I am a highly sensitive, empathic, introvert who’s personality type is INFJ. If that made no sense to you, let me break it down a little. Introverts make up about 30% of the world’s population while highly sensitive people (HSPs) make up roughly 20%. To narrow it down even further, empathic people make up between 1 and 2 % of the world’s population and INFJ’s make up 0.4 percent. Basically, the chance of someone like me existing is, quite literally, an anomaly.
I guess I always knew that I was “different”. In childhood, I always seemed to have trouble making sense of my world. I always felt like everyone else understood each other and I never fit in anywhere. In a lot of ways, I felt like an adult trapped in a child’s body. As an HSP, I processed information quicker and in a more in depth way. This meant that I learned most things very quickly. This made me very independent at an early age. As an empath, I could easily sense what other people were feeling, making it very easy for me to cater to others’ needs. I was wiser than I should’ve been in childhood and that’s why I began to feel alienated. Without developing emotional intelligence to cope, I had extreme difficulty making sense of the “big” things I thought and felt.
The “problem” with highly sensitive introverts is that they have a tendency to feel big and want to appear small. High sensitivity means that I am more sensitive to my environment than 80% of the global population. I have more allergies. I am sensitive to loud noises and bright lights. I am overstimulated very easily. I feel big emotions; bigger and more intensely than most people. This usually works out in my favor whenever those emotions are positive and acceptable like happiness or excitement. My big, negative emotions are more difficult to handle for someone who doesn’t feel as strongly as I do. As a child, if something bothered me but didn’t bother anyone else (which happened often), I would gaslight myself. I would diminish my own perspective and my own (very big) feelings so as not to inconvenience anyone else.
I spent so much of my life gaslighting myself! Although I knew I was different, I just tried to play the part. I just wanted to blend in. I didn’t really care about whether or not I was popular or made friends. I just didn’t want to stand out and face possible rejection for something I innately couldn’t change. Perform, perform, perform. That’s what I did for years. I didn’t realize I was slowly trying to kill parts of me that could not die. I had no conscious idea that with each performance, I dealt a near fatal blow to my truest identity.
In hindsight, my childhood and early adult experiences were a perfect storm that led me to this exact point in life. I haven’t finished labeling myself yet. I am a highly sensitive, empathic, introvert who had a miscarriage and was sexually assaulted. 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage and 1 and 5 women are sexually assaulted. With each new label, I began to crack a little more. I hated being the “one” in the statistics. Why was I always the “one”? I wanted to be the other four or five! So, I performed even more. I tried to handle my extraordinary circumstances in extremely ordinary ways. I tried journaling and talk therapy. I continued to go through the routines at church and I continued to find bible verses that supported my complete denial of my very real and very big feelings about the traumas I had experienced.
With every attempt to blend in, the parts of my true self became more dissociated. The pain occupied one corner, the true me occupied another and the performer held onto center stage with a death grip. I can’t say it functioned well, but it was functional. That is, until I earned my last label.
I am a highly sensitive, empathic, introverted, complex trauma survivor who gave birth to a colicky baby while living 1700 miles away from her entire family during a global pandemic. I know, that’s a mouthful, and if I led with that, you wouldn’t have read down to this point, right?
Having a baby is difficult for any new mother. There are so many ways in which you are challenged; sleep deprivation, anxiety, loss of self identity, poor body image, burn-out, etc. It’s hard for me to truly describe how difficult it was for me when my daughter was born. She was, like me, such a sensitive baby. She needed to be held constantly and, even then, she screamed at the top of her lungs nonstop for hours on end. She barely slept, which means I barely slept. My highly sensitive trait begged for silence, alone time and sleep. My empathic self was being crushed under the weight of feeling every uncontrolled emotion my daughter felt. I desperately needed help but my family was across the country and the pandemic made it impossible for anyone to see each other. At the moment that I needed help the most, I had never felt so alone in my entire life.
And that’s why the fuse blew. My biggest fear is suffering alone. I’m terrified that someone will see me suffering and do nothing about it. I started to realize that I was suffering and I was afraid to be alone. I couldn’t meet up with anyone in real life so I started looking for online support groups. I immediately realized that no group truly encompassed everything that I experienced. There was a support group for survivors of sexual assault. There was a group for women who experienced miscarriages. There were mom groups on facebook. Each one had a piece to the puzzle, but the puzzle was still very incomplete. My body couldn’t handle the isolation anymore. The performer couldn’t perform anymore. The dissociated parts of me took center stage.
And that’s how I got fibromyalgia. Internet searches and doctors will tell you “there’s no known or true cause”. Some suggest another serious illness or a traumatic event. Others suggest it’s a nutritional or hormonal imbalance. For me, it is a natural result of my repeated attempts to kill parts of me that cannot die. The pain that I repeatedly masked and ignored finally said “enough”. The fuse blew. The pain ran through me like a raging electrical fire. Every part of my body ached and burned. I was nearly paralyzed by the pain and the fatigue. I had no idea what was happening to me. I tried to push through and perform but, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t ignore this.
Living with fibromyalgia has been somewhat of a curse. There is reportedly no cure and the treatment is shotty at best. What I’ve found is that the pain can be managed with medications if you choose to go that route. The fatigue is more difficult to manage but making attempts to get rest always helps. There are so many “other symptoms” that go unrecognized and untreated. It is such a widespread ailment that it almost seems impossible to treat. And that’s why I said it’s somewhat of a curse. I’ll repeat my biggest fear: I’m terrified that someone will see me suffering and do nothing about it. Living with fibromyalgia has meant that my illness is largely invisible. It is a “diagnosis of exclusion”; which means doctors test for everything else and diagnose fibromyalgia when all the other tests are normal. I got countless vials of my blood drawn and sat in countless imaging machines just to hear, “everything is normal”. Meanwhile, I could barely muster up the strength to drive myself to those appointments.
People can’t visibly see the pain that I’m in which often frustrates me. However, it’s a blessing that the pain is now center stage. That’s right. Fibromyalgia has been somewhat of a curse; but it’s also been a blessing. I can’t perform anymore. In learning how to treat this disease, I am learning how to put my needs first. I’ve had to learn how to ask for help. I’ve had to stop pretending that my feelings aren’t important. My fibromyalgia is completely intertwined with my emotions. With each attempt to ignore a difficult emotion, my body reacts with a new wave of full body pain. I have to give full attention to each new emotion and allow myself to work through and process any of the suppressed ones. I’ve had to reconnect with the parts of me that have been buried since childhood.
My point in writing all of this is not to gain sympathy. There’s one part of me that I haven’t addressed yet. My personality type is INFJ, or The Advocate. It’s the one part of me that matters the most and the only part of me that has never changed or been hidden. I am an advocate. The other parts of me, which up until this point, have caused more harm than good, help me to be the best possible advocate for others.
I am a highly sensitive person who feels deeply, which means, when other people are experiencing something, I know exactly what it feels like. Because I deeply process everything, I am able to give them the perfect words to describe their experiences. I am empathetic, so I can immediately detect and interpret how another person is feeling in real time. This allows me to connect with other people on a deeper and more genuine level. I am introverted so I easily hold space for others without taking the spotlight. I am a complex trauma survivor, so I am able to understand and stand in solidarity with people during their most terrifying and vulnerable moments.
I have fibromyalgia, so I will always advocate for those who suffer in silence. I will always use my voice, and my innate abilities, to encourage and help others. I am a mother, so I recognize how important it is for me to embrace my daughter for who she really is inside. I am exactly who God needs me to be. I am an advocate. I am “the one” in a sea of many. I am not like any of them, but I am capable of understanding all of them. I am learning to fully embrace every part of me so that I can be fully present and capable of living out my purpose the way I was destined to do.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made to be, Destynie.