What if we looked at emotional sensitivity as simply another way to experience life? I would like to live in a world where there is more than one way to be social.
The expected way to relate to others comes through external channels, such as other people, home, school, work and the general public. These come with a prescribed way of acting and being.
But what happens if it’s impossible for you to swallow an approved social remedy? We feel like we are missing out on life because there seems to be a piece missing. We compensate for the overtly stimulating world with coping strategies. I turned to food, study and avoidance. They became the rules by which I could function for a time. They were my compensatory methods for living in a world full of difficulties. In a world which is overwhelming, emotionally over-stimulating, and just too demanding, this was a smart strategy; I had to establish a way I could live amidst a world of social encounters I couldn't relate to.
Food was my numbing essence, it was comparable to a resolved hug from a caring parent, full of comfort and compassion and unconditional love. I ate until my world made sense again, until I felt the familiar pain and stretch in my stomach that reminded me that I was a living, breathing human being. The food passed my lips like smooth caramel that cascades from high up off a wooden spoon as it’s ladled from a hot sauce pan and falls back into the sweet sticky mass.. I ate to fill the missing piece I lacked in life. I ate until I felt like a full person.
The release after overeating came like the shutter release on an old manual camera. All it took was one finger gently pressing down on the right spot. The picture of the inside of that toilet bowl will be burned into the back of my mind forever.
I wasn't a natural academic. I worked hard to find the peace and control good grades offered me. It was a steady focus I could control. It also gave me an excuse to practice my third coping method; avoidance. I arrived to school early most days, and rarely went home before 8 pm The library and study rooms became my best friends. I loved the stillness; I loved the silence they offered. Finally I found a place that didn't overwhelm me. I had my own small place which I inhabited. Yet due to dyslexia, I couldn't always concentrate on school work for long periods of time, so often I would read or day dream about the stories I read. I became aware through literature how the characters in the books dealt with life. I was drawn into the safety of the stories and the friends I gained by scanning each line. I learnt how to be from those books.
Even when it came to sport, I avoided team games and opted for swimming. It was a solitary exercise. When I put my head under the water, the world became still and quite. The gentle echoes were comforting and safe for me. And this way less people asked questions as to why I came into school so early. I could cry easy in the pool and nobody knew.
As I look back at my teenage years I can see clearly that I have always been a very sensitive person, easily overwhelmed and highly emotional. I didn't know that then though. I just thought that my general ‘being’ was wrong and non-functional.
Okay, these coping methods were never going to useful forever, but in a way I am sort of proud of my little adolescent self. She found a way to survive, to live and to get by in a scary lonely world. So now I don’t look back with scorn at my past behaviors I look back with compassion for a girl who didn't know any other way to stay alive. And in twenty years I will look back on what I will have learnt and see that right now I am doing the best I can do right at this moment. I will always face difficulties, I don't like to think I will be this way for ever, but the harsh reality is that