Monk was one of my all-time favorite television shows. I could hardly wait until the next episode would air. Each forty-minute shot of the former detective, obsessive compulsive consultant to the San Francisco Police Department acted like a salve on my exhausted soul.
Because he was like me. Or, rather, I am like him. And so are twenty percent of the human population.
Elaine Aron calls us the Highly Sensitive People. HSP’s for short. We chosen few are “flawed” in the most magnificent, if utterly trying and sometimes debilitating manner: We notice things.
We see and hear and smell and feel things that eighty percent of the oblivious humans on this planet completely ignore. They can ignore it – we can’t.
Because we are more “sensitive” to what goes on around us, we are prone to feeling overwhelmed. Imagine how you would feel if it was a hot day and you could smell every separate smell in a very crowded bus full of under-washed people while your eyes and ears were picking up the angry expression of the man two seats down, the bulge in the pants of mister weirdo three rows over, the frantic fidgeting and mewling sounds of the woman going through withdrawals standing near the door, the red eyes of the man who has obviously been crying and who is now wearing two wedding rings on his finger, and the traffic whizzing by just outside the door at rush hour. Imagine noticing all of these things with no drop in their intensity for a good forty-five minutes… while your feet ache beneath you, your stomach growls, and your head pounds.
You would probably feel rather miserable. You’d want to hug the man who lost his wife, give the drug addict a Valium, call the cops on Mr. Weirdo, and ask the angry man why he was so angry. Maybe talking would allow him to work through his anger. The world could use less angry people.
Most humans would simply ride the bus and zone out and think about dinner or their Friday night plans or the new shoes they had waiting in the closet. But the HSP is stewing in a pot of sensations and emotions, and these feelings don’t fade with time – they get stronger. It’s why we’re literal geniuses at things like puzzles and detective work and writing. But it’s also why so many of us opt out of life through suicide. Being a sensitive person is, as my good friend Adrian would say, “a gift – and a curse.”
So, from one HSP to the 1.2 billion others out there living in the shadows of the people we save and entertain and understand, I just want to say this:
Hang in there.
Don’t give in. Don’t give up.
We are the few, the fantastically flawed, the fabulously facile.
The world is damned lucky to have us.
And I feel you.