I certainly don't feel as plucky as I look in that picture right now. I'm sitting in a coffee shop, and I'm visibly cringing from all the noise, chaos, people, and jarring sounds. Even with my headphones on and relaxing music playing, this is not a good place for me to be right now.
Every day isn't like this, thankfully. But some days I feel my sensitivity more acutely than others. Some days I get overstimulated easier than others.
An amazing therapist helped me to self-diagnose as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) about two years ago. It was a huge awakening in understanding myself, my responses, and how I interact with the world around me.
About 15 - 20% of the population are HSP's. We have a heightened sensitivity with all of our senses usually. Our bodies are more sensitive. And we are able to perceive things more keenly than others. It's like living in HD, with all of your senses, all the time.
Basically, we are capable of taking in LOTS more data about the world around us than non-HSP's. It can be a huge strength. HSP's tend to be intuitive, detail-oriented, excellent problem solvers, and other things that frankly I'm failing to articulate.
At this moment, with my nerve endings sparking and my body thrumming, my service dog in training River is performing a grounding task by resting her chin on my foot. This is incredibly helpful as it provides an anchor for my nervous system.
Service dog you say? What? Yeah, I haven't gone public with this yet. Likely due to my own self-consciousness and worry about being judged. But I guess this is my coming out.
River is currently in training to be my psychiatric service dog. I have full approval and support from my doctor, and she is already making a very positive impact on my life.
I have an anxiety disorder, which in itself is fun enough to live with, but for about the last 6 months and anticipating the next year, I've been experiencing significant side effects from my medication. I get frightening symptoms unexpectedly, and it has a huge negative impact on my ability to function and to do my job and support myself.
River is already alerting me up to an hour before one of these episodes happens, which allows me to take steps to mitigate the event. She also does grounding tasks and retrieves my phone so that I can call for help since I live alone right now.
It is scary. It's really scary because these things are not me. They come out of nowhere, and I can't predict when they are going to happen. And, truth time, some of the worst episodes include suicidal thoughts.
If River can make a positive impact and lessen the effects of these things, then I'm all for it.
She's had extensive training throughout her life on public access (in dog-friendly places), and I've been expanding that over the past two months. She has taken to it like a duck to water, and she loves to work.
Her tasking is coming along very fast as well. That is making such a positive difference in my life and my ability to funciton like a normal human.
I didn't anticipate this post going that direction, but there you go.
In addition to being an HSP, I'm also introverted. That means that being around people drains me of energy, and I need alone time to recharge. It's a big reason why my solo roadtrips are so damn incredible. They unlock all of the amazing potential and creativity inside me.
The past two years have been so wonderful in helping me to really get in touch with my body. To stop fighting it, stop trying to push through, stop trying to be different or to change, and to truly embrace acceptance.
By doing that, which is an ongoing process, I have discovered so much peace. Not only that, but I've truly been able to see my traits as strengths instead of weaknesses. I'm becoming the best version of myself.
My sensitivity makes me an incredible dog trainer, teacher, and coach. I see things that others can't. I can use that intuition to help people progress and gain valuable insights. And that, my friends, is SO rewarding. It feels like what I was meant to do.
I have to treat my body gently and take care of her. When I do so, and I listen to what she's telling me, I get the best of everything. I've experienced so much peace lately.
If you suspect you may be an HSP, or you want to learn more, I highly recommend the book "The Highly Sensitive Person" and this TEDx talk. Even if you are not, taking the time to slow down and get in tune with your body is always a beneficial exercise, yielding many positive outcomes.