I’m sensitive. I’ve always been that way. When I was little, I cried if you so much as looked at me sideways. I got overwhelmed, overstimulated, too frustrated–the list goes on. That sensitivity can become extremely unhealthy if I don’t actively restrain it. When it gets out of control, I have two (or, usually only two) responses: withdrawal or hell-fire craziness.
The withdrawal is obviously less apparent to others. Something hurts my feelings or overwhelms me, and I hide out in my internal vacation retreat. Except this vacation retreat is actually a garbage dump full of rat feces, shattered car parts, and rotten toothpaste. (Can toothpaste rot?) I’m in this little hole, and I won’t come out. It’s safe and warm and very conducive to sobbing. After a while, I just get more and more withdrawn until nobody actually knows what the hell is going on.
Hell-fire craziness is scarier, but much, much more short-lived. It usually includes screaming, flagrant insults (towards myself), and loud crying. Or, in a more public situation, passive-aggressiveness, subdued rage, and, well, crying. Hell-fire craziness rarely exceeds an hour, but its effects can be quite lasting.
I can, have, and will restrain this sensitivity. Today I had an interesting realization: our unhealthy traits are actually just gifts from God that have been twisted. It’s important that we work on turning them around and restoring them to what God made them to be.
When I feel extremely sensitive, I take a step back and do a quick connect with God. I need to get some fresh air, separate myself from stimulation, and piece my thoughts together. If I can get those few minutes of peace and quiet–peace and quiet with the Lord–I can usually bring myself back to a normal, or at least functioning, level of stability. In this case, however, it’s important that I pull back into the good and hopeful part of my imagination rather than the “vacation retreat.” If not, I go into the withdrawn state.
Another option is to reach out externally, rather than internally. Take a deep breath, get a hug, and verbalize my emotions. This option works best for the batshit sensitivity. (It wouldn’t make sense to reach out into the external when the external is overwhelming you.)
When I’ve dealt with the immediate issue, I can begin turning things around and looking at the big picture. God made me sensitive for a reason, and I am actually grateful. I can feel other people’s emotions. My emotions bring an abundance of creativity and insight. My rich inner life is teeming with ideas. And hey, crying on demand can actually be quite useful. You know when you just need a good cry? Bingo. I’ve got the tears right there.
Our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses. God is the one who can help us grow those beautiful plants.
And, for our overly optimistic trope–you can’t grow a plant without water.