I'm going to be honest with you, readers. I've been feeling pretty down over the last couple of days. So, I intend to pepper today's blog with gifs of things that I love. It's more for me than for anyone else, so I apologise if it bugs you (but not sorry enough not to do it...).
I won't bore you with the exact details of what brought on this current bout of "the black dog." Suffice to say it was a couple of little things that just tipped me over the metaphorical edge. I've been really poorly in the last week, not sleeping brilliantly and getting myself stressed out over things that probably shouldn't get to me as much as they do.
Things do get to me a lot, because I'm sensitive. Really sensitive.
I don't believe in shying away from talking about personal stuff like mental health; when we do that, we worsen the problem, after all. So I'm sure I've probably mentioned on this very blog that I have had issues with depression over the years and that I've had periods of my life where I went to some pretty low places, mentally speaking. Years ago, I had some counselling and my counsellor told me that she felt I was "hyper-sensitive." She explained that that meant I'd feel lows in my life worse than the average person might, but that I would also feel much greater highs. She drew me a little graph, showing how the average person's moods fluctuate over time, then how someone with bi-polar might fluctuate to a much greater degree (higher highs and lower lows). Finally, she added a wiggly line in the middle and said: "This is you. Much more sensitive to highs and lows than the average person, but not to a drastic point where you need medication for it. In plain terms, you're just a sensitive person. And it's not a bad thing."
Several years after that, I had support from a wonderful charity, after leaving an abusive relationship. My support worker told me: "You're a very sensitive person and that's something abusers prey on. But it's not a personality flaw."
So, why do I feel as though society thinks it is?
So often, we hear "you're too sensitive" thrown around as an insult. It's frequently perceived as a weakness to actually feel an emotional response to something. Maybe it's that stereotypically British thing of the "stiff upper lip." Maybe it's just that we're scared of being mocked for letting our feelings show. All I know for sure is that the people who use "you're too sensitive" as an insult are usually the people who could do with being a little more sensitive, themselves.
I'm not suggesting that we should all go around, weeping and wailing at every little bad thing that happens to us. Nor am I suggesting that the slightest bit of good news should have us dancing a jig and screaming at the top of our lungs. If we all overreacted to every little thing, life would be one big drama and frankly, that wouldn't be fun. But that said, it's important to remember that we're not robots. We're allowed to feel.
There are days when I hate being oversensitive. I get furiously angry with myself for getting upset over something that most "normal" people wouldn't bat an eyelid about. I feel ever so slightly stupid for building things up in my head and then crashing back down to Earth because someone or something has slightly dislodged a brick from my imaginary tower. It's not a good thing to be this sensitive.
But it's not necessarily an entirely bad thing, either.
Sensitive people are some of the most caring folk you'll ever meet. I'm not blowing my own trumpet there, I just know it's a fact. If you're sensitive, you recognise emotions in other people - both good and bad. You can tell when someone is struggling and needs a friend. You recognise when someone is holding in their tears, as well as being able to tell when they're holding in a massive squeal of delight. So you're able to know how to respond in the way they need.
Being sensitive means that you often understand emotions on a deeper level than others might. You think - admittedly, sometimes too much - about how your words might affect someone, so you consider what you say and how you say it, right down to the wording of a simple text message. Yesterday, it took me roughly half an hour to send a tweet, because I wanted the wording to be right.
Being sensitive means that someone over thinks more than just words, of course. We over think actions, lack of actions and reactions. And if that sounds like a nightmare - too much effort, if you will - then yes, I can confirm that it kind of is. And that's why the word "sensitive" really shouldn't be used as an insult.
If you're a sensitive person, you don't need to be reminded of the fact. Especially since your oversensitivity isn't something you can just switch on and off like a light switch. In the last couple of days, I have vehemently wished I could stop over thinking things and feeling everything quite so deeply. But the fact is, I can't. This is how my brain works; I have a skin the thickness of tissue paper. You make a casual remark about me that could be taken badly and mark my words, even if I laugh it off and don't react to it in any way, shape or form, I'll be awake half the night, thinking: "Why did they say that? What's wrong with me?"
And that sucks. It's hugely, massively annoying and obviously, very upsetting as well. It makes me feel miserable and if I can tell that other people are worried about me because they can tell that I'm upset, then I wind up feeling even worse, because I'm causing them concern. So, believe me when I tell you that using "you're too sensitive" as an insult is kind of pointless, because most sensitive people know they are and they're already beating themselves up about it enough as it is. If I could switch off the part of me that takes everything to heart, I probably would.
But then again...
The lows of oversensitivity are horrendous. Like I said, one bad comment can ruin my day, regardless of whether I externally show it or not. But the highs of oversensitivity are bloody amazing.
Imagine you're going to see your favourite band in concert. You're bound to be excited. When they play your favourite song, you'll probably want to sing along and you'll feel good. When I go to see my favourite band in concert, I am ridiculously excited. When the Manics play Design For Life at the end of a gig, it's like I'm flying; the sensation is just incredible. It's as though the music is washing over me and I'm not even aware of the rest of the world in that moment. My highs are so high that I wouldn't want to lose them. The sense of awe I get from looking out to sea, or the thrill that completely overtakes me if someone I like (in that way) gives me a smile is second to none.
And speaking of that last thing... Sensitive people love incredibly deeply. And not just in the romantic sense (although yep, that's a given). If we love someone - in any sense of the word - we feel that love with every fibre of our being. Today, my best friend came round to cheer me up (like I said, I've had a hard couple of days) and at one point, I looked at her and genuinely just wanted to squeeze her and yell "LYDIA, I LOVE YOOOOUUUUU!" I didn't (I'm sensitive, not scary), but that love was totally there and always will be. And when it comes to romantic love - or even just lust - it's fair to say that when I fall for someone, I fall hard.
Sure, falling hard can be a pain in the arse, especially if you're not sure whether the person you're swooning over is either interested or available, but feelings are meant to be felt and I'd rather have that rush of giddiness when I look at someone I like, than simply shrug and think "yeah, he's fit." Even though being oversensitive means that having a crush can floor me as easily as it can thrill me, when things go right, feeling so deeply is a beautiful thing.
I didn't mean that kind of feeling deeply, but... Aaaanyway...
What I'm trying to say, in my own rambling way, is that being sensitive isn't something anyone should be ashamed of. No, it's not always a great thing to be, especially when we get upset over something trivial and yes, I have spent a lot of my time on this planet so far, trying to build up a thicker skin to certain insults and remarks. But on the whole, being sensitive just means we feel things. It just means we're open about our emotions. If we're sad, we're not afraid to cry. If we're happy, we'll feel it wholeheartedly. And if we love, we love completely.
Being sensitive means that we consider the feelings of others. It means we want to show people that we care, or support those we love when they're having a hard time. It means we consider how best we can be there for someone, without adding to the pain they're already feeling. It means we're considerate, open and real.
None of those things should be considered insulting. Think of the opposite; being inconsiderate, tactless or refusing to let ourselves truly feel anything. When I think of it like that, I know I'd much rather be sensitive than insensitive.
I might feel bad things horribly deeply. But I feel good things deeply, too. And that makes it all worthwhile. Being sensitive doesn't make me "weak." In fact, in a lot of ways, it makes me strong. So let's stop using the word as an insult and start opening ourselves up to our emotions a little more.
I'm sensitive. And for all its downfalls, I don't think I'd be me if I was any other way.
Damn right, Freddie.