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Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Highly Sensitive Extrovert

I’m an extrovert (mostly); we’re often assumed to be superficial, tactless and insensitive. Or at least I am. It’s horrible, because since I was little I’ve always been hyper-sensitive. You have psychopaths, then sociopaths, then the average person who is quite sensitive, then very sensitive people, then me. I’m way at the top.

When I talk to other alcoholics or addicts, I feel that we get each other. I love my friends and my family, but there is nothing in the world like talking to someone who is of the same mould of you. You don’t even have to explain much; they already feel you because they’re the same. It’s very rewarding.

‘Loud’,‘hyper’ or ‘chatty’ people aren’t viewed as sensitive, even though according to Dr Elaine Aron, 30% of highly sensitive people are extroverts. Addicts are super sensitive people by nature. Why do we drink/use in the first place? To others we’re pathetic and selfish. Addiction IS selfish, but it’s also an illness. Addicts are the most sensitive, people-pleasing folk in the world. We desperately don’t want to hurt others, but we do. That’s why we have a set of twelve instructions to live our lives by. That’s why the eighth and ninth instructions are about making amends to others. 

As a child I was a massive cry-baby; I still am, although it’s taken me a lot of years to stop ‘repressing’ my emotions. Those who advocate for gender equality always say that boys are expected to ‘hold their feelings in’ and ‘be manly.’ I agree with this, but I also disagree. I’m not a boy, yet I’ve always felt like I need to hold my feelings in. The hardest years of my life were my school years (I’m talking all of it; primary, secondary and sixth form – fourteen years) and probably on a weekly basis I would sit and cry in my bedroom after a long day at school.

Teenagers are unforgiving people. They mock each other, leave each other out of things, take the piss out of one another, and haven’t yet grasped the true meaning of friendship. Things do change – in my experience – around the age of sixteen and upwards; people start to mature and treat each other better. But now at twenty, I’m seeing people still treating others badly, those who haven’t matured emotionally. I used to feel astounded at how people would treat each other in school. I hated myself for going along with it, for standing and watching whilst someone got left out or laughed at or yelled at for no reason. P.E was AWFUL. The girls all yell at one another if you drop the ball, they judge you for showing too much or too little skin, they stand there super intimidating. I think of the ‘popular’ group of guys and girls in my secondary school and my skin crawls. Unfortunately I can’t say much else for my own friendship group. People as individuals are often kind, but when you put them together they can be cruel and harsh. And insensitive.

I had two options in school; be a cry-baby forever who got walked all over, throw temper tantrums and be the angry kid, or suck it up and fake thick-skin. I did all three but the latter option shone the brightest. As a result I was overwhelmingly lonely in school. I never felt I could truly be myself or show my true feelings. People have often told me I’m very intense and full-on; when they don’t know how to word it they say I’m weird or crazy or odd. Some view ‘crazy’ as positive; others say it demeaningly.

For me, the world is always in full sharp focus. Everything is exaggerated. I’ve often been told that I exaggerate and am over-the-top. That’s because for me it is over the top in a way that it isn’t for those unlike me. Sudden loud noises can trigger off a yelp from me or a panic attack. A few nasty words have me slicing my arms. A friend cutting me off has me considering suicide. My emotional responses are turned up to the fullest volume. Even physically I’m affected; panic attacks, depression, addiction; these are all physical illnesses as well as emotional. Before I went on medication I used to get aches and pains in my body from being depressed.

Naturally, they work the other way as well. Love is full and strong; affection is super, a beautiful sea and sunlight rips through my veins. Sometimes I cry at gigs because the music hits me powerfully. When I’m in class at uni, sometimes people perform and I want to scream or cry or stand up and applaud them. I look around the room and others have blank expressions, or they’re smiling slightly or nodding their head. I know they love it too, but it’s not oozing from them like it is from me. All my feelings are always bursting out of me. I’m the kind of person where you can tell how I’m feeling just by looking at me.

If I fancy a guy, he’s always been able to tell. If I like you as a person, I’ll hug you and kiss your cheek and physically express love. There have been times in my life where everyone else has stopped laughing and I’ve gone on for fifteen minutes because that’s how affected I get.
I’m learning to accept the way I am. Bottling up feelings is dangerous for an addict, because bottling up leads to literal bottles or needles/pills etc. When my lovely ex sadly but necessarily ended our relationship, I cried all over him for 20-30 minutes. I could have walked out of the house and bought a bottle of wine and tried to suppress my feelings. I could have slashed my wrists. But I allowed myself to feel. I allowed my feelings to take their true form.

I always saw crying as pathetic, like I’d failed. In American Beauty the mother slaps herself for crying in a scene and goes ‘shut up shut up!’ I’ve done that numerous times. I’ve bitten into my skin or bitten into my duvet; anything to hold my tears or anger in. And all it does is lead to the dormant volcano erupting. Holding your feelings in is not healthy. Naturally, keeping them right sized is the most important thing, but that comes with maturing emotionally over time. I don’t want to burst into tears or have a panic attack at the sound of a loud noise, but I don’t want to close myself off either.


  1. i fully get where you're coming from i can be a bit sensitive sometimes myself (when i was a kid it was way worse) but we all got our shit we gotta deal or live with but i'm here for you


I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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