Recently, I was hanging out with people I love, laughing, and having a great time interacting. I’m frequently with these people and have gotten used to the overall chaotic nature of the space, learning how to maneuver through the high-vibrational, loud energy in ways that allow me to remain standing by the end of the night. Over the years, I’ve sensed myself feeling tense at times due to the level of noise, but I have always overrode it because it has been manageable. Or so I thought.
This night, though, the Universe had a lesson in store for me.
I was focused intently on a joint project we were working on when, suddenly, a group of teenagers doing their own thing at top volume and completely oblivious to the world around them, arrived on the scene. Just a few feet behind me, there was about 600 of them crammed into a 10’x10′ space all rapping at a volume that could have filled a stadium – or so it seemed in my head.
Instantaneously, I began to sweat. My breathing got really rapid and high in my chest and I couldn’t breathe deeply – not that I remembered to do that, but if I had, I couldn’t have done it. My eyes couldn’t focus. And I could not move. I felt my brain beginning to literally melt. In detached observer mode, I could see my congruent chain of thoughts disintegrating into molecules and scattering to the netherworld. I had no hope of holding it together.
I haven’t felt panic like this before – or so I thought – and the intensity of it grasped onto my throat and squeezed for all it was worth. I remember mumbling something about, “I’m in overwhelm.” It was a way of asking for help. No one heard me.
There was no way I was going to be able to override it this time. It had a firm grip on me and it was taking me down. I was absolutely terrified.
I wanted out. I needed help! I was being pulled under with dead weight strapped around my ankles and without a life preserver in sight. I wasn’t going to make it out of this in one piece…
Suddenly, I could no longer sit there, frozen and doing nothing. I had to flee or fight, but I still couldn’t move to get myself out of the space. It was like I was sitting in wet tar. I needed to do something or I was going to die.
I chose to fight.
“Hey!” I yelled it really loudly in my head, but it came out as a mere croak.
“Hey!” I tried again. A little louder this time, but not enough to make a dent in the din coming from the teens.
“HEEEEEEEY!” I yelled it so loudly, my throat hurt as it burst against the vise grip that was clinching my vocal cords. “STO-O-O-O-O-O-O-OP!“
It was not the most enlightened way to handle things. It wasn’t the most effective way. I intellectually know you cannot meet violence with violence and that yelling “don’t yell” is an oxymoron, but it was all I had. It was all I could get out.
One of my loved ones projected a command for them to stop, her voice rising over my bellowing and then another adult added his loud vocal command to the room and everything stopped, suspended in the space between aliveness, expression, and death.
I felt my sweaty palms, pounding head, and racing heart. My face was fiery, colored with the utter mortification that I had been unable to hold my shit together. I had made an ass of myself. I had been unenlightened. I had spoken disrespectfully to another’s child. I had misbehaved in another’s home. My eyes were burning. My head was bowed. My shoulders hunched up to my ears, awaiting the reprimand that was sure to come.
I shouldn’t have yelled at them. I shouldn’t have been mean. I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have been more understanding. I shouldn’t have said anything. I shouldn’t have been controlling. I should have been able to handle it like the rest of the adults who seemed to not be bothered by it. I should have been better.
All of that happened in the 2.2 seconds of utter silence that followed the commands. Then the chaos began again, just at a lower decibel.
And, in my chair, I was fighting back tears because I was suddenly three years old and had been scolded for being too loud – again – in church, in school, in life.
Everyone was waiting on me for the next phase of our project. It felt like they were all staring at me with judgmental eyes and pointing fingers. They weren’t, but it felt like they were.
I swallowed hard and said in a voice that sounded as little and as compressed as I felt, “Sorry. I am having difficulty gathering myself back together.”
There were words of understanding from all of the adults, but I couldn’t hear them above the throbbing in my skull. My mouth was dry. I was nauseated from the dump of adrenaline. And I felt too vulnerable, too raw, too unprotected.
I weakly did what was needed of me and five minutes later, when they needed my input again, I was still sitting there in a miasma of misery and horror, completely unable to conjure a coherent stream of thought. My brain was a fog and I could not string together letters, let alone words to form any semblance of an adult-like sentence.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, still feeling too small to be sitting at the big people table, and too weak to move. “I am having difficulty regrouping.”
“Get over it!” She spoke the words with a seemingly bored sigh. “You’re okay.”
I was stunned and knocked speechless. I felt so dismissed, disregarded and overrode.
Then, I realized, this was a familiar feeling.
And then I got angry.
Because I was born a Profoundly Sensitive child, I have been frequently told throughout my life that MY experience was not the experience I was supposed to be having. I was either too noisy or too inquisitive or too wiggly or too talkative or too loving or too… too… too…
As an adult, I strive every day to clear myself of other’s judgments and their dictation to me about how I am supposed to be feeling. So, when those words hit me in the gut as squarely and as painfully as if she had punched me, I was provided the opportunity to really look at myself. I had never paid attention to myself when my Sensitivity has been disregarded. I’ve never really noticed how intense the experience is when I go into overwhelm. I haven’t paid attention because – let me be clear about this – I’m used to it.
This experience I have described is what it’s like to be me, to be a Profoundly Sensitive person. Some of us figure out really good coping skills and hang on by the very tippety-tip of our fingernails, praying to all that is holy that we’re not going to fall. That is me. All the time. I’ve gotten really good at managing my gifts and abilities so that I’m not curled up in the fetal position having a nervous breakdown every time an ant gets stepped on in China. But, at times, my human self cannot process all the sensory input and I meltdown. I implode. I disintegrate. The data becomes too much and my protective mechanisms disengage and I fall apart. Literally.
In the middle of that panic attack, it would have been really lovely if I had been able to remember my twenty years of life coaching training. It would have been wonderful if I had been able to be clear and empowering. It would have been delicious had I been able to stand up for myself in the very moment that she began managing my experience by telling me to get over it.
Yeah. That would have been nice. But, I’m here to tell you, in that moment, I was simply grateful that bladder control is an automatic, muscle thing because I couldn’t remember my name, let alone how to act appropriately. And when she said those words to me, it took my last vestige of adultness and I was a little girl, alone on the playground, crying because I was too weird for anyone to be friends with.
I never got back to “normal” that night. My system was completely fried and I couldn’t reboot it. It was stuck in open mode, which was really painful after having that visceral of a come-apart. And, because I couldn’t reengage my shields, I retreated. I played nice, saying goodbye to everyone, including the woman whose pointed words were sticking in my heart. She had no way of knowing I had been mortally wounded. She was using her own programs of dealing with another’s “issues” when she spoke and that is all. She only had good intentions.
And, although I can also see that her words were part of her protective mechanism, it still hurt me to be vocally disregarded by someone who is supposed to love me. She didn’t mean to not love me in that moment, I know this. I see it. I feel her intent. She could see that I was hurting and she wanted my hurt to go away. In her loving way, she was trying to help. I see all that. I feel it. And I understand it.
Because I am able to see, feel, and understand the other person’s experience, I have often disregarded my own. Because I understand them, my compassion for their pain has overridden my pain. And this is not unique to me. This is the plight of many Sensitives – they have a powerful experience of what others are feeling so they understand it and allow it to slide, giving them wide berth and empathetic forgiveness immediately. In the process, they rarely turn that toward themselves. It never occurs to them to do so.
However… I hurt.
And so now I’m choosing to speak up about this.
I am a powerfully sensitive empathic person who has been told her whole life that she was too much something or not enough of something else and it has come through the loving messages of those who have wanted me to blend in with the flock so that I would be safe. There is safety in numbers. There is safety in the middle of that flock, blended in with the other soft-bellied sheep. With all of my ability to understand that about my loved ones, I have failed to notice that this soft-bellied sheep has been eviscerated far too many times for her to be standing up, let alone speaking out.
Truth is, Phoenixes do not blend in and they continue to rise.
That is my gift, to continue to heal and to rise anew.
Humans really have no idea how much power they wield in the words they speak. I have been told throughout all of my life that “words can never hurt you” but I’ve never been convinced. Words do hurt me. I feel the energy of them, the message beneath them. I am able to see the destructive – and the constructive – energy of them. I can feel how others are hearing them.
Living amongst humans has taught me that often they are reacting in ways that they believe are helpful, although they can be experienced as the exact opposite. Most people want to be kind and loving. Most people mean well in their ways. I see this. And, even though I see this, I do feel pain when someone says something so dismissive of me like, “Get over it. You’re okay.”
The message within her five words really was: I’m uncomfortable with your emotional experience and I need you to change it so I am okay.
What I heard was: Angie, you are being overly dramatic, too sensitive, and stupid. Grow the fuck up and be an adult.
I’m here to remind you: your words have power to destroy or build up another. How are you wielding them?