Posts Tagged ‘HSP’

I haven’t blogged about being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person – take the test here) in a long time. I’ve been in a good place with no triggers for over a year, and that’s the way I like life to move. I like my job, I love the slow pace of small town living, I enjoy the lack of commute and stress. My routine is simple.

My routine is about to change. And I am not happy.

The grocery store where I do the bulk of my shopping is being closed. I like this store for a number of reasons: local beef, local milk in a glass jar, wide aisles, friendly staff who know me by my name, a pharmacist who really watched my back, wide (and clean) aisles, and a significant lack of fighting to get to food items on shelves. When this store goes out of business, I will be reduced to three local options (not including Grocery Outlet which sells things past their pull date & where you can never be certain of what is going to be on the shelves. Great prices, just no consistency): two big name grocers owned by the same corporation who purchase their beef from Iowa (which is OK, if you live in the Midwest and like grain-fattened beef – I don’t, on either count), and one big name grocer/retailer/warehouse style store.

Beef – we live in the heart of ranching country, for Heaven’s sake! Why would I buy something not grown within the State of Oregon and grass fed? I grew up on grass fed beef and have no desire to change. I used to shop at Albertson’s, but I never bought my meat there – I purchased it from a local grocer who bought 4-H beef from the kids in the county. In the years since, Albertson’s has changed management and ownership, and the local grocer went out of business. Safeway moved in, and Safeway is owned by Albertson’s.

I don’t like our local Safeway parking lot. This can be huge. I get that developers have to follow certain “rules” for “green spaces”, but the design for parking in this lot is all about concrete dividers and awkward angles. I even quit buying gas there because the last guy who pumped gas for me (hey, I live in Oregon, OK?) told me I had to get out of the car to pay.  I’m sorry – if I am not getting out of the car to pump my own gas (which I am not, in Oregon), why would I get out of my car to pay for the gas? Defeats the purpose of having someone pump my gas for me. Petty, but that’s how it is.

The third option – a Kroger/Fred Meyer – has followed the “warehouse” style of building and just going through the doors is a sensory overload. They do have local produce and beef, their prices are a little high (but so are the other options, locally), but they have great “loss leaders” (ads that draw you in and they lose money on). It’s just getting me through the doors that has my stomach in knots. It’s crowded. Narrow aisles. You have to jockey to get to things. Lines are long. I don’t mind shopping the other departments at Fred’s, but the grocery area is a nightmare of sensory overload for me.

There are options further out, and my extrovert friends are probably wondering why I don’t utilize them: WinCo, which is just over 5 miles from home and offers the following: narrow aisles, too many people, self-serve bagging. The pluses are: lower prices. In my book, the negatives just won. Oh, and I’d have to negotiate up Old Highway 99 with all the stoplights and traffic. And bag my own groceries. Did I mention I find that to be a pain in the behind? Bagging my own groceries. I consider that worse than having to pump my own gas! (Note: I live in Oregon. One of two states in the Union where we can actually pay someone else to stand out in the rain to pump our gas for us. I really hate it when I have to drive to Nevada and have to pump my own gas through California and Nevada. Can’t we just pay some poor schmuck to do that? I used to do that. it was a great entry level job.)

Costco. Warehouse. Thousands of people. Big carts. Warehouse. Great bulk prices. Warehouse. Sensory overload. No.

Super Walmart. Just.No.

Trader Joe’s. Darn – too far away to be feasible. Closest one is 13 miles away.

We have a Market of Choice within my preferred driving distance, but – and I mean a huge BUT – their prices are extremely high. Local meats, organic, great selection. Terrible parking (see Safeway). HIGH prices. Close to the Backyard Bird Shop where I purchase birding supplies. High prices nil all the benefits.

I’ll probably suck it up and go to Fred Meyer, but that presents another problem: Fred’s isn’t just a grocery store. They sell everything you need, like Walmart, only better quality. Or Target, only better quality. Clothes, furniture, paint, gardening, arts, toys, home, electronics. You see the problem? $$$$$ Because I can stand to be in those departments. It’s the grocery area where I get overwhelmed by the people, the carts, the lights, and the narrow aisles.

I think – and I may be wrong – for the non HSP, that none of this would be overwhelming. Just make a change. For me, it’s almost a life or death question. My routine is disrupted (Haggen, BiMart, home). I can change to buying a lot more at BiMart, but they are not a super store – they’re just a “general store” with a few items of everything that are nearly always cheaper than competitors: dry goods, electronics, paint, hardware, beer/wine, dog food, rifles & ammo, toys, home goods.

There are some products that our local Haggen sells that no one else carries: there are two local dairies who sell milk in glass bottles, pasteurized, but not homogenized (i.e. there’s still a layer of cream at the top of the bottle). It’s really good milk. I don’t drink much milk, but when I do, taste is everything. I grew up in a community with a local dairy and that mega-store produced milk tastes “off” to me. My husband loves the bottled milk. And they make the BEST chocolate milk, ever (must be chocolate cows).

I’ve been commiserating with co-workers. We all agree this is a tragedy. We’re scrambling to move our prescriptions. Some of us are agreeing that the only reason we shopped at this Haggen is that it’s never very crowded. We also agree that Fred Meyer is “sensory overload”. We’ll pay the couple pennies extra for groceries for the peace of shopping in a store that rarely has long lines, always has wide aisles, and where we know the employees by first name (and they know us).

We all wonder what will come in to replace the store: surely not WalMart? Our city council has a history of rejecting WalMart, but they also have a history of rejecting anything progressive. Maybe Trader Joe’s? Store is too big, but – Trader Joe’s has a location in Beaverton that is large & urban. TJ’s is kind of a specialty store and not always cheap. They’re the top choice. Whole Foods? Expensive, but I could price compare with Market of Choice…

Just not WalMart. Their practices of pushing out local businesses (like my beloved BiMart) are epic.

I get that this is not a crisis to the “normal” or “average” person. But to me: introvert, HSP… This is a crisis. Forgive me for curling up into a fetal position and asking God to “let it pass over”. I may even daub my door posts with lamb’s blood (oh, get over it. Sacrilegious jokes are a part of my childhood. My bff was Catholic & I was Protestant. Guess what our fathers told us to say at the other’s dinner table? Yeah. Some church joke). (And don’t ask about the whiskey jokes…)

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My Go-To Defense Mechanisms

I belong to a wonderful support group for people with my personality quirk (I guess that’s what you’d call it, if you weren’t me). I’ve blogged about the subject before – how I am a Highly Sensitive Person, and I don’t mean someone who has cries because you look at me wrong. Being an HSP is much deeper than that. I can’t begin to explain it in the short amount of words I am allotting myself for this particular post, but I hope you follow the links back to my original posts and read what I wrote in 2009 on the subject. Or, you can hop over to Elaine Aron’s website: The Highly Sensitive Person.

This post is dedicated to answering a question posed to me by one of the other members of the group: “What are your go-to defenses?”

I LIKE ME. I’m not always pleased with me (I berate myself to death when I make a faux pas, when I screw up at work, when I hurt someone’s feelings inadvertently, and when I have embarrassed my children by being too assertive in front of them) but I recognize that those are feelings nearly all human beings, who are not either sociopaths or psychopaths, feel. (Should a comma be there? Or parenthesis? or a dash?)

REALIZE YOU ARE NORMAL. Yes, you are an HSP – but beyond that label, you are normal. You’re not so odd that you are noticeably different. You feel emotional hurt a little deeper (maybe), but you are not abnormal in that you feel emotional hurt. I know a lot of non-HSPs that feel sorry for themselves over emotional hurts. You can make a big deal about it, but the best deal to make out of it is

FORGIVENESS. Forgive whoever hurt you and forgive yourself. That doesn’t mean you become a doormat. Trust me, no one calls *me* a doormat. I just learned to step back and try to look at a situation from another person’s perspective. Well, yeah. He was dead wrong and I told him off. So – now I need to move into forgiving him for being such a jerk and I need to forgive me for losing my temper and acting like a raging bull. Yes, I was right – but does that make me the better person when I lost my temper? NO.

LOSE YOUR TEMPER. Nobody tells you this. It’s all about holding it in and being too nice. Well, sometimes, you need to turn around and tell the 7th grade bully off. “Just because you’re a bitch doesn’t mean I have to take it.”

Oh, yeah, I did that. I was 4’4″ and I don’t know how many pounds. She already looked like an adult and was overweight. Fat. She was surrounded by her friends who were the “popular” girls. I don’t remember what she said to me. I was in the company of my best friend, Trudi, who was pretty, had boobs, and no one made fun of. And that girl said something to me that made me mad. For the first time in my life, I turned around and said something back. I made it a direct hit. AIM. FIRE. Don’t regret (or at least, don’t do it to a degree that you lose your edge).

I’ve never regretted that salvo.

BE ASSERTIVE. I can overdo this. Learn a little moderation. I remember a manager who accused me of some sort of in-office gossip. I walked into his office, asked if he could talk, closed the door, and thought about my body language as I sat down. I wanted him to know 1) I was innocent and 2) I was not taking this B.S. I asked him, “Who said I said <whatever>? If you can’t provide me that, then you have to admit that it is all falsified. Speak to me.” Not in a nice tone.

KNOW WHEN TO CUT YOUR LOSSES. You have to know when to back down, walk away, turn your back. Some issues are not worth your time, energy, emotions. Walk away. If you can’t walk away at that precise moment, start making plans to walk away. Tell no one but your most trusted friends (I don’t even tell them, but I have very few inner circle people).

Rejected? MOVE ON. My childhood best friend moved on to a new circle of friends. We were tight. She now has a very different inner circle. I miss her. But I know that I also  moved on to a new circle of friends. She misses the me that I was. Accept and move on. Forgive. You can still love someone and they don’t have to be your bestie.

ADMIT YOU ARE SENSITIVE. The trick is knowing when to tell people and when not. You just have to learn when to cut your losses.

For me, I learned I was an HSP when a fire alarm malfunctioned at work. The loud screaming alarm one time was unnerving. But after an hour of random fire alarms at decibels not meant for the human ear, I was melting into a puddle on the floor. I couldn’t function. I did not know what an HSP was at that time, but I went to my boss and (crying) told her I could no longer function. My nerves were jangled. I was a mess. I needed to take the rest of the day off and hide under the covers in my bed at home.

My boss was actually understanding (and I hope yours is, too). I called my husband to pick me up and then spent the waiting time in a nearby book store. I found Elaine Aron’s book on the bookshelf while I waited and read most of it before my husband picked me up. I suddenly had a name for who I am. I am not shy in trying to explain myself to people.

Some people and some bosses will never get it. Cut your losses. I’m doing that right now. It’s taken me two years of very careful planning and searching, but I am cutting my losses. If my current employer can’t get it, my next employer will. It’s a loss you take – and you take it for the benefit.

DON’T WATCH THE NEWS. I actually had an argument with my father-in-law over this. I was pregnant with my first baby when my father-in-law lived with us. He insisted on watching the news at dinner time. I walked out of the room when they showed a dead person on the screen, blood flowing onto the street. This was about 1984. I refused to watch the news. My father-in-law was offended and made some stupid smart remark. I chose my battle and simply walked away.

CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. This is parenting advice as much as it is HSP advice. Choose what battle you want to engage in. Is it worth it in the long run? With my F-I-L, no. I walked away. End of subject. He doesn’t even remember. Me, I remember everything. But I chose my battle & did not engage. We’re on good terms (although I would not willingly live with him again, which my husband understands).

My brother once took me to a casino-like play house after a grueling three weeks of trying to handle my father’s estate. I just wanted to crawl under the rug. My brother -bless the extrovert- needed to connect with noise and family. We were in Reno and all the extended family was invited. I ended up sitting alone at a table in the midst of the casino-like noise, lights, sounds. We ate crappy pizza. People flowed in and out of the scenario: my ex-sister in law, my niece, my niece’s children, my brother, my youngest and her then-boyfriend. I ZONED.

Find a place in your head to ZONE. Create a safe place to go to. You can smile & engage with people, but in your head – in your SAFE PLACE – you are zoned. It’s OK. No one needs to know. Understand that time is finite and you WILL get through this. On the other side of this, you can bury your head under a pillow and cry, zone, sleep – whatever. But to endure this, KNOW that you have a safe place.

I think I have covered my “go-to” defense mechanisms. I’d LOVE to have feed back from fellow HSP’s. What are your “go-to” mechanisms or do you have any at all? I sense that I am lucky in that I have developed defenses. Remember: a defense is only effective if you know it is a defense. You have to always remember that the bottom line is this: you are an HSP and THAT is ALL RIGHT.

Being an HSP is ALL RIGHT. You are actually NORMAL. Breathe in/breathe out and remind yourself: you are NORMAL (for a certain demographic and to hell with the rest)


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HSP Games

I discovered I was an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) back in 2001. I blogged about it first in 2008. I occasionally have blogged about it since.

I have – over time – developed a number of defenses. I didn’t even know I fit into the HSP category until 2001 and I discovered Elaine Aron’s book on the subject (and realized how well I have used defensive techniques to protect myself). Knowing who I am and why I react the way I do has often been a lifesaver for me.

For instance: after 3 weeks sorting out my father’s possessions, putting him to rest and saying good-bye in a memorial service, and driving 5 long nighttime hours back to Reno, my brother wanted to go out to dinner with his daughter in a popular kid-friendly place. It was great, except that I just want to crawl into a box and hide. Lights, noise, casino-like setting, crowds. UGH. Last.Thing.I.Need.

I couldn’t exactly refuse. Everyone (except me, the HSP Introvert) needed that kind of “break”. My ex-sister-in-law wanted to see me. I wanted to see my brother’s grandkids. So, there I was, in a place of noise, lights, and everything that sets the teeth on edge in an HSP. I breathed in. I realized that 1) I could survive because I have so many times before and 2) I knew *why* it bothered me so much. I understood that I am an HSP and an Introvert, and that everything that was happening went against my very soul – but I could survive because it was temporary and it was what “normal” people do.

The next day, I drove 11 hours home and crashed.

Sometimes, I cannot handle the situations life throws at me. I find myself in the hallway at work, playing a game with the lights in the public hallway. I wind my way down the hall: light on the left, light on the right, light on the left. Or I walk directly under the lights, straight down the hall. Or maybe I walk on the left for two lights and on the right for two lights. I hope noone sees me. The lights are my calming center: whatever pattern I choose is my choice and the use of it calms me. I can center myself.

My closest coworker is totally oblivious to the subtleties of body language and office politics. I want to bang my head into my desk when I try to explain to her what I just observed. How freaking oblivious do you have to be? Then I remind myself: I read people intuitively. I read the situation by sensitivity. I just know.

The funny thing is: my brother – the one who dragged me out to that horrid kid-friendly, loud, lit-up, night spot? He took one look at a photo I posted and he read the body language of the people in it. He’s trained to do that.

Everything he guessed was spot on. I know it intuitively.

Today, no one had “time” to go on break with me, so I went for my 3:00 walk by myself. It’s not that I have “time”, but that the LAW gives me the time, and I took it. I prefer my walks by myself. I had time to think about everything, breathe in, and calm my inner center.

It helps that it was a clam day in November, and I love November.

I know that my work situation is aggravated by my HSP tendencies (or, my work situation aggravates my HSP tendencies). Knowing that helps me cope. I know how I react and why. I know that I am not intuiting the situation incorrectly. I know I am spot on. I am not intimidated. My self-esteem is not threatened.

I have power.

It would help a little if I had power to change the situation, but right now, it is enough that I have the power to understand my reaction to the situation and to trust my intuition. I know I am not wrong. I never have been, in situations like this. Not ever.

It’s a gift.

Sometimes, it is a gift I wish I had not been given. Most of the time, I realize it is a gift that I have and most people do not have. It makes me different and special. I like being different. I have enough self-esteem that being different is a blessing. I’m not intimidated by “normal” people. They drive me nuts, but they do not lessen my value as a person because they are “normal”.

I don’t always feel strong, but when I feel weak, I walk the halls at work and play “dodge ball” with the lights in the ceiling. Or I go for a long walk outside by myself, hugging the canopy of leaves and walking slalom through the small maples. I don’t step on cracks in the sidewalk or I step on them all.

Breathe in. Breathe out. I don’t meditate because that’s not how I roll. I do pray and read Scripture. I remind myself that I am not alone. I am an Introvert and an HSP. A lot of successful people have been Introverts. I don’t know about HSPs because it is a recent discovery about human nature.

I hope to prove that HSPs can also be successful.

I hope to be the poster child of Introversion.

I’m a fighter. Not physically, but spiritually and emotionally. I’m fighting. SEE ME? I HAVE VALUE.


Yeah. I want to be the forerunner of HSP/Introvert freedom. We exist. We have value. We rock the corporate world when you aren’t looking.


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This was my view out the window when I left Portland last Saturday: Mt. Rainier (far left), Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams as the sun rises over the Columbia River.


Miss Baby Blue Eyes met me at Richmond International Airport with her brothers and her dad.


Mr. Trouble was full of hugs and mischief.


Mr. Kindergarten wanted his photo op at the Airborne & Special Forces Museum.

I traveled light and I asked that my son not attempt to “entertain” me: this was about visiting, not sight-seeing. As a result, I spent most of my time with small people who felt the need to sit on my lap, comb my hair, run around in large circles in the living room, and squabble over the same things my siblings and I fought over in the 1960’s: “Dad! He’s looking at me!” “Dad! He touched me.” “Dad, She hurt me!”

The one tourist attraction we went to was free and kid-friendly, if your child is like Mr. Trouble. The other two were intimidated at first because the museum is set up to mimic a tour through several battlefields, with the constant sound of machine guns and artillery in the back ground. The sound could not have bothered them: they hear the same sounds from their own home just off base at Fort Bragg. I think it was the wax soldiers in uniform.

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I confess: I took a lot of photos just for my brother and my husband. It was a fascinating exhibit.


It even included the rotor from one of the Blackhawks that were shot down in Mozambique in 1993.

I have a list of places I do want to see next time I visit North Carolina: the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens in Fayetteville and the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville.

I discovered I could decompress a little by slipping out onto the front stoop when no one was out there smoking. The humid weather was perfect for just sitting (not too hot, fortunately) and listening to the cicadas and the catbirds (and the pound of artillery and rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns). One day, a man stopped and said there was a dead copperhead in the roadway. I took a photo and have consequently looked it up: it was a corn snake and hardly poisonous. A cat-faced spider was living in the television satellite and she rebuilt her web every night.


This wolf spider came into the garage and visited, too, much to the dismay of several house residents (and my delight, with apologies to my hosts).

I left Fayetteville via Greyhound bus: always an adventure! First, there was Pillow Woman. She had taken up residence on two seats with her belongings, most of which appeared to be pillows. When the bus started up the highway, she climbed atop the stack of pillows so she could see over the heads of the passengers in the row ahead of her. Her counterpart was Smiling Woman, who looked slightly drunken and never quit smiling. She stood for most of the trip, peering over my head to see where we were going. She was a tad bit unnerving.

We pulled off in Petersburg just as I-95 came to a screeching halt. Our bus driver warned us that noone who was traveling through to Richmond could get off the bus as we were behind schedule. Pillow Woman got off. What ensued was a short argument between her and the bus driver (“Ma’am, I am going to leave you. If you go in that building, I will leave you.” “But I want to use the bathroom.” “Ma’am, there is a bathroom on the bus.”). Bus driver won.

We left Petersburg and took back roads while the bus driver asked the nearest passenger if he would please dial 5-1-1 and find out where the accident on I-95 was so we could skirt the tie-up. It took the gentleman five minutes to complete this simple task, and when he finally had 5-1-1 on the line, he leaned forward and asked, “What highway?” I thought my seat partner was going to bust out laughing. (Really? You don’t know what highway we’re supposed to be on? Or what highway was at a dead standstill that we narrowly missed?)

The ride culminated at Richmond with a stuck exit door. It took our intrepid bus driver six attempts to push the broken hydraulic door open so we all could exit the bus. My seat partner just shook his head and told me, “This is so funny!”

I flew out of Richmond yesterday morning. I had to defend my window seat from DFW-PDX, but I held my ground. This HSP introvert desperately needed to stare out that window and attempt to decompress a little.


Mt. Adams (foreground) and Mt. Rainier as I flew in.


Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams – a poetic end to my vacation.

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