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.
Stephanie, 21, Indonesia
” I care way too much on so many issues, from inequality in any form, income, race, gender, xenophobia, discrimination, climate change, politics, mental health awareness etc. “
Who am I?
: “There has to be a world, somewhere out there, where people don’t only care about money and status, where I just want to retire into a lake house in a forest, or a villa with an ocean view in Bali, any chance I get.”
I’m 21 and I came from Indonesia. As a double minority, in ethnicity and religion Indo Chinese, then moving to a foreign country Singapore alone since I was 14 year old. I kept on trying to fit into my social surroundings.
I have never complied well with the mainstream culture, social norms like gender roles, a good Christian girl, or the logic of organised religion, image “face” issues among your relatives in an Asian society. I care way too much on so many issues, from inequality in any form, income, race, gender, xenophobia, discrimination, climate change, politics, mental health awareness etc.
I’m someone who loves music, lyrics, poetry, building awareness on social causes and beaches.
Now I’m a final year university student, taking bachelor of social science, majoring in psychology and marketing, and it feels like a calling. But still needing to earn money to survive, I plunge myself into the corporate world. I truly enjoy working in a business with a good purpose, in an organisational culture that I radiate to. Honestly, right now, I’m just trying to find my fit when I graduate. With my big dreams of making the world a better place, in this dog-eat-dog world.
My mind and inner dialogue is always running. My Identity & existential crisis is constant.
Even as I found people I was comfortable with, I still struggle to let my guards down and show anyone how truly raw my emotions are, and my intentions are really how I never want to hurt anyone.
Since I can also be a rather blunt person on the outside, I cant handle people with no common sense and i cant stand fakeness.
Over the years I have put up such loud, fun, extroverted exterior.
I can be a witty jokester, I can be the soul of the party, I can be a thoughtful supportive friend. I scored an ENFP personality.
It feels like I lived life as a facade, with multiple personalities, of always trying to please everyone around me.
Then being a broke millennial, I had to build my career in corporate because it’s the only practical thing to do, right??
I struggled with self-confidence, self-doubt, and self-esteem a lot.
For many months, I tried to “figure myself out” and “fix all my flaws” aggressively, why am i like this?? What am I good at, what do I want in life, what do I actually like?
Being deeply reflective, my past traumas continued to haunt me. Things like: Having multiple partners over the years, childhood pain, betrayal from people, feeling more mature than my peers from a young age.
I wanted to be free from the prisoner of my past, and all my inner critic of irrational beliefs, digging my own ditches, subconsciously influenced by social and religious institutions.
As I tried so hard to improve myself, not knowing how to love myself,
all I needed was my current partner to tell me that:
“There’s nothing wrong with you to begin with, Steph”
I had to believe that for myself. And accept me for who I am.
So then I broke, the eggshell exterior I was putting up, my chest just burst apart. After mostly being in denial of the emotional depth I had because my world is too fast-paced in a competitive nature, where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Putting on extra pressure as though the pressure on myself isn’t immense enough.
I realise growing up, I’ve never seen adults as adults. All I see are human beings with tormented souls in pain, who don’t actually know what they are doing.
I felt really lonely as a child at home with my parents constantly fighting and putting me in between.
But I felt most free when I was outside, riding my bike, and being one with the breeze. I see a lot of beauty in freedom and nature.
That’s how I know I’m highly empathetic, and I constantly think about higher level of consciousness or finding meaning in life. I tend to like helping people/friends find their path and directions, as they often come to me in a state confusion of making decisions.
I’m incredibly sensitive with how people treat others. My way of judging someone is only when they treat another human being with equal respect and decency, only then I can respect you.
“We are all angels”
said the little girl
And the man laughed
Said the girl
“But isn’t it happier
To think so?
“We drink the poison we pour for ourselves, and wonder why we feel so sick.”
A lot of mental health quotes on self-compassion and self-love.
People who have influenced me:
Brene Brown on shame, guilt.
“Stop absorbing people’s pain, saying it is yours to blame”
“Vulnerability is not a cry for help. It isn’t something to be fixed. Vulnerability is courage.”
Esther Perel on trauma and denial.
“I refuse to believe we can’t be compassionate, yet strong. Empathetic, yet firm. Deep and complex. Hopeless romantic and pragmatic.”
Adam Grant on defining Success as building others up around you. On being a Giver and an Original and a creative.
And of course Imi,
Thank you so much. I feel FOUND to know about this community out there that I can call my “tribe”.
Some written words:
Here is something I wrote for myself when I kept pushing myself to keep up with the world, not letting myself rest, when I lost touch with emotions for a long time.
I have been a bad host
You were banging on the doors
Waiting to be let out
Have I been keeping you waiting?
Hope you can forgive me
I promise to feed you now
Time to time
But the world is unkind
It keeps me busy. I tend to forget.
Can you do me a favour?
You’ll stick by me
When I need you the most”
I know now, that this is a gift and a curse.
I do believe that people are inherently good.
I am able to see through everyone’s facades, true intentions, and only see goodness.
Sometimes what hurt me was, seeing good people and expecting that they will only do good things in return.
A life advice:
The world needs my calm. There is already so much chaos.
Learn to say no to uncomfortable situations. Learn to say your behaviour is on you.
In dealing with negativity bias:
Stop thinking of everyone you couldn’t get along with and your imaginary haters. Start thinking of those who wants to be your friend.
My problem was:
Finding everything that I love in others, but the first one to point out the flaw in me.
My words to you:
You are not naive. You just need to protect yourself, guard your sensitive heart, honour your pure soul, stand up for yourself, and be honest to yourself.
Your innermost voice will know the right and good thing to do. You just need to come home :”)
Because the world needs you now, whether or not the world is ready.
DESTINI, 27, OHIO
‘Being raised by parents who were dysfunctional contributed to me often times feeling neglected and misunderstood.’
My Name: Destini
Who am I:
I am a twenty-seven year old female from the small town of Cambridge, Ohio. My father and mother were sixteen when I was born and my childhood was chaotic. I was exposed to traumatic things from an early age. I raise four children ages 1-8 with my husband. From the time I was born to where I am currently I have moved to many states and have attended eleven schools from grade school to high school. Cambridge, Ohio will always be my home mostly because my grandparents raised me and my two brothers there every summer. I most enjoy walking outside. Trail walking is one of the good memories I have from my childhood and being outside brings me a sense of peace. I am a stay at home mother going to school for a psychology degree. People matter to me. My children having a healthy, nurturing home environment matters most because I believe that to changing the world starts by loving your family. People feeling loved, heard, and cared for matters to me. I think that one of the reasons it matters so much is because I know the hurt of feeling unloved, not heard, and not cared for.
Many days I feel misunderstood. At times I get the impression that people think I am not being my genuine self because I am sensitive and intense. I have found relationships with others to be difficult to maintain and within my own marriage I worked relentlessly early on to communicate effectively with my husband. As long as I can remember I have been sensitive and intense. Being raised by parents who were dysfunctional contributed to me often times feeling neglected and misunderstood. I do think now that being sensitive and intense is a beautiful thing and it helps me to love others.
Memoirs from authors who have had a dysfunctional upbringing have helped me, such as Flesh Wounds, The Glass Castle, and Wherever You Go, There They Are. I have attended ACA, adult children of alcoholics and dysfunction, for two years and those meetings have helped and inspired me.
People who have influenced me:
Guidance counselors, teachers, social workers, and parents of childhood friends have played a huge role in shaping who I am today as a person, woman, and mother. My siblings have supported my emotions and me as a person since I can remember.
Some written words:
“Wherever you go, be all there.” “You are not the sum of your past mistakes.” “In the end it will all be okay. If it is not okay then it is not the end.”
A life advice:
Feel your feelings in full, let them pass over you and repeat this constantly. Don’t cling, don’t get attached, just feel fully and hand it over.
In my own words: You matter. Other people matter. But, you matter too.
‘I want to change people through expressing myself in the hope they could see what the other possibilities are out there, instead of following everyone else and worshipping celebrities.’
My Name: Anon
Who am I:
Im 15, I’m kind of uncomfortable saying stuff about myself in the fear that someone’s going to find this and expose my emotional side, i dont express it much. I am so emotionally involved in the most mundane things that people usually brush off. I don’t feel like anyone can match the way I love certain things such as music. I love and hate extremely hard. When I’m bored I retreat into my fantasy world through music because it’s better and more interesting than reality. I have a number of them actually, depending on which mood I’m in. I hate crowds but love the feeling of a concert. I feel like a paradox. I don’t even get myself, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either, but I hope to get there someday.
As a child, I used to read, write, draw and watch movies profusely. Reading books inspired me to draw pictures and write my own, for which I had a talent for, because my mind could never stay inside the book. I gradually stopped reading as I got into my teen years and instead went into my fantasy world inside my room while listening to music. I’ve always loved music and whenever I express this love for something to someone, they get it but not at the level I do, and I know this. Whenever I hear a song from my childhood, it brings back memories and feelings, and I end up getting sad and nostalgic for some reason. I’ve always wanted to make music and change the world as I thought most mainstream music was boring. I want the world to see me but I don’t know how. I want to change people through expressing myself in the hope they could see what the other possibilities are out there, instead of following everyone else and worshipping celebrities. I hate being a part of the crowd and I want to be the leader of a change in culture.
Pretty much all music inspires me. I have a few movies that inspire me, mainly ones from my childhood that have special memories attached to them. I wanted to become an animator at one point because I loved Pixar movies and I still do, this is what inspired me to draw, make art etc.
People who have influenced me:
Anyone who advocates for the environment. This is another thing I’m passionate about. I H A T E corporate greed, and the fact companies think they have the right to destroy anything for the sake of money. It makes me incredibly angry. I’m not going to get myself started because I know I’ll go off on a tangent and talk about it until my teeth rot so I’ll stop myself.
Some written words: The song Magick by the Preatures
A life advice: What you become inwardly is what changes outwardly.
In your own words: This is still me.
‘Listen to your body. Your intuition is powerful don’t dismiss it. Because other people can’t see what you see. Or feel what you feel. Be yourself.’
My Name: Venusrose
Who am I:
I was born in JHB South Africa. My parents come from diverse backgrounds.Bali,Australia, Afrikaans and Dutch. I relate too being Balinese because it is the most exotic and also totally unrecognized in my toxic family. I am an artist I love too heal and empower people through creativity. What matters to me….. Hard too say.
Truth… I guess, feeling safe in my world. Wow so much in that question…. Could write a whole book.
Alone……. Isolated……..Rejected…….. Unsupported. Hey I think my family of origin are abusive too. The world is very harsh
When I have read real life storeys about people who have survived terrible situations like the holocaust. Walking over snowy mountains too escape there persecutors. Surviving too tell the tale. I think gee, my issues compared to that. Thank God I’m alive. Better different days will come. I can do it. Moses left in the bullrushes. The abandoned child who Survived and became strong and wise.
People who have influenced me:
I teach crafts to homeless men in South Africa its a rough bunch. The woman who hires me to do this work has shown me that everyone deserves love and support unconditionally.
Historical role models, Heroes not sure that exists in my world……. Everyone is human, everyone is fallible…
Some written words:
Love is the most powerful energy in the universe capable of affecting and connecting with others faster than the speed of light.
However love is a verb Erich From describes love as
Knowledge Care Responsibility and Respect
Too Care for something or someone we must know what it needs. Too care we must take responsibility and too respect actually means too understand and accept.
A life advice:
To love yourself.
Not to take stuff personally when people treat you badly it’s because of their own stuff.
In my own words:
Try to find a good friend or person that understands you that you can confide in.
Most important stay away from toxic people they can and will destroy you.
Hang out with people who share similar values.
Make good decisions.
Never make emotional decisions
Walk away when you feel overwhelmed don’t lash out.
Try too strategise when dealing with people don’t just shoot from the hip.
Being too honest and straightforward is not always wise.
Your life will depend on the choices you make.
Listen to your body. Your intuition is powerful don’t dismiss it. Because other people can’t see what you see. Or feel what you feel. Be yourself.
TRENDY, 59, OHIO
‘I think that my sensitivity makes me more receptive to the metaphors about life that The Creator gives us in nature.’
My Name: Just call me Trendy
Who am I:
I am from the foothills of the Appalachians in Southeastern Ohio. It feels quite unbelievable but I am 59 years old ( : My geographical footprint? We are all too immersed in this throw away mentality of our society but my husband and I try to leave seeds in our trail and have tended our little acres to raise honeybees, heirloom and native plants. For years we were very involved in our local farm market where we sold our honey, honey products, jams, flowers, organically grown berries and produce. We don’t believe in using poisons on this good earth and I have articles about that published online at homestead.org under my byline trendle ellwood
I most enjoy being in the forest near a stream, writing, photographing nature, growing flowers, For years I taught field biology at a local home school group that one of my children was attending. Now I make a living by bottling honey, growing a garden, raising chickens, bartering for venison, writing a column for the local newspaper, freelance writing, photographing and cutting corners ( : I am very involved in the lives of my grandchildren and plan activities and life lessons with them.
What matters the most to me is giving them a good start in life, teaching them to love and respect nature, ( planning nature day with the Grands and their friends this summer)
Spirituality matters to me and nature, to me they are one and same. I think that my sensitivity makes me more receptive to the metaphors about life that The Creator gives us in nature. My sensitivity causes me to look and feel and commune with the nature around me. When I go to the forest I can FEEL the forest welcoming me home. When I walk past the plants in my garden I can feel them desiring my admiration. When the tree trimmers come through the yard I can feel the distress of the trees and the birds. When my husband is pointing out a wildflower in the woods and I think he is handling it too roughly I hurt for the flower.
Most people don’t get me, this is exactly why I found your website this morning because of this knowing that most people don’t understand my sensitivity. II always feel like the troubling one. For instance, since we were dissatisfied with netting my husband spent time, money and thought on a way to keep the birds from eating the black raspberries, pie tins hung on strings all around the bushes that clatter and clang.
I was upstairs in the house and could hear all this noise and I wondered what he was doing, recycling metal, cans? I told him that I could hear how it would work. Sigh. I couldn’t sleep all night, he had no problem.
So I feel like the problem! I have had issues with noise often in my life and people tell me to wear ear plugs. I hate ear plugs! I need to hear, I just need my world to be less noisy. Sigh…….
I took an online quiz that popped up on facebook one day asking if you are hyper sensitive to noise. I just has to laugh when my results said that I am Severely Sensitive. Severe, yes it feels severe at times and this seems to be increasing, not sure if it is age or what. I have to find ways to cope. ” Adapt, flee or perish,” that is what they teach are nature’s choices when faced with challenges. I wish I was a bird so I could flee easily and fly away ( :
I think all the information on the internet these days about empaths and being highly sensitive has helped me to know that I am not the only one and I am not going crazy that I am this way inherited yes and from PTSD yes for me I believe, both. I have so enjoyed and gleamed a deeper understanding of this issue that has seemed to always plagued me through reading the wonderful articles shared on this site.
People who have influenced me:
I think my Dad’s DNA influenced me as he was a highly sensitive person. I have never quite figured him out as he was very sensitive for himself but he did not have empathy. My dad was also the cause of my PTSD because of his actions.
Influence of the positive kind has come to me through women I have known, Helen Horn from Quaker group was role model to me as was Joyce Noblet who I worked for at the age of 16 at Joyces’s Cafe, both were strong, capable, caring, dynamic women.
Some written words:
“Love will guide us, peace has tried us,
Hope inside us, will lead the way
On the road from greed to giving.
Love will guide us through the hard night.
If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot speak before thousands,
You can give from deep within you.
You can change the world with your love.
A life advice:
“Take deep breaths.” “Meditate” I am very thankful for Quaker meeting where 45 minutes are allotted to sitting and waiting. The discipline of holding still and listening is very nourishing for me. Also their forums where there is a customary pause between each utterance I find to be very calming in this world where most people talk over each other.
In my own words:
Ah Honey you are not alone. I know you feel alone. I know you are looking around at people and wondering why they don’t even notice SO many things! Why doesn’t that loud noise bother them? How can they just act like they don’t even hear it? Those bright lights flashing at the concert, they hurt your eyes! Or wait, nobody else is complaining. They all act like they are enjoying it? It makes no sense this world where everyone else needs so much stimulus but we just want to find someplace quiet with some fresh air.
Sometimes it cracks people up when they walk into the room and you jump out of your skin because they startled you, but it isn’t funny to you, it is painful. Your friends watch movies with violence, hyper-action scenes and gore, not for you. If you watch something like that you will think about it and dream about it for weeks trying to process it as if it was real.
You my dear are a sensitive soul and that doesn’t mean you are defected. It means that you take in more things than the average person at any one given moment. You are a deeper processor and can easily get over stimulated. You can more easily be irritated but you are also extra sensitive to the beauty and the love in the world. An act of kindness can bring a tear to your eye, a flower blooming in the crack of a sidewalk can fascinate you, In other words you have a gift or a curse, depends on how you channel it. Picture it as a magic wand, a wand can be used for good or for bad, your choice. You must learn how to work with your wand, instruct your wand, discipline your wand and my dear, if you do, you can weave magic! ( : Find time to be alone, to just be out in nature feeling the breeze and watching it make the leaves dance and just watch the shadows that the sun makes. If you can sit near a stream so that you can hear the tinkling sound. Nature is especially healing for us sensitives.
Sammie, 19, College Student
Find your way into the world on your own terms, life has rules and restrictions.
Who am I
Hi, my name is Sammie and I am from California. And I will be 19 this year. I am a freshman college student and live by the ocean. And no others aren’t as lucky as I am to be close to the sea. But in reality, I never see it, I spend my time drinking boba, going to school, and being with my boyfriend and pups. And I am a waitress at the moment and aspiring computer graphic designer. And hopes of finishing college. And truefully what matters to me is my boyfriend and honestly, I have parents that matter but have no empathy.
Be sensitive to the world is hard. Not knowing how to act or what to do. Or even how to be yourself. I have times most the time where I realize why do I feel others emotions, why am I so empathetic even though I shouldn’t be to that person.
I need to reintroduce myself my name is Sammie and I am a hyper-empathic person. I was told by my friend my junior year that I was an empath based on what she saw in me and I researched it and I thought so. But I was also overemotional. I found it easy to talk to people but to keep those relationships was even harder. And I realized after reading the article “Being an Empath/ Therapy and Coaching” I realized fully what I truly am. And have the want to change. But change is hard when you don’t know how to go about it. Being hyper-empathic is annoying and not knowing how to deal with things. To have relationships change because you can’t keep your emotions in or unable to stop yourself from saying something. The world is a cruel place and when being hyper-empathic and cry so much, that when you try to tell the truth, no one believes you. Or have no one actually know your crying or to know the true you. I’ve had to start hiding my true self because I realized not many people want to accept me as a hyper-empathic person or even know I am. I am an extrovert but have my introverted times. I might have gone off-topic but this is my story!
Well, music has been a big inspiration to me when I feel down or a library setting or that feeling when you have someone’s arms around you telling you that everything will be okay and saying I love you.
Music has inspired me to be happy, I listen to Korean Pop Music (K-Pop). Something different, they change my mindset into different ways and make me happy when I don’t know what to do. K-Pop has influenced me so much and I found a couple of others to share it with.
And the idea of a library setting makes me happy so quiet and peaceful without hardship or anything to disturb it. And the atmosphere changes my mindset to be shy, quiet and at peace.
And having someone arms around you is the best feeling. When you feel down and that person is there. It makes me feel so happy. To have someone to do that as being a hyper-empathic person is amazing and sometimes he doesn’t get why I do sometimes and he said I can be controlling. I need to change to be able to be in love and have that warm that I have always wanted.
People who have influenced me:
Cinderella has influenced me in so many ways I can’t explain. She made me into a person I thought I wanted to be. And still unsure of who I want to be or to actually be a person in the living. The people around me have influenced me to think this and created depression, but to think that Cinderella was the main inspiration for my first and only personality for a long while was amazing.
Some written words:
They want you to be someone you are not
They want to change you,
They make you feel Depressed,
They impact your Life
Society has rules that don’t follow it
Follow what you believe in
Follow your right and wrong
Don’t be society be your own person
A life advice:
Some advice from this college student is to be in living and have fun. Find others that accept you for you and not someone your not. If they want you to change, don’t do it become the self you want to be.
In your own words:
Find your way into the world on your own terms, life has rules and restrictions. Be the one to go against them and be yourself.
Florence, 19, Wales UK
‘Never be afraid to go with your flow,
For there is no greater strength than to just letting go.’
Who Am I
Hello, My name is Florence brown and I am 19 years old. I’m originally from Pembrokeshire, Wales but I currently live and study illustration at Falmouth University, Cornwall. My main hobbies have always included aspects of the creative arts, such as drawing, writing poetry, singing and playing/listening to music. These things are at the core of my being, including the things I value most; My family, my close friends and a love of the natural environment and animals. I have always enjoyed being out in nature, or in the sea, pushing my limits at sports, surfing the waves at my local break and skateboarding when the sun is out.
Since a very young age, I always felt different. I was more of a tomboy growing up, living an active and sports-filled lifestyle which I know the girls in my primary school never really understood. I was blessed with amazing parents who raised me in a loving home along with a great education so I never felt I was being judged or neglected for the way that I felt growing up, which is something I am extremely grateful for. I was always and still am a happy and energetic girl, but could always sense the emotion of others as well as the subtilties of a social situation and would become really deeply upset when I didn’t visually enjoy an environment I was in. I even remember once googling why I felt this way on a holiday in France at 11 years old, being surrounded by this beautiful place but just not feeling satisfied or happy where I was and never truly understanding these deeper feelings of mine. I was and still am a very extroverted and social person, which I feel sets me aside from a lot of the people with these same traits who would rather be alone with a good book. Believe me I tried! but my mind wouldn’t be able to sit still in the constant stream of thoughts, which ended up developing into a love of writing creative stories rather than reading them, as my imagination would be able to run wild. Later on in life, when I was 16, the negative side of these ‘intensities’ reared its ugly head and I was introduced to my first experience of proper anxiety on a night when I couldn’t sleep, then my crazy mind then worried about not sleeping which created a cycle of panic attacks every night. This really shook me as I’d never experienced this sort of mental pain before and it took me a little over a year to properly get over. I happily talked about it to anyone who would listen, asking how everyone slept the night before, secretly praying someone would understand exactly what I was going through. I refused to go to the doctors mainly because I knew it wasn’t an anxiety disorder but an aspect of my overthinking personality which I needed to stop running away from and learn about and fully understand, also partly because I knew this was something I could work through with a therapist and a lot of ‘soul-searching’. Eventually and proudly I got myself through it, but it left me with a fear of how deep and scary of a place my mind is capable of being, and that fear all stems from the feeling of being out of control of myself which is something I am still working through.
Although I never loved to read books, I could spend hours reading poetry. Poems and quotes always had a way of making me feel more understood during times where I really felt unable to cope in my mind. At night when I was anxious and unable to sleep, I’d sift through endless poems looking for the words that would understand me. One of my favourite poems is ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley with one line in particular “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Another poet who I would recommend for anyone struggling to understand themselves is a girl called Erin Hanson, also known as ‘the poetic underground’. She’s only a few years older than me but I felt through her work that she knows exactly how being a person like me feels and she expresses it beautifully with her words. Movies were also a go-to escape for me when my thoughts got too much, especially films that had some cheesy cliche about getting through the hard times, the more imaginative and fantasy-filled the better! For example, my favourite all-time movies are the lord of the rings and hobbit trilogy’s, but I also love and recommend other favourites such as goodwill hunting and the dead poets society. Coraline was also a beautifully creative film that I enjoyed. Despite my love for both poetry and films, I can say confidently that music spoke to me the most and without it I don’t know where I’d be. One particular song that I’d never heard of before came on in the shower around my darkest of times, one line, in particular, made me break down and realise something needed to change, it was the turning point of my recovery and I listen to it every time I struggle, it’s called ‘Home’ by Philip Philips and the line is “those who are lost can always be found”. This has forever stuck with me. Other songs include the cheesy but comforting ‘Chiquitita’ by ABBA, ‘Rise up’ by Andra Day, ‘Nobody knows’ by the Lumineers and ‘Scare away the dark’ by Passenger. The list could go on but I’d be here all night!
People who have influenced me
So many people have touched my life and ever so gently influenced the way I live it, but none more so than my parents. I thank both my mum and dad every day for giving me the best possible childhood a person could ask for. Endless days on the beach, climbing trees, walking the dog through beautiful scenery and unconditional love was always offered. They taught me the beauty of nature, the importance of being outside and appreciating the small things that life has to offer. Always allowing me to express myself and supporting the ever-changing journeys I take, especially during times when I know I was difficult for them to understand.
My Nana is also a big influencer in my life. She was the most free-spirited and strongest woman I’ve ever known. At her funeral, all four walls were covered in pictures of her (with a constant smile) living her amazing life. Her travels and her need for adventure and experience was always something I’d admired so deeply yet always took for granted when she was here and I was young. Now she lives within the wild horses I see galloping freely along the coastal path back home, where she belongs.
Lastly, my friends, along with anyone that has learned to ‘master their mind’ and helps others to do so too is and always will be such a huge inspiration to me. To all these people, I have nothing but unconditional love and gratitude.
Some written words
This is the first poem I’d ever written from when I was going through my anxiety and it is what got me into writing poems from then on.
‘Depth of the Sea’
I would distract myself from the depth of the sea,
for there were fears below that I dreaded to see.
I’d fight with the waves and push through the tide,
in fear that I’d drown in the depth of the mind.
When my future looked bleak,
growing tired and weak
I gave myself in to the depth of the sea.
Once under, I threatened to open my eyes,
worried I’d see pain and fear and lies.
But what awaited me as I floated beneath,
was such beauty and treasure that lay before me.
Never again will I fear the tide,
It’s a place I call home where my soul now abides.
Never be afraid to go with your flow,
For there is no greater strength than to just letting go.
It’s definitely a bit rough around the edges but the general message of this poem simply states that we must not fear our nature, fight our storms or try to ignore who we really are. The sooner we embrace every part of ourselves, bad and good, and allow ourselves to really feel what we are going through without attaching fear and thoughts to this negative emotion, the sooner it loses its power to hurt us. It can be the scariest thing we ever do but it will change your life.
A life advice
The best advice I’ve ever been given is on the phone to my Nana when she was really sick, she said “Flossy, just remember; Don’t focus on the end result, just enjoy the journey.” And that has always stuck with me. I think everyone, especially people like me who are constant over-thinkers and emotional beings worry too much about how things MAY turn out and what COULD happen, causing so much more mental damage. Focus on the progress, the little steps, do not let your mind wonder onto the endless and dreadful ‘what-ifs’, allow yourself to enjoy every little moment of your journey that is presented to you and always be someone else’s reason to smile, no matter what your going through.
In my own words
I would tell them that they are not alone, that what they have is a gift and that when your born to love your also cursed to feel. It can be scary having a mind as deep and sensitive as yours but the positives will ALWAYS outweigh the negatives, even when it really doesn’t feel this way. Your ability allows you to appreciate and express your creativity and imagination through art, music, writing, nature etc. and can be a beautiful gift if taught how.
Secondly, I would say not to trust everything you think. Your thoughts control your emotions and reactions, they can even control every aspect of your life if you allow them to. The trick is to remember than thoughts are endless and meaningless, it’s only when we choose to give attention to a thought that it grows in power. When we choose to disconnect ourselves from our thoughts and realise that we are not what we think, can we truly realise how powerless they actually are. This has been the greatest and hardest lesson I have learned and am still trying to overcome, but to truly understand this will set you free.
Lastly, I would say that you are normal! and it’s okay not to be okay, we all have struggles, we just interpret them differently. As long as you just keep going and constantly look to better yourself and your state of mind you’re going to be okay. Treat everything as a lesson and by the end of your time on earth you’ll be a master of mindfulness. I also know that what helped me most was helping others, being an emotionally intense person allows me to really connect with and understand peoples problems which furthermore allowed me to help others by giving advice. Not only is this the greatest gift to others, but it is also the greatest gift you will ever give to yourself, and I hope you use it well.
Loesje, 38, The Netherlands
“You are a unique human being, there is no other like you”
My Name: Loesje
Who am I:
I am from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
I am 38 years old, I am married to my first love for 15 years now, and we have 3 amazing kids. I see my self in my oldest son, he seems to be highly sensitive. I love to see him carry this witch such confidence and I am proud of him!
Unfortunately, I just have been diagnosed with C-PTSD. my psychologist helpt me understand my trauma’s which I had buried very well.
I was a sensitive child with a mother who physically and verbally abused me and my siblings. it was very hard for us to grow up in this way. the moment i was able to leave it was like i forgot everything and we never spoke of it again.
although married with the kindest man, and being blessed with my lovely kids. I always was feeling a numbness, a sadness I couldn’t place. but also I couldn’t experience real joy. thinking back with what I know now, I am in a grieving state at the moment. trying to reconnect with my inner self seeing my son growing up with the freedom and trust to be himself I see the potential that is missed out of. my goal is to reach my inner child and grow up al over again.
I used to be ashamed of my intense emotions, but now I am trying to embrace them!
I love to read and listen to music. I don’t have a genre, everything that touches my soul I love experiencing
I read a lot of articles and blogs. I was feeling a little bit lost for days and I typed in google: “why do I feel empty inside?”
in the search, I saw your article posted in Psychology Today. it hit me in the face… all those therapy hours, all my thinking and rethinking.. and here it was.. my life story! I am so grateful for your article, it helpt me so much to understand what is going on with me, it allows me to understand it and to address it.
Some written words: show kindness
In my own words: what I say to my son;
You are a unique human being, there is no other like you ( meaning that everybody is unique) so don’t conform to another, but conform to your self, being true to your self will make you a better person.
give kindness to everyone and everything around you, your smile can make a difference
Michael Allen; California
“faith is the sum of learned experience. My experience is that I have survived; that I am here to write this today.”
Who am I
I was born and raised in California …. all over California. As I child I moved every year up until High School. I am nearly 60. I have lived throughout California and the Pacific Northwest, Minneapolis, and now, Florida (hopefully my final destination). I greatly enjoy it here and I think it is my favourite spot. My worst … Minneapolis. Grey, cold, and uninviting.
I am disabled now, retired after a long career as a nurse and a Nurse Practitioner. My speciality was in Critical Care, Trauma, and Neurosurgery. I did, however, start two programs in Palliative Care in Southern Oregon, of which I am quite proud. I miss working dearly and may find a way to go back in some capacity.
I feel like my greatest goals … what matters to me … is compassion and listening. I am a “fixer,” by nature, but later in my career, I learned the art of bearing witness. It was in many ways the most fulfilling part of the practice.
I feel new to all this. For years I was misdiagnosed. I suffered from severe substance abuse and spent the majority of my adult life practicing aversion … pushing away and covering up the problems, primarily childhood events whose memory cause so much pain. My alcoholism led to the end of my career.
After that I suddenly, seemly, suffered a change and had an exponential increase in the intensity and severity of my emotional state. It was characterized by an excruciating fear of abandonment, particularly from one friend. It was crippling and led to self harm. I am only recovering now, six months later.
I am incredibly sensitive, and feel intense shame in the instance of making the smallest mistake, real or perceived. Medicine is a field of judgements, and we (providers) don’t always make the right ones. I felt months, sometimes years of pain when something went wrong.
As well, I’m somewhat hypersensitive to the reactions of those around me. At the slightest hint of disapproval or withdrawal, I can fall into an incredible panic, deep pain, and feelings of guilt and shame. My first childhood memories are of this experience. It’s been lifelong and has had significant consequences in life choices and relationships.
By nature, I am a “fixer.” I think this is occupational, but also more valued than in acceptance in my culture and with my gender. The Zen concepts of accepting and bearing witness have come with difficulty to me. The dialectic of change/acceptance is very challenging. I have to work on it every hour of every day.
Most of the world doesn’t get me. I remember my father telling me, “Why can’t you just be like everybody else?” The pain of that statement tears me apart to this day. And yet, I think most of the others in my life feel the same way … it’s just unsaid.
One of the first books that really impacted my life was Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene.” It was taught by a brilliant English Literature professor at University. It brought forth some critical thoughts on morality and human choices that impact me to this day.
I have also been taught much (and have applied) by the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh. In addition, I also frequently watch videocasts from his monastery, Plum Village, in France. These videos have been crucial to my recovery.
Music has been a large part of my life since my teenage years. When everything falls apart, when all else fails, when the world becomes dark and dangerous, I listen to Evanescence. Their songs are essentially prayers in hard rock clothing. Their music has, quite literally, saved my life at times.
If you can consider it a resource, the beach is one of my most special. The sound, the smell, the sun are remarkably healing to me, and it’s the primary reason I moved to Florida. I’m there quite regularly.
People who have influenced me:
I saw this question a few days ago and I’m really, really struggling with it. The most honest answer is, “I really don’t have anybody.” That might sound strange, but it’s true. I feel like I’ve always taken little parts of people’s character and made it my own. I feel quite like a character in a movie; a compilation of ideas but nobody real. If anything, I struggle NOT to be anything like my parents.
This question, and my reflection on it, has been quite frightening.
Some written words:
The writing that has most resonated with me over the past few years is that from the book “Faith,” by Sharon Salzberg. She writes that faith is the sum of learned experience. My experience is that I have survived; that I am here to write this today. That is a start and gives me some hope in the world that things can change and get better. I think about the concept all the time.
A life advice:
“Sit with it.”
I’ve learned this in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and from my Zen teachers. It has become very valuable to me, while at the same time quite challenging. It’s taken a lot of practice and a lot of learning.
But it’s so valuable.
In your own words:
Find a way, any way, to accept and love yourself. As an intense person, I have always been mistrustful of people who say they love me, and it has been nearly impossible for me to ever internalize the words, “I love you.” I’m not sure I’ve ever meant them. It’s left me with profound regret. Don’t make the same mistake.
Michele, 56, Australia
‘you are discerning now, so it’s safe to learn to trust others too.’
Who am I
I was born in Sydney and lived there for the first nine years of my life. My fondest memories and experiences involve water and animals and the spicy scent of the Australian bush.
One of my earliest memories is of my father taking me into the surf and the epic battle to get beyond the fierce, roaring, towering, boiling maelstrom of breaking water to the calm, glassy green haven beyond. Floating in my father’s arms under the deep blue sky of high summer on a rolling swell that rocked us so soothingly and quietly.
When I was three, we visited Taronga Zoo and it was a defining time as it set the circuitous course to my current career. It was a hot day and we visited the African elephant’s enclosure. In those days, the poor animals lived in a concrete jungle without any ‘enrichment’. They had no water and my heart nearly broke for their beautiful selves as they stood with the crowd pointing and gawping at them, laughing and making so much noise but they were thirsty and hot. That day was born in me an acute awareness of the breathtaking beauty yet fragility of our brothers and sisters in whiskers and tails and of our responsibility to treat them with love and respect. Although my undergrad degree was in music, at 38 I went back to night school to get senior level maths and chemistry so that I could study a Master’s degree in Environmental Science. It was a huge struggle and I started psychotherapy because of the acute stressed it caused. It turns out that I’m dyslexic and all my feelings of inadequacy and fear from early school years were triggered. However, I finished and felt incredibly proud because I only found out about the dyslexia in the final semester. I reckon if I’d known about the dyslexia I would never have even started LOL. I landed some great jobs working on interesting and ground-breaking projects that involve making buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.
While the projects were exciting and enabled me to use my creativity in the service of big problems like Climate Change, they took an enormous toll on my health. One day, the will to go back to the office again, to the toxic environment, to the sociopaths and narcissists was too much to bear. I have always struggled to be assertive and any hint of disharmony or emotionally unhealthy bosses/work colleagues triggers a traumatic response. Around this time, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, that is the body attacking itself. I couldn’t blame it, it was reflecting these deeply held beliefs that I don’t deserve to take up space, that I am worthless scum.
I’m an INFJ and Enneagram 4 – the Artist/Individualist
School started out as a huge shock, alien and forbidding and I clung to my mother until she disengaged my hand from hers and left me crying in the corner. While I felt like a fish out of water at primary school, I did love high school because I loved music and my music teacher was a surrogate mother. In addition to my grade 5 teacher, who was also wonderful (and probably saved my life), my music teacher was the first person who had a soft spot for me and it was such a balm to my neglected heart.
When I was 8 my parents had a trial separation and the ground which I had taken for granted as a solid foundation, fell away. At 9, my narcissistic mother left my father one day when he was at work. My mother sent me to school and then turned up with my little two year old brother in tow and announced that we were going, that minute to live in Melbourne with her new man. My ‘step father’ was abusive and sadistic and I was made the ‘scapegoat’ of the family. I desperately missed my father but when I used to visit, he was bereft and drank himself into unconsciousness each night to ease the pain of his broken heart.
The worst time in my life was in my 20s, as I felt like a castaway in a small boat floating on a dark and forbidding sea. I felt like I didn’t exist, like a ghost, fragile and empty. I had avoided dating boys/men because they all seemed to wear the mask of my step-father – cruel, demanding and lecherous and I had no skin for protection. And, my mother’s boyfriends were predators. I ended up with a narcissistic married man, who did leave his wife and we lived together until he kicked me out as he didn’t want to be in a position to pay me out, if we split up. After that the thought of suicide became a constant companion.
On this sea of black, a tiny, distant light appeared in the form of a woman who I sat next to in a choir one day. She practiced Reiki and I knew instantly that she placed her hands on my shoulders that I would also practice Reiki. Rei-ki translates as ‘universal life force’ and it was the start of my healing journey at age 32. Not long after, I met a lovely woman in a personal development group on healing the inner child and she has been my partner now for 24 years. She is stable, loving, kind and funny and has helped me to learn to like myself and to experience love. Having said that, I do still struggle with intimacy and showing my true feelings to her. This is a work in progress.
Despite all the ‘work’ the C-PTSD has continued to plague me and I was under the impression that there is no ‘cure’ for it. But recently I discovered Havening and EFT or tapping. These pyscho sensory techniques (like EMDR) can resolve trauma, where it is lodged – in the body (not the event) so for the past four months I’ve been seeing the most wonderful therapist and slowly working through the catalogue of hurts. It’s been very, very difficult but I am hopeful that at some point, a lot of the trauma will be resolved and I can again find joy in the things I love and some peace too.
What are some of the books, movies, art, music, websites or resources that have inspired or helped you?
Music: Beethoven’s Ninth and Pastoral Symphony’s; Bach, St Matthew Passion; Brahms, German Requiem; Mozart, Requiem; Verdi, La Traviata; Puccini, Madame Butterfly, La Boheme; Poulenc, Dialogues of the Carmelites; Tchaikovsky, Symphony No’s 4, 5, 6. Piano Concerto No. 1…and many more.
Books: The Lord of the Rings; Dark Materials; and the hero, Harry Potter.
Movies: Local Hero; The Hours; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; The Sound of Music.
People who have influenced me
My greatest inspiration is the character in an opera called Dialogues of the Carmelites. It’s the story of Blanche de la Force, a young aristocrat who, since her mother died when she was very young is anxious and afraid. She becomes a nun, thinking to flee the terror of the French Revolution but death finds her at the nunnery. It’s based on a true story and in the end of the opera all the nuns are sent to the guillotine. They start to sing together, the Salve Regina and one by one their voices are silenced. Blanche is the very last but in the midst of the horror, she transcends her fear. Her trauma is transformed and she is suffused with love and peace. She is no longer afraid.
My current and totally wonderful therapist, who has transcended her own trauma-filled life and serious mental illness to so generously share of herself and the wisdom of her experience and inspired healing gifts.
Imi, whose wonderful, gentle compassion has conceived and created this beautiful resource. So affirming.
Some written words
My great passion is classical music and I find the last movement of the Brahms German Requiem to be very moving.
‘…Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’
A life advice
When you are vulnerable and in your trauma, then ‘just trust yourself’ but this can change to ‘you are discerning now, so it’s safe to learn to trust others too.’
Love is the most powerful ‘force’ in the universe and to hear someone who loves you say ‘I love you’ is an immeasurably valuable gift. But for damaged (adult) children it can be hard to hear/accept. Work at opening your heart, yoga can be good for that (but only when you are ready ).
In my own words
Never give up on yourself. You are a beautiful and unique soul. Every tiny bit of new growth and healing will ease the suffering of others too. Keep looking, keep striving to find and celebrate your true self. No matter how hard it might be to find, to recognise it or to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Follow your path with the intention to heal. Fill your heart with hope. You can do it.