If I need to prepare food and my kitchen counter is taken hostage by darling 1st grade drawings, Lego ninja characters, oatmeal buggers, orange juice glasses, and Pokemon cards….watch out.  Mama loses her mojo.  Instantly.  Functioning becomes nearly impossible, at least functioning in a reasonable, pleasant manner.  That counter top becomes my number ONE priority and my heart rate soars to frantic measures.  ALL the things become frustrating as I’m tornadoing through my kitchen.  My husband finds tasks that need immediate attention on the other side of the house and the children, naive to the scenario, continue to be themselves, adding to my tornado.  Note…I couldn’t even stand posting a picture of a messy counter top.  

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Until I finished Anne Bogel’s new book, Reading People, I assumed I was all kinds of crazy in situations like this one.  Unreasonable, too focused on order and not at all able to handle it when things weren’t calm and simple.  It bothered me and yet, there it was.  Me.  My husband is NOT me and flows with the ease of a beautiful stream.  Always calm, bubbling, serene, and predictable.  I love streams.  They are a happy happy place for me.  But I am NOT a stream.  Chapter 3 changed my life a bit and I would love to tell you why.  Because if your kitchen counter top drives to a point of no return (or very slow return), there’s hope.

Anne explains, “High sensitivity is a hardwired physiological trait that affects 15-20% of the population, across species, not just humans…..high sensitivity describes people whose nervous systems are more receptive to stimuli than those of the general population.  This means they are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulation environments.  Their internal “radar” for detecting external stimuli is quite good, but it takes energy to keep that radar operational, which can be exhausting.”

BAM. Keep talkin’ Anne.  “The brains of HSP’s process information, such as that brought in through the five senses, more thoroughly than nonsensitive types.  They also process experiences more deeply than those who lack the trait.  They dwell on things more and longer than the rest of the population.  They catch subtle cues that others miss.  Their emotional reaction is stronger – to the positive and negative.”

This is an actual thing.  The need to have a clean counter top is an actual thing.  My dwellyness is an actual thing.  My deep feelings and internal radar for so many things are actual things.  My inability to attend a Fall festival with face painting, carnies hanging from ropes, and a grunge teenage band in training in the 89 degree heat and come home a disaster emotionally? It’s an actual thing.  Turns out, I’m not irrational and crazy, I’m Highly Sensitive.  And I’m not alone.  Other peeps get this and feel it too.  Hallelujah.

We’ve known for quite some time that our 10 year old is a sensitive little human, but we attributed that to his spectrumyness (that’s really the best word I’ve found to describe it).  After Chapter 3 entered my world, I now see that he too is an HSP.  Just like his Mama.  God bless my husband.  My little man is never just a little hungry or tired.  He’s sprawled across the chair, upside down, moaning in tiredness.  On the brink of never  walking again.  And this is at the ripe hour of 8am.  Dramatic?  Yes.  Highly Sensitive?  That too.

Anne says, “HSP’s need white space, both literal and metaphorical.  In a sea of input, HSP’s need some rest from the tidal wave of sensory input.  This is so their brains can sort through the backload to clear those inevitable jam ups.”  Later she explains, “The people, the lights, and the noise combine for a nonstop assault on their senses.”

Our dude is constantly challenged with the backload.  I don’t know that it ever clears for him.  I’m thankful to understand now how he feels in relation to this highly sensitive person reality.  I get so much of it.  He doesn’t get it quite yet, but he feels it.  Now I can get it on his behalf and try to explain to others how it feels.  God made me this way and 38 years later, perhaps I can see why and maybe even be grateful for it.  As often as I want to move to the country side in Tennessee, where there are very few options and choices at my disposal, I can smile internally, knowing just how rational that thought is for an HSP.

Anne ends the chapter highlighting the beauty found in many HSP’s and that left me feeling uplifted and proud of my HSP camp.  “They have laser-like focus and dedicate boatloads of attention to the things they care about.”  Yes I do.  To a fault at times.  “This trait makes you a kind and caring friend, an empathetic and wise counselor, an insightful employee, and a spiritual seeker.”  Thank you very much.  “They’re extremely perceptive, picking up on all sorts of things nonsensitive types miss.  They are really good at deep conversation and are eager to explore meaningful topics.  And they’re creative.”  Sigh.  That’s me in a tightly wrapped paragraph.  Anne explains that she thinks of her HSP child as an orchid, requiring a very specific environment to bloom.  She says that while the idea isn’t new, she never thought it applied to her.  She needs careful mental and physical upkeep in order to stay balanced.   I second all those thoughts.

Thank you Modern Mrs. Darcy for taking the time to explain what it means to be ourselves in so many comprehensive and insightful ways through this book.  Friends, this was just one chapter.  There are nine more where that came from and they’re equally intriguing and enlightening.  And, considering the significance of this Monday for our country and our world, here’s a link to an excellent post Anne shared this morning on managing anxiety.

Pre-order Anne’s book HERE.  Really, order it.  It’s being released on September 19th.  Giddy up!  Every.single.human needs to read this book.  Well, not the humans who can’t read.  Everyone else.