Are you HIGHLY SENSITIVE? Click to find out!
If you’d met me a few years ago, you wouldn’t know me. Life felt heavy and gray, peppered with rare and precious moments of shining brilliance. I was either caught up in life’s beauty, inspired and feeling on top of the world, or I was caught in spirals of depression and anxiety, negative thoughts and feelings of overwhelm.
There was no middle ground, and it was exhausting.
I felt like I couldn’t survive on this planet, as if I were allergic to life. Easily overwhelmed, highly emotional, overly emphatic and sensitive, I cared so deeply about things that it often left me in pain.
As a baby, I never slept, and couldn’t stop screaming. At 6 months old, my doctor recommended Ritalin. My mother refused, but a lifelong pattern of intense emotions and scattered energy was born.
As an adolescent growing up in LA, a terrible dread began to surface. Painfully uncomfortable in my skin and worried about everything, school was torture and it was hard to make friends.
In college, while my friends went out and partied, I was the girl who went to bed early, preferring a warm, candlelit bath to a night of drinking. It reinforced the idea that everyone else was fine and I wasn’t. I felt separate, broken and weirdly different.
Of course, it wasn’t ALL bad! The good stuff was often a direct result of being highly sensitive—like the way music moves me, or nature soothes me, each easily and reliably transporting me to happiness.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the highs and lows provided me with information that would later become elements of this program: like, which environments support me, versus which ones sap my energy. What nourishes me—and what doesn’t.
After college, when I met my beloved, I swept easily into love, marriage, and children. My new little family gave me purpose and joy. And, like so many new moms: I threw all self-care right out the window. “Family comes first” became my mantra. I stopped doing things I loved.
The one pleasure I allowed myself was food. And I love food! So I ate, and ate some more. I got addicted to sugar, gained weight, and my health started to suffer. I developed chronic digestive issues. I was bone-tired, suffered from dizzy spells and intense lower back pain, and I felt like I was living one big panic attack.
It was around this time that I discovered Dr. Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person.
What a revelation! I checked through the traits she listed and thought, Holy crap. This is me! This is me! Being highly-sensitive explained why I was overwhelmed with sadness when anyone around me suffered. It explained my intuitive nature, empathy, sensitivity to my physical environment, and highly-tuned connection to my body.
It explained my ability to feel deep compassion and love for people I didn’t know, my need to be completely alone, my aversion to crowds and loud noises, the fear I experienced as a child, my inability to sleep when I was young, and my sensitivity to the lighting in the room. My deep feelings of connection to something greater than I am. My ability to know how to put people at ease, adapting to their mood and meeting them where they are. My intense reactions around people who are negative or angry. Even my perfectionism.
I was a freaking poster child for the Highly Sensitive Person.
It also put the depression and anxiety I experienced in context. By – unwittingly – putting myself in situations that stressed my highly sensitive nature, I actually exacerbated both conditions.
After my initial joy at this discovery… I was pissed. Resentful. My husband would sneak up and grab me in a bear hug and, startled, I would snap, “Stop that! You know I’m highly sensitive!”
Everything became a “highly sensitive” moment. I started using it as a crutch, an excuse. I felt fragile and weak. I felt like I had finally hit rock bottom.
I knew who I wanted to be: Amazonian warrior princess mom with a kick-ass career who laughs, plays with reckless abandon, has great sex, makes amazing home-cooked food, crafts, hikes, travels with babies on hip, showing them what true living was all about.
Instead, I was fat, cranky and directionless, constantly fighting with my husband, and too sick and depressed to pick my kids up from school. This was not living.
Today, I could tell you that I am a different person, but the truth is, I’m not.
I am the same highly sensitive Cortney… but I’ve figured out and applied the step-by-step strategies needed to take exquisite care of myself while having fun – forever closing the gap between Overwhelmed-and-Stuck Cortney and Empowered-and-In-Love-With-Life Cortney.
I turned myself around and learned how to embrace and love my highly-sensitive life. I repeat: I LOVE MY LIFE. (For anyone who’s lived as many years – or more – as I have thoroughly NOT enjoying their lives, then you know how revolutionary that statement is).
“The biggest changes to my journey have been 1) prioritizing my self-care. I now make time every day to move my body intentionally. 2) I no longer eat mindlessly. I’ve learned that food is fuel and I opt to make the best choices possible that will keep my energy up throughout my busy day. Finally, I am learning to not feel disgusted with myself if I make a bad choice or have a bad day; I’m human, not perfect.”
—Sherell Savage, Reverend, Highly Sensitive Badass Mama of 3
Sign up to receive our EBook!