“You’re so sensitive.”
Three little words I’ve heard over and over again throughout my life. In kindergarten, I cried every time the teacher reprimanded the class because I thought she was surely talking directly to me. Kids in school said I didn’t know how to take a joke. Boyfriends accused me of being overly sensitive when we fought. Believe me, I’ve been told on way more than one occasion that I need to lighten up or toughen up.
Do something to stop being “too much” — too sensitive, too anxious, too nice.
I spent 30-some-odd years being ashamed of my sensitive nature, trying to put on a front that things didn’t really bother me when they did, acting as if I had a thick skin when I didn’t, pretending jokes rolled off my back when they stuck to me like glue.
Then, as I approached my mid-30s, I had a child. And my sensitive self was so overwhelmed with it all — the love, the stress, the complete upside-down flip of my life that it wasn’t even possible to pretend I wasn’t feeling all that I was. I called it postpartum anxiety just to give it a name, but really I wasn’t quite sure how to name what I was feeling — I just felt oversaturated with and overwhelmed by the love. I wondered, is it possible to love something so much that it doesn’t feel, well… good?
Then one day, when my boy was a couple months old, I brought him in to introduce him to my coworkers and one of them said something I’ll never forget — she put words to exactly what I’d been feeling. She said, “Doesn’t having a child feel like you’re walking around with your heart outside your body?”
OMG. Yes! That’s exactly what it feels like.
And then, three years later, I began to fall in love like that all over again, except this time it couldn’t last. And that heartbreak felt equally overwhelming but different. This time I was able to put words to how I was feeling: if having a baby felt like walking around with my heart outside my body, losing one felt like walking around completely inside out, every nerve raw and exposed.
People’s well-intentioned but poorly delivered words didn’t just fail to “roll off,” they felt like knives cutting an already open wound. Edgy and irritable became my default on a good day but most days my patience felt so paper-thin, you could say the wrong thing and break it clean in half. Grief took up residence as an ever-present lump in my throat, a dam holding back a flood of tears just waiting for the slightest trigger to release it.
There’s no use trying to put on fronts or a thick skin living inside out — I didn’t care to and, even if I did, they wouldn’t have stuck. So I had no choice but to start owning living inside out. And that’s where I am now, as I close out my 30s.
Photo courtesy of Ancora Photography
Those of us living life inside out — we may be overly sensitive, we may overreact, but with that comes great passion for the things we do and people we love.
We may take things harder, but at least we’re not hardened.
We’re far from carefree but we’re not care-free… our empathy is something the world desperately needs.
We’re sometimes perceived as the Black Sheep or the Oddballs, but we’re really just, as Glennon Doyle says, “Not a mess, but a deeply feeling person living in a messy world.”
Living life inside out means I might not be the social butterfly at the party but I can write a piece like this. It means I have boxes of journals because I’ve always written stuff like this.
But owning living inside out means that now you’re reading it.
Because living life inside out is no longer something I’m ashamed of — it simply means I’m no longer pretending not to feel deeply when the reality is that I do. It means I’m finally making my outsides match my insides.
I may be “too much” of something, maybe everything… but you can never be too REAL.
This story originally appeared on Krissy Brynn Jackson, Teacher-Mom Blog