Non-Observant and Insensitive: When a Stressed HSP Shuts Down
If you're a seasoned HSP information Googler, you've read time and time again that we are known for being sensitive, and observant. But what happens when we're not? When the "S" in HSP changes from highly "sensitive" person, to highly "stressed" person, we adapt in a way that I can best describe as horse blinders or tunnel vision: we become so overwhelmed that our focus becomes very selective, as a survival technique. This is when our minds are processing so much, that it can't take in any more information... When we're so depleted of our own emotional wellness that we don't empathize with others... When we stop wanting to connect emotionally with other people because its just too much... When we're so overwhelmed that we stop noticing and forget things that we normally would take note of... When our systems are so fried, we no longer display traits of being highly connected to our environment, but almost numb instead.
"I felt relief from one identity crisis of not understanding myself... then faced another when what I now knew to be true about my positive traits as an HSP weren't showing." -Tiara Ariel
This can be very unnerving and uncomfortable for an HSP. Even more-so than the overwhelm that so many of us experience as HSPs. And the reason it's worse is because we become disconnected from what makes us ourselves. A fundamental trait and way of being is blocked out of survival. I can speak from experience. I've been through periods of chronic stress in my life, and majority of those times when I was younger I had no idea I was an HSP. Talk about feeling uncomfortable, and confused - not only did I not understand my trait, I didn't understand why I was so stressed, or even how stressed I was. And why I seemed to deal with it so poorly compared to everyone else around me, and why something that didn't stress out a peer drained me so much. It wasn't until I became aware of my trait that things started making sense in retrospect. But even then, I still struggled to recognize what was happening when it occurred in the present. I learned about HSPs and began understanding myself as this highly observant, sensitive, deep-thinker and thorough processor of information. I began to understand my struggles and take pride in my gifts and talents. But once I felt relief from one identity crisis of not understanding myself, I then faced another when what I now knew to be true about my positive traits as an HSP weren't showing. My boyfriend starting noticing that I wasn't as observant as I thought I was, that I would tune out things he'd say and totally miss something in plain sight. A true HSP however, according to the popular description, would never do such a thing. We're said to always be "switched on" and there's no way we wouldn't have noticed the cat walk across the room or the sentence a loved one said to you. He began to point these things out, and I took offense to it. I had just gained understanding and pride in myself as being this highly observant and sensitive person, and everything that I never understood about my experiences suddenly made sense. But then just as soon as everything made sense, nothing made sense again! How could I be an non-observant, non-sensitive Highly Sensitive Person? At first, I got upset. I wildly protested his comments, and told him he was wrong. But then time and time again, I'd miss something I shouldn't have in our daily lives, forget things he'd say, or not hear him all-together. I wouldn't remember obvious things I had seen, when I could recall instances in my life where I had vivid memories of even the most mundane details. It was unnerving to be processing so much information all the time. But then it became more unnerving that I wasn't. Like a superhero being stripped of its powers. After some time of this, I started realizing what was happening. I realized that I wasn't able to be my best HSP self because I had been chronically stressed, and my mind was on survival mode, which meant as a defense mechanism, I would turn down the volume on sensory information inputs in order to cope. As I began recognizing this and taking better care of my health and well-being, and confidently embraced what I knew to be true about my potential as an HSP, things began to shift. I began to slowly "get my powers back". So let this me a reminder and a piece of validation: that for HSPs, stress management is top priority, and that if you aren't displaying the best of HSP traits, it doesn't mean you're not an HSP, or not a good HSP. It means you need self-care, and lots of it, right now! If you notice yourself getting so frazzled that you are shutting down your most beautiful abilities, stop in your tracks and make your recovery your TOP priority. Check out of unnecessary obligations, and reconnect with yourself. Your inner HSP may be in desperate need of a vacation!!