Guest Speaker: Highly Sensitive People by Shannon Christine
A Spectrum of Possibilities
Hello all my awesome party people! Trina here. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I have asked someone whom I work closely with to write about her own experience as a Highly Sensitive Person. It is a little different than being on the spectrum, but they share many of the same feelings. Please read her inspiring story below.
"I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Have you heard of that before? Some people call it empathic or being an empath, and some call it intuitive.
Being an HSP (highly sensitive person) is like having all of your senses turned up times 10 – including your nonphysical senses, such as instincts, “gut” reactions, emotions, perception, and awareness. Imagine being hyper aware all of the time, and you will start to get a sense of how overwhelming it can be to have this ability.
It didn’t feel like an ability growing up. It was deeply misunderstood, and so I was heavily diagnosed with different mental health disorders. I have been labeled as ADHD, anxious, depressed, borderline personality disorder, and a few other things along the way. Many HSPs receive these diagnoses, which don’t fully explain the root issue.
I used to make myself wrong for caring too much. I used to make myself wrong for being different, for being too kind, for not fitting in, and for being too much. But not anymore. My difference – and the difference of everyone who has received these diagnoses – is contributing to creating a different future for everyone. Through years of therapy, seeking, healing, learning, growth, and self-awareness, I finally feel safe enough to be who I am. And to share it with all of you.
Another common area that is heavily labeled is the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism and Asperger’s are another way of saying someone functions differently than what people are used to. Did you know April is Autism Awareness Month? I am an HSP but Trina's friend Jack is fully nonverbal. And, he still has a lot to say – just types it. You may have seen the videos she has done with him on her Facebook page. He is truly an inspiration.
These differences are much more common than people think. The thing is, we have all been trained to hide them away and try to fit in. But my friends, you don’t have to anymore, and you’re not alone. Can you imagine a world in which we all lived our truths? Where we all lived our lives as our true selves instead of trying to diminish and hide them? What future do you want to live in? A world like we have had, or a world where everyone feels safe and loved enough to share this soft spot we all keep secret?
As part of Autism Awareness Month, I would like to share some of the tools I use most frequently in my daily life. I am infinitely grateful for the journey that got me here, the people who have contributed to me, and the beauty and ridiculousness of life. I’ve used these tools everyday for six years, and I am so fortunate that they have changed my life. I don’t have to actively practice them anymore – they’re a part of me. I am proof and testament that change is possible. Don’t let anyone tell you different. If you truly desire a different, better life for yourself, and you know something else is possible – follow that. It will lead you far beyond what you could ever imagine.
What’s right about this that I’m not getting?
When I encountered situations of stress or upset - which, let’s be honest, are pretty frequent for someone who struggles with mental health – instead of going into my usual loop of unconscious thoughts: “This is so terrible. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to deal with this,” I would instead ask this question. Sometimes immediate answers would pop into my head. Other times not. Either way is okay. But even being willing to ask this question immediately calmed me down, reminded me that this is not the end of the world or my life, and showed me that good things are also possible. Catastrophic events might feel possible, but technically speaking, good things [SD1] are possible, too.
How does it get even better than this?
The concept is similar to the first question. You can ask it when your day is going amazing and you just found $10 on the street. “Wow, how does it get even better than this? Thanks, life!” And you can ask it when everything is going to sh*t. “Wow, someone broke into my car and stole all my loose change and dubstep CDs from high school and now I have to call the cops and file a report. How does it get even better than that?” (also another great example of where one could use “what’s right about this that I’m not getting?”). Again, the willingness to ask this immediately shifts the mood for me. I feel lighter, calmer, and less upset.
Gratitude and meditation
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Honestly, the more I say thank you, the happier I feel. You can practice creating a mental list of 10 things you’re grateful for in the morning, or at night, or when you’re feeling stressed, or when you’re feeling overjoyed. Gratitude changes everything. It immediately reminds us of all the abundance that surrounds us that we temporarily forgot about while mourning those lost mix CDs. Meditation allows us time where we have nothing on our to do list but to be. And it also helps us become aware of the patterns we subconsciously function from, like those thought loops I mentioned.
Getting out of Defense Mode
This term usually refers to people on the spectrum, but it is also relevant to HSPs like me, people who have been diagnosed or misdiagnosed with the disorders I mentioned, and particularly people who have dealt with a lot of trauma in their lifetime (bullying, abuse, etc). For me, I was a nice, chatty, different kid who didn’t fit in and then got bullied relentlessly for being different. On top of situations at home, this made me constantly stressed out and I never felt safe. I was always on the defense – aka, in Defense Mode. It’s a common topic that has been discussed a lot by the Autism community, so I highly recommend looking into it and see if it applies to you. It has been fundamental in understanding my own reactions and creating lasting change. Be kind to yourself – you’re doing the best you can. And if you’re not, you’re still doing, which is amazing in itself.
So, what are you truly aware of? What do you know that no one else knows? What do you know, deep down in your heart, that you have been avoiding with all of your might? Now IS the time to let it shine. I am here for you. I care about you. I care about this Earth. And together, we will create a future that includes everyone’s differences and capacities, no matter what they look like. Don’t you want to be a part of that? PS – you already are."
Thanks for reading everyone!
With love for all of you,
Meet my friend, Shannon