Photo from SunflowerStoryTime

I’ve been told I’m sensitive.

When I was kid it was said in the same tone as ‘you’re such a jerk.’ I didn’t understand sarcasm until my 20’s, and then I really embraced it. My skin was thin and I didn’t know how to laugh at myself. Everything hurt.

“You’re so sensitive Katie.”

I was. I am. It’s been a rough few weeks and I think it’s therapeutic to write this out. Maybe someone else will feel the same way and we can start a club.

I’m extremely empathetic. My husband has told me I’m too understanding for my own good. That I’m too quick to give the other person the benefit of the doubt when something goes sideways. That I’m compassionate to a point that it inevitably hurts me. I feel all the feelings, really hard.

I can’t change it and believe me, there was a time I tried. Turns out it was too hard to pretend I didn’t care and that things didn’t bother me. My feelings can still be hurt but I’m able to let 90% of it go. What I can’t let go of is seeing other people hurt.

This has been brought to a head with really moving photos of innocent victims of war and terrorism. It has been highlighted by recent deaths and illness in my family. I’m a mess. (Well, I was a mess. It’s been a week since I wrote the initial draft of this post.)

And maybe that’s ok. I’ve gotten to a place where I can think that it’s better than the alternative: A woman that just totally doesn’t give a shit. Maybe that’s an easier way to go but I can’t imagine not feeling at all. Can people really do that?

The bigger question is why being sensitive is perceived as a negative. That’s a question for another post.

As I’m writing this I Googled ‘highly sensitive’ (of course) and came across so many anecdotes, definitions and diagnosis it felt clinical. I scanned them and to save you the trouble, there was one item in Psychology Today that stood out, where the writer interviewed three therapists on the topic. Here are two excerpts that really resonate with me.

“Maybe you are “too sensitive.” Maybe you do overreact sometimes. But the people who love you understand this, honor it as best they can, and give you room to have your feelings and work them out — alone or together with them, as necessary.”

“So the way I see it now: I wasn’t too sensitive at all. I was perceptive.”

All I know is that as I’ve gotten older, seen more, done more… my skin hasn’t so much thickened, as much as it’s grown hyper aware. I don’t think my ‘skin’ is going to change, I just need to control what I can: my response. I’m not too sensitive; I’m extremely perceptive. So, are you in the club? No secret handshake, maybe just a fondness for good margaritas.

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