In November 2018, I started a project, where I collect stories from emotionally intense people from around the world.
I am overwhelmed by your generosity and feel incredibly moved by your courage to be vulnerable, the poignancy of your stories, and the poetic beauty in your words. This is a continuation of page one of this project.
I hope you will land on some resonance and encouragement in the stories and recommendations from your fellow travellers of life.
To contribute, please click here.
‘I HAVE BEEN SHATTERED, REBUILT, AND SHATTERED AGAIN BY MY SENSITIVITY.’
My Name: Imani
Who am I:
I grew up in a town in the Southern United States, studied up North and in the UK, and eventually made my way back to London to settle. In between, I had a few decent adventures in other countries and US cities. I always had a touch of wanderlust and felt from a young age that traveling was one way to come into my own. I consider many places home, and am grateful for what I have learned in each.
I am now an anthropologist which, looking back, makes a lot of sense. I often felt on the outside of things either due to my race or the way I saw the world. I felt injustice so strongly, even as a child, and sought to understand its origins and the roots of social exclusion. My chosen path allows me to ask big questions and occasionally drill down to some concrete answers, which I love.
I have been shattered, rebuilt, and shattered again by my sensitivity. Each time, I am built back up a stronger me, more resilient and self-aware, but I went through a long journey to get to a stable place. I see my sensitive nature as a strength now, to both my work and my relationships. I sometimes see things that others do not and can translate where others cannot. I perceive and intuit others emotions (and sometimes, intentions) and it has served me in my management of myself and my circle.
However, my childhood was fraught with accusations that I was “dramatic,” and should tone it down, do less, and be less. Though my parents were mostly understanding, I often felt that the things I felt strongly about were belittled by others, and my feelings along with them. I was targeted in school because I was reactive and sensitive, providing instant gratification to those who wanted to get under my skin.
I understand now that I am a vibrant person who cares deeply about the world, and that the passion that I feel is healthy and functional and good. After years of therapy, I have learned to express my feelings, obey my intuition, and (most importantly) soothe the wounded little girl in me who could not choose her surroundings and struggled to cope.
Sula, by Toni Morrison, is a great book for women who feel deeply and are a little bit feisty. The main character lives life out loud and does not apologize for her actions, or her needs. I have probably read it every year for nearly a decade.
Eckhart Tolle (honestly everything he has ever written or said) has been incredibly influential as well. He focuses on individual spiritual awakening as necessary for the evolution of the world, and on developing an ability to be present rather than identified with the thoughts, emotions and fears that currently control us. I have found his work to be incredibly compatible with my Christian faith, and a help in regulating my emotions.
People who have influenced me:
I identify heavily with historical literary figures, typically poets, who felt on the margins of society and expressed an “outside looking in” perspective. I found comfort in and associated with James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Fernando Pessoa, among many others. I have paid more than most would think prudent to bring my books around the world with me, because they are how I discovered myself.
Some written words that have resonated with me:
A Litany for Survival
BY AUDRE LORDE
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
“A Litany for Survival.” Copyright © 1978 by Audre Lorde, from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde.
A life advice:
“The truth is: belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect.” -Brene Brown
My words to you:
It is important to work to understand yourself, but do not expect others (yes, even mom and dad and partner) to understand you. Even though it feels like it is, their understanding is not necessary for your survival. Your best bet is to learn as much as you can about who you are–whatever that means for you–and focus on accepting that person. In the end, all the people who also accept you will find you, and the people who don’t will fall away. Don’t fall into the trap of reopening your psychic wounds through relationship after relationship where you are undervalued. Be single, and lonely, and outcast, and broke for a while; make that your time of discovery.
‘it is clear I have always been the carer, but now I am turning that love in on myself.’
My Name: Infinituum
Who am I:
I am from East London, now living in Essex. I have visited several countries in Europe and spent time in India on business.
At the age of 3 I was exposed to my mother’s alcoholism and helped keep her secret hidden; not knowing any better. At the age of 7 she almost died from her drinking, so I was exposed to her journey back to sobriety and nursed her back to health while my father worked, pretending nothing had happened. At the age of 10 I encountered a dark entity in a friend’s home. At the age of 26 and after several positive supernatural experiences, I was told I was both an empath and a clairsentient by a healer, sparking my interest in spirituality at a point I’d turned my back on organised religion. At the age of 38, my wife had a nervous breakdown following several traumatic events in our personal life. Now in my 40s, I am married with two children, one of whom is on the autistic spectrum and hospitalised after a suicide attempt earlier this year. With reflection on my life, it is clear I have always been the carer but now I am turning that love in on myself as I can no longer help or guide others if I ignore my own need to heal.
My inspirations: “Strangers” – Dean Koontz, “The Secret” – Rhonda Byrne, “The Alchemist” – Paulo Coelho
Who influenced me: Dalai Lama; my grandfather; various healers and spiritual guides I have met over the years.
Some written words:
I recently wrote about our struggle to get our daughter (on the autistic spectrum) the help she so desperately needed, having been failed by mainstream schooling and the NHS childrens’ mental health system – https://www.the-round.co.uk/life-autism-invisible-condition/
A good advice:
“Never look down on someone unless you’re helping <him> up.” – Jesse Jackson.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Ian MacLaren
My words to you:
Don’t take everything personally the way I did. You’re not responsible for fixing everyone. Love yourself and be compassionate, but don’t expect everyone to reciprocate this. Be careful who you trust, for some only want company for their negative experiences and will actually envy you when things do turn around in your favour. Enjoy every moment. Don’t worry about the past as you cannot change it now. Don’t fear the future as you’re not there yet. Live in the now. Be mindful, especially about your thoughts. They’re more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
JAMIE, MINNESOTA; TEACHER
‘YOU HAVE A BEAUTIFUL SOUL THAT IS A LITTLE BIT BEYOND YOUR TIME.’
My Name: Jamie H.
Who am I:
I was born in a small town in Colorado. As a newly married adult, I moved to Texas to support my husbands career. After divorcing, I moved back to Colorado to care for my father after my mother passed away. In my second marriage, I live in a small town in Minnesota.
What matters most to me is helping others never ever feel as defeated, alienated, deprived, or disliked as I have felt most of my life. I am a very passionate teacher working with children who have been labeled damaged, hopeless or a lost cause. I try to help them feel valued, find their self esteem, and feel successful in the boxes they are forced to live and function in.
I have always felt like the person at fault for any and everything. As an only child of alcoholics I was forever being told that the looks on my face or my tone of voice were unacceptable…..never mind the isolation, shame, fear, and pain I experienced by my caretakers life choices.
As an adult I am constantly worried that I am stepping on someone’s toes, that my feelings or reactions are inappropriate, that I am too intense, or that my passion and ideas make others feel inferior. In reality I NEVER want to hurt anyone…EVER. But it seems that conflict with others is my curse. In my experience the more I try to resolve conflict, the more I try to change myself to NOT cause problems and the more I try to shut up and step back the more conflict I cause. As I said, I am a teacher. During my first year of teaching I experienced so much rejection, contempt and exclusion from my mentor and team that I was very close to suicide. To this day, I have no idea what I did to cause so much trouble. My intuition tells me that I was “too much” for my mentor (and leader of the group who were against me). I went against status quo. I wanted to and did whatever was needed to build my students up, help them be successful. To my mentor my room was better than hers, I spent more money on my students than she did, and I played more games and had better rewards than she did. It was never a competition for me! I was doing whatever was necessary to motivate my students and create an intrinsic desire in them to learn and grow. My students were successful. I would have gladly helped her or even done the work for her to improve her room, or make games or whatever. I have never had a problem sharing. I also never believed that she was a bad teacher. In my mind it is OK not to have a classroom with a theme or to spend your personal funds on your students. I was simply different from her and I didn’t have children of my own so all of my energy went to my students. I was simply different, not better. I was a new teacher and I was passionate. It was almost the death of me at that school and literally.
I have had similar problems with my husbands family. I have never fit in with them. They are very “correct” and controlled and care very much about what others think. I am too…..fill in the blank with anything negative. Too emotional, too loud, too silly, too vocal….. The pain from not fitting in anywhere can be crippling.
I’ve been with my current husband for over ten years. He says it took a very long time for him to understand me. I think he sees that I am a good person and I wear my heart on my sleeve. He sees now that I am a tender hearted person who NEVER wants to hurt anyone (even though I seem to all the time). He says it takes people a really long time to see that I only want to help others, but he doesn’t understand why it takes so long. I don’t think he understands my pain, my isolation, my alienation, or my fear. But I am incredibly grateful that he sees and understands my heart.
It seems that I get along much better with children and animals than I do with adults. Adult women are the hardest. No matter how hard I try to be small so as not to offend, I still have women who hate me on site, who refuse to acknowledge me in the hallways no matter how many times I greet them (but when someone of authority is near they do). I have no idea what I am doing to upset them. I do NOT feel superior to anyone, but it seems that is often the perception of me. I am painfully aware of people’s rejection of me. It causes me to be awkward because I’m trying not to offend or cause problems. My brain NEVER shuts off. I obsess about how I make people feel constantly. I believe I am highly empathic, but I wish there were some sort of test to make sure because then I worry about being narcissistic or thinking I am “special”. I do not think I am special, I think I am a freak who causes problems but doesn’t understand why or how to stop causing problems.
This website has been the most help of anything I have found before. I’ve read every book out there on adult children of alcoholics, and many many MANY self help books. Elaine Aron has been instrumental in helping me understand why I have felt like such a freak my whole life. Wayne Dyer, Esther Hicks, Pema Chodron, Alanis Morissette, Eckhart Tolle, Sounds True publishing, books on Indigo Children (have been helpful, but I’m not 100% sold on this theory), books about Buddhism, these things have kept me alive when I have wanted to leave this place.
People who have influenced me:
Nearly any artist or poet has greatly influenced me. Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, my first Mother-in-Law, my mother and my grandmother have been my role models. I believe my mother was an alcoholic because she was sensitive and she couldn’t find any other way to function in the world. Granted my parents drinking and life choices were VERY damaging and painful to me, but now as an adult I see that my mother was more than likely suffering the way I am now. On some level I think living with her alcoholism has saved me from the same path. Oprah and Maya Angelou have been role models for me as well.
A life advice:
I guess what I have most internalized is what I have read on Eggshell Therapy and from Elaine Aron. I try to remember that by nature I can be “too much” for others who are not sensitive, but it is still incredibly painful to be outside the norm. I have not internalized anything enough to be comfortable on this planet. I still have extreme bouts of depression when I have conflict that cannot be resolved, but these resources help me find the other side of the dark tunnel.
My words to you:
You are NOT bad. You are NOT abnormal. You are just different and MOST people don’t understand things that are different. You have a beautiful soul that is a little bit beyond your time, but that can be an amazing gift and you have tremendous potential to change the world. You have this amazing opportunity to do great things and you have a choice. You can change things on a grand scale for great numbers of people or you can quietly change the world one person at a time by making the world a better place for that one person.
JENNY, 47, NYC; massage therapist
‘It’s lonely and alienating. But vivid, with great depth as well.’
My Name: Jenny
Who am I: I’m from NY. I grew up in a suburb of NYC in NJ.
I am in my second career….a massage therapist.
I most enjoy being in nature, hiking, interacting with animals, and healing (myself and with others)
What matters most to me is connecting, with others and with myself.
The story of my life:
It’s lonely and alienating. But vivid, with great depth as well
Four winds society
So many books….i could never list them as i dont have them anymore but “- Paul Brunton -The Sensitives.” Was a powerful book for me.
Your book was very helpful too!
Meeting the madwoman by Linda Leonard
Looking into Mind Anthony Damiani
Women who Run with the Wolves
Party of one by anneli rufus
People who have influenced my way of thinking or being?: Buddha
Written words that have resonated:
A poem i wrote in my mid twenties…
I must have swallowed my soul
While I was lost
In thought. I think
About not thinking
But then i’d have to let go
Of feeling, for they are
partners. From within
In search of an opening
Out of this heavenly
A life advice: I always have a choice to how I react. There’s a tiny second where I can choose.
A different perspective, a different reaction, different words. Or choosing silence works too.
My words to you : What is available to experience in life is way bigger than you think. Take the magnifying glass off yourself and listen. Listen to the world, to everything in your immediate field/stage and observe and feel and let it get quiet before you act, react or communicate. Listen to your higher voice.
It gets better.
MIKE, SOUTH FLORIDA; FIREFIGHTER
‘Currently my emotions are still extremely raw… I feel therapists don’t understand when I tell them how deeply I feel emotions.’
My Name: Mike S
Who am I:
Im from South Florida, USA. I’ve lived in the same city my entire life while only leaving for one semester for college in Central Florida. Mostly, I enjoy gardening, anything gardening, plants, flowers, vegetables. I’m a firefighter of 16 years. What matters to me most is the unbearable burden I feel for society. I feel it is my duty to find the meaning to life and to convey it to other individuals in subtle nuances. Growing up was difficult for my siblings and I. My father was raging alcoholic who was always angry and mean. He was raped by a catholic priest when he was a boy for a couple years. His father was raped by a catholic priest as well. Living with my father was when I learned to dissociate. My parents would scream and yell their fights in front of us, slamming doors, while my dad breaks things. He would disappear and say he’s never coming back only to come back a few hours later.
My time in school was very difficult as I was homeschooled until 9 then dropped in a public school known for its gangs. I quickly had people wanting to beat me up because I couldn’t understand their thinking and didn’t know how to respond, being raised in a such a sheltered atmosphere where I was never taught to stick up for myself.. We weren’t allowed to have external friends from school or participate sports. I quickly turned to drugs at the age of 15 and the first thing I did was acid. I would buy acid at school and come home and lay in my bed and trip my life away while my parents fought and argued. My father belittled us at every opportunity never amounting to much in his eyes. He would come home drink and disappear into his head. School was equally worse for me as I never fit in due to my introversion and isolated behavior. I didn’t understand and still don’t know how to carry on small talk. I was bullied and beat up for a lot of my childhood because I was different. I have never been able to look at myself without extreme criticism.
My mother was a devout catholic turned protestant around my age of 4. My mother was extremely critical of everything in society and it was all ‘straight from the pit of hell” as she would say. I grew up in odd situations, thinking now we were probably in a cult of some sort for a period of time. My mother would have a lady over and they would walk around our backyard and the woman would say I feel the power of God right here and my brother and I would have to dig as my mother believed we had treasure hidden in the backyard and God was showing her where it was. We had to dig up the entire backyard, never found a thing. My brother and were probably 10/11. My mother was always concerned about money as we were poor and never had much for food. She also told us that God gave her a dream we were gonna win the lottery and had us picking toys out of a Sears catalog when we were kids. I could give so many stories like these. I’m now a firefighter with PTSD being treated by a therapist. I’m on 5 blood pressure meds and 2 psych meds. Ive had every medical test done on my body and they can’t find a thing wrong for my blood pressure to be so high. Ive recently filed for disability. Currently my emotions are still extremely raw, which is what actually led me to this site. I feel therapists don’t understand when I tell them how deeply I feel emotions. Ive tested as HSP, INFJ on MBTI, INFJ-T, Enneagram 5,4. I felt I’ve come to know a lot about myself but still have a had time understanding my emotions. The most difficult parts of my life is arriving scenes of accidents/medicals with loss life, especially suicides. Maybe because Ive attempted suicide myself, twice, Im not sure.
Right now I’m attempting to piece together whatever I can and move forward. However I’m still living in the grey as I’m not sure my disability application will be approved.
My dream is to move into the country on a large piece of land and farm until I die.
Since I was young I was always sensitive and can recall intense emotions from early on. I was also very isolated even though I had a brother and sister. I would always watch them play together and never understood why I didn’t fit in. I was born with genetics that made me tall, even at a young age. I’m now 6’5″ but when I was growing up I always felt weird and out of place, uncomfortable in my skin. I feel hypocrisy all through society and religion and can see it in such a connected way I don’t understand why others don’t.
I know it my sound odd bit I don’t read novels or fiction/non fiction books. My books are all about learning more about my passions, ie gardening, herbal medicine, etc. Growing up I lived an extremely censored life as my mother was a devout catholic, therefore anytime I would buy a tape or cd it would be immediately confiscated if found and I would be in big trouble, probably getting whipped with a belt or stick on my bare ass, we got hit hard . But I grew up during the 90s and grunge music was big at the time and groups like Pearl Jam helped get me through those times. Throughout my life my music selections have evolved and as well reverted back to the beginning. I am currently going through therapy and find that listening to Pearl Jam again has brought memories back that were suppressed. Among my favorite musicians include, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, in fact, those are the names of my American Bulldogs.
People who have influenced me:
The only inspirations I have learned to draw on are that of Jesus from the Holy Bible. Without the Bible in my life I would’ve committed suicide a long time ago and multiple times over. But I should give some credit to my wife who has stood by my side through much of the worst parts of my life.
Some written words: For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increase the knowledge increase the sorrow. Ecc 1:18
Muhammad, 40, the midlands (UK) ; Teacher and writer
‘Being sensitive is very difficult as a male whose family are of Asian origin.’
My Name: Muhammad Kaiser
Who am I:
I just turned 40 and have been teaching for around ten years. I have spent most of my life in the Midlands and find it a place where many communities, religious and ethnic groups get along. It’s also rich in history as LOTR was written here, Cadbury was founded here and it’s also a music hub.
I myself enjoy teaching. I am one of the few people I know who enjoys their job. Away from teaching, I enjoy reading, football, cricket, long walks and eating out, especially in dessert parlours. I also enjoy writing and have written a couple of children’s books.
Being sensitive is very difficult as a male whose family are of Asian origin. You are expected to be the all-conquering breadwinner. You are expected to be the ‘leader of the family.’ You are expected to be tough and ambitious. You are expected to be emotionless in most situations and are called a ‘woman’ or an ‘attention seeker’ or a ‘drama queen’ if you are not as you ‘should’ be.
In truth, I am ambitious but not in terms that can be measured always. I am tough but not in ways that can always be seen by the eyes. It’s been a difficult road…. trying to find people who ‘get’ me.
How has it felt? Well, I have felt like a small fish swimming against the tide in the Atlantic Ocean during a tsunami in the middle of winter.
It has not been easy at all. But I fight on.
I still read some of the books now which I read as a boy as it offers comfort and a path to good times and sweet memories. I read LOTR once a year…. Danny the Champion of the World…. and other books which resonate with me. Growing up without my father in my life, Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World felt like having a Dad for a few minutes each night before I went to bed. I still read it now…. but to my own sons. Its very emotional for me but cathartic too, as you can imagine.
People who have influenced me:
In my own life, my mother has tried her very best against all the odds and I was determined to make something of myself so that her suffering was not in vain. Seeing her with my children makes me happy.
My Psychotherapist will always have a place in my heart. She diagnosed me with BPD two years ago but taught me, step by step, that my mind, with all its weight and guilt and contradictions, were not my fault. She taught me how to accept who I am without feeling like I ‘should’ be somebody else. This was a great turning point for me. She created a safe space for me which was nothing short of sacred.
In the world of entertainment, a famous guitarist called Dave Mustaine has inspired me. He fought against drugs and alcohol addiction to produce some of the greatest metal tracks in the history of music. In my opinion, he is the world’s greatest living guitarist.
Some written words:
My brain was laboured, my head would spin,
Don’t let me down, don’t give up, don’t give in,
The rain comes down, cold wind blows,
The plans we made are back up on the road,
Turn up my collar, welcome the unknown,
Remember that you said,
‘One day you’ll walk alone.’”
– Excerpt from ‘Addicted to Chaos’ by Dave Mustaine / Megadeth (1994)
A life advice:
I have always had an issue with doing too much for people in a desperate attempt to be accepted. But my friend’s Dad said once:
“There is a thin line between doing the right thing and having total disregard for yourself.”
It stuck with me. I realised in trying to be excessively kind, you can often be unjust to yourself. I actively try to avoid doing this now and it has improved my life greatly.
My words to you: Surround yourself with kind people if possible. Its better to have two friends who understand you than ten friends, where you feel uncomfortable with seven of them more than half the time.
‘I tend to watch “normal” people’s reactions to the arts and wonder, “Did you not just SEE that??? How can you speak? The lump in my throat is almost choking me???” They say, “it was nice”. ‘
My Name: Sandy
Who am 1:
I am ageless, but 65 in earth years. I have a sense of humor. I was raised in rural America, into a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I felt like the only streak of grey in a world of black and white. I grew up wondering what was wrong with me. I could not understand this group of people so intent on all behaving in the same manner and professing to feel the same way and believing the same thing. I grew up writing down what I really felt and thought and then tearing the paper to shreds so I wouldn’t “get in trouble”. I would cherish my time alone so I could unwrap myself and feel something…anything…like putting on my bathing suit in the middle of winter and running to the mailbox to get the mail. It was exhilarating. A little ridiculous, but I felt something real. I excelled in school. I have an IQ of 153. Leaving the religion catapulted me into a world I soon learned to imitate. I found more tolerance, but,in general, still felt separated from people.
Being exceptionally sensitive and perceptive can be exhausting. I find I spend a fair amount of time trying to modulate myself so that I do not overwhelm others around me. I am artistic – playing piano, writing songs, plays and short stories, painting, pottery, sewing. I tend to watch “normal” people’s reactions to the arts and wonder, “Did you not just SEE that??? How can you speak? The lump in my throat is almost choking me???” They say, “it was nice”. I was an entrepreneur, owning a patient advocacy company for 15 years. At the age of 55, I became a nurse and still practice full time. When I become distraught, I have learned to bargain with myself, give myself one more day… For the longest time, I wondered if I was bi-polar. The shoe almost fit. Most of my vivid memories are associated with an intense feeling or incident, but much of my past blurs into nothingness. I often find myself playing several roles when interacting with others – participant, observer, analyzer.
I stumbled onto this website about a year ago and I have felt the most connected to what I have read here than to anything else I have investigated or read. Art, in all its forms, helps me stay connected and alive.
People who have influenced me:
I have a friendship with someone who came into my life about 25 years ago. She is zen personified. She is the one person I have a “peer” relationship with. Those are rare. We would appear to be “opposites” to those who look on from the outside. Thank god for her.
Some written words:
“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” S. Freud Coming from a beginning where I could not be honest with anyone, I feel there is a sense of freedom in finding my own truth.
A life advice:
Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. Accepting our reaction to things as something real and profound is paramount to accepting ourselves.
In your own words: You are not alone. Keep searching for others like you and forge friendships that will enrich your life.