TW: I slightly reference sexual assault and self-harm
Hi, Welcome or welcome back to Discussions with Dede! I have been learning a lot about myself over quarantine. I feel like I never knew how many things I didn’t know about myself. Honestly, I didn’t really know myself at all. I have been trying to get to know who I am: likes, dislikes, pet peeves. People used to ask me all sorts of questions about myself and I never used to know the answers. I would feel so dumb because how can you not know yourself? Well on this new path of self-discovery, I recently learned that I’m a highly sensitive person and empath(HSP).
A highly sensitive empath is basically a person that feels things very deeply. They absorb other people’s energies and moods very easily, and it’s hard to distinguish whether they feel that emotion personally or if they are feeling those of others.
When I found out that I am an HSP, it completely changed the way I saw myself. For so long I just thought I was a “crybaby” or “too sensitive”. I used to hate that I cried so much when my siblings never did, and I hated that I couldn’t watch certain things without me thinking about it forever. When I found out that I was an HSP, it allowed me the space to feel all of my emotions without shaming myself for it.
Being an HSP, I need a lot of “me time” because I am pretty introverted and I get overstimulated. I don’t like unnecessarily loud places, like where it doesn’t need to be loud. I can’t stay around people for long without getting irritated and trying to seclude myself again. People always make fun of me for that because one minute I’ll be laughing and then I’ll just get quiet out of nowhere. Once I get quiet, it’s time for me to leave. My mom always tells me “You’re not an island” because I even do that with my family. We can all be talking, but when my “social battery” runs out, I have to leave the room to be alone for a while. Most of the time, people think I’m mad when I do that, but I’m not. I just need space with myself before getting back into a large crowd.
I also can’t watch any violence in movies if it’s not slap-stick. I don’t like action movies or gory movies because it will not leave my brain. Ever. Others can move on from disturbing images, but I can’t. I kid you not when I was 10 I watched a scary movie and I still remember it till this day. I still get triggered by the scenes I saw. I can not watch movies that involve the topics of r*pe, domestic violence, trafficking, etc. I get so sad when I watch movies or shows about these subjects because I feel the emotions of those involved. I remember when that episode of Thirteen Reasons Why came out (I’m not going to describe it, sorry) I didn’t even watch it but I could literally see it in my head. It affected me so deeply that I didn't continue watching the show at all. With me, I don’t even need to see it physically, because I make up the descriptive image in my head. I get triggered by these really difficult topics, so I avoid watching shows or movies like that at all costs. It never registers in my head that it's just a TV show or movie, it feels too real.
I also don’t like change; I know it’s good to change but I like routines. Even though it’s been boring because of quarantine, routines have kept me together and helped me to have a schedule. Quarantine has definitely taken it to a different level of routines, but I could not function without a schedule especially in regards to schoolwork. If something messes up my schedule, I have a hard time getting back on track. I don’t like sudden surprises like if someone tells me “We’re going to the store at 3” without me planning, it’s a little bit of a problem for me. Small stuff like that is ok, but the big stuff definitely throws me off. I like being in control of things, but I had no control over moving countless times including to a whole new country at 13 (future blog post on change loading…)
Now that I know that I am an HSP, I view my sensitivity as a superpower instead of something that I hate. I now know that it is not weird to be scared of triggering movies and shows or to cry with others when it has nothing to do with me. I remember when I was younger, I used to literally cry for my friends when they told me something sad. It was like I could feel their hurt and sadness, even though I was not in that situation personally.
I believe being an HSP has made me such a good friend to others. Whenever my friends are sad or in a tough situation, I always want to help them out. I give my all to my friendships, and I invest in others like how I would want them to do for me. There have been times when somebody told me about something that made them upset, and I found myself also getting so angry when it’s not even my problem. I carry the problems of others on my shoulders, but that’s not healthy at all. I will always give time and energy to people I care about but sometimes that’s not reciprocated in the same way (*sigh*), and that really hurts.
I also never know if I’m in a bad mood or am if I am absorbing other’s energies. Whenever I sense someone is sad or in a bad mood, I literally take that in and it becomes my own mood.
I’ve also been learning how to set boundaries with others in order to not over exhaust myself. I have been trying not to take on other people’s problems because that’s not healthy for me. I can’t try to fix others and help with their own issues especially if they don’t help themselves. I’ve been working on not overinvesting myself in others’ lives because it’s none of my business. I know that in the past when I have overinvested myself, I was emotionally burnout and I don’t want to deal with that again. I’ve been trying to find ways to be a good friend and help others out without burning myself out. I have learned that it is important to always establish boundaries with people if you feel like you’re doing too much without getting anything in return or if it’s just too overwhelming for you.
It’s hard being a black HSP because everyone thinks you’re stuck up because you’re quiet. I’m not stuck-up at all, I just value my peace and quiet. I also struggled because no one expects black girls to be sensitive. I cry a lot and others thought that was weird. We are supposed to be the strong ones, and crying is not a sign of strength to many people. Black people are not taught how to be sensitive, we are only taught emotions like anger. It took me a long time to differentiate between anger and sadness because I was never taught the difference. People need to let black girls be sensitive and feel all these emotions, not just anger. Even though I’m older now, I still have a hard time with emotions other than anger. I found myself yelling and being rude when I’m mad instead of crying. Crying is not weak, I know I am strong because I can cry and feel my emotions. People who try to hold it all together are not the strongest ones because they are missing that piece of strength that comes with being open with themselves and others about your emotions. That “strength” will only get you so far until you are forced to crack. Vulnerability is in no way easy, especially if you aren’t used to being like that, but don’t make fun of those who are able to express themselves. Sensitive black girls, I see you and I love you.
Also, being sensitive and African is a whole other thing too. African parents sometimes don’t understand sensitivity, and it's hard to explain why you act like this to them. It’s hard to be told “ stop crying’’ when you can’t help it. They just don’t know how to handle that, but sometimes the stuff they say hurts. I feel like some of them are sensitive too, but they have suppressed their emotions so much to survive. It’s gotten a lot better though, people are becoming more educated on how to speak to specific children with different personalities.
I wrote this to validate those of you guys that think you are “ too sensitive” or “too quiet”. You are not “too” anything, you are just you. You are enough, and if I have to say it every day I will. Never be ashamed of being in tune with your emotions, or quiet, or anything. Don’t be ashamed of being you. Your sensitivity is your superpower, please remember that. Please DM me if you ever need a reminder of this because I still remind myself of this all the time.
cover image by: @artbyprincella