..which actually is a good thing, seen how my thoughts aren´t so much concentrating on all the mental stuff 😀
Yes, I have been doing quite well over the last months. Ups and downs, sometimes, but nothing unbearable, actually. In addition, I discovered something new about myself, which isn´t that new really. I am a Highly Sensitive Person, in short, HSP. The definition has apparently been around since the 80ies, which makes me wonder why I haven´t happened on it before, seen how I do spend quite some time analyzing the state of my mental health usually.
The good thing is, being a HSP is not an illness, but a feature :D. The bad news: not being an illness, there is no cure.
I have posted links to the definitions and questionnaires regarding HS all over my FB and other blog pages, so no need to go into it again here. Suffice to say that I recognize myself in every single issue pointed out. And quite a few of them have been rather eye-opening about a lot of problems I thought were only mine, or of other, ehm, challenged people like me. Nope. We aren´t crazy, we aren´t out of our heads, we just perceive stuff in a more intense way and react to it also more intensely. Very often, with pain, anguish and panic.
On Friday, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist. Originally, this was because I was considering going back on the SSRI medication. Now, I am not so sure any more. I am still certain that if I reach a determinate level of anguish and insomnia, there are only the meds to make a halfway “normal” life possible.. but right now, I am realizing that when I avoid over-stimulation of any kind, I am quite happy and also don´t sleep to bad. The problem is, that there are days, even weeks, where it is possible to avoid the impact of too many stimuli on my sensitive body and mind, but others, where for work or other reason it simply isn´t.
And overstimulation can be anything – traveling, singing in a concert, going out with friends, having guests – nearly never things which I actually dislike or find difficult to do, but whenever there is a lot of time in my day where I am exposed to other people, sounds, visual impressions, odors, feelings, and other “signals” and emotions, without at least the same amount of time to “decompress”, i.e. nearly completely isolated, I get stressed. Meaning, my heart races, my body sweats, my GI tract reacts doing unpleasant things, I can´t sleep, I eat too much and unhealthy stuff at that. Mathematical.
I already knew these mechanisms.. but ascribed them to a problem of MY brain chemistry, which still might be true, but it is something built in, and can be, hopefully, if not resolved at least improved, with a different attitude towards the high sensitivity. If, until now, I knew I would be an useless wreck for a few days after a work trip, but not why, I now know that this is the consequence of biochemical reactions caused by a constant stress my body and mind were under in the days where I was “forced” to be confronted with nearly constant over stimulation. (What I call over-stimulation for a non-HS person would not mean anything, but for me it is for example having to eat at least two meals a day with other people, spending time on public transportation or in cars with more than one person, listening to a lot of different people talk, being in rooms with more than 2 people, being exposed to loud or continuous sounds, strong lights, unusual odours and colours. There is more, but that is the most usual).
I am not yet sure what exactly I can do to minimize this – renouncing the work trips is not an option right now, it is how I earn my living and also necessary to do the work I like. I have though started a part time job near home, which is wonderfully boring, meaning that I come home after 3 or 4 hours working there in the mornings not completely exhausted or overwhelmed like in many other occasions, but rather relaxed.
One of the “funny” things about us HSPs is that we do exhaust easily when stimulated.. but also, we often search for the new, the exciting, the interesting and the fascinating. Insulating oneself in one´s home isn´t really an option for most of us for our whole lives, even if a lot of us actually prefer working from home, or in “familiar” and quiet circumstances.
So, the question is how to manage my “outings” into the world in a way that they don´t damage my health, and cause me an off-time of days afterwards. The main issue will certainly be to dose excitement and relaxation cautiously. For example, a ride on a crowded train for a few hours should be followed by a dinner on my own, early bed and (maybe with medicinal help) a sound night of sleep. If I have to hold a seminar for a whole day, I should at least try to not eat lunch with the participants, as unfriendly that might seem. That one hour for myself, in my room, or outside in a garden or park, could be the difference from being completely exhausted and feeling sick at the end of the day, or simple, normal tiredness after exertion. I have always WANTED to do that, but felt guilty for my “unsocial behaviour” and therefore usually didn´t, fearing how it could be interpreted. Now that I know that it is something my body and mind require, things might be different. I don´t know. But it is certainly worth a try.
During the psychiatrist appointment I will bring up the following issues:
– High Sensitivity: does he know about it, and does he have ideas on how to make life easier with it?
– My doubts about me being actually bipolar. Analyzing the mood swings over the last years, I can clearly see they have been caused every time by things/people/events which made it impossible for me to take enough “down time” for myself and “hide” from outside stimuli/worries.
– Possible alternatives to constant medication. Over the last weeks I have clearly seen that I can thrive quite well with a regimen of healthy food, enough physical exercise and balanced exposition to outside stimuli. There is need though for some solution for those periods where that is not possible, and I still need to function. Sleeping meds for the night.. and what could I take during the day in order to lower the strength of the impact of outside stimuli on my senses, and my reaction to them? Beta blockers do work sometimes, but mostly they lower my blood pressure so much that I can´t function any more. Which other temporary meds are there?
A full program :D. I am curious what he will say.. I am very happy with the idea of not being SICK but simply differently wired, but he might see things differently. I need to decide what to do if he reacts refusing what I say and simply wanting to put me back on regular medication.
We´ll see. One step at a time. Still, I feel I am on the right road!