Turning Inward

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.

Juvenile bluebird

Juvenile Eastern Bluebird on swingset

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.

My first time to find and recognize Goatsbeard, a very interesting wildflower

My first time to find and recognize Goatsbeard, a very interesting wildflower

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.

Wandering Glider dragonfly

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.

My husband, willing to go birding with me even when I'm crabby

My husband, willing to go birding with me                         even when I’m crabby

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!

Grasshopper

About Kim Clair Smith

Writer, birder, nature lover, highly-sensitive person (HSP), amateur photographer, kayaker, hiker, book lover. I blog here to connect with other nature lovers and sensitive people: http://www.natureismytherapy.com. All photographs and writing on this blog are © Copyright Kim C. Smith (unless otherwise indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission.
This entry was posted in Depression, Ecotherapy, Happiness and Gratitude, Highly-Sensitive People (HSPs) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Turning Inward

  1. Sharee says:

    Kim I can’t put into words what this blog meant to me. I felt finally someone else understood the way I feel. The world is in such unrest that it resonates to my soul. I am so saddened by the people in this world, the cruelty to animals and children, the destroying of Mother earth. Most days it is overwhelming to me. Thank you for writing this, it helped knowing others feel like me and getting out in nature can help. Thank You!

  2. Littlesundog says:

    Hello Kim. You express what so many of us feel from time to time. The experience has much to show us about this journey… and though some legs of the trek are lonely and difficult, they often end up showing us strength and courage that lies deep within. You are a teacher and encourager to many of us, and your words and photographs are your own personal self-help guide for all of us to connect with. We do not feel so alone, and we can choose to be thankful for the people in our lives who we share this connectedness with. I am happy to call you FRIEND, Kim.

    • Thank you, Lori. My bond with you has become a very important part of my life, and you’re a big part of the reason I was able to rebound from this latest episode so quickly. I feel less alone since I met you. xoxo

      P.S. Can’t wait to hear about your trip to NYC!

  3. Kim this is such a beautiful post, because we have all been there. Your work and passion for nature are an inspiration and your photo’s are exquisite, I especially love the dragon fly in these ones. My fathers always said to me we need the gentle people in this world to care and nurture the earth and its people, you are one of those souls and I am enriched every time I see one of your stunning photo’s

  4. Judy says:

    I love to read your blog, Kim. As a fellow introvert, I’ve also struggled with reactions to “extrovert episodes” and felt the need to pull back to go forward again. I’ve always loved getting out in nature and recently began to further my interest in birding. Both are so restorative to overstimulated sensitive natures. It’s comforting to know that there are kindred spirits out there!

  5. I love your honesty, Kim. It’s good to hear you’re feeling better. I’m guessing there is a natural tendency for introverts to have this happen after an Extrovert Episode. Awareness helps, and next time you might be more prepared for when the pendulum swings the other way. I can really identify with this post in so many ways!

    • Thanks, Kristie. It’s scary to be this open on a public forum when I feel so vulnerable. But if it helps even one other person to better understand themselves or a loved one, then it’s worth it to put myself out there.
      You’re right, it’s a natural swing of the pendulum and I definitely knew it was coming. I guess it just snuck up on me too fast this time.

  6. Happy to read that you’re doing better. I wish I had been able to be there for you, but your meltdown came just before my surgery. I’m almost back to whatever passes for normal for me, and I’m here for you if you need me.

  7. Beautifully written and explained. Thanks.

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