Over-Experiencing the World

The Challenge of being a highly Sensitive synesthete

“Too much self-disclosure!”, some may say. Why would someone share so much, when this disclosure could damage the perception of who they are? In a world where projecting the right image is everything, in a world where being normal and well-adjusted is the difference between having a “good” life and not. A world where it seems that what people think of you, is more important than who you really are. I ask myself… is it really? Should I force myself to be who I’m not in order to make others feel comfortable? Is it fair to who I was created to be?

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Psalm 139:14 NLT

I write because I’ve finally granted myself the freedom to be me! My journey into self-discovery has been actively ongoing for the last 20 years. What I’ve learnt during that time is that everybody is different. However, some of us are even more different than others.  I’ve learnt that the differences which some of us experience greatly impact the way in which we experience the world. One of the differences I found that I have is called Synesthesia.

A couple of years ago, I participated in testing a possible mindfulness program for the project which I managed. During one of the sessions, the facilitator played some sounds as part of the mindfulness exercise. We listened with our eyes closed. The point of this exercise was to process the sound and train the mind to return to its mindful state.

 During the time that my eyes were closed, I heard birds chirping, sirens, horns and a host of other sounds. Shockingly, in addition to hearing the sounds, I also “saw” the sounds as flashes of light and shapes in my field of vision. I also felt the sounds creeping through my face and on certain parts of my skin. What I realized on that day, was what I’d experienced all along. For me most types of sound waves produce interference. Some positive and some alarmingly negative. After the exercise, my mind wondered back to a documentary that I’d watched on Synesthesia. People with Synesthesia experience more than one sense in response to stimuli. Examples include Seeing sound, Tasting colours etc.

Excitedly, I shared this information with my husband and daughter. It made so much sense why I could literally feel music. Some sounds that emanate from certain types of music, cause me more than a stir. Over the years my poor husband has been limited by my reaction to certain types of music. On that day, I found that my daughter also experiences sounds. She said that she sees colours every time she hears a sound. While I experience sound in black and white, she experiences them in colour. It made so much sense. From the week she was born, every time she heard a loud sound she covered her ears. I found this so amazing, that as a newborn, she was able to react to sound by covering her ear. Like me she is highly sensitive. I’d previously learnt about Highly Sensitive People- HSP as a way to make sense of her experiences. My journey helped me realize that I too am HSP. At times, having synesthesia and being HSP are concurrent.

As for me, this new-found knowledge helped me to understand my lived experiences in a whole new way !!! It helped me realize that I am often overstimulated. Overstimulation for me can be displayed as crankiness. Overstimulation occurs along with anxiety for me. If I limit my stimulation, I can keep my anxiety levels low. If my anxiety levels are low, my existence is more serene and normalized.

Since my discovery of my experience of being a synesthete, I have become more aware of the effects of sounds in my field of vision, even with my eyes open. I also realize that I have “mirror-touch” synesthesia. This means that when someone is touched, if I’m looking, I can feel it too, usually at the perceived intensity which the actual touch is given.

It’s amazing to recognize that my lived experience is so vibrant. Being a Highly Sensitive Synesthete can be advantageous. I can understand the advantages in the context of the savannahs of Africa, or the jungles of South America. However, in modern society filled with so many sounds, so many pings, so many people, all moving at dizzying speeds… it is often a crippling attack on the senses. An overwhelming explosion of activity which causes much angst and suffering.

Over the years, I’ve learnt to create a virtual wall around myself. This wall helps me get stuff done. Part of what I do well, related to my interior design abilities, is shop for furnishings and general merchandise. My virtual wall has helped me do so, even in busy international malls. It’s like in that moment, in that section of time, in my little space, nothing else but the section of goods exists. This ability to hyper focus has come from a place of necessity to function. It also means that anyone with me ceases to exist. In this scenario, my husband is a champ of understanding. If I’m with a friend, I try to explain my manner, beforehand.

This virtual shield has served me well in the real world. It also is misinterpreted by people who don’t know me well. Perhaps some people experience me as uninterested, distant and cold. Not being able to give the affirmation and attention in the moment when I’m within my shield. Especially when it seems that others do so effortlessly. My family and friends, who know me well know that, when I give my attention, I truly do. Perhaps, I developed this shield as a child, to dull the experiences which affected me so much. Hmmm… I wonder?

It’s unsettling to note that I can only do one thing at a time, when multitasking is the order of the day. However, this has never stopped me from completing my job well, even though it takes a superhuman feat. What I’ve learnt is that these superhuman feats cost me greatly, resulting in physical symptoms of pain which radiates throughout my body. I also experience chronic fatigue which isn’t easily cured by sleep. So, I’m learning to be kind to myself and practice selfcare. I’m learning to listen to my mind and my body.

Every day that passes, I unravel a little more of how my traits and tendances have affected my experiences. Every day I’m learning to cope more successfully. I need to… I have to; not just for me, but for my daughter, who has struggled so much more than I ever have. If I can learn to live well, then I can help her do the same. I can help her learn to thrive in a world that is not built for the easily overstimulated Highly Sensitive Synesthete who experiences life in blaring ways.

I hope that my writing will help others who may experience the world in overstimulated ways or knows someone who does. Feel free to reach out and share.

The Climate Of My Mind

journey towards acceptance and self-mastery

Includes keys and affirmations

I liken the climate of my mind to the most extreme weather phenomenon. It experiences more than its fair share of hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, hail and fires.  It has its El Nino years and it’s La Ninas. My mind is both amazing and frightening. As man was able to learn to predict upcoming adverse events in weather, so I hope to do the same for the climate of my mind. This is my quest, it’s the journey which I am on. If I’m able to achieve mastery, it will mean prediction and comprehensive mitigation of the havoc which could result. Here’s a peek into the climate of my mind.

I find myself often lacking the requisite focus to stay with things which I would like to pursue. The realization that my mind doesn’t always work the way that I want it to, is highly discouraging.

My mind is a very happening place. It can be very busy and filled with racing thoughts. All of which seem equally important. It’s filled with songs. There isn’t a song that I have heard and like that I don’t know the words of. There are many I despise that I can’t seem to shake. My mind remembers the adverts of my childhood. They often blare at me.  My mind is never the same. It can be quite distracted, by its own content. On other occasions it can be quite foggy. During these times, I easily lose my trend of thought.  Coming up empty with words mid-sentence. Simply annoying to say the least. At times, I can get it to focus, sometimes I even get the bonus of hyper-focus. On these occasions I get so much done. Until, for one reason or another, it reverts to its variable nature.

Some days, I can read for hours. Most days, it’s quite hard to read without interruption… novel or mundane thoughts popping up and refusing to go away. My thirst for knowledge isn’t easily satiated… that is… until my mind decides to have a tornado, a whirlwind of activity, at the most inconvenient time. Over the years, I have learnt to improvise. I’ve learned to maintain my info-gaining momentum, through the use of e-readers and audible books, sometimes blaring, so as to force my mind to focus on this content.

The way I look on the outside, well put together… is in stark contrast to the person that lives in my brain. The person in my brain is often in turmoil, trying to grab at ideas, and thoughts, in a whirlwind.

The way I look on the outside, well put together… is in stark contrast to the person that lives in my brain. The person in my brain is often in turmoil, trying to grab at ideas, and thoughts, in a whirlwind. Thoughts which often fly away before I can catch them. This is the weather of my mind. Over the years, I have struggled to capture and control my mind…I probably always have. The awareness of this has been my saving grace.

I can’t help but reflect on my life, and my performance. I can’t help but wonder, how much better could I have done, if I hadn’t daydreamed in class. As a student in Infant and Primary school, I got solid B’s. I didn’t have to try, it just happened. On the other hand my siblings who came after attained A’s. I’m thankful that I was born before them. Had I not been, it would have been a catastrophic blow, another of many, to my self-esteem. The report book always said that I could do better, and that I daydreamed in class. My parents encouraged me but didn’t pressure me. B’s were not bad. B’s mean GOOD.

Things changed when I hit puberty. It was also the time when I transitioned into secondary school. My ability to focus, among other things changed dramatically. It was reflected in my grades. I failed forward for 3 years. My easy-to-get B’s were a thing of the past. Thing is, I had neither the drive nor the focus, to do any differently and I didn’t even care! It was a complicated time. By the time I began preparing for the end of high school, I had regained a sense of control. It’s as though it just happened. Something shifted, and a light came on. For the first time, I felt motivated and capable of controlling my outcome. I graduated from high school with good grades. My teachers were amazed. My parents were glad. It’s what I knew that I could achieve all along. I had met my goal.

I hit the working world soon after and began to adult. I got married at 18 and had my daughter at 21. I was impressive in my career. My life had purpose and meaning. I’d like to tell you that it was smooth sailing thereafter. The truth is… I can’t.  My successes were periodically derailed by anxiety and depression, which I liken to hurricanes and winter storms.  I spent most of my twenty’s learning to manage anxiety and depression. These realities helped me make sense of what had caused me to ‘slow down’ throughout the years.

The more aware I became, the more I was able to analyze the echoes of the past. Awareness was a blessing, but at times it felt like a curse. It is said that ignorance is bliss. I think that this may, at times feel true. Yet somehow, knowing opened me up to wanting to know more. It opened me up to the vast world of self-analysis, through the psychological lenses, I’d gained through the years. The more I reflected, the more I found. The more I found was the more I reflected. I’ve learnt so much about myself and others. A huge goal of mine is to be in a position where I can help others, as I have been helped.

“Here I stand, in the light of day… let the storm rage on”- Frozen. I have a very very, very complexed existence, which perhaps is a hinderance to my progress. Though my mind is quite complexed and highly variable, I know what I have to do. However, in order to achieve, my mind has to cooperate with my understanding and goals, or my understanding needs to cooperate with the weather of my mind. Experience has taught me that my mind doesn’t like to cooperate. I am learning to accept that sometimes, some days, some weeks, some months, some years-my El Ninos, my mind simply isn’t able to cooperate with my understanding and my goals. So, I’m learning to be patient with my mind, with myself.

I have been privileged to have some amazing doctors and psychological professionals in my life. They all have played their part. They have their opinions. Some of which I accept immediately, others take me time. They all have led me to finding the truth of who I am. So many lenses, so many complexities, even differential diagnoses. Still, I am blessed, and I stay brave and persist.

The world is given to those who fit neatly within its boxes. Which means that people like me who don’t fit into the boxes, need to find ways to exist, ways to excel and thrive, which are out-of-the-box. Often it seems like we need to fail forward by society’s standards, in order to reach our zenith.

In the end, one thing I know, more than anything else…is that I will accomplish my purpose on this planet.  Patience, Acceptance, Hope and Faith are virtues which I espouse. I work daily towards self-mastery. I’m learning to master the climate of my mind.  I believe that when I do, I will be propelled towards my destiny. In the end, I know that I will finish well!

If you’re like me, in some or many ways… Don’t Give Up! If you don’t fit in to the box, then learn to stand out and be who you were meant to be. The following are some keys which will help you succeed in your quest to finish well. With each key, I’ve included my affirmation. Feel free to use them .

1.Believe in the possibilities that are uniquely yours.

I have Faith that God will see me through.

2.Be patient with yourself as you grow.

I choose to grow gracefully.

3. Be kind to yourself at every stage of your journey.

I learn to be kinder to myself every day.

4. Hold on to hope.

My hope is in the Lord.

5. Accept who you are, on your journey to becoming the best version of you.  

I am unique, so I don’t compare myself to others.

6. ALWAYS, always, always, CELEBRATE YOU!

I am worth it and so are you.

The Crossroads of Life

I find myself at a crossroad in this life. I got married when I was still very young- over twenty years ago. With this choice, I was put on a path that, for better or for worse helped shape me into the adult that I am today. My daughter was born two and a half years later. Now she is only a few months away from becoming an adult- my my how time flies. This choice has brought me much happiness and enabled me to live a life that was uniquely fulfilling.

I’ve spent many years in steady employment. Rising through the ranks was fulfilling. I’ve been an employee, from the age of 17. I believed that getting a good job, that fulfilled my needs, was what adulting was all about. Yet sometimes along the way, I felt the push towards more. I’ve always wanted to further my education, ever since I was a child. After marriage, I did so for some time. On and off and on and off again. I still haven’t completed a degree. It’s been so rough for me. Crippling depression and anxiety have been my kryptonite.

I’ve risen to the call of helping others, formally founding Butterfly Kisses in 2005. We were blessed to help so many though the mission of our foundation. For 7 years we persisted, with the help of our supporters. Aside from that I’ve helped in a multitude of other ways. I’ve done great things.

I’ve tried self-employment and business ventures, with varying degrees of success. Yet for one reason or another, I’ve not been able to achieve the constant cashflow that I need to be self-sufficient. That’s been tough, to put it mildly.

The truth is, I don’t fail well. Over the years, I’ve learnt to cope with failure in positive ways. Yet it still hasn’t been easy. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to failing… or success delayed (a more enlightened term). I’ve learnt recently that I am a highly sensitive person. Once I did, my whole existence made much more sense. I feel more deeply than most, for better or for worse. My Joy is felt much more intensely, as well as my pain. Certain noises throw me off totally. I care more deeply. Being highly sensitive can be an assault to the senses. It’s estimated that 20% of people are highly sensitive. There seems to be a major genetic component. Being Highly Sensitive is a trait and doesn’t automatically equate to depression, but is often associated with it. Our society isn’t particularly built for highly sensitive people. So, yet another challenge I keep trying to overcome. That’s life, I guess.

Despite these and many other challenges my life has been overwhelmingly blessed. My marriage is a treasure. My faith in God has been my constant, in the most uncertain times.

This brings me to where I’m at today. Today, I’m at a crossroad. I’m waiting for the tide to turn. I’m currently unemployed, my current business venture hasn’t excelled thus far. I look over the landscape of Covid-19, and I see the devastation that has wreaked upon our small isle. It has touched the livelihoods of so many. To call it a setback is a major understatement.

Still, there remains food to be bought and bills to be paid. Through it all, God has been faithful. My Family still has the grace of a home, our stomachs aren’t hungry and we are all well.

Still I wait here for the tides to turn, waiting and praying for the next steps. “One day at a time” has renewed meaning. I wait and I consider things that I never have. I have very limited short-term options. My limited education is a slap in the face. No immediate restoration. The realization that the life that I’ve known may be gone for good is blaring. So, I wait, and pray, and wait and hope and WAIT. The time is coming, a new direction may be needed. A new course may need to be set. So, here I stand with my face to the wind…waiting.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Is. 40:31I write, not for pity, but that friends may be strengthened. So many times on Facebook, the highlights of our lives don’t fully capture the measure of our existence. Life can be rough, but this too shall pass.

The Cost of Integrity

I’ve always strived to be a person of integrity. It is a key component to successful living. By the grace of God, I

found that living a life of integrity opened doors for me. My strive towards integrity was one filled with opportunities and promotions, including my appointment as JP in 2020. I found that being a person of integrity produced many positive outcomes.

Sadly, to be a person of integrity isn’t always pretty. For me , being a person of integrity meant that I had to choose to do the right thing , when change was beyond my influence. Being a person of integrity meant walking away from stability, during one of the worlds most economically trying periods- Covid-19. Doing the right thing, the WWJD thing, meant moving into a life of uncertainty. A difficult life. It has not been easy!In the end, living with integrity has kept me and my family together, my biggest earthly treasure, given by the Creator. It means being able to sleep well at night. In the end, I know that I will finish well. I know that I will continue to be true to my faith. I will continue to strive to live with integrity, no matter what the cost! My story ins’t over yet. The best is yet to come. #Integrity

SOME DAYS MY BEST IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH

In December 2018, I caught a really bad respiratory infection while in Taiwan. Being an educated patient, I tried to manage it with over the counter meds… Yet it only got worse. Eventually I saw a doctor and got medicated with the most meds I’ve ever been on at 1 time… 12 different types. I took 20 something pills a day. Perhaps a bit over medicated…but apparently I was quite ill. The 1st time I wore a mask, I was resistant to the idea, but it was the right thing to do especially because I had culinary class.

On that day, I couldn’t make it through the class… because of how ill I was. Sadly, I had to leave the class, because my best just simply wasn’t good enough… because I was ill. I remember feeling so concerned that this would affect my final grade. It turns out that I got better and went on to receive the most outstanding student award in my class.

I reflect on that day, because today, though I am physically well, my best just doesn’t seem to be good enough. There are times when our lives are in crisis… for various reasons. Things just don’t seem to work out, no matter how hard we try. We just keep spinning our wheels in the mud. We exert more energy, we do all what we know how to. We consider what we don’t know, we take stock, we learn, we adjust our sails, we try everything and yet no traction seems to result. Despair begins to set in… But then I’m reminded, that this too shall pass.

I’m comforted knowing that even though it seems like, my efforts are not productive, I believe that there will be an “award of excellence” in the end. Just need to stop and rest, and try again, when I am able.

I pray that you will too when life brings you this season.

BEING A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON

Are you a HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON (HSP)? Turns out I am.

Taichung City, Taiwan

I discovered this about a year or so ago. This has changed the way I see the world and myself. I’ve learnt to love myself through my perceived weaknesses. Being HSP is not an illness, it’s a trait. About 1 out of 5 people are HSP’s.

“Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP, is a term coined by psychologist Elaine Aron. According to Aron’s theory, HSPs are a subset of the population who are high in a personality trait known as sensory-processing sensitivity, or SPS. Those with high levels of SPS display increased emotional sensitivity, stronger reactivity to both external and internal stimuli — pain, hunger, light, and noise — and a complex inner life.”

“HSPs are thought to be more disturbed than others by violence, tension, or feelings of being overwhelmed. They may, as a result, make concerted efforts to avoid situations in which such things are likely to occur. On the more positive end of the trait, high sensitivity is thought to be linked to higher levels of creativity, richer personal relationships, and a greater appreciation for beauty.”

It’s not easy being a Highly Sensitive Person. Still, the HSP framework has been extremely useful for understanding my entire past and learning to navigate my future. Understanding who we are is a major step towards living fully.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/highly-sensitive-person