As I feared would happen, my latest “Extrovert Episode” ended abruptly and I found myself needing to step back from the world a bit. Well, that’s actually an understatement. Last Friday I had a meltdown.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt such deep sadness and been so irritable at the world that I couldn’t make it through a single day without some tears. I could feel it building up over the preceding week or so, as one thing after another upset me: possible U.S. involvement in Iraq (sigh…again?), a beloved pet with a health complication, never-ending noise in my neighborhood (construction as well as loud music at night), upsetting photos on social media of turtles killed by balloons and birds killed after window collisions, and about a half dozen other similar matters. I didn’t have time to recover from one of these things before the next one was piled on top. I took my frustrations out on my husband, bickering with him about stupid things and hiding out in my office just so I didn’t have to talk to him. I’d tell him I was “writing” but was often playing chess against my computer because I just couldn’t focus on the writing.
And because many of my friends hang out on Facebook (FB), I’d go there and dejectedly scroll through my newsfeed to see what everyone was up to. They all seemed to be having a great time chatting and sharing photos of their lives. And that made me mad too. “How can they all be so happy when I’m so miserable?” That’s when you know you’re in trouble — when you resent your friends for being happy. And one more mini-trauma finally broke the camel’s back, so to speak, and I was Done. I posted a brief message on FB:
Feeling so sad and overwhelmed lately, and FB certainly isn’t helping.This messed up world is just kicking my highly-sensitive self to the curb. I’m going to try to take a FB break for a week or so. I’ll be back when I can go at least a full day without having a meltdown about something.
And then I really started feeling pathetic. Over the next few days I did occasionally look at FB, but I didn’t engage with anyone there. Didn’t even click “like” when someone posted good news. I refused to participate in the world. I was just determined to hunker down and wallow in my despair.
After a couple days I got an email. My dear sweet friend Donna, to the rescue. We met last year in Ohio and bonded further on FB, due to our shared love of nature and our introvert personalities. We were blessed to see each other again (briefly) this May in Ohio, but then she went back to New Mexico and I came back to Michigan. In her email, Donna reached out to me with love and compassion, telling me she understood what I was going through and assuring me that things would be okay, eventually. I cried. But this time my tears were from happiness at being understood. And knowing that I wasn’t alone in my feelings about this overwhelming world.
And then, just today, I received a package from yet another very special friend. Getting a package is usually a predictable event resulting from an online order. But getting an unexpected package with the return address of a beloved friend, not knowing what’s inside? Now that’s what mail should be about! (Remember the good old days of handwritten letters? I miss those so much.) And inside this package was such goodness I cannot tell you. There were some gifts to cheer me up. And then there was the most heart-warming, soul-uplifting (and hand-written) letter I have ever received. I couldn’t even finish reading it without wiping away tears. It was loving. It was understanding. It was encouraging and hopeful. It was exactly what I needed to push me further along in my re-entry to the world.
It’s one of the ironies of being an HSP: your sensitivity leads you to nature, you get emotionally-involved with the wildlife and the habitats, you’re willing to fight to protect them. And then, because of your sensitive nature, your heart gets broken again and again when you have to watch animals die or see beloved meadows torn up for housing subdivisions. It’s a rather cruel joke, when you think about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do value my sensitive personality. It brings me a great deal of joy, allowing me to feel connected to the natural world in a way most people will never understand. We HSPs think deeply about things and make some important contributions to the world. But there’s a price to pay for feeling everything so intensely, and we have to learn how to recover from the inevitable pain. We have to be able to pull ourselves back out of the darkness.
Some of us turn to exercise or long walks in the woods, some of us read self-help books or get help from our friends, while others get professional therapy. Some of us do all of the above. My personal success formula seems to require a bit of comfort food (just a little, not overindulging), being religious about taking my daily Vitamin D (5000 I.U.s), and getting out in nature as often as possible. It’s a surprisingly simple recipe, especially for someone who took antidepressants for ten years, just because my doctor let me diagnose myself. (Don’t even get me started on that.)
So to sum up, I’ve seen the darkness but I’ve also seen some glimmers of light ahead. Just the fact that I’m able to write this is a good sign. Several days ago I didn’t trust myself to write anything because I was in such a negative place. I’m so very glad that I’ve been able to bond with such caring people too, because they are the secret ingredient that I was missing for the first 50 years of my life. Having strong connections with people who understand me has been life-changing…and my life needed some changing, that’s for sure!