The past few months has been really eye-opening for me. Ever since I began to wonder if I might have a form a dyslexia, much of my self-perception began to change. Of course, when I finally blogged about it, and consequently learned I am a visual-spatial learner (with a touch of dyslexia thrown in for good measure) who also happens to have ordinal linguistic personification (it still cracks me up that there's a name for that particular brand of "special") - well, my head nearly exploded from all the paradigm shifts.
A couple of weeks ago, I called on my therapist for some as-needed sessions (yay for beginning to recognize when to say "uncle"). I told her about the visual-spatial learning and how it went a long way toward explaining why I feel compelled to "write the end of the story" - something she had previously admonished me not to do. Because I process information holistically (all at once, not step-by-step), it's almost impossible for me not to fill in the blanks of the future. For me, life is a series of stories. And If I can't have the end of the novel, well, I will at least make an educated guess about the end of the chapter I'm living in. And when something or someone radically alters the ending I've written, in effect, ripping out the end of the story, well, I get a little frantic.
No wonder my attempts to be zen and "in the moment" fail so miserably! I always feel like I'm the person peeking during prayer to see what's going on while everyone has their eyes closed. My head is always filled with, "Yes, but what's in the next moment?!"
My therapist was really excited to have this knowledge and was able to reasses some of the things we'd been doing in a way that makes more sense for me. Of course, being a visual-spatial learner entails all sorts of other traits, too, and I also mentioned the high degree of empathy as something that really resonated with me.
Then a light bulb turned on for her. She asked me some questions about empathy and sensitivity and then refered me to this site on Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). (I know - the name sound unspeakably goofy, but she has good reason to use it.) So I took yet another quiz and was amazed at the accuracy of the description. Apparently, being highly sensitive (not just emotional) is a neurolgoical phenomenon and a verifiable character trait - not just a flaw I need to overcome.
And the two (visual-spatial learning and being highly sensitive) seem, in my layman's eye to be very interrelated. Being more right-brained, knowing things without knowing why, feeling what others feel (not just knowing what they might feel given the specifics of a situation, but actually feeling it myself, through my nervous system), being easily overwhelmed (I like to call it "pissed-off") at too much noise, commotion, or input coming at me all at once.
So I passed along the link to my mom and she ordered the book for me. I got it yesterday and began reading it last night. Only three pages in, I began to remember all sorts of things from my life that look completely different from this perspective.
It's like I spent all of my life believing I was a square, doing square things, and trying my best to be nice and pointy and flat edged - only to be told, "Hmmm, have you ever considered that you might really be a circle?" Now, every time I look in the mirror, or look back over my life, all I see is roundness! And I feel like screaming, "Holy shit! I'm a CIRCLE! Why didn't anyone tell me this?!"
Of course, nobody told me because I'm highly adaptive and did a damned good immitation of a square.
One of the things this HSP stuff puts into perspective for me is my extreme reactions to other people's situations, pains, and their judgement of me. I shame very easily. I pick up on cues and deduce from there - not always correctly. And I read into every action. On the one hand, this is incredibly useful:
I had the honor of being at my friend, Jen's, bedside when she was in labor with her first daughter. She had a platelet issue and couldn't have an epidural - a fact they discovered only after they induced labor. So she endured a pitocin drip without the benefit of an epidural for more than six hours (can't recall exactly how long). Finally, with no sign of the baby descending, and signs of distress all around, the doctors decided to perform an emergency c-section.
As the doctor sat by her side explaining what was going on, I could tell that Jen was frantic, doing her best to get through a contraction while her doctor prattled on oblivious, answering all the wrong questions. Finally, I interrupted: "No," I said, "that's not what she's asking. She wants to know when she'll be able to see the baby."
Jen nodded in relief and the doctor explained the rest. Later, Jen said she was really greatful that I was there to say what she couldn't. And even though I have more pregnancy-related information than the average bear, I never could really explain how I knew exactly what she wanted to know at that moment.
But on the other hand, this heightened sense leads to some not-so-nice effects. I feel embarassment, shame, and pain more deeply and hold onto those feelings for a very, very long time. I can get flustered easily (though most people wouldn't know this - I hide it well) and the embarassment of being flustered eats at me. It fuels a perfectionism that can be self-destructive.
I'm excited to have all this knowledge to dig through now. It's like a whole new journey that ends with me finding out who I really am, and who I've been all along. And hopefully, it involves some better choices about my future and some forgiveness for myself for what I previously saw as failures.
Alas, dear readers, you'll have to go along for the ride. I bet I'll be talking about my newfound circular shape for the next few months. But who knows, maybe you're a circle, too!