Mental Health Marathon

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

7 Things You Should Know About Mentally “Getting Better” 

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Fortunately, people are slowly starting to realize that mental health is an important, and necessary, topic of conversation.  There is a growing effort to help people become better informed about various mental health related subjects, and articles about anxiety and depression are easily found in most mainstream news sources.  You can, for example,  find foods to fight the blues, tips for coping with everyday stressors, and even mental healthcare resources fairly easily these days.  Society seems to support maintaining balance and achieving the “right” state of mind.  Many people are seeking out avenues to “get better,” and each year even more people seek professional help.  There is something, however, that gets overlooked in this sea of helpful information and resources, and that something is what the actual process of healing is like for most people.  As we like to do in our society, we tend to glorify the process of “getting help” for a mental illness by focusing on the fan fare of taking the first step on the “getting better” journey and then fast forwarding to the arm flailing crossing of the finish line or “the cure.”  Having been on this path myself for several years, and still feeling like it is a bit premature to start popping open celebratory bottles of champagne, I think there are aspects of dealing with a mental illness that need to be looked at more thoughtfully in perhaps a slow motion or instant reply fashion.  Here is what I would like anyone starting the mental health marathon to consider:

  1. The novelty wears off.  When I was unable to sleep for three days in a row, refusing to eat, and standing in a corner staring at a wall for three hours at a time, people were more than supportive of me getting help for my anxiety.  There were constant check-ins, high-fives, and “good jobs.”  Just picking myself up off the floor was enough to earn some praise.  As you start to get better, those extremes aren’t as frequent or noticeable.  When you are actually able to pick yourself up, get yourself to work, and function during the day, that is a huge win.  What feels like a huge win to you, however, won’t always look that spectacular to the spectators in your life.  This lack of enthusiasm can be discouraging, and your unhealthy self might try and convince you that no one notices your efforts, or that nobody cares.  Your healing self, however, should take this as another win, because it means the people around you are starting to view you as more stable and functional.  It’s not out of the ordinary for you to have a good day, so they don’t act out of the ordinary when you do.
  2. People start to expect more out of you when you seem better.  Perhaps when you were at your worst, people wouldn’t even ask you for a glass of water if they were on fire, because they weren’t sure how you’d react.  Maybe you could let laundry and dishes pile up for months on end, and people kind of just left you alone.  When you start to get better, people start to expect you to be better.  They aren’t viewing you as a person on the brink of disaster, so they feel comfortable requiring more out of you.  This can be overwhelming for someone trying to heal, because the process of healing is already draining enough.   A person trying to work through anxiety or depression has to exert a lot more energy during the day to stay “in-check” than people realize.  Just because you look better from the outside, that doesn’t mean you are 100% better on the inside.  Your unhealthy self will feel unappreciated and draw the conclusion that you will never be able to do enough to please the people in your life.  It may even tell you to give up.  The healing self, however, will recognize that you are starting to look like a healthy person, and this is why people think it’s no big deal to ask you for a little more.  They feel like you are someone reliable.  They think you are someone that will be able to follow through, which means they aren’t tip toeing around you anymore.  It means you are getting stronger.
  3. The further you are on your journey the harder the fall.  You will fall.  You will fall at the beginning of your journey.  You will fall in the middle of your journey, and you will fall even after you swore the journey was over.  That is to be expected, but what is not expected is just how much more it hurts to fall the longer you have been running.  You would think that the more times you fall, the easier it would get to bounce back up, but it’s not for some reason.  This may have something to do with the fact that if feels really good when you can manage yourself better for longer periods of time.  It feels good to be in control, and once you see what you can do, and get used to the smooth sailing feeling, it is extremely upsetting to suddenly have a panic attack or a bout of depression.  Your unhealthy self will make fun of you and tell you that you are just fooling yourself if you believe you are anything but a broken, flawed person. This self-defeatist thinking is what helps keep you down even longer.  Your healing self needs to step up when this happens to remind you of just how few and far between these episodes now occur.  It is easy to lose sight of where you once were, and the progress you have made, if you are only focused on a perfect finish.
  4. Your new self will loathe your old self.  When you start to heal, you will gain a new perspective.  This new perspective often involves a bit of clarity, as well as taking more responsibility for the person you once were.  When you are having a mental crises, or stuck in a really dark spot, you can be a very ugly person.  You may have said things that hurt the people you love, and you may have done things that you feel can never be forgiven.  It may be painful to talk about the past as you heal, and you might be really angry at yourself for not doing something sooner.  Your unhealthy self will try and trick you into believing you are a fundamentally bad person that doesn’t deserve to be happy.  Your healing self will need to work overtime when this happens to remind you that you cannot change the past.  All you have is the present, and in the present moment you are trying to be your best.  It also helps to remember that the fact you even recognize you hurt people through your words and actions in the past, shows that you aren’t a bad person in the present.  You are becoming a caring, healing person that wants to do better.
  5. Your new self will envy your old self.  I feel a little guilty admitting this one, but there will be days when you will seriously feel like it would be much easier to just go back to being a mess.  It is really exhausting to actively participate in healing and self-work.  The mental strain of constantly self-regulating, practicing coping strategies, being cautious of triggers, and steering clear of emotional potholes is not for the weak.  When you are a mess, people don’t expect much out of you.  If you want to sit on the floor and have a fit, you can.  If you want to skip work and lay in bed all day, go for it.  Your unhealthy self will continually sabotage your thinking by telling you how carefree your life could be if you just went back to being your old unreliable self.  Your healing self, however, will hopefully remind you how it made you feel to constantly let people down and not feel like you were living up to your true potential.
  6. You will always be the same person to some people no matter how much you change.  There will always be those people in your life that can’t let go of the person you used to be.  They might tease you about how nervous you used to get, or they might continue to walk circles around you to avoid upsetting you.  Even though you may be a completely different person, they are trapped in old ways of thinking about you.   Again, your unhealthy self will want you to believe that you can’t win and no matter what you do people will always have a negative view of you.  Your healing self knows, however, that this journey is about you and not other people.  You can’t control other people’s perceptions of you, but you can control how you see yourself.  Focus on that.
  7. There is no finish line.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are running the mental health marathon with the hopes of it being over soon, your are going to be greatly disappointed.  Mental illness isn’t a fad or trend, and there is no magical cure.  If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you will probably need to manage your anxiety and depression your whole life.  Yes, you are always going to be running.  Your unhealthy self might want to throw in the towel upon hearing this news, but hopefully your healing self recognizes the value in building stamina and endurance for this race and your longterm goals.

Mental illness is tricky at times, but I am not in competition with my anxiety.  I am aware of what it can do to me and the people in my life, but I am continually in the process of learning how to coexist harmoniously with it as well. It may sound unbelievable, but there are aspects of my anxiety that I feel have been positive for me.  Because of my own struggles with emotional wellbeing, for example, I am very sensitive to the struggles of others.  My journey with anxiety has made me more sensitive to the emotional needs of the people in my life.  I recognize anxiety in people, and I can offer field tested strategies in the moment.  I know when someone needs me to listen, and I have great empathy for any person that is even participating in this race.  I think instead of seeking a fast and glamorous photo finish, the goal should be to stay on the track, avoid swallowing too much dust, and try to keep the sweat out of your eyes.  That seems a bit more manageable in the long run.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

To All the Lonely HSPs

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.
Douglas Coupland-
I am a highly sensitive person, and I am lonely a good portion of the time.  I recently talked about loneliness on my podcast HSP SOS #29 “I Feel Lonely”, and it has become abundantly clear that my loneliness stems not from a lack of people in my life, but from a lack of understanding.  I came to this epiphany through a mindfulness activity where I listed anything I could think of that made me feel lonely.  It was difficult at first, but once I was done, I felt as though I had rediscovered a piece of myself, and in talking about my loneliness with other highly sensitive people I also discovered that I am not alone in feeling this way.  Many HSPs enjoy solitude.  It is the judgement, criticism, and misunderstanding of their nature that makes them feel alone.  In an effort to remind other HSPs that they are not alone, I am sharing what makes me feel lonely here.
I feel lonely when…
  • I feel lonely when… people misinterpret my intentions, or tell me they do not believe me when I tell them that is not what I meant.
  • I feel lonely when… I want to talk about my troubles with a loved one, but I can’t.  I worry how my sad news will impact them, so I don’t say what is on my mind.
  • I feel lonely when… I  get really upset about corruption, injustice, violence, or prejudice- and everyone around me thinks I am being too intense.
  • I feel lonely when… my mood is different from everyone else around me.  If I am at a party, and everyone else is laughing and having a good time, then I feel like my presence is just going to bring everyone down.
  • I feel lonely when… people stop talking to me, because they are mad at someone I associate with.
  • I feel lonely when… I am passionate about an idea, project, or cause, and no one around me seems as interested or excited.
  • I feel lonely when… people keep information from me, because they worry I am going to get emotional or “overreact”.
  • I feel lonely when …I know I am being misunderstood and I try to explain myself, and the other person says they don’t want to talk about it.  They tell me I need to stop bringing up the past and just “get over it.”
  • I feel lonely when… I don’t find a sarcastic joke funny or enjoy teasing, and I am told to lighten up.
  • I feel lonely when… people call me needy or codependent thinking I constantly need to be in contact with people, when all I really want is to be acknowledged and accurately heard.

So yeah, my conclusion for me is that I do not feel lonely in the absence of people.  I enjoy alone time and solitude.  I feel lonely in the presence of people who misunderstand me.  To me that is the epitome of feeling alone.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

I Feel Weird

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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My Christmas morning confession is this… I feel weird! I am not particularly depressed or anxious.  I am not necessarily disappointed or upset because I had hoped that things would have shaped up differently.  I am just sitting here alone in my apartment, fireplace going with a cup of mint tea by my side, feeling pretty off.  The feeling started towards the end of the evening last night, and I tried my best to shake it.  I spent time with my loved ones, and nothing transpired that would warrant a foul mood.  Still I sensed myself turning inward, and I found myself sitting quietly away from everyone else.  I could feel myself getting annoyed by being asked, “what’s wrong?”  I felt guilty for not wanting to talk.  I always appreciate that people care enough to show concern, but when I don’t know what’s wrong, I hate that people ask. It always leads to the filling in of the blanks as we try and figure out what’s going one with me.  

Am I sad that my daughter is with her father this morning instead of with me?  

Am I missing my grandmother?  

Did I forget to eat yesterday?

Am I upset that El Nino has created unseasonably warm temperatures in the Midwest, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas?

Should I have said something to my mom about her mom not being here this year?  Was it disrespectful not to?

Have I just had too much people time, and  I need to take some time to recharge?

Did I spend too much this year on gifts or not enough?

Am I bothered by the wrapping paper, bows, and glitter strewn across the carpet?

Do I need to get some of those papers graded, so I can enjoy the rest of my time off?

Did those cookies have red dye in them, and now they are impacting my mood?

Do I want to be alone?

Do I want company?

Am I worried about attending my brother’s party?

Are the holiday decorations invading too much of my space?

Was that post about the orphan babies too emotional for me to read before going to bed?

Should I have had breakfast and my vitamins already?

Am I concerned about where I’m going to fit all of my daughter’s new toys?

Was it just not as meaningful as Christmases past?

Am I concerned that I’m ruining the day for everyone else, because I can’t get out of this funk?

The answer to all of these questions is… I don’t know?  No and yes?  The only thing I know with any certainty is that I feel weird.  Again, I am not depressed or anxious.  I am just kind of existing here in this space right now.  It’s almost like my mind and body can’t even process my emotions.  I am tempted to beat myself up.  I am tempted to put on some holiday music, down some eggnog, and force feed myself the holiday cheer.  The last thing I ever want to do is have my weird mood affect those around me.  I am almost to the point of letting a little of the anxiety in, and then I remind myself that I am a highly sensitive person.  I am an introvert.  I am extremely sensitive to everything around me, and I AM an intensely emotional person.  Weird is just a feeling like happy or sad.  The holidays are a deviation from the norm, and I’m just feeling what I’m feeling simple as that.  There’s nothing wrong, so I don’t have to invent a reason to tell other people.  I don’t need to feel guilty for not being something else.  In this moment, I think I just need to accept the fact that I feel a bit strange.  Maybe there are other people out there feeling the same way today thinking they shouldn’t?  If so, all I have to say is Merry Christmas let’s feel weird!  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

Seasonal Spiraling

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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“Life is like a spiral of good and bad experiences.  You are never static.  You are moving up or down the spiral.  The CHOICE of direction is YOURS.” -P.D.M. Dolce

Listen to HSP S.O.S. #23- Where we discuss Seasonal Spiraling

When I start to feel a little anxious or stressed, I count things.  I count steps on staircases, cracks in sidewalks, windows on buildings, and anything else I can find to stop myself from spiraling into another dimension.  It’s a coping mechanism I’ve been taught to help ground myself when I am feeling overwhelmed.  It’s ironic then, that I find great comfort in counting fractals.  Fractals are never-ending patterns.  They are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop.  Fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos.  I stop myself from spiraling endlessly by counting endless spirals.  Now that’s a cerebral INFJ coping mechanism if I ever heard one.

I’m not writing this to talk about fractals or chaos theory, or to further illustrate how my highly sensitive mind over analyzes every minute detail of existence.  I’m writing this, because this time of year, I find myself using this technique more often.  I find myself in a repeating pattern of something I call Seasonal Spiraling.  Seasonal Spiraling starts for me directly after Halloween and continues through the new year.  It starts with countdowns, schedules, and expectations.  I’ve seen movies about how you are supposed to be during the holidays.  I know you are supposed to wear matching sweaters, drink egg nog, and smile blissfully as you open shiny packages.  For me, however, the image in my mind never really matches the reality.  

My family has always celebrated holidays begrudgingly.  Comments like, “I can’t wait for the holidays to be over,” started in late October.  As a child, the holiday season was always stressful.  My mother worked retail, so her hours increased.  She came home more exhausted each night as the countdown to Christmas began.  My father, a machinist, worked the night shift, and his work increased around this time as well.  We never had a lot of money growing up, so Christmas became about budget, guilt, and the constant sense of disappointment for my parents.  I watched my mother sit up late at night balancing her checkbook, and I knew she was worried.  As a child, I too couldn’t wait for the holidays to be over, so my family could just get back to normal.  

It is undoubtedly my sensitivity to childhood moments like this that leads to my Seasonal Spiraling as an adult.  I love the concept of the holidays, but I despise what it does to people at times.  Under obligation, we find ourselves in the company of those we’ve worked hard to avoid throughout the year.  We find ourselves stressing over what to buy our children, and all those other people in our lives that we never know what to get.  I listen at work as mothers complain that their sons are spending the holidays with their girlfriends instead of family.  I absorb the heartache of those that have lost loved ones, and watch helplessly as they contemplate making it through their first Christmas without this special person.  What should be a time of celebration has become for a lot of people an incredible time of stress.  It has become a time of Seasonal Spiraling.

I don’t really have any answers.  All I know is that I want the world to take a collective deep breath, maybe count some fractals with me to relax.  I guess I’d just like to take myself out of the equation if for any reason any of my loved ones are experiencing Seasonal Spiraling on my behalf.  Maybe I can offer some suggestions of what I’d like for Christmas, incase that’s been a worry?

So here’s my list:

  1. Do not feel obligated to invite me to your house if you haven’t talked to me all year.  It’s okay.  I won’t take it personally.
  2. If you send Christmas cards, then I am delighted I’m on your list.  If you don’t, don’t feel bad.  I think I send some out once every five years.  Oh, and it doesn’t matter to me if it’s religious, non-religious, or whatever other style of greeting you might send.  I won’t get offended.
  3. I don’t need to eat off your good China, or drink out of your holiday crystal.  Just saying.  I’m less likely to break a paper plate.
  4. I don’t need a gift.  If you want to give me a gift, that’s cool.  Just know that I don’t really need stuff.  If you want to make me a tree out of pipe cleaners and write me a personal note, then do it.  I like that kind of stuff better anyway.
  5. My daughter is like me, and she will appreciate the fact that you even thought about her.  No need to email me multiple times stressed out asking what to get her.  Simplicity is best, and I’m trying to teach her that the holidays are about people and not things.
  6. Conversation, a cup of coffee, and a holiday hug… That’s all I really need from my friends.
  7. If you’ve been working too hard to make the traditional family bundt cake for our get-together, that’s okay.  It’s only cake. I’ll live.
  8. Any time you feel like you hate the holidays, take a moment to step back and ask yourself why you feel this way.  As a gift to me, please take a moment to rest.  
  9. Be present!  Yes, by being present is a present.  Don’t be so over scheduled and busy that you can’t appreciate the magic of a warm fireplace or the crystal sparkle of freshly fallen snow.  Life exists beyond this season, and beneath the piles of tinsel, flashing lights, and pine scented air, we are all still the same people we have been all year long.  We still need our loved ones with us and in the moment at this time of year.
  10. As the quote above mentions, life IS a spiral of good and bad experiences.  Don’t get caught up in expectations and go on a downward spiral when something doesn’t go according to plan.  Life is change.  We aren’t static, but we can make a choice to make the best out of any circumstance.  I have no expectations of you this holiday season, but I appreciate you trying so hard to make it special.  Thank you for your worry, but seriously- relax.

My final wish to everyone?  May your holiday be spent with people you really want to spend it with doing things that don’t stress you out and sharing in experiences that don’t cost you more than your heart can afford.  Peace and light throughout the year.  If you do start on a path of Seasonal Spiraling, maybe my gift to you can be my strategy.  Instead of sinking down the spiral, look at the picture at the top of this article.  Count your way up by focusing on each individual brightly colored window.   Take a deep breath and remember repeating patterns of chaos are everywhere in the universe.  You aren’t alone, and you are doing an amazing job of doing the best that you can.  That’s all anyone should ever ask of you anyway.  Just do the best that you can and know that’s enough. 

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

Highly Sensitive Education

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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It was a Friday, middle of the day, when I first heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.  This was not the first time I had learned of a terrible tragedy while standing in front of children, but there was something about this particular event that became a turning point for me personally.  Maybe this story hit me so hard because in 2012 my own daughter was in Kindergarten and the same age as most of the shooting victims.  Maybe I took it so personally because a friend sent me a picture of Emilie Parker, one of the 6 year old shooting victims, to show me just how much the two girls looked alike.  I don’t know why, but I stood there in a complete daze upon hearing the news.  I finished out the school day, and made sure not to turn on the radio while driving home.  I walked into my house, went upstairs, got into bed fully clothed, pulled the covers over my head, and sobbed until morning.

Upon waking the following day, I still felt numb.   I could hear the television going in the distance, and the muffled voices were bickering about gun control, or terrorism, or perhaps it was the lack of school security in this nation.  I am not certain.  All I know is that was when I made a conscious decision to just stop watching the television.  I still had that sick feeling in my stomach, and with the holidays approaching, I couldn’t afford to remain in such a depressive state.  I felt guilty for being so shaken by the event.  I wasn’t personally involved, and I didn’t even know anyone from Connecticut, yet I still reacted as if it had happened in my own town.

I didn’t bake.  I didn’t do any of the Christmas shopping or wrapping.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t do any of the usual warm, sentimental holiday traditions at all that year.  I just kept thinking about the victims, their families, and I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper.  It was that tragic event which led me to get help for my own depression.   Over time, I began to pull myself out from wherever I had gone.

Fast forward to 2015, and I still haven’t returned to a regular routine of television watching.  If I do turn on the television, I try desperately to avoid any programs with sensational news reporting.  I’m well aware that not facing one’s fears is a form of escapism, but for my own state of mind, it was a necessary escape.  

This week, however, I was jolted back to that same dark place when I saw a trending report on the Internet about another school shooting in Oregon at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.  My heart sank, and I read over the information through half closed eyes, as if squinting would protect me from feeling too much.  It wasn’t long before my newsfeed was a parade of outlandish comparison charts and gun control debates- a sea of clamorous chatter and infantile bickering.  Once again, the world was becoming an enormous shouting match of misguided agendas fueled by rage.  I felt dizzy, so I tried to steady myself.  As a precautionary measure, I went to turn off my phone, but not before I caught glimpses of some “here we go again’s” and “what is this nation coming to’s.”  Images of the Sandy Hook shooting also were sprinkled about the web, so I knew I would be best served unplugging for a bit.

I went home and tried to push the images out of my mind.  Later that evening, as my phone was plugged in to charge, I heard the ping of a new message.  It was from a friend.  She was messaging a couple of us to let us know that she might be a little late to a meeting we had scheduled for the following week.  Her reason was that she had to take care of some family business, that family business being her severely depressed child.  My heart sank for the second time that day.   I knew the backstory, and it all stemmed from some harsh bullying at her child’s school.  This really hit home, because my own daughter had been in tears that night as well, over some third-grade exclusionary playground practices.  

I went to bed that night, pulled the covers over my head, and wept.

Several days have passed since the Oregon shooting, and I’ve been trying to write this blog post for about three days.  I didn’t sink into a deep depression like I did right after the Sandy Hook shooting, but I still sit here with that same feeling of helplessness.  Maybe it’s just the reality that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, bad things happen. People walk into classrooms and shoot people.  Other kids pick on other kids and make them feel isolated and alone.  I realize now that the reason both of these events impacted me so much is because they forced me to admit that I don’t have control over what other people may or may not do to my child or other children I care about.  Sure I can guide her, try and protect her, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that there are just some things in life that are beyond my control.

This isn’t me being negative.  This is me being real.  School shootings and terrorism get people fired up.  There is a bit of sensationalism that goes along with that style of reporting, and I’ve read about articles this week on how it’s not that big of a deal.  I’ve also seen the charts comparing the number of shootings in US schools to shootings in other countries.  I’ve seen the counterargument that the people making these charts are idiots, the numbers are skewed.  I just took a look at the comic strip going viral where the kid asks “Why didn’t God stop the shooting,” and the other kid replies, “Because he’s not allowed in schools anymore.”

I almost deleted this post entirely last night after reading yet another article on the topic of school shootings.  It was talking about how this isn’t about gun control, because bad people can get guns even if they are controlled.  It isn’t about mental health issues, because many shooters were already getting help from professionals at the time of their crimes.  It isn’t about being bullied, because some perpetrators were well liked, even popular.  

I don’t know what it is about to be honest with you.  All I know is right now I feel like escaping again, not as a result of the tragic event in itself, but because of all the bickering it has sparked.   I feel afraid to say anything publicly about the event, because everything I thought about posting has already been attacked.  I wanted to post some mental health statistics, but according to some things I’ve read you are naive if you think therapy will fix the problem.  I wanted to promote more opportunities for social and emotional learning in the classroom to help combat children being unkind to one another, but I’ve also heard you are ignorant if you try and explain this away through bullying awareness.  Then there are the pro gun and anti gun debates, as well as the people that think this is all just being blown out of proportion.  A few days ago, I had a lot to say, but tonight I feel beaten down, isolated, and alone.  I’ve gone from a place of intense passion to a sort of silent forced apathy.

I think the great thing about the United States is that you can speak your opinion.  You can broadcast your beliefs all day and all night now thanks to social media.  We are allowed to debate what we want, wherever we want, but somewhere along the way I feel like we are missing the point.  Varied political, social, and religious beliefs, shouldn’t cause us to forget that we are still a community.  There are people in our community, and in our homes, that are seriously hurting.  No matter what you believe, you should be able to recognize that a bad thing happened.  We all want peace, but we should be able to acknowledge our differences without letting our differences destroy us and our sense of community.  

When I started writing this a few days ago, I imagined it being more profound.  I wanted to communicate that I think we alienate each other in this country more than we help each other, even when we are on the same side.  I wanted to attach a link to my podcast about sensitivity and school, because I wanted to make a case for teaching children how to appreciate different types of personalities and look for ways to stop shaming people for their differences.  My thought was that if children didn’t feel so isolated or alone, or if they understood that you could get along with someone that wasn’t exactly like you, that would help build tolerance.  I wanted to believe that social and emotional education might help build a stronger sense of community in the classroom, but now I’m not so confident in my original message.

I thought I had a good idea, but after being immersed in a week long debate via social media, I’m exhausted.  If my ideas are good, I almost don’t want to share them with these people attacking one another.  I want to just hug my little girl, let my friend know that she’s a good mom, send loving thoughts to the families of the victims, and just unplug my computer and go to sleep.  I wonder how many other people in our community feel like that tonight?  I wonder how many of my highly sensitive friends have also just tuned out or are not sharing their voice? That, to me, IS a tragedy.

For anyone that wants to listen, here’s the link to the episode I mention in the article.

HSP S.O.S. #17 Highly Sensitive Persons & School

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

On Being Nice When You Can

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

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On Being Nice When You Can…

“Why are you so nice?”  This is a question I get from people regularly.  It’s not spoken as a statement.  It’s almost an accusatory remark, not mean, but a serious curiosity others sometimes have in regards to my words and actions.  I’ve been called too nice.  I know some of my family and friends think I allow myself to be a doormat for others.  I am quite certain that when I first start interacting with some individuals, they are almost skeptical of this “niceness”- like it might be a form of manipulation, or perhaps a severe form of low self-esteem or a desperate need to gain friends. 

Whenever someone accuses me of being too nice, I just laugh.  It’s weird to think of yourself in those terms, and one certainly wouldn’t admit to being like this for fear of appearing to have an enormous ego.  I usually smile politely when accused of this and assure the interrogator that I just like making people happy.  That’s been my standby response over the years, but if I really stop and think about it, that’s only a partial truth.  

I been contemplating this question on my morning drives recently, which is of course the best time for deep reflection, and I think I stumbled upon the real reason.  The real reason I’m so nice is because I don’t always feel like a nice person.  While I do try exceptionally hard to be a good person, I know that there have been, and there will still be, times when I am unable to be nice.  This won’t happen because I don’t care or don’t want to be nice.  It will happen as a result of stress, anxiety, worries, fears, and countless other idiosyncrasies  that make me the weird and quirky person that I cannot hide for very long from the world.  People that have known me the longest, or are the closest to me, will probably know what I’m talking about instantly.  I’m sure they all have seen some examples of this not so nice behavior.  For my loved ones, the non-believers, and to simply illustrate my point, I’d like to take a moment to identify what makes me feel like I’m a not so nice person sometimes, and when I don’t feel nice.

  • I don’t feel nice when I go to a new environment for the first time and I can’t even make simple conversation with those around me because I am trying very hard to make sense of what is going on- unfamiliar faces, unknown sights and sounds.  I want to be able to engage, but when I am overwhelmed with sensation it’s difficult for me to process in the moment.
  • I don’t feel nice when I’m stressed out and friends I’ve known for years try and contact me to talk or go out, and I can’t even respond to their phone calls, emails, or messages, because I can’t think well enough to even compose or formulate words.  It may be days or weeks until I’m ready to reply.
  • I don’t feel nice when I pull into a parking spot, see someone I know, and I pretend to make a phone call just to avoid the awkwardness of the conversation I am worried about having as we walk to the door.
  • I don’t feel nice when I make up an excuse to avoid a social event I’m afraid to attend for one of the countless reasons or doubts I have floating around inside my head.
  • I don’t feel nice when I finally set up a time to get together with my brother, and I get so stressed about coordinating schedules I almost want to cancel.
  • I don’t feel nice when I show up late or cancel plans because I’ve tried on every article of clothing in my closet and nothing I put on can mask my insecurities or make me feel confident enough to appear in the world.
  • I don’t feel nice when I become frustrated and talk rudely to people trying to help coach me through a task that has me overstimulated or confused.
  • I don’t feel nice when I don’t offer to drive on a night out, because I’m too afraid of getting lost or overwhelmed.
  • I don’t feel nice when a simple decision like where to eat turns into an argument.
  • I don’t feel nice when I am paid a sincere compliment and I brush it off thinking that the person can’t be possibly be serious.
  • I don’t feel nice when a person wants to be close to me, but I feel so unlovable that I can’t show them love back.
  • I don’t feel nice when I can’t concentrate on a conversation, because there is a blinking light on the microwave I want to go push.
  • I don’t feel nice when I exhaust myself keeping focused and “together” at work and then have no patience left for the people closest to me when I get home at the end of the day.
  • I don’t feel nice when I push people away because I’m afraid it’s bad for them to be around someone like me.
  • I don’t feel nice when I want to lay in bed or sit quietly instead of playing with my daughter some days.
  • I don’t feel nice when I perceive someone trying to help me as criticism and get upset with them.
  • I don’t feel nice when I am not honest with myself, and I blame my family and friends for the things within my control.
  • I don’t feel nice when I say or do something that I know is not nice, and I choose to avoid the situation because I think that is easier than just working it out.

So there you have it.  I don’t want anyone to think that I get super fixated on these times when I don’t feel nice about myself, because I obviously don’t  respond to people and situations this way all the time.  Anyone that has similar challenges, however, will understand that even rarely can feel like always.  At times in my life, I have wanted to be invisible, or I’ve isolated myself to save people I love from me.  I’ve worked hard at recognizing when I’m “overthinking” or acting “not so nice,” and I’d like to think I have become exceptionally aware of the connection between my thoughts and actions.  I try to continually learn new strategies to handle the way my brain works, and I have learned to be patient and not too hard on myself throughout the years.  I used to want to live my life without impacting anyone, but I know now that is not a realistic goal.   All I can do is know myself, my limitations, and my needs.  I can only admit when I am being “not so nice” and surround myself with people willing to  patiently support and challenge me with understanding.  Because of this, I may be extra nice when I’m feeling that I can be.  

If I send you an email full of compliments, post an inspirational message to your Facebook wall, give you a homemade card, make you your favorite meal, pay for a night out, or pick you up something you’ve said you wanted from the store, it’s because I know there will probably be times when I won’t be able to do these things for you.  If I listen to your troubles for hours without offering advice or passing judgment, you know it’s because I really do understand your worries- even if the rest of the world dismisses them.  If you get anxious or stressed and say something out of character to me and I don’t get mad, it’s because I get what it feels like to want to have your emotions temporarily short circuit your logic.  If your fears get the best of you, and you are unable to return any of the niceness that I am sending your way, do not worry.  I know what if feels like to not be able to connect with others sometimes when that’s desperately all you really want to do.   I guess I get the guilt and shame that goes along with feeling like this, and I don’t want anyone to feel that way ever on my account.  I don’t take it personally.  

I wrote a good portion of this yesterday, and then didn’t post it.  I got to worrying that people might think I’m weird.  Then this morning I had a conversation with a student that has been acting “not so nice” in my classroom.  He told me that he doesn’t know why he acts the way he does sometimes, but he really wished that he did.  I thought he was about to cry, which is exceptionally out of character for this particular student.  He told me people call it impulse, but he wonders if it’s instinct.  He looked sad and worried, so we talked about strategies to help when he feels certain ways.  I think a big problem is that we don’t let other people see our weakness sometimes, and we try and go on pretending like we don’t have limitations or unique needs.  You can be a good and nice person and still have some not so nice days.  That’s what I told this student, and he smiled.  He then told me I was really nice.  I jokingly replied back, “sometimes!”  I don’t want to feel bad about who I am, and I don’t want my students, daughter, family, friends, or even strangers to feel bad about themselves either.  I know, and have known, people that feel like “bad people” for things beyond their control, and I know that feeling guilty doesn’t make the situation any better.  That’s why I say always be nice to yourself and others when you can! 

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

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