I walked outside, and the stench hit me like a runaway truck. My eyes watered and the cold hand that clutched my heart in my chest made me stagger. With so many things going through my head, I could hardly piece together my thoughts:
“I hope the neighbors don’t smell that.”
“Is it toxic gas?”
“Damn dogs! Did they shit on the patio again?”
“I’m going to throw up!”
With the voices and the clamor in my head comes the panic. I start looking for the source of the smell. I’m sure the authorities will arrive soon because that smell has to be HAZMAT, and stern-looking people in yellow suits should be here already.
I round the corner of the house to see the dogs lying in the sun, but no poop.
What is that smell?
The trash! Outside the gate, the empty trash can is lying on its side where the garbagemen threw it. Expecting to see rotten food strewn everywhere, I’m almost disappointed to see a single diaper stuck to the inside of the can by a leftover peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.
Sure, it stinks, but how can this be the source of the overpowering reek that hit me when I walked out the door? Another quick look around and a nod from my wife proves that, yes, this little bit of poop was what set my mind racing to alarm.
This situation happens more than I would like to admit.
Everything smells bad to me. I get nausea from brushing my teeth because the minty-fresh smell is terrible. When I clean the toilet, I get a headache from the odor of the cleaner. Food cooking in the kitchen sends me running for fresh air. If I go more than a few hours without a shower, I swear my B.O. is toxic. I cover my mouth when I talk because my breath smells like a chemical spill — even though it never does.
I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) and paired with my anxiety — I am constantly under attack. It’s not just the smells either. Tiny insignificant sounds drive me up the wall. You can imagine what loud noises like dogs barking and motorcycles zooming by the house do to me.
Bright lights are a problem. The sun doesn’t bother me, but artificial lights burn holes in my retinas. My anxiety makes me feel the heat from the bulbs, even if they are ten feet above me on the ceiling. I have to sit in the dark or get terrible headaches.
I have a hard time breathing when it’s too hot. I feel like I’m suffocating with a plastic bag over my head. Certain fabrics hurt me when they touch my skin, and if someone touches me too softly, I get queasy.
Sometimes the only place I feel safe is in my room, under a soft blanket, in the dark, with the air conditioner on. My wife used to wonder why I loved to sit in cold, dark rooms so much. She thought I was emo.
I’m sad to say this is what I have to deal with every single day. On top of the depression, the voices, and the noise in my head, I have to deal with the anxiety that comes from all my senses being hyperactive.
It’s a horrible thing.
What can we do if we are highly sensitive?
There are medications the doctor can prescribe, but they never did much to help me. I finally gave up on the medicine route because they were talking about putting me on a controlled substance. There is no way I can do that with my addictive personality and body composition. I learned my lesson when I spent months withdrawing from Benzos, and I won’t do it again.
Avoidance is another way to handle this problem, but if you are like me, there is just too much that bothers you, and you can’t cut out everything. Also, there’s the school of thought that you should handle a problem head-on and not run from it.
To me, I know the only people saying that are the ones who always have some worthless, well-meaning, passive-aggressive bit of advice. They are the same ones who tell you to “snap out of it” when you are depressed.
When I am feeling overstimulated, I do whatever it takes to remove myself from that stimuli. I ignore the people saying I’m running away from my problem because I doubt if the advice-givers have ever dealt with this kind of thing themselves.
A dark and quiet room. Cool air. Vicks Vapo-rub under my nose. Naked under a blanket. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that can help.
I wish I had the magic pill to solve this, but I don’t. I can only give advice for things that have worked for me. You have to do whatever it takes to get through this and don’t listen to the people saying you are doing it wrong.
Whatever works for you is right, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.
You do what you have to do to survive — I’ll do the same.