Found Out What’s Wrong with Me!

Well, I found out one thing that’s wrong with me. More accurately I have finally identified the name of the syndrome that reflects the set of symptoms I’ve been trying to cope with my whole life. And great news, it’s not curable! To be honest, though, just knowing how I feel is an actual “thing” that other people share helps a lot. Here’s how I came to realize that I have Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). I have words for my mental issues!

As sometimes happens, the same message kept coming to me yesterday. First, one of my Master Naturalist friends posted about a book she was getting ready to read, The Courage to Be Disliked, by Ichiro Kishimi and Funitake Koga (2018). It’s not a brand-new book, but I hadn’t heard of it before.

If I hadn’t heard of it before, how is it on my desk?

I said in response to the Facebook post that it sounded like a book I needed to read, given my weird drive to act in ways that I think would make people I care about like me. She posted a link to the book, and I resolved to get a copy. Then, this showed up on my Facebook feed.

From Tiny Buddha, one of my favorite sources of inspiration.

I went to tell Lee about that coincidence, and he said I didn’t need to buy the book, because he’d already bought it and gotten through some of it, but he wasn’t enamored of the style. Sure enough, there it was (and that’s how I got a photo of it). Obviously (at least to me) the Universe was trying to tell me something!

And the Universe was right. I’ve shared before how I’ve been hurt by people judging me and how I seem to attract people who feel the need to let me know just exactly how awful they think I am. If it’s someone I don’t care that much about, I handle it pretty well (like our former contractor’s wife who took it upon herself to write me a letter telling me why she didn’t want to be my friend, because of…whatever, who cares?). I had another one of those happen just last month.

Do I want to hide in a cool dark place like this toad? Sometimes. Don’t we all?

Some do hurt. A former coworker I was always there for when bad things happened to her, who I listened to cry and bemoan the loss of pets and partners, etc., told me that no, she didn’t want to have lunch with me before she moved away to be happy with her new partner, because she only had time to see a few people, and you know, we’d see each other on social media. Ouch. I got to enjoy seeing photos of all the people she did care about enough to see.

Here, Suna, enjoy some hardy flowers. That will help.

Those are just examples. Therapy and long discussions have made it clear to me that I’m not always the one with the problem, and that my sensitivity to rejection came from childhood when my mother’s mental issues made her unavailable to me and my father’s conditions on love made me go well out of my way to be perfect to make him like me. This continued with future relationships and led to all sorts of mental mayhem for me. But, I’ve got tools to help me deal with it now, for the most part. Just sometimes, one backslides.

It does sorta make me feel prickly as a buffalo bur, but hey, flies like them.

I backslid last night. I spend nearly all night lying awake watching a parade of my (perceived) mistakes, hurtful things people have said and done with me, especially family members on my mom’s side (my great aunt wrote and demanded a beloved ring be returned because I was not a good enough niece, and my half-sister just up and left one day (taking nothing with her) and hasn’t spoken to me since last fall. I don’t even know how to get in touch with her other than through a third party. Members of my mom’s family have just never liked me, for exciting reasons like I’m a bastard (Mom didn’t annul her first abusive marriage), I was “fat” (leading me to do the Atkins diet when it first came out and I was only 11 years old to try to make them stop picking on me), and I didn’t do very well with “children should be seen and not heard.”

Yeah, TMI, Suna. Too bad, it’s my blog. I ended up posting the link to the Tiny Buddha, then in the middle of the night, I wrote:

I’ve been awake most of the night dwelling on how many times I’ve tried to change who I am to get people to like me. Starting from childhood, so it’s a long list. I get hurt so deeply by rejection and some people have relished doing it. I get better then I backslide. I know it’s normal to do that. I’m working not to be so hard on myself when I let it get to me. I keep repeating that no one is universally beloved!

agitated Suna

I immediately regretted it, because when I re-read it, I felt like it was just begging people to say they liked me, but that actually wasn’t my intention. I am completely aware that there are many fine people who like me!

On the other hand, I’m so glad I did post it, because a wise friend of mine (whose dear friend is one of those people I truly love and care about who got mad at me and disappeared without telling me why) said (paraphrasing), hey, that looks a lot like Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, something that comes up a lot in the ADHD world. Another wise woman posted this link, which opened my eyes WIDE in the middle of the night.

Here’s what the article, “Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and ADHD: What to Know,” said:

The symptoms of RSD can vary among individuals, but they may include:

  • Obsessively thinking about negative experiences, especially experiences of perceived or actual rejection (only last night)
  • Perceiving rejection when it is not actually occurring (me)
  • Viewing minor rejections as catastrophic (me)
  • Misreading constructive criticism, or requests for more information as rejection (me, but I’m lots better)
  • A sense that you’re not liked by others (me, but often I’m right)
  • Low self-esteem based on how you feel others relate to you
  • Social withdrawal (me)
  • Negative self-talk (formerly me)
  • Emotional outbursts (rare now but unpleasant)
  • Perfectionism or people-pleasing tendencies (sadly, formerly me)

Although symptoms of RSD can mimic other conditions, one distinguishing factor is that symptoms of RSD tend to come on suddenly and can feel very intense.

 This article: What Is Rejection Sensitivity? provided me with more “aha” moments when it defined rejection sensitivity, which isn’t quite the same as RSD.

  • Misinterpret harmless or mildly negative social cues or behaviors as blatant rejection (improving)
  • Ignore other explanations or reasons for the perceived rejection, including reassurances from the perceived rejector (I try not to do this)
  • Expect rejection and overreact to any type of negative social cues (me)
  • Be avoidant and anxious in romantic relationships (me)
  • Pay more attention to all of the times they were rejected than the times they were accepted (working on this)
  • Evaluate every interaction for perceived rejections (I don’t think I do this)

I don’t do all those things, but wow, this hits so close to home. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told I’m too sensitive, that I over-react, etc. It gets to where I have a hard time identifying when I am actually being treated poorly, so I let it go on a lot longer than I probably should, thinking it’s all in my head. I end up avoiding certain people or situations, so I won’t do that embarrassing overreaction to criticism. Lordy.

And of course, there aren’t any great drugs other than the kind I already take to deal with my anxiety. The article also suggests “cognitive behavior therapy, and stress-relief strategies.” I have those up the wazoo! And they do help, so much of the time.

I guess I’m writing all this down to remind myself that I have challenges to deal with and that I need to be gentler with myself when I can’t cope as well as I’d like to. Certainly, rehashing every mean thing anyone ever did to me is not helpful AT ALL. So, I now know what it is that I’m dealing with, and I’ll get on with dealing with it. We all have our struggles and challenges, and mine at least lead me to try to be kind to people! (I do not think I have ADHD, though, so lucky me, I got the RSD without that issue.)

These animals like me, which is helpful.

So, thanks to everyone who rallies around me and supports me. While the line above about putting more emphasis on negative feedback than positive may have been true in the past, I am much better now about really appreciating the people around me who are kind, who listen, and who patiently remind me that they do care, even when I repeatedly ask.

And to those of you who need to give me negative feedback, know that much of it IS appreciated and taken in the constructive spirit it’s given…it just takes me a while to get there, thanks to the RSD.

Being Sensitive Is NORMAL

Are you often told that you’re too sensitive? Do you get told to “just ignore” bullies and passive-aggressive people? Do you have trouble accepting criticism unless it’s kindly presented? Do you have a LONG list of books, movies, and television shows you can’t watch, because they upset you? If so, you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP), just like me.

And Penney is a highly sensitive dog. We have had to work to accept that “feature” of her.

Many HSPs already know all about this, having read The Highly Sensitive Person book (and its many friends). I wrote about it a bit last year when sensitivity was causing me some issues, in a post called You’re TOO Sensitive. So yeah, I’ve heard that before.

I’m such a sensitive flower, humble but lovable!

But, if you are among the majority of humans who don’t have the HSP trait, you may not realize this is a normal way for people to be. It’s also not necessarily a negative trait! There are many wonderful things about being highly sensitive.

Not a Sensitive Person? Read This!

Before you tell a friend or family member to get over it or change the way they experience the world and people around them, consider this information, and maybe you’ll be able to accept people like us just the way we are:

  • Around 15-20% of people are Highly Sensitive Persons. That’s a LOT of people, not just a few kooks.
  • People are born with the HSP trait; they can’t make it go away.
  • HSPs tend to have good imaginations and creativity. That’s handy!
  • They are often empathetic and can understand what’s going on with others. They can help people in groups get along better.
  • Not all HSPs are introverts. 30% are extroverts! (Reluctantly, I think that’s me.)
  • HSPs make GREAT leaders. They tend to prefer the “servant leadership” model rather than the hierarchically focused kind, and all kinds of people respond well to quiet leadership.

See, there’s a lot of good in people like me. We spend all our lives developing ways to cope with our more “tough” friends and colleagues, trying to moderate our strong reactions to violence and personal digs, being social as much as we can, etc. Maybe those of us who are not HSPs can “just ignore” the things about us that bug them! Hmm. What an idea.

Or, maybe we can all learn to accept our differences. Kindness never hurts, and bullying is never right. We also have to be able to accept criticism in order to grow and become better people. If we hurt someone’s feelings, we can apologize. And if we are easily hurt, we can explain that we understand it’s often not intentional. Meet in the middle? Why not!

Don’t worry, I like you all just the way you are. Variety is what makes us humans interesting, to me. Let me know if you found the information here to be useful!

More Information

Here are some signs you might be an HSP, from Elaine Aron’s really helpful HSP website:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

Books I Will Never Read Again

Are there any books, movies, or other media that you made it through once but just NEVER want to go through again? Last night my sister asked me about the handmaid costume she saw somewhere. I told her about The Handmaid’s Tale book, and that it had been made into a series. I read the book when I was in graduate school, and probably lost a lot of popularity as a professor by making a class full of engineering students read it and write a report.

Protesting handmaiden. Image by @straubmuller via Twenty20.

But right now, I could not stomach that book, nor could I bring myself to watch the Hulu Series. It seemed eerily possible in the 1980s, and today I could see women becoming property again, just like in the book. Shudder. I have had many nightmares brought on the The Handmaid’s Tale.

Please. Image by @jenni.heller via Twenty20.

In fact, many of the books I don’t think I could take reading again are in a similar vein. You are NOT going to see me cracking open 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 any time soon, either. I think those books have already come true, and not in a good way. Yeah, the whole dystopian novel genre isn’t good for me.

Neither are books or movies about Nazi Germany. No, thank you. A couple of movies in that genre have scarred me for life, including Julia (a beautiful film, but gave me bad dreams) and Seven Beauties (eww, ick, yuck, don’t watch it). I realize now that I watched way too many of these really sad movies during my most impressionable late teen years. I STILL have Apocalypse Now nightmares, too. I wonder if High School Boyfriend knew what a pacifist he was creating by taking me to all these violent and psychologically terrifying movies?

As I have mentioned before, I’m one of them there Highly Sensitive People, which means media violence and cruelty really get to me (as well as teasing, bullying, name-calling and putdowns). I pay attention to violence warnings on books and movies for good reason!

Oh and for goodness sake, I don’t want to ever see that damned Red Pony book again (curse you, Steinbeck, and curse you, school librarian who gave it to me to read in the THIRD GRADE). Graphic descriptions of the deaths of beloved pets, innocent wild animals, and other harmless creatures aren’t for me, either. I managed to get through that book about the dog that keeps dying over and over (The Art of Racing in the Rain), because I knew all would end well (and I didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of book club).

Oddly enough, I can watch Dr. Pimple popper and shows about surgery just fine. I just don’t like violence and loss.

What are your topics you just don’t want to read about or watch these days? (I realize for many of you it may be politics, but I’m not here to encourage bashing of anyone’s views, just wondering what turns you off.)

You’re TOO Sensitive

My gosh, have I heard that little put-down way too many times in my life. It mostly came from my father. Sometimes it came from my mother or my brother or my sister, or especially my grandmother. Whoever said it got me even more huffy. Soon I’d cry and ALSO be a crybaby.

Baby Suna? (My scary mask)

Being sensitive was a part of my nature. I couldn’t exactly become someone else just so they could insult me with great impunity and not feel bad about it.

I’m bringing that up now, because I’ve finally developed the skill of not taking other people’s insults, snipes, and passive aggressive digs to heart. So that’s good. Yep.

I guess lightning this red candle will help?

But. I’m still sensitive. This linguist can handle words better, but I’m annoyingly sensitive to the moods, affect, and unspoken signals of others. Sometimes it’s general malaise, like after an election. Other times someone in my close circle sends out signals of distress or negativity and it gets me.

Continue reading “You’re TOO Sensitive”

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