About v2: Highly-Sensitive Kim

Kim on Kuilau trail bridge (800x600)(If you’ve landed on this page by accident and don’t care to read about high sensitivity, you can go back to my “mainstream” About page here.)

This blog started as a place where I could share my experiences as a highly-sensitive person (HSP) who finds comfort in connecting with the natural world. I hoped to help other HSPs—and those who love them—learn to deal with some of the ways that being highly-sensitive makes life difficult. Just becoming aware of this “way of being” can make life a lot easier and less confusing. In fact, my life changed instantly when I learned about it. More about that in a minute….

My childhood was difficult because of my misunderstood sensitivity. I’ve been called everything from shy to rude to stuck up, when really I just want people to understand me and allow me to be myself. I grew up being told, “Stop being so sensitive!” My siblings harassed me because it was easy to make me cry, and I guess that entertained them. My sister now admits that they thought they could “toughen me up” by pushing me beyond my tolerance levels. My parents didn’t understand me either…there was  no research about high sensory processing back then, so nobody really understood it.

For forty years I thought something was fundamentally wrong with me. I even started taking antidepressants because I thought I must have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Those drugs helped a little bit, but they made me feel less, almost like I was numb. I hated that. Too much feeling is painful, but too little feeling isn’t the answer either.

Then I discovered the book, “The Highly-Sensitive Person,” by Elaine Aron. Her words were life-changing, bringing the realization that there are many other people like me in the world. And more importantly, we’re not defective. In fact, we have very special gifts; we just have to find the right ways to use them. And we need to proactively surround ourselves with people who can appreciate us, while ruthlessly weeding out those who don’t understand or respect our way of interacting with the world.

Being a highly-sensitive person means more than just being someone who cries easily, which is what most people think when they first hear about this. It also means that we soak up the emotions of people around us and feel those emotions as physical sensations in our bodies. Often I’ll walk into someplace and instantly feel my back and shoulders tense up because I can sense that somebody there is either sad or angry or worried about something. And that leads to tension headaches for me, sometimes leading to migraines that disable me for 12 hours at a time.

I also find that I have an unusually strong connection with animals. Taking my cats to the vet was always an ordeal because I felt how scared they were. When I see a bird tangled up in a banding net, even though I know it’s not being hurt, I get upset because I feel how terrified the bird is while it’s hanging there watching a gigantic human walk up to it and wrap big hands around its wings. Having such a physical reaction to emotional experiences is exhausting, and that’s why people like me need a certain amount of down time to recover from the intensity of our daily lives.

My occasional withdrawals from socializing are often misunderstood by people around me, leading them to think I’m being rude or that I don’t like them, or just that I’m weird. I’ve had a couple friendships disintegrate when the other person misunderstood my behavior and responded with hostility. As a result of those experiences, I’ve become much more careful about allowing people to get close to me, lest I get hurt again. It’s a bit of a dangerous cycle, because the more I get hurt, the more I withdraw, and therefore the more people are likely to distrust me or think I’m strange, and therefore I withdraw even further. So I have to really make an effort to not let myself get too isolated and fall into that unhealthy cycle.

So you see, living like this is a constant challenge, with days where I feel valued and other days where I feel like an alien species on this planet, with nobody who understands my perspective on the world. I hope my writing about all of this will be helpful to someone else out there, and I really love to get your comments and emails if you feel like sharing or discussing anything. Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to subscribe if you think you’ll want to check back from time to time! (The subscribe link is in the sidebar, or if you’re a WordPress user you can just “follow” me.)

A little bit more: I grew up in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio, spent five wonderful years in Tokyo, Japan in my twenties, and lived in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan for 15 years. I now live in NW Ohio.

If you’re game, you can jump right in with these get-to-know-the-HSP posts:

How being an HSP affects my life:

Walking in the woods:

50 Responses to About v2: Highly-Sensitive Kim

  1. Pingback: Walking Naked Down the Road | Nature Is My Therapy

  2. Hi Kim, Yep I was right. I just posted another comment on your front page, and decided to read About, and then I saw it. You’re a HSP, and so am I. Nature, and sometimes really needing to be alone, and just BE are essential to my well being. I totally understand what you said here, and also, thanks for the tip on the book. I’m going to look it up. I love to write too. It’s therapeutic!
    Take care, and keep it up. 🙂
    Caroline

  3. Pingback: Desperately Seeking Stillness | Nature Is My Therapy

  4. Pingback: Dare I Show You My Nature Drawings? | Nature Is My Therapy

  5. shunpwrites says:

    What a great blog Kim! I must say that nature serves as a detox for me as well, I’m looking to reading more about your adventures!

  6. Pingback: Sensitive Girl and the Robin’s Nest | Nature is My Therapy

  7. ilona fried says:

    Great theme for a blog! Nature is my therapy, too. Mountains seem to work best, but just slowing down to really take in plants, birds, the sky, etc. is also wonderful medicine.

  8. Pingback: A Highly-Sensitive Person Goes Birding | Nature is My Therapy

  9. Frances Bock says:

    Reading your story made me feel i am not alone-i am married to a wonderful man and he has tried to understand,bless him. I don’t think anyone can understand the way i feel unless they are me. I have lost friends( at least i thought they were) when i needed them

    Thank you so much

    • Kim says:

      Frances, I’m sorry you’ve had the same experience as me regarding friends. That’s a very painful thing to endure.

      • Kim,
        New to this blogging stuff, not sure if this is the right place, I read Aron’s book when I found out my sister is HSP. It explained alot. Now I see this trait in my friends daughter and she has asked me if I knew of an HSP counselor. I think I know the park you describe I have walked there, I live nearby. How do I find someone for a teenager??

      • Kim says:

        Cathy,
        I’m not familiar with “HSP counselors,” but as a first step I would suggest your friend read Dr. Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Child. Here’s a link to her website where she writes about it: http://www.hsperson.com/pages/child.htm. In fact, Dr. Aron’s site is full of resources that might be helpful to her.

  10. xhoyl says:

    Hey, I’m Brian. I am an introvert, and recently discovered that I am highly sensitive, and I must say it explains a lot. Knowing what it is makes explaining to people why I am the way I am a lot easier. Assuming of course I am in fact capable of talking to people in the first place 😛 Which is kind of my problem. I am what some people might refer as a “hopeless romantic”, and as a writer, it shows up a lot in my stories. However, my inability to converse with people, especially women, makes the likelihood of developing anything… unlikely. I’m curious to know if anyone has the same problem, and knows of anything that might help. People tell me that “someday” I will meet a girl, but unless I can hold up my end, I fear that “someday” may never come. At some point, you just get tired of waiting.

  11. Susan says:

    What a wonderful blog! I too read the Highly Sensitive Person and it was a revelation. That how I feel is validated and not so uncommon. The book ‘Quiet’ was also validating in every way. After suffering with depression off and on during my life, always feeling ‘not good enough’ living in the shadow of a highly successful extroverted sister, reading these books gave me that feeling of ‘exhaling’. I’m so not alone in the way I feel and how I cope with the outside world. That there are many of us, is so comforting. I’m not sure about you, but the older I get, the more sensitive I am. Noises, violence on tv and movies, strong smells and crowds make me even more anxious. Could it be maybe that I am more in tune with my triggers… I have an extremely understanding husband that understands when and what is too much for me. My depression has abated since reading the books and fully understanding and accepting I am what I am and that’s just great. I am an artist who put her art on the back-burner for years, trying to live and fit into an extroverted society,, but now am in it full steam ahead. I am in my happy place. 🙂

    • Kim says:

      Susan,
      Hurray for you! I know the feeling of finally understanding and accepting your sensitivities, and finding out that there are millions more of us like you. I can barely explain how important it is for me to connect with other HSPs on a regular basis. Living in our culture that values “the opposite of me”, I need regular reminders that I’m not only ok, but I have special gifts to share with this world.

      Your comment about living in the shadow of an extroverted sister struck home with me too. My sister is one of those people who has hundreds of friends and who hates to be alone, even for a few minutes. I get exhausted by our visits and often end up thinking there’s something wrong with me because I don’t want to keep up the frenzied pace of constantly running around doing stuff. It’s probably good for us to push ourselves occasionally to be with extroverts, but I definitely need time to recuperate from that level of activity!

      And yes, as I get older my sensitivities seem to increase. I’ve wondered if it might be partly because I’ve always got my HSP in the back of my mind, but I’m less and less inclined to go to crowded and noisy places. The other day my husband and I went to a movie and I had to cover my ears for half of it because it was ridiculously loud. I just don’t see how all the other people in that room weren’t disturbed by it — what’s wrong with THEM? LOL

  12. Jan says:

    Kim, saw this posted on FB ( by my friend Sandra Coffman ) I Soooo, relate , your first paragraph ~ sister from another mother ! I have worked at dealing with this all my life and am finally making noticeable progress (at age 63 ! lol) I realized, not so many years ago that it is always a work in progress.

    • Kim says:

      Jan, thank you for visiting my blog and for letting me know where all this traffic is coming from — I’ve never had this many visitors in one day. Sandra must have lots of FB friends!

      You’re so right, we’re all works in progress, aren’t we? I wish I’d known about high-sensitivity when I was younger though; it might have made me feel better about myself through the teens and twenties. I hope by writing about this trait I can help younger people live more fulfilling lives by understanding and valuing themselves more than I did.

      • BeanaW says:

        Your post was reposted on a facebook page ‘Introverts are Awesome’. I am so glad to have seen your post! Fellow north-of-Detroit-Michigander-Introvert. Subscribing to your blog!!

  13. amy M says:

    our lives mirror……..I am an accomplished sculptor and live has always been this way. Those on the outside have a totally different picture of me than what is real…………Thank goodness I live in the country with my GSP and on an 18 acre lake with lots of woods around……….it is the only place I feel balanced an at ease…………….being an artist I am constantly in the spotlight with lots of people interaction, but I have learned when to schedule that and keep it limited…….public access to my personal space is very rare. I always schedule meetings with clients at my representatives gallery or in their environment……..that way I have no residual left over at my place. Live and learn.

    • Kim says:

      Amy, I’m like you when it comes to my personal space. I don’t like to have people in my home very often; I even feel unsettled when I need to have a plumber or other contractor here. My home is the ultimate sanctuary for me and I guard it like the precious gift it is. My husband struggles to understand this; he’d like to have visitors and house guests much more often than we do.
      You seem to have figured out one of the keys to life as an HSP: know your needs and stand up for yourself, planning your life so it’s comfortable for you. It’s true that other people may not see us the way we see ourselves, but we have to be ok with that, don’t we?

  14. Pamela says:

    When I was little my parents often said to me “don’t be so sensitive”. My ex husband would make similar statements and make my sensitivity sound like a disease and even to the point of calling me “crazy”. My current husband asks me “why are you so sensitive? Why is it so easy for strangers to approach you; talk to you? Why are animals drawn to you?” I began to ask myself the same questions. Then I heard about and read articles on my wonderful personality trait of being a Sensitive Person.

    • Kim says:

      Pamela, my husband says I have a “cat nose” — his way of pointing out my freakishly good sense of smell. And like you, I’ve heard “don’t be so sensitive” all my life, and been teased by siblings who got a kick out of how easily they could make me cry. It’s a shame our society doesn’t appreciate our gifts and talents more, and I think the world would be a better place if there were more of us (we’re about 15-20% of the population, according to Dr. Aron). Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find it useful.

  15. jcsmommy says:

    Thanks for sharing Kim. I am the mother of a 2 year old with Sensory Processing Disorder and what you describe fits him very closely. I will enjoy seeing things from the perspective of an adult!
    My blog for him: http://www.aversionofperfection.blogspot.com

    • Kim says:

      I did a bit of reading on your blog and my first thought was, “JC is a very lucky little boy to have such a proactive mother helping him learn how to deal with his sensitivities.” I can see how some parts of SPD overlap with the traits of HSPs too. Interesting!

  16. Tone says:

    Hi Kim I just want to say thank you for putting into words how I think a lot of us feel who are HSP and introverted. I am also trying hard to fit in this world and it`s not easy I think The nature is a lovely place to be in to refuel and just enjoy the silence and everything about it. I love going with my two little dogs for walks in the nature. It is so peacefull. Good luck with everything and stay strong! I think it is comforting to know that there are many people like me all around the world!
    All the best, from Tone in Denmark.

    • Kim says:

      Dear Tone, thank you for letting me know that my words are helpful to you. I’m glad you know the peace of nature and that you take advantage of it regularly. We could ALL use more time in natural settings! Have a wonderful day. 🙂

  17. Ponygurl says:

    Kim so good to read your blog…I love the book Highly Sensitive Person, found peace in knowing there isnt anything wrong with me. I’m an introvert with extrovert tendencies…lol if that makes sense. I recharge in the barn with my horses. My husband of 36 yrs says the horses help me breathe. They make me smile, give me cold chills as I watch them run and play, fill me with wonderment and peace. I love showing them, competiting with them and seeing what we can accomplish together. I’ve never participated in any other sport or organization, just never felt like I fit in, but with my horses, I have been able to show at the national level. They have brought me peace and courage…guess cause they did it with me…which was truly a gift from God…for which, I am forever thankful. Spring is here…wishing everyone the peace of nature.

    • Kim says:

      I understand what your husband says about the horses helping you breathe. Animals do that for me too. I haven’t spent much time around horses, but I can tell from the way that horse people talk about them that they are very special animals to bond with.

      As for being an “introvert with extrovert tendencies”, of course that makes sense. I think Dr. Aron even writes about that in one of her books. As HSPs, we’re all complex and unique blends of traits, and none of us are complete recluses (well, there may be a few). Have a wonderful day, and thanks for your comment.

  18. Interesting to me that Introversion has come back into the public spotlight, and this time from the viewpoint of Introverts, rather than just describing our shortcomings such as ‘socially unskilled’ viewpoint of Extraverts. In my Workbook, Find Your Animal Totem: The Animal ID Questionnaire & Interpretive Guide, the ‘blue’ cluster describes this personality type well, and calls for equality and acceptance in a world that unfairly rewards left brain processors/extraverts. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve ‘pinned’ your blog to my pinterest account here: http://pinterest.com/SandraCoffman

    • Kim says:

      Hi Sandra,
      Yes, it’s about time the world hears about us FROM us, isn’t it? I also saw that you posted a link to my blog on the “Introverts are Awesome” page on Facebook — and I’m gratified to see so many people commenting on it. Thanks for sharing my writing, and for leading me to that awesome FB group too.
      Kim

  19. Carla Wilson says:

    We must be from the same planet. You are not alone…

  20. Pingback: Migration Mania Series #1: Blackburnian Warbler | Nature is My Therapy

  21. There is great comfort in being quietly part of nature, also great wisdom. ( Enjoyed your blog about the writing room too)

  22. Cool things you do here… you should come out to Hawaii and check our our precious avifauna!

    • Kim says:

      Thanks for visiting, Sebastian. In fact, we’re just beginning to plan a birding trip to Hawaii for this fall. I’m very much looking forward to it!

      • Do you know where you’re planning on visiting yet?

      • Kim says:

        No, we’re just getting started on our research. Will want to see the most species of birds possible on no more than two islands. Any suggestions? Maybe the big island and Kauai?

      • For Forest Birds, it’s hard to beat Hakalau on the Big Island. For example, I’iwi are a common sight, whereas on O’ahu we might have 2-5 birds total. Waikamoi is neat because you have a chance to spot rare Maui endemics. Kaua’i would be tops if you want the overall mix of wetland, marine & forest birds. If you do have a stopover on O’ahu keep an eye out for Fairy Terns. In the main islands, oddly enough, they are only common in the most urban of places: Honolulu!

      • Kim says:

        I’d already made a note about Hakalau, and we’ll definitely go there. And thanks for the other notes too — I’ll put them in my file for the trip. Aloha!

  23. Hi Kim, Thanks for liking my new facebook community!–I am just getting started on it. I love what you are doing with your blog!–and I especially love the name of it–nature is my therapy too! Thanks again for your support. 🙂

  24. littlesundog says:

    Kim, what a wonderful gem your blog is! I am one of those introverted people who recharges my batteries in the quiet, and beauty of nature. I know I am going to enjoy reading about your life, thoughts and experiences. I’m so glad you found me… so that I could follow you!

  25. KIm,
    Love your blog and views on sensitivity!!
    I am in same boat as you and seemingly countless others like Dr. Bob on the birders List Serve. The Lake 16 post caught my attention as I used to fish it years ago before my birding days. If you ever do any cycling, try Indian Springs in my neck of the woods. Almost every day on my 14-30 mile rides out there I count 6 or 7 Acadian Flycatchers very approachable, about the same for Great Crested Flycatchers, and Grasshopper, Henslows , Savannagh, and Vesper Sparrows, plus many varied Warbler species including Black Throated Greens and Ovenbirds not normally seen down this part of the state. Almost daily I am rewarded with Pileated’s, Wood Thrush’s, Veery’s(MANY), and Barred Owls there as well. Let me know if you and spouse want to check some of these reliable spots which I know very well.

  26. Greetings from the other side of the state! Thanks for following my blog, I can see that I am going to enjoy yours as well.

  27. drbobsbirds says:

    I found this site from a link you provided in a signature block on the Michigan birder’s list. I am impressed! I love your blog, and your pics.

    I am also high-sensitivity. I hate lines and crowds, and I cannot stand sensory overload from even walking by candle shops and fragrance counters. On the other hand, I treasure my olfactory sense for the most part. Many folks have memories triggered by sights and sounds, but I (we?) also have memories triggered by scents. Interesting. I find it most exciting in the world of spices – especially since smell has a direct link to taste. Cool! Makes for good cooking! But it is also fun in nature.

    As for nature, I moved into the same area where you l live about 15 years ago from California. I thought it was paradise after living with (then) 15 million people in the LA Basin (more now). Sad to say, most of the then-open lands (farms, forested lots) in our immediate area of Michigan have disappeared since, but I really treasure the foresight of all of the outdoors-loving folks who set aside in state, local and metro parks the spaces where we can just “be with Nature”! And, it is truly amazing that Michigan has (and is still growing!) one of the best bike/hike trail systems in the country!

    Yes, we may get overwhelmed at times. But it is SO cool we have such an abundance of nearby natural places to “rechange our batteries”. And, as I suspect you are finding, there are lots of sympatico folks doing the same thing! We are so lucky to be living in an area with easy access to “chargers”!

    – “Dr. Bob”

    • Kim says:

      Well hello, Dr. Bob! I’m glad to see you found my blog, and how neat that we have some more things in common. I have the same reaction to candle stores and fragrance counters — I avoid them like the plague because they trigger migraines. My husband always says I have a “cat nose” because I can smell things that he’d never notice. It sure makes it hard sometimes to be around crowds where people are wearing perfume or cologne, but as you say, there are good things about a strong sense of smell too.

      I’m very pleased that Michigan has SO many great state and metroparks filled with well-maintained hiking trails and lakes for kayaking. We really enjoy seeing herons, kingfishers, etc. while we’re floating in our kayaks.

      Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you on the trails!

      • Pamela says:

        I have been labeled “smoke detector nose”.

      • Kim says:

        Pamela, my husband says I have a “cat nose” — his way of pointing out my freakishly good sense of smell. And like you, I’ve heard “don’t be so sensitive” all my life, and been teased by siblings who got a kick out of how easily they could make me cry. It’s a shame our society doesn’t appreciate our gifts and talents more, and I think the world would be a better place if there were more of us (we’re about 15-20% of the population, according to Dr. Aron). Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find it useful.

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