Category Archives: Highly Sensitive

Brother from Another Mother

On my wedding day, I didn’t have a bridesmaid. I had a brides butler. But although I didn’t have any of the traditional bridesmaids activities or pre-marriage rituals, I couldn’t have picked any other person to be my brides-butler. And nobody else could have been a better choice.

Simon has been in my life for as long as I’ve had any conscious awareness. Our parents worked together when we were born – infact, I wonder sometimes if the birth of Simon inspired my conception. Born in mid-February, he (and Anson – born towards the end of February) are both 9 months older than me. So it *is* possible… (*shudder*)

Throughout my life, from childish games, to massive play date sessions at each other’s houses, to school playground protection and right up to post-uni emotional crumbles, Simon has always been there. Anyone who knows him is clear that he is one of the rare breed of Good Guys. He’s a rock to many, many people. He’s easy-going, diplomatic, silent and strong. And though I have no right to, I have felt a strong claim of protection over his happiness for as long as I’ve known him. I would not be surprised if I was not the only person to feel this way.

You see, you don’t meet people like Simon very often. We click. We name the song within the first bar. We know the same cheesy 80s dance moves. We know all the lyrics from a certain era. We get the same pop cultural references. We grew up together and knew each other at our most awkward phases. There is no one in the world I feel more at ease with – with the single exception of my husband. I don’t know anybody else like him. He is, to me, my brother (from another mother) – the big brother I always wished I had.

Today, I had the privilege of witnessing his marriage to Alyson, with his best man, Anson, by his side at an intimate ceremony of family and friends. Now, I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve battled with my emotions over my connection with Simon on numerous occasions over the years since I’ve married and had children. The connection I’ve always felt for him is one that has been given diminished attention as life has developed. With dating, working, settling down – there is less and less emotional space for such a friendship. It gets put to one side, unattended. But the emotions never retire – they just wait until needed. As the day for Simon’s marriage grew closer, I had a myriad of emotions and reactions to it. Mostly confused – I wasn’t sure if I qualified for any sort of right to be there anymore. Coupled with this, there have been a number of tough life events for both Simon and Anson – beyond my life experience and ability to comprehend. Though my heart broke and I yearned to help, I was often at a loss at how best to be there for either of them as I would find myself frequently at a loss for words around them, overwhelmed by emotion.

So, today myself and my little family attended Simon’s wedding to Alyson, excited and eager to be able to share in such a special celebration for him, but also a little unsure about how I would feel about the day. Knowing very little about Alyson, I only knew to trust in Simon’s unwavering ability to make clear and even-handed decisions. He has never been one to be rushed or pressured into a wrong decision and that alone should have been reason enough to put any unease I felt to rest.

The day started with a lovely, small and intimate ceremony. Beautiful and elegant. Special. Perfectly fitting. Then moved onto the Chinese wedding banquet – noisy, busy, big and necessary for our culture. Handled with big smiles and a good natured attitude throughout, the newlyweds took it all in their stride and showed little fatigue. For all British-born Chinese people, you will be impressed to hear that the lobsters were big/plentiful and juicy, and each and every single dish was *very* generous in portions. But the real stamp of personality from the newlyweds came in the evening reception. Where the photo montage of both their childhoods brought lumps to many throats – culminating in a truly heart bursting collection of photos showing their life together so far. The pure happiness, love and joy – and memories of such special people so recently lost to us – were poignantly selected and perfectly presented. There was not a dry eye in the house as we all saw with our own eyes how wonderfully and deeply happy the new Mr and Mrs Tam are together. It was then I realised what I had been holding on to – the sense of protection over my “big brother”, the need to know that he is okay – it dissipated into thin air as the tears flowed uncontrolled. Simon is truly happy, and it made my heart sing to see it.

As if that was not enough emotion already, a tearful Simon then took to the microphone to deliver his speech. For all his strengths and amazing qualities, one of his lesser known outstanding talents, is his speech writing. As he began to read from his prepared notes, and his emotions came forth, I was reminded (as I often am at weddings nowadays) of the Father of the Bride speech he wrote for his now late father, to deliver at his eldest sister (Tessa)’s wedding in 2006. It was hands down, the best speech I had ever heard. The delivery was perfect and the emotion was true. So when Simon began his speech, he brought his father into the room. And with Anson at his side, to bolster the emotions, we all saw before us the evidence of a truly amazing friendship and brotherhood – reflecting and superceding the friendship of their late fathers before them. It was emotional, raw and authentic. They are so blessed to have each other and we were so blessed to be able to share that moment in the same room. I struggle to recall it without feeling it all over again…

And so I arrived home late tonight, with my husband and children finally tumbled into bed at midnight and find myself writing out this blogpost – to say all the things I wanted to say at the wedding but couldn’t find a way, or the words wouldn’t come… The words began for Simon… but actually are largely for Alyson.

Today I learned that my heart can burst at the sight of seeing my “big brother” finally, truly happy. Today I learned that he is in the safe hands of a wonderful woman who sees the magical qualities that are present in Simon. Today I saw him marry a woman who will also help him to grow and develop, improving together in their future as husband and wife.

To Alyson:

I know I’m not real, blood family. I know I have little claim over Simon as a sensitive surrogate “little sister” he never really chose. And I know I’m rarely in your lives as I have my own life to keep busy with. But know that you are a very welcome modification to the wonderful Simon that I know and love. His happiness has meant more to me than I realised and seeing you both happily married together has closed a chapter that I had never realised was unfinished. Any chapters from here are now for you both to write and build together and I can’t wait to hear about them whenever the opportunity arises. I wish you both a true, open, communicative and nurturing marriage together. May you always have joy in your conversations, and comfort in your silences. May your love for each other bring you strength and peace in times of trouble. And may your journeys and experiences together enrich your lives with bounty you never knew could be possible.

With much love, blessings, good health and congratulations to you both on this, your very special wedding day, and for all the days to follow.

Connie x

Socio…pathetic

Today, I found a resource where I found I could connect with other HSPs.

Today, I connected with people who described experiences in their lives that I could see reflected in my own life.

Today, I stopped feeling like I’m the only one.

At the age of 34, I am only just beginning to learn how to recognise the early signs of toxic and high-maintenance/low-return friendships. But I am far from gaining a much-needed immunity. Actually, with my increased level of self-understanding I have learned that my recurring [failed] friendship pattern in life seems to have been with Narcissists and Sociopaths.

What do I mean by a Narcissist?

People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician. (source)

And what do I mean by Sociopath?

How to spot a Sociopath

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan

(source)

Now, before you brand me as a sensationalist drama queen and overly sensitive/taking my failures in friendships too personally (notice my immediate instinct for self-deprecating comments in order to excuse my sensitive personality) – here’s the article where my information comes from:

The Empathy TrapEmpathic People are Natural Targets for Sociopaths – Protect Yourself

…Have a read if you have time.

And so, to continue with my tradition of blogging about my failed friendships (both narcissists, as it turns out), I have one final memoir to type in order to complete the full trilogy. I promise, after this one, there will be no more. Partly because I will no longer blog about them; partly because I hope that it will never happen again. And it’s The Big One too. This was when I nearly became caught in the Empath-Sociopath-Apath triangle…

I have mentioned a significant friend in the past

I have a friend with whom I have a love/hate relationship with.  I love her, and I love to hate and complain about her. She’s fabulously thick skinned and tough though – one of her greatest personality traits is that she is unapologetic about herself. So, I can complain to her about what she’s done to annoy me. But she won’t apologise for it; She won’t get hurt by it. She takes it on the chin, explains herself, but ultimately we just agree to disagree. Rarely does she acquiesce to my point of view. It’s quite a unique friendship and one that I have definitely come to appreciate for it’s long-standing quality despite the aggravation I sometimes subject myself to as a result of her actions, lol.

Taking note of the parts I have highlighted, it seems so transparently clear now, but at the time I was utterly and completely taken in. Always the life and soul of every social event, I had always enjoyed her compelling company. She always made time to see me and she very much enjoyed our chats.

Often empaths are targeted by sociopaths because they pose the greatest threat. The empath is usually the first to detect that something is not right and express what s/he senses. As a consequence, the empath is both the sociopath’s number one foe and a source of attraction; the empath’s responses and actions provide excellent entertainment for sociopaths, who use and abuse people for sport. (source)

But the turning point came when she became a mother. As a HSP (empath), I saw and heard about the pathological corner-cutting approach to childcare and parental duties; I simply could not ignore it. When I became so deeply unsettled by the insight into her parenting style, I naturally began express my concern. Firstly to mutual friends. I was concerned that nobody seemed to know enough about the situation to be concerned, therefore a positive change would be unlikely. I started to seek support, find others who would help me to rehabilitate so-called friend. Teach her, educate her, support her to learn new methods. However, I slowly began to realise that I was forming a deplorable habit of constantly moaning to all and sundry about the same person, over and over again: Not a nice situation to put myself into –  nobody likes to spend time with a moaner and nobody likes to *be* a moaner. I was in very real danger of engaging the…

SOCIOPATH-EMPATH-APATH TRIAD

The usual set-up goes like this: the empath is forced to make a stand on seeing the sociopath say or do something underhand. The empath challenges the sociopath, who straight away throws others off the scent and shifts the blame on to the empath. The empath becomes an object of abuse when the apath corroborates the sociopath’s perspective.

The situation usually ends badly for the empath and sometimes also for the apath, if their conscience returns to haunt them or they later become an object of abuse themselves. But, frustratingly, the sociopath often goes scot free. (source)

Being blithely unaware that it could flip and turn against me, I waited and I waited for the opportunity for a confrontation with the friend in question. I prepared to finally confess that I knew of the lax, neglectful and sometimes dangerous tactics she utilised in her parenting style. I was ready to declare that I simply could not stand by and turn a blind eye anymore. I mentally lay waiting like a coiled spring.

But the day never came.

As it turned out, I had never been privy to her inner social circle. Despite the numerous personal conversations where my advice had been sought (and repeatedly unheeded), I had merely existed in her life for the sport and entertainment of my impassioned and sensitive reactions to whatever she decided to share with me that day. I was unimportant and expendable. She had already started the “discard phase” on our friendship.

Eventually I uncoiled. Slowly I calmed down. Finally I moved on.

Life has been much better since :)

=======================

If you think you, or someone you know, might have an Antisocial Personality Disorder, or have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there are tests for that too…

Personality Disorder Test

Narcissistic Personality Quiz

I’m HSP, I am.

I’m HSP, I am. I’m HSP, I am. I know I am, I’m sure I am. I’m HSP, I am. * :p

For those who know me, you may (or may not) have noticed that roughly 9 months ago I came upon a personal epiphany where I discovered that I am what is known as a Highly Sensitive Person.

Here is a very well written introduction to an HSP as found on HighlySensitivePeople.com:

Now, as an introduction to the trait of high sensitivity, see if some of these statements resonate with you, or relate to someone important in your life…

You, your partner, or someone important to you have a heightened awareness of subtleties in your environment, whether it’s sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell.

You can become stressed out and upset when overwhelmed and may find it necessary to get away, maybe into a darkened room, to seek solitude, relief and comfort.

You are very creative.

You are very conscientious, hard working, and meticulous, but may become uncomfortable and less efficient or productive when being watched or scrutinized.

You feel compelled to file and organize things and thoughts, also enjoy simplicity and may become overwhelmed or even immobilized by chaos, clutter, or stress.

You are very uncomfortable when feeling things are getting out of your control.

You get a sense of comfort and well being when around a lake, river, stream, the ocean, or even a fountain.

You may experience mood swings, sometimes occurring almost instantly and can also be affected by other people’s moods, emotions and problems.

You have a deep, rich, inner life, are very spiritual, and may also have vivid \s.

You are very intuitive and you feel that you can usually sense if someone isn’t telling the truth or if something else is wrong.

You get concerned and think or worry about many things, and have also been told “you take things too personally.”

You have had the experience of “cutting people out” of your life.

You were considered quiet, introverted, timid, or shy as a child.

So, by “sensitive” it does not just mean emotionally sensitive. It covers all the physical senses too. And basically, that’s me in a nutshell.

I hadn’t intended on going into too much detail about it right here, in this blog post. But if you are wondering if you might also be a HSP, there is a very awesome Self Test available here. This is the test that began the epiphany that has since given me the courage to gain the elusive empowerment I have always faked, but never truly grasped. I’m finally embracing my instincts (or “spidey sense” as my husband affectionately calls it) rather than marginalising it as paranoia or overthinking. I’m learning also that I cannot control how people react to what I say and do, because no matter how sensitive I am, I’m not superhuman. How they react is their responsibility, not mine.

Unfortunately, as much as I am now growing to love and respect my spidey sense, it has also highlighted (and explained) the recurring pattern of damaging friendships I’ve had in my life…

*sung to the tune of “H.A.P.P.Y”

High Maintenance; Low Return.

I have a friend with whom I have a love/hate relationship with.  I love her, and I love to hate and complain about her. She’s fabulously thick skinned and tough though – one of her greatest personality traits is that she is unapologetic about herself. So, I can complain to her about what she’s done to annoy me. But she won’t apologise for it; She won’t get hurt by it. She takes it on the chin, explains herself, but ultimately we just agree to disagree. Rarely does she acquiesce to my point of view. It’s quite a unique friendship and one that I have definitely come to appreciate for it’s long-standing quality despite the aggravation I sometimes subject myself to as a result of her actions, lol.

Now this cherished friend has many many friends. Hundreds. Not just on her Facebook, but literally hundreds in real life too. She knows them all to talk to on the phone or text. Most have met her immediate and closest family members. She’s gregarious and sociable. She’s friendly to a fault sometimes, if you ask me. I’ve told her this. She just concedes that it’s part of her nature – she sees good in each and every one of her several hundred friends. It’s quite an amazing ability actually.

I met a couple of her good friends recently at a celebration she arranged for herself, and a couple of her friends shocked me. Primarily for their astounding disregard for keeping the hostess-with-the-mostest happy and relaxed. There was foot-stomping, exclamations of boredom and someone even stormed out. It gave the evening a bit of a negative edge actually. By the next day when I got in touch with her to thank her for yet another great night out, I commended her for strength and integrity in friendships as I could not understand how she could tolerate or maintain friendships that were so high maintenance, with such low return. It was a harsh observation for me to make – but not the most harsh thing I have ever said to her. I can be blunt to a fault, but my friend can take it. That’s how awesome she is.

Anyway. Her subsequent response jolted me slightly as she made an observation about one of my own friends, outside of her social circle, who she’s always felt is “high maintenance, low return” (HMLR). I wasn’t sure how to react as I hadn’t felt that way in a while about the friend she was referring to. My gut reaction was actually to jump to the victim’s defense as actually, they’d been absolutely delightful of late. But having had time to think it through, turn it over and look at it objectively (along with present day actual contact and experience), she is absolutely right. I really do have a friendship of the high maintenance low return order. And I’m not sure why I do it.

If I’d comprehended this situation this time last year, I think I would take the majority of the responsibility for this rather unbalanced friendship on my own shoulders, believing that I’m only getting back what I’m putting in. Ergo, I’m not putting enough in, and actually I’m performing below par for this HMLR friendship.

However, since the death of the toxic friendship (which was the HMLR to set all records in its heyday) I’ve come to realise that I could really put myself out, I could bend over backwards and I could offer myself at the sacrificial altar, but sometimes, it just won’t be enough. Not that I don’t get anything from the friendship as there are obviously good times and brilliant memories, but certainly not enough in terms of quality or quantity to make it a logical relationship to keep. And yet I do.

I guess I’m starting to understand that sometimes it’s just not in a person’s nature to act in the same way as myself in a friendship. Sometimes it’s just the way they are and no matter how much you have loved them and connected with them, there’s really no need to take it personally when they make you feel as though you are not doing enough, giving enough and that you simply are not enough. In such cases they often behave like this indiscriminately, to all their friends, and not just to one person. It’s quite tiring to take (you don’t say).

So. How does one resolve a situation like this?

My head sees it as a very straightforward choice. Why should anybody have to bother with such a draining relationship with anyone?

My heart sees things differently. That the friendship has the redeeming quality of reminding of who I am based on who I was during an era that ended the day I became a parent. It serves as a great landmark for my life at a certain point. Also, I don’t think I have the strength or courage to end the relationship. So I let it run and I appreciate whatever little moments of return I am able to enjoy.

Perhaps the lesson I should be learning here is not how to accept my HMLR friendship, but how to accept someone I love and appreciate as a friend keeping a number of these HMLR friendships herself.

Or even more importantly that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

R.I.P Toxic Friendship

I met up with an old friend for an evening meal this week. We were “best friends” between the ages of 11 and 22. We did our homework together, we crushed on the same boys, we talked for hours on the phone about nothing, we’d complain about how unreasonable our mothers were. After college we went on to different universities – practically at opposite ends of the country (not quite, but you see what I’m saying…) during which I also spent a year abroad. We’d begun to grow apart.

Following graduation, I found myself dumped by my boyfriend of 4.5 years, jobless and living back at home with my parents. It was inevitable that my first bout of depression was about to hit – but I didn’t see it coming. That was when we had a big falling out as I was days from depression (which she admitted she prob would have seen the signs if she’d paid closer attention) and words that I’d said out of character to a 3rd person were miscontrued back to her.

Other than the odd email (which started after a very humble apology she sent after hearing I’d become engaged) and some distant Facebooking, we hadn’t spoken properly for 9 years until this week. For those 9 years where I didn’t speak to my former friend, I spent time moaning about it, obsessing over it, telling my new friends about her and constantly thinking I could have done something different to have changed the outcome.

Then one day last year, following a talk with a very good friend where I realised I have crap skills of forgiveness* (hubs enjoyed watching that penny drop!) and after looking at some of the great friendships I have around me now, I finally made the decision to let it go. And that was it. It stopped worrying me. Once the decision was made, I felt ready to meet up with her again as I was no longer scared of whatever consequences there would be.

A lot was covered during the meal we had together. We talked about old times, why we thought things went wrong, how we feel about our lives now, and so on. But there was a turning point about two thirds of the way through the meal. We went from catching up and reconnecting, to suddenly being very upset and defensive.

There were a few moments where I should have bitten my tongue instead of being outright honest with her. There were also moments when she spoke out of turn and criticised me for lack of tact – a fair point, but as it’s the one main trait that I have never managed to change despite years of agonising (coincidentally, also falling between the ages of 11 and 22), so I’ve have decided to embrace it and love it instead of getting upset over it.

The conclusion that came out of the whole evening was that truthfully we just cannot have a healthy friendship with each other. The problem is that in just being ourselves, honest without agenda, we were able to really hurt each other’s feelings – right to the core, in the heart. I honestly felt like my heart was being shredded at one point. We were both close to tears. Several times. My body language was open, pained and reaching out. Her’s was closed, pained and defensive. We couldn’t look at each other. We were both suddenly thrown back into our teenage years. Yet neither one of us had even the tiniest intention of hurting the other. It was intense.

So. I think that as far as friendships go, our’s classifies as toxic. Not saying we never had good times. We did. But I struggle to remember them. My memories of our friendship are that of heartache, tears and hours begging of her how I could better myself and be a better person. Her memories of our friendship are of laughter, jokes and a great talks. She recalls ‘a few spats’ whilst simultaneously professing that she has a terrible memory – and doesnt remember much at all. When we lost contact for 9 years, she said she missed my input and advice. But if the payoff for those good times is heartache, tears and pain, then it’s not a friendship I want to fight to maintain.

So as the evening drew to a close and we made moves to part ways, it just became clear that she misses our friendship – that I gave a lot to her. Unfortunately I never felt I received much in return. We hugged as we left – I remembered and mentioned to her, we never hugged. She told me how much she appreciated me – and I realised I never knew how much, because she never felt the need to tell me. We did know each other very well and for a very long time. But it was clear that it was never a friendship that was healthy. Even as I walked back to my car I felt drained from the contact with her. I felt like I was carrying baggage back home to my husband and kids.

Which is why I think I need to leave it behind – because it’s not just me dealing with the heartache anymore, it’ll be my hubs and my kids who will have the repercussions of Mummy/Wifey in emotional turmoil about how I need to change myself, when it’s BS. Where I am in life now, and who I have around me accept me for who I am, love me for who I am and make me a better person simply by proximity and inspiration – not by disagreement and heartache.

It’s sad, but I’m glad to be able to leave it behind tbh. It sounds like I haven’t forgiven her and I haven’t moved on. But compared to the last 9 years when I definitely was holding a grudge and unforgiving, I can say, hand on heart, it’s all water under the bridge now. It happened. It was part of my life. We’re both happy where we are now. Time to draw a line under it. The day I decided to let it go, I stopped thinking about it and that’s a huge deal given how much I used to think about it!!

So the meal was 3 evenings ago, and the effect of the closure that I gained from those intense 4 hours together has grown exponentially. Each day I’ve found myself feeling lighter, happier, less obsessed with my shortcomings. Each morning I’ve woken up with a new, fresher, more positive take on the experiences I’ve had in friendship. I’ve realised that I’ve been tarnishing all new friendships with prejudiced views formed as a result of my toxic friend. Some of which are just too ridiculous (e.g. Arians and I will inevitably not get on due to misunderstandings…!!) I’ve realised that all the times I struggle with my self image it’s because I’ve never allowed myself any limelight – because there never used to be enough to go around. I’ve realised that the little voice in my head that critcises myself has many similarities to her. But now that I’ve essentially shut the door on that friendship, the voice has lost it’s strength and weight. Who knows, one day I may find myself completely in control of it.

I wish I’d done this sooner.

*see my New Years Resolutions post!