As promised, I write this time about higher sensitivity and the link with depression and addiction.
During the first years of my depression I have read piles of books and articles to get an idea of how the psyche normally works, how it reacts to trauma and how to recover and heal. In that research I stumbled upon the term 'High Sensitive Person', shortened to HSP. It was a big eye-opener at that time and reading through a number of articles it became clear why I reacted so strongly to stress, violent movies or other people's negativity, to name a few triggers. And why I got so easily emotional when touched by kindness, tenderness or beauty. It all made sense suddenly.
We, HSP's, have a nervous system that is more sensitive than usual. Studies have shown that people born with a more fearful and submissive character, have more chance to develop a higher sensitivity, because the safety of their environment is more important to them than to confident, dominant people. We scan our surroundings, people's faces and body language continuously, that means that we collect loads more information that we need to digest and store. No need to say that we can easily become overloaded and so-called 'burn out', especially when we don't know that we are highly sensitive nor how to manage this.
Besides the feeling of being chronically stretched and out of sync with others who run jobs, households and relationships seemingly effortlessly, life can be very harsh and overwhelming for people with this trait. Often this becomes a reason to withdraw from our communities, causing isolation and depression. When not effectively addressed and without an alternative way to give air to our rich and complex inner life, in creativity for example, the urge to numb our feelings becomes strong. On top of the depression grows often a dependency on (prescription) drugs, alcohol or other coping strategies. Because it's all interrelated, something that is widely overlooked.
Acknowledging that you have a high sensitivity is one thing, but accepting it and allowing yourself to make adjustments, is something that can be a challenge. It took me some years, but I am fairly stubborn, not giving in easily.
When you initially find out that you have this quality, while feeling near to a breakdown, I would suggest that you make a list of situations and people that drain your energy. Try to find a way to avoid exposure to these situations and people. Force yourself to say 'No, thank you.', when you feel a 'No' in your body. I'm not suggesting to isolate yourself (even more), but attending family dinners, gigs or celebrations with people you don't feel at ease with, is not obligatory.
Don't forget to make a second list with activities and people that inspire and nourish you. Find your own little tribe of like-minded souls, they are out there. If you are like me, and have withdrawn and isolated yourself for some years, you will be surprised to discover that you can connect and spend time with others without feeling bored or drained within an hour.
It helped me a lot to spend more time in nature, preferably close to water, relaxing in the garden, wandering alongside a river, or a swim in the sea. It is amazing what this does for your whole being. Let mother nature re-balance your energy levels, she is an extraordinary healer. Lastly, a valuable practice that I took on board, was treating myself daily with an hours private time. Just one of the twenty four, you are worth it too. Make yourself a safe, little sanctuary, even if it is a sheltered spot in your garden, decorate it beautifully and use this sacred space to reconnect with your heart and its wisdom. It's there, always available for you.
When you know yourself on a deeper level, have learned what triggers your stress reactions, what drains your energy and what makes you feel really uplifted or at peace, you have transformed this formerly hidden part of you that acted out of the shadows, into your strong ally that enables you to see 'in the dark' and enriches your life tremendously.