There have been more days than not during the last two months, where my mind and heart have ached during COVID-19. It’s a visceral reaction.
Even my skin feels triggered from my ‘depth of processing’ which Dr. Elaine Aron, founder and researcher of highly sensitive people, (HSP) refers to as one of the four characteristics of being an HSP.
In addition to my own thoughts, I’m picking up on a collective fear, worry and grief.
My sensitivity is on high alert. I honestly didn’t think I could be anymore sensitive — but I am.
Dr. Aron, describes HSP’s as individuals who “[have] a sensitive nervous system, are aware of subtleties in [their] surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
What’s more — how will I move forward? What will my new normal look like?
I know for sure I can’t go backwards, and that’s good.
“We need an entire lifestyle that suits our trait and a strong sense of being justified about doing what we need to do.” ~Dr. Elaine Aron
The other day when things were fine, I thought this holiday season would be easier, and then as if a storm blew in from nowhere — it wasn’t.
I wasn’t doing well.
So, I asked myself:
What happened? Why the grumpiness and extra sensitivity? Is the latter even possible? Why does even the air hurt my feelings?
I was surprised by the words I wrote in my journal in response.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP) and therapist, the holidays are often too much of everything for me. The overstimulation, overthinking, and extra feeling are all very real.
Last summer, I moved. And that meant a downsize: I donated, sold, or recycled easily two-thirds of my home. The swarm of feelings left me emotionally and physically depleted — especially because I’m an HSP (highly sensitive person).
In my case, I was leaving a space that held my family until a divorce ended the marriage. Surrounded by both happy and unhappy memories, I oscillated from grief to relief. Only the beige walls witnessed what I went through. And, as I locked the front door to walk away, I could hear the last set of memories say goodbye for the final time.
For all of us, sensitive or not, moving is listed as being one of the top life stressors. The unsettledness, the endless details and the unknown are unnerving — even if the move is a positive step.
But eventually, we all have to move from one place to another, whether it’s an apartment, a dorm room or — as in my case — the daunting process of selling a home.
I’ve been thinking about what is it that I do as a licensed mental health counselor. How can I describe what I offer?
And so, in my truest heart-space, I looked to nature for guidance and started to daydream.
Within minutes, two hummingbirds followed by two wild bunnies appeared. I watched and observed. All were playing and zipping in and around the bushes and trees and vying for the feeder.
Hopping, darting and exploring.
And I said to myself, “Oh my! That’s it!”
I am a sensitive creature and quick to notice as I follow the process of my counseling clients. I’m intrigued with what isn’t said as well as what is said.
I listen carefully as if I have two large rabbit ears twitching and sniffing the winds and I believe in their pain and stories that too often haven’t been.
I notice the tone of my clients as they walk, smile, laugh or shed tears.
I hold open space or circle it down to keep it safe. I let their voices rise or whisper.
Together, if need be, we ‘die’ and explore the depths of pain, abuse, worries, and fears. I feel images and see feelings and share what has risen.
We create a bond of sacred space where authenticity and trust can truly grow.
Sometimes we use art or music and let the spirit of colors and shapes and sounds speak what words can’t. Other times I’m reminded that questions don’t always have immediate answers; however, we wait together and explore to see what is your deepest soul’s truth.
This one is for those who don’t have emotional support.
This one is for those who feel completely alone. Who don’t have someone cheering you on, supporting every word, holding your hand, listening to your thoughts and dreams.
This is for the one who feels lost in a sea of everything. Whose sensitivity is unheard, unseen and not believed.
This is for the one who feels defeated because they’ve been ignored, blamed, and shamed.
This one is for those who watch and listen and give but are rarely received.
I believe, I believe, I believe --
You are worthy. You are loved. You are seen.
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."