much older, so what I was experiencing was scary. I was quiet and very shy as a kid, so I was always taught that I should "get over things", "not cry so much", and pretend things didn't bother me. Often times, as I got older, people would randomly walk up to me or start conversations with me in public. They tell me all about themselves, problems, children etc. I also get told I had a good aura. It can really be difficult when you can sense people aren't good/well, or are suffering but aren't able to ask or convey that you know it. Usually only good friends or family members will actually be okay with me knowing.
I am a fan of Elaine Aron and Highly sensitive people resources. I attended Empath support groups in person and online. I have read sooo many books I could not list them all. The biggest help for me is finding people who are the same, and are able to talk about also feeling this way.
People who have influenced me:
I've always been a fan of literature and poetry. My favorite poet is Emily Dickinson, who has definitely inspired me to keep going.
Some written words:
"Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be, no one can tell the difference."
A life advice: You are worth so much more than a piece of paper.
In your own words: Embrace your emotions. Your sensitivity is a superpower not a weakness.
GABRIEL, 59, ENGLAND
‘I love anything that takes me to a higher place, sporting/business success, sex, drink, music, art, theatre, a beautiful view or visiting a new country.’
My name: Gabriel Clare
Who am I:
I am a 59 year old man. I was born and brought up on the South Coast of England, before leaving at age 18 for University. I pursued a career in finance based in London before returning to retire in my home county. I enjoy travel, art, literature and Mediterranean cuisine. I am a lifelong sailor and feel happiest went I am on or near the sea.
I was brought up as one of three children in a stable, loving home. I had a very sheltered upbringing centred on the family. My mother was a full time housewife while my father worked long hours. My family was financially comfortable. My parents had very traditional values and gender roles. My parents worked hard and saved their money. They did not socialise and rarely took a holiday. I was always a sensitive child. I was very shy and blushed easily when embarrassed. My parents set great store by academic and sporting achievement.
I struggled to learn to read and have always been poor at spelling. Looking back I think I might have been slightly dyslexic. I was also quite poor at maths. However I passed my 11plus and went to grammar school. During my teens I was successful at athletics and competitive sailing. I found my single sex Grammar School a struggle academically and I was not able to make many friends. I felt socially isolated both at school and home. While my mother thrived bringing up young children she was unable to help me develop from puberty onwards. Standards of strict traditional Christian temperance and morality were assumed as a given leaving nothing left for discussion. From age 11 onwards I felt emotionally alone and confused. I lacked a sense of personal identity. I was groomed and sexually abused by a male family friend for a short period. This is something I was never able to tell anyone until I had some professional counselling two years ago.
However with a great deal of effort and hard work I passed my O and A levels.I did not know what I wanted to do in life and so I went to University. While my parents were proud of me being offered a place at University they also found it difficult to accept that I was leaving home and becoming an independent adult. I was left to find my own way to university with just some small change in my pocket.
I found university life a shock to the system. I felt insecure and socially inept particular with regard to members of the opposite sex with whom I had never socialised with before. My initial reaction was that I was some sort of imposter who was total unqualified to be at University and that at any moment I would be discovered as a fraud. However despite periods of depression and existential angst I did make friends and really enjoyed my time at university. I discovered that alcohol could dull my sensitivity and help overcome my natural shyness and embarrassment. I continue to use alcohol in this way to the present day. Much to my surprise I even enjoyed the academic side of University and achieved a good Honours Degree.
I left university and went to London to work in financial services. I worked in a high pressure environment with targets and deadlines to meet. I had to pass numerous professional exams. I worked in an environment which had a heavy drinking culture. I suffered from work-related stress, bouts of depression and anger management issues. I self-medicated with alcohol. I was lonely and married an unsuitable partner so as not to be on my own. I strived to make the marriage work but grew more and more depressed. After a sort of mini breakdown I left my wife and son and set up home on my own. I suffered an acrimonious divorce. However my self-esteem improved and my career flourished. I ended up in a senior role in an international bank.
I took early retirement and remarried. While I had an active social life and plenty of hobbies my early retirement put a stain on my personal relationship and I continued to suffer with mood swings and bouts of depression. I had a mini breakdown and for the first time in my life took some professional counselling. I found the counselling process difficult at first but ultimately it set me on a voyage of personal discovery. I searched the internet for the cause of my problems. I seemed to fit a BPD profile and it was while researching that disorder I came across Imi’s Eggshell therapy website. Imi’s analysis of HSPs seemed to fit me perfectly. I was excited to learn that she was writing a book and I ordered it the day it was released. I read it in one sitting with tears in my eyes. Imi might as well have written my life story.
Mood swings. I enjoy the ecstasy of being on a high and feel desolation during the lows. I love anything that takes me to a higher place, sporting/business success, sex, drink, music, art, theatre, a beautiful view or visiting a new country.
When I suffer disappointment, a setback or a personal argument, I lack mental resilience and can quickly find myself psychologically in a bad place.
Lack of self-esteem. I constantly criticise my own performance and think I am not good enough.
I feel other people’s pain and get upset if others are upset or suffering.
My mind won’t stop thinking and analysing. I have a severe internal critic.
I want to be loved. I have a passionate nature I seek unconditional love and yet can never find it. I have a tendency to feel rejected in relationships and withdraw emotionally as a result.
I fall in love to quickly and attribute (unthinkingly) all the qualities I seek in an ideal partner to the person concerned.
Blank and white thinking. It’s either all good or all bad.
I have had the same recurring nightmare all my life. In my dream I wake up on the day of an important exam only to realise I have not revised and feel I am doomed to fail.
I am a driven individual and have succeed in many aspects of life but my personal sensitivity has made everything I have done so much harder that it should have been. Everything I do or accomplish seems an emotional struggle. Both my siblings have experienced mental health issues.
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
George Orwell Homage to Catalonia, 1984
E M Forster A Passage to India.
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
J P Sartre, The Roads to Freedom
J D Salinger A Cater in the Rye
Matt Haig, Reasons to stay alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet, Humans
Michael Lewis, Liars Poker, The Big Short. The Undoing Project
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow,
Stephen Covey 7 Habits of Highly effective People
Artists; Picasso, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Giovanni Bellini
People who have influenced my way of thinking or being
J P Sartre and the existentialists
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky
Written words that have resonated with me:
The poems of Emily Dickenson
I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!
Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –
When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” –
I shall but drink the more!
Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!
A life advice:
Ensure a (thinking) gap between a stimulus and your response. You will always secure better outcomes if you pause to think (if only for a short while) before you make your response to a given situation.
Begin with the end in mind. Before you say or start something imagine where you want to (or are likely!) to end up!
Get out and experience the natural world.
My words to you:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”-Mark Twain
Don’t keep doing the same thing expecting (or hoping for) a different outcome.
Remember the definition of true friendship is someone who would do something for you when it’s not in their personal self-interest to do so.
Talk about your feelings, but to the right person. Not everyone understands. Limit your use of social media. Meet people face to face. Listen more than you talk.
Seek to understand others before being understood. The secret to getting on with people and making friends is to first show a genuine interest in them.
Ask open questions, who, why, what, when, where to show interest and to keep conversations alive.
“Computers are useless, they only give you the answers.” Picasso
Read books. They can provide so much insight, learning wisdom and enjoyment. Travel (as opposed to holiday).The experience of other cultures is life affirming. Exercise/sport…but do it outdoors. It vital to feel nature and the environment on your skin.
My offer to you:
I can be found via email. I am a good listener. I enjoy conversation and would like to connect to other HSPs. I can provide, advice on sales skills, presentation skills, interview techniques and adult education.
Witcheerie, 47, new jersey; writer and tutor, oil painter.
‘I’ve been scapegoated and ostracized for being an artist, a stutterer, single and unmarried, I think that for Asian women it is especially more difficult to be a non-conformist.’
My Name: L
Who am I:
I am Filipino-American, living in New Jersey, 47 years old. Have lived in Canada, Scotland, Spain, Paris. Freelance writer and tutor, oil painter. I am happiest when I am creating, i blessed to have discovered this: that I have all that I need in my imagination—give me a blank notepad, canvases and I am content. I am grateful for my solitude but yearn for a loving family, I believe in marriage as a sacrament and lifelong commitment. I am a domestic goddess with a rock star soul and gypsy spirit, a traditionalist with a twist. I am also a doctoral student, struggling to finish a thesis and integrating my artistic soul in an often unforgiving academic world.
I’ve always been the black sheep in my corporate/STEM socially upward family. I’ve been scapegoated and ostracized for being an artist, a stutterer, single and unmarried, I think that for Asian women it is especially more difficult to be a non-conformist, even if you are first generation in a new country, you are the pioneer and you need to walk this pilgrimage on your own. Still, I am grateful for the adversity, which inspires me to grow. I admit that my intense personality is not easily reconciled within the world of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. I yearn for a financially prosperous life that allows me to earn money from my art, but I yearn for wealth that is less ostentatious, I wonder if my unease with cultural expectations of excessive wealth has fueled in me a fear of success, I aim to release this fear and know that I can build my own version of a castle.
It’s time to rock the boat! Filipino culture is judgmental and shame-based, especially towards 40-plus women like me who are unmarried and childless, artistic and not working in STEM and also native and ethnic looking (olive skinned, flat nose, kinky hair, short, Asiatic eyes and rounded face). As a child I stuttered and because I grew up with my Spanish-speaking grandmother who loved America I didn’t speak Tagalog at home and became so proficient in the English language that I’m pursuing a literary and academic career. You can imagine that these factors, plus the fact that I was the cherished only child of parents who thought they would never conceive, made me a scapegoat from the beginning. My extended relatives judged me for being too American, impractical, spoiled, daydreamer, unambiguous, stupid, overly fragile, fat and ugly. For as long as I can remember I loved school but didn’t fit into what teachers regarded as the Model Minority paradigm—I was horrible at Math and Science and refused to become a nurse. To this day people cannot believe that I am a writer, and that I’m determined to write not only the stories of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, but also about Irish and Victorian Literature and whatever else my imagination conjures, I intend to be limitless, as an artist should be. Still, I find it interesting that supposed progressives and liberals like to include me the sake of diversification but don’t take the time to really know me as a person, a person who is ethnic but also has a life beyond ethnicity. I am a woman, and not just a woman of color! Filipinos, on the other hand, have often resorted to crab mentality, dragging me down so that I become more like them and less of myself, never mind that my experiences are global and diverse, I am a threat to the collective consciousness that has always governed Filipino family life. I am sharing my experience because I do believe that Asian female empaths have an especially intense road of Blakean difficulties, and that a lot of our emotional burdens come from within our culture and families, who shame us into submission, making us believe that our dreams are folly and a waste of time, please don’t let anyone intimidate you, not even your family, you have a right to your dreams and desires. Feel r years I struggled with my identity, wondering if I really was wrong to prefer my life in America, to live the English language so much, to be curious about other cultures and cuisines, it’s only now that I’m realizing that there are many ways of being true to my heritage, and I need not follow the tribe, that being myself and honing my talents will do more for my heritage than mere obedience to tribal norms. This issue also makes me wonder—why is it so troublesome to people when an ethnic woman is single and successful? Is society really more comfortable with a submissive woman, do we truly want progress and equality for all?
For years I’ve struggled with two things-finding meaningful work and finishing my doctorate. This year things are starting to make sense to me—why the topsyvturvy road has to be taken. I needed to go through all the roads of adversity to find my strength, and to let go of all security, especially financial, in order to truly own and discover my power: I realise that I have everything I need—my imagination, mind, creativity, I needed to fail over and over again, to be ostracized by family and mentors and peers, in order to see that I can truly walk this path bravely, my head held high, that I can take the plunge, submit my thesis, get an agent for my novel, a gallery for my art ( I’m starting to show my paintings at home, a pop-up gallery).
I’m good at making friends, I’ve never had a hard time with that.but I do need deep connections, find it hard to be fake, and yes, I will only marry for love, though I’m not terribly religious I do value the sacrament of marriage as sacred.
Where the wild things are, Stuart Little, Nora Ephron, Oscar Wilde, Hattie McDaniel, Susan Hayward, The Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, Dr. Jose Rizal, Wicked, Elphaba, J.K. Rowling, the Beatles, Ed Sheehan, the Kissed Mouth.
Favorite websites: ThomasMoore.com; VisitEcuador; Barnes Foundation;Hart House, University of Toronto; Museo del Arte, Ponce, Puerto Rico; DracoRosa.com
Favorite artists, music, books:“Matilda” by Roald Dahl, Matilda the Musical; Henri Rousseau, maverick self-taught artist; Douglas Booth, English actor; Elle Fanning, actress; Viola Davis, actor; “Little Italy”, romantic comedy starring Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts; Chrissie Metz, actress on “This is us”; “Mary Shelley “, film starring Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth
People who have influenced me:
A family friend who mentored me, showed me in the 1979s that a woman can be happily married, be the Vice President of a hospital, outearn her husband and be a fashionista, doting mom and gourmet cook.
A gay man named Michael is my best friend-/ he never saw me as just ethnic or brainy or bombshell he encouraged me to be fully me and be beautiful smart tender, no limits! He helped me create my Gothic-Tokyo style that is part Emily Bronte, part Hermione Grainger part Miyazaki heroine, Monchhichi quirky.
Some written words:
Hopkins: Give beauty beauty beauty back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver
Wilde: wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others
A life advice: To thine own self be true
In your own words:
Walk your path, tend to your garden, do not worry about the weeds of your neighbors, bloom where you are
If ever you find yourself in a dark place realise that you may have been planted, bloom!
LINDA, 70, NEW ZEALAND
‘I was supposed to conform and tried to at times but it didn't feel honest. I thought I 'knew' many things and that sense kept me going, but if I spoke them out, was told I was wrong.’
My Name: Linda
Who am I:
I'm actually 70 years old but look younger, (which is a wonder!) and feel about 23yrs! I was born in New Zealand and have lived here all my life - a country of immense privilege and beauty but which, in my experience, suffers from materialism and embarrassment around non-physical realities. Authenticity matters to me, sincerity and honesty, also respect for resources (i.e. not wasting things), and respect for the planet.
Many families have dysfunction. Feeling no connection with either of my parents, I craved to feel loved. I think I dumbed myself down in my childhood and thought I was hated. As I got older, I was controlled and forbidden what should have been healthy things. I married a good man but who had little grasp of anything non-physical. All my life I was told I was 'too intense', 'too sensitive'. I was supposed to conform and tried to at times but it didn't feel honest. I thought I 'knew' many things and that sense kept me going, but if I spoke them out, was told I was wrong.
Fast-forward many years and I find, after much searching, the answers.
Three things in particular are transforming my life.
1. 25 years ago - finding the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church (and I stress - the Traditional one, not modern or 'progressive' but the one formed by Christ 2000 years ago).
2. The Enneagram. This is a personality theory that helped me a lot after I did a weekend course. It is a very old method of the dividing of people into nine types. For some of us who feel so unique, I must say it is a surprise to find we are one of the nine and are often performing along a particular pre-determined line! The Enneagram gave me hope as it made more sense of who I am, how I've developed and in some ways, 'why', and how I could understand myself better. But it also showed me how others may be and how everyone has various issues, strengths and weaknesses to struggle with. My bewilderment at how others behave and view the world became more understandable which was a good thing for me. There are many and varied books on this and plenty of info on the Internet.
3. Neuro-emotional Technique (NET) Through this, I have been able to see that the perceptions formed by me in life, have caused people around me to react and that I can change within by this Technique and then how I am treated may change and there is less pain in life. That is good, because for most of my life I have felt deeply traumatised and I really should look very elderly!! But I think that continually forgiving (once I had worked through the hurt of not being understood) has helped me, actually. BTW, I am still married, after nearly 50 years, to the same man! This may be the greatest achievement of my whole life.
The main spiritual reading I have done is a huge Work by an Italian mystic, Maria Valtorta, (a bed-ridden invalid who never travelled to the Holy Land). It contains over 600 visions of the lives of Jesus and Mary. The account of the Passion of Christ is more graphic and distressing than Mel Gibson's film....which I didn't see...being warned by friends who knew I would not manage it. Maria's books, written in Italian are now published in English and other languages in 10 volumes named "The Gospel as revealed to me".
I also read the Bible and writings of the saints. Real food for the soul. You Tube has many good clips that educate - particularly, 'Sensus Fidelium' is one I enjoy, about the Traditional Catholic Faith. You Tube also has plenty of NET clips which inspire and give hope for change within or with physical issues (which may stem from what is within.)
Imi Lo's book gave me the words to celebrate my sensitivity etc, as a gift and to look more on the positive side of the contribution I can make (albeit often an unseen one.) My deep feeling of compassion for anyone, no matter what they are experiencing of distress, causes me to pray for people who may never know that I do......and I often cry for others when I pray, and this is a wonderful way to 'use' such deep feelings, believing I am giving something, knowing the One who reads hearts and knows my intent, can use it.
People who have influenced me:
Jesus the Christ, the Apostles, many of the saints. Holy priests. My dear friends who love me and help me to feel valued.
Some written words:
"Late have I loved thee, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved thee!
You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me: I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst no more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace."
- The Confessions of St. Augustine of Hippo, 4th Century.
A life advice: The words of Jesus the Christ, Saviour of the world, Son of the Living God:
"Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you."
Also, common-sense advice I have found in clips by Gary Daniels - he has such a positive vibe, and some things he says can make it possible to pick up a better outlook.
In your own words:
The same as the words above, and I would add that I would love that they would be able to feel and believe, even in their head before they really know it, if possible, that they are loved by the Creator of the Universe, unique and of great value!