Saturday, March 25, 2017

Let's Talk About Being a Woman

Hey guys,

So this isn't intended to be a very long post. In fact, I could probably just post what I'm about to say in a Facebook status, but this is where I document my thoughts and feelings so for the sake of keeping everything in one place, let's have a quick chat.

(Although, in the wise words of my best friend, "That's why I wanna be a writer, because I get to argue with people for 90,000 words and they can't argue back." This certainly won't be 90,000 words, but it is a pretty one sided conversation. So let me rephrase: please allow me to talk at you for a few hundred words with little to no feedback) :)

So, I'm genetically a female. I have ovaries. I have a uterus. Those things, blessedly, give me periods. Yay! And breasts.

Have you stopped reading yet? Because ten years ago, I would have. How dare I talk about such a taboo subject.

I've had periods for (if my math is correct) just over twelve years, and I've had breasts for about 8 months longer than that. Which means that for over a decade, I have had to buy menstrual products and bras. When I was just starting to go through those changes, unless you've gone through the same exact thing, you cannot imagine how absolutely mortifying that was.

Before there was self checkout, I would avoid buying bras and menstrual products unless the cashier was a woman or my mother was with me. The few times I had to go to a male cashier because it was an emergency, my anxiety was at a 10 and I was absolutely mortified. I would hide my products at the bottom of my basket or tuck them under my arm as I walked up to the register every single time. I would duck behind racks of bras in Kohl's if I saw a male coming so that they couldn't see me purchasing something so personal. Yes, it is assumed that at some point someone who is has xx chromosomes will eventually grow breasts and start their period, but I didn't want a single person to know that and think of me that way. It made me feel dirty. I didn't want men to know what I might eventually be wearing under my shirt. I didn't want them to know that I would sit down later and have to insert something made of cotton into myself to prevent a small waterfall of blood from seeping down my legs. I didn't want them thinking of me sexually-- because, let's face it, vaginas and breasts are sexual objects to most heterosexual males, and they refuse to see them as what they are, which is reproductive organs.

I'm 25 now, and two weeks ago I spent at least ten minutes staring at tampons with my husband standing next to me. Several people passed by. I complained loudly that they did not have what I wanted in stock. And I could not have cared less.

It's true-- the older you get, the less you care about the embarrassing things that seemed to matter so much to you before, but yes, I still feel that way. I still feel uncomfortable any time a male sees me in the bra or menstrual product department. But you know what? I'm just trying to live my life. These things are natural things that happen to me, and even though I may never embrace them (because honestly who enjoys periods? and I know I'm probably one of the rare ones, but I absolutely hate having breasts-- anyone have $10k to have them removed?), I'm over allowing men to make me feel uncomfortable for something that should be normal. And sure, maybe these things are all in my head... sometimes. But I can guarantee that my fears haven't always been insane, and that those thoughts have passed through the minds of men.

And that, my friends, is one of the hundreds of reasons that I'm a feminist. I could go on for days about how it's not just about women but all genders, and it's not just about equal pay and harassment and uteruses and breasts and ovaries (because if you didn't already know, not all women have those parts!)... But I won't bore you with that (today).

All I'm saying today is that if you want to stare at me while I buy my boob holders and cotton blood plugs, go right ahead, because I'm tired of feeling like a freak.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Let's Talk About HSP

Hey guys!

So I hinted recently about finally writing a post regarding HSP/what it is "in the future", and the future is right now! So let's talk about HSP. HSP, not to be confused with HS, which I talked about in this post

What does HSP stand for?
HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person. This is an official term-- it doesn't apply to just anyone who feels sensitive sometimes. I know some people can hear or read "highly sensitive person" and think "Oh, I can be oversensitive sometimes too," however this term applies to a person who has a specific set of traits-- HSP is a title.

What types of traits?
Here are some of the most common traits (keeping in mind that I'm basically paraphrasing from the website):

  • Easily overwhelmed by pressure, often from having too many things to do in a short period of time
  • Feeling strongly affected by or even avoiding violent movies or TV shows
  • Feeling overwhelmed by loud sounds, bright lights, textures, or strong smells
  • Needing to withdraw and "decompress" after a long, stressful day, to a place where you can experience relief from the stress (such as a dark, quiet room)
  • Making it a priority to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations 
  • Having the ability to enjoy and appreciate smells, tastes, sounds, or art that others aren't as affected by or can't notice at all
  • Being able to pick up on and even feel other peoples' emotions yourself, often better than others can (this is often considered being an empath, which is part of HSP)
  • As a child, having been described by adults as "shy" or "sensitive"

What does that mean?
Basically an HSP's brain takes in too much information-- everything can be overwhelming. What an average person considers to be an average amount of anything can be too much for an HSP. Strong smells can give them headaches, loud noises can startle them easily, certain tastes can be too strong, fluctuating temperature can feel too hot or cold to the extreme, and most importantly, emotions-- their own or anyone else's-- can be so strong that they can be debilitating. 

Imagine the last time you were stressed out by something so overwhelming that you felt like you couldn't move past it-- a difficult assignment from work or school, maybe a frustrating situation with a friend or family member. That's how an HSP can feel about something as simple as a car alarm or the smell of something they don't like cooking. But consider that some of those things can happen all at once. 

Let's take a doctor's office for example. Picture it: there are phones ringing. It's too cold. There are babies crying. The fluorescent lights are so bright. Everything smells like rubbing alcohol. The doctor is taking forever. Someone at the front desk is crying, begging to see a doctor but being continuously told that their insurance has been cancelled, and there's nothing you can do to help. And to top if off, you're there because you're sick, so everything is already increased by a tenfold. Remember those stressful assignments that we talked about? They're building up, stressor on top of stressor, in the form of sounds and smells and sights and emotions. And let's not even talk about the stress of actual assignments. There's a reason I never excelled in college!

After you leave the doctor's office, the stressors are gone, but now in addition to being sick you're beyond exhausted from having to deal with them and all you feel like doing is going home to take a nap, so you do. 

But that's every day for HSP's, especially for those who work and go to school and have children. Every single day is a nap day.

Being an HSP can be a gift. We're able to pick up on subtleties that not a lot of other people can. There's something beeping? We can find it. A gas leak? We'll know. Something rotting? No problem, we'll figure out what it is. Something bothering you? Don't worry, we can pick up on that sort of thing, and you'll know that you're not alone and that we're there to listen. We also take in beauty like other people can't-- sunsets, art, music, are all incredible in a way that we can't even put into words.

How do you know if you're an HSP?
You can take the test here! Personally I score 28 of 28, hooray!

Think your child or a younger person that you know might be an HSP? You can take that test here.

And sometimes it's diagnosable by a psychologist... but keep reading.

Why don't I know about HSP already?
Well, not a lot of doctors or counselors know about HSP-- any psychologist I've spoken to so far learned about it after school and they're not very knowledgable about the condition beyond the title/general traits. And it's actually too common to consider a "condition" with an official diagnosis. 20% of people are HSP's! It also seems as though it's genetic-- I would classify most of the people on my dad's side of the family, (within our immediate family, aka my aunts, uncles, and first cousins) as HSP's. But most of these people don't even realize exactly what's bothering them, only that they're consistently stressed out and everything that seems "normal" to average people is just too much for them. 

Before I discovered that I am an HSP, life seemed so overwhelming. I truly felt like a child who threw temper tantrums at the littlest things. I've known about it for about two years now thanks to my darling best friend Ellie who told me about it (excitedly, might I add-- she found out about the term one day and immediately after was blowing up my phone, thrilled to be able to shed light on something that affected me so strongly), and every single day I learn something new about myself that I never noticed before I knew about HSP (for example, why hot showers give me panic attacks). My entire life is shaped by being an HSP, and the more I learn about it and the more I speak with other HSP's, the better I can handle myself and do what I can to adjust my environment so that I can live a peaceful, "normal" life. I've even joined a local Meetup group-- a support group for HSP's so that we can share our stories in a safe, comfortable spare surrounded by people who understand what we're going through, as well as share tips and tricks to manage the different aspects of being highly sensitive.

Basically, everything is overwhelming and I really have to take care of myself to make sure that I can function as a human being (and I'll be doing an HSP tips and tricks blog in the future), but I'm working through it. I'm learning about myself, learning to love and accept myself for who I am, and finally learning that I'm not broken like society has always taught me.