Substack, infinite information, and nervous system torture
👋 it first started to sink in when I realized that other people don’t routinely cry while reading the New York Times. The emotions of tragedies and big events just really punch me, even when they’re thousands of miles away and tucked behind a barrier of news-speak.
OK, first of all, these are the emojis that most accurately represent my feelings when I saw a link to my Substack in your post today: 🥰🤪🥺😌😃
Second, I think HSP descriptions were the first "olive branch" of compassion that I received when I began asking for help in therapeutic settings. They opened my eyes to start wondering about all the different kinds of people in the world. Anecdotally, I do think I've heard that HSP "tips" for making it through the world also tend to open a door to discovering whether or not someone is Autistic. I remember questioning why a formal diagnosis would matter if the real job is inside me to accept myself. But I eventually landed at this feeling that the therapists who specialize in neurodiversity could probably fill in the gaps and give me a break on all my self-diagnosing (which was really, really taking a toll and also sending me in circles). If I were to look into a crystal ball, I think by the time our kids are in their 30s, "spectrumness" will be much more vast and will show the common neural circuitry that intuitively I feel when I talk to someone who is HSP, ADHD, Autistic or otherwise.
Third, I think, per usual, you're casting things in the light of thoughtfulness. One of the lines where you pondered what the world would be like if we DIDN'T have highly sensitive people really made my heart ache. I instantly thought of people like you and a lot of readers and a few of my most treasured friends—and the hole that would be obvious in the world without all of us. We need the "feeling people."
✋ My strategy for avoiding “overwhelmed internet brain” is by:
1. Only consuming content that I want to be in my mind. In action, this is a lot of work around my media diet by curating my feeds of information. For example, Reddit was once extremely overwhelming & negative for me but after only looking at posts from select subreddits, it’s become much more enjoyable.
2. Going deep instead of wide. I tend to get obsessive with a topic. For example, I recently went down the “bullshit jobs by David Graeber” rabbit-hole and lowkey read/listened to everything that has been said on the topic. I never really had to switch my context (which tends to be stressful) & it was nice to feel like I’d learned everything that could be learned.
Tbh I have a hunch that I’m on the spectrum, but general advice for HSP has worked pretty well for me so I’m not sure it’s important either way.
✋ funny this piece is hitting a cord for me as I’m working out a piece of my own about taking a break from putting my writing out there. Also feeling especially sensitive today, the world feels overwhelming!
I have tried to explain to my partner so many times what my experience of watching scary movies is like. I never feel like a person watching a scene, I experience them as the scary thing actually happening to me! I feel real fear in my body and then I dream about it for weeks.
For me, the first symptom of an oncoming hypersensitive phase is an aversion to people. Even friends. Then it's usually a week or so of wildly fluctuating temperaments, in all directions. It's always been that way and of course there are benefits – vigorous writing! – but sometimes I do wish for longer periods of dim bliss.
🙋🏻♀️I’ve been seeing a lot about the spectrum lately. As someone with ADHD, I sometimes wonder if I’m on the spectrum as well. Noticing details, for instance: part of being on the spectrum, being ADHD, being a HSP, or skills I developed as an abused child? Some, all, many? Who knows? But like you, I’m so happy to see so many of us here. If I weren’t such an introvert, I might get to know a few. Thank you. Great article.
🤚Yes. And I wouldn't want to be different. I've spent much of my life masking and blocking myself off from feeling negative things, but then of course I don't feel the positive either. So, I'm trying to be more open and let everything come in, but also let it pass without attaching to it. Difficult. But it's like seeing in color after a life lived in shades of gray.
I'm lucky in that I can choose where I live, what kind of work I do, who I get to work with, and even where to write (Substack!) and who to follow, all of which has allowed me to open up.
Wishing the same for other HSPs out there.
I know I already commented, but I absolutely love this newsletter. Thank you for writing such thoughtfully constructed words.
✋ I have the worst habit of doom scrolling. I have to stop, go outside, and remember there was a time when we were wildlife too.
✋I am actively working on spending less time on social media and the internet and it is hard. (But its 3am and I couldn’t sleep and succumbed.)
✋ Wonderful post!
I don't take conscious measures, but the things my introverted self needs also help me withstand the onslaught of a too-loud world: curation, music, movement, quiet time... (Disclaimer: I wrote about the link between HSP, introversion, and orchid children in my Introvert Diaries: https://thinkingahead.substack.com/p/the-introvert-diaries-6)
This is very interesting, thanks for writing, Rae. I was introduced to the HSP concept by fellow Substacker Sarah Raad last week. Now I think I'm going to keep seeing it everywhere! I really relate to the traits and I'd like to learn more about it and how it might impact me.
Interesting what you say about how it can be a strength for writers...lots for me to mull over.
✋✋✋I first heard the term HSP years ago, when my therapist introduced to the term snd Aron’s book when I was about 16. It was a lifeline for me, and learning more about it and connections to other ways of being like autism as an adult have been so helpful. I definitely agree with Amanda above, that HSP, autism, ADHD and the like will most likely be understood as being on the same spectrum of nervous system function. I definitely already feel that way about myself and others!
Regarding calming the jangled nerves, just coming over to substack has helped so much! Over the years, I’ve eliminated the most stressful of social media for me, Facebook, and now limit Instagram time enormously. This is with a HIGHLY curated feed! It’s the ads that get me, along with the suggested reels. The parts of the Internet that fill me up all involve reading something interesting, whether Wikipedia, a blog, or just articles on the Internet. Basically just letting myself fall down the rabbit hole for a bit!
Funny, this week I also wrote about a similar topic. How confidence can be quiet: https://readwatchbinge.substack.com/p/changing-what-confidence-looks-like
Nice text. :)
✋ I hadn’t thought about how notes feels calmer to me than other social media and so that’s part of why I like it. I have to limit social media time and also lock myself out of a lot of apps and the internet at a certain time each night to just take a break.