“I am not my thick skin”

I am not my thick skin, my covering up, my need to deflect.

Life happens. A lot. Every day, in fact. And while life is rolling by, we can get bruised along the way, so we develop a protective shield to save us from further injury—but the shield is never as sturdy as we think. When I was in third grade, shortly after the horrible incidents of 9-11, I was hyper-sensitive to almost everything around me to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night. My mother would come in my room and try to talk away my fears, stroking my hair and looking at me helplessly. “Just shut off your brain,” she would say. I would try. I would try so hard, yet to no avail. My worry consumed me. Soon I had to leave the classroom during school so I could go cry in the bathroom about whatever I was obsessing over that day. Everything around me made me nervous.

With the help of my incredible and patient parents, I began to adopt the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy and found a calming refuge in music. Although those years are behind me, the sensation of numbing fear—or any hyperactive emotion—is still very real. I still get in my own head. I still take things too seriously sometimes. I still can’t always shut off my brain.

“You feel things more deeply than others,” my dad told me once. Who am I to say that he’s right or wrong? I only know that he’s absolutely correct in saying that when I feel, I feel deeply. In some ways, it’s incredible to feel such resounding love and blissful joy, as anyone will admit; but in situations dominated by darkness, sadness, and fear, it’s not such a great feeling. I’ve come a long way in learning that being sensitive to words and events can be weakening momentarily, but it doesn’t make me a weak person.

That is the most frustrating part: the struggle to just let it slide, to “be cool” about things. I’m much better than I was in third grade, but I wonder if sometimes it’s too far. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to let it out. But it’s not okay to pretend to deflect things when in reality they’re being internalized to the umpteenth degree. I know I’m not the only one who feels like they hide more of themselves than they should sometimes. I know I’m not the only little girl who’s had to leave a classroom in tears.

Human emotions and outward expression are powerful, and we need to remember that when interacting with those around us. Tell someone you love them. Fight for what you believe in. Being sensitive does not make you weaker than everyone else. In fact, it makes you stronger than most.