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Damage My Calm

When I tell people that I’m an introvert, I always get the same response, “You? No.”

First off, introvert is not synonymous with shy.  Because we have difficulty in some kinds of social situations, we often appear shy.  Most introverts are gregarious and friendly.  They enjoy going out and having fun with other people.  However, introversion does tend to make one a bit more sensitive to external stimulus.

Years ago I read a book called “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.  The headline attracted me but it was this question on the back that made me purchase and read it.

Do you have a keen imagination and vivid dreams?  Is time alone each day as essential to you as food and water?  Are you “too shy” or “too sensitive” according to others?  Do noise and confusion quickly overwhelm you?  If your answers are yes, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

I can answer yes to all of that and more.  It was such a relief to learn that I was not alone.  And that I wasn’t a freak.

I’ve always been a bit different from my family.  I learned to read at an early age and had more intellectual curiosity than most.  I was the only one cursed with motion sickness.  No one ever really got how miserable it could get for me until I actually threw up all over the back seat of the car.

Certain sights and sounds throw me off to the extent that I have trouble functioning until they end.  I HATE perfume so much that sometimes I want to flee its very presence (or punch the person in the throat who’s wearing it).  I have to prepare myself for events that will involve crowds and noise.  And I’m one of the lucky ones.  I’ve met people who’ve had it a lot worse than me.

I don’t remember it being this loud, bright and anxious when I was kid. Everything seems to be ramping up and I don’t know when it will stop.

You can’t go anywhere that plays music because it always seems to be at eardrum bleeding levels (even at weddings).  Can’t the music be loud without having to be painful?  Is everyone else deaf?  I’ve had high levels of bass actually affect my breathing in dance clubs.

And don’t get me started on flashing lights and strobe effects.  I saw a movie this weekend and the end credits were done in a most annoying flashing style.  I had to close my eyes until they were over.

I’m trying to be greener and more responsible with my carbon footprint but a simple ride on public transportation can be an absolute assault on my senses.


How about this — Next time you go out in public, try and actually be present to the fact that there are other people around you, and you are having an impact on them whether you want to or not.  You don’t need to make other people deaf with the volume of your car stereo.  You don’t need to be smelled in a ten foot radius.  And for gods’ sake, don’t let your child just screech away in small spaces.  That’s like daggers in my brain!

And I’ve been guilty of being an asshole too, in case you think I’ve spent too much time on my soapbox.  I used to be a smoker and now that I’ve quit, I get what a jerk I was with that nasty habit.  I sincerely apologize to all of my non-smoking friends who ever had to endure me.  I can say from experience, payback is a bitch.



Gotye, part deux

A few months back, I blogged about this amazing new musician (check out Oct. 21, 2011).  Well, he came back to L.A. and I jumped on that shit.  Just writing to say I was right.  He’s blowing up.  His single, Somebody That I Used to Know, is getting airplay and has been remade and remixed.  He was on Jimmy Kimmel last Wednesday, the night before the show, and he sold out the El Rey the next day.

Not really what I’m blogging about though.  Psyche!

I’ve never been cut out for certain kinds of events and entertainment.  Concert-going is one of those.  I love live music, but the way that it’s normally presented is not for the faint of heart.

First off, most smaller venues are standing room only.  To make it through a full concert this way is like some kind of endurance or stress test.  Surrounded on all sides by a sea of people, struggling to catch a glimpse of the person performing between bobbing heads.  Standing still in a very small spot getting bumped into by strangers who have no respect for your personal space.  Stuck smelling everyone nearby, be they pleasant or unpleasant scented.  Love of the music is the only way to get through this situation.

If you’re lucky enough to be somewhere with a seat, that doesn’t matter.  For most pop music events, everyone stands up anyway so you have to as well or you’re just stuck staring at someone’s ass.  Long lines and even larger crowds at stadiums and large concert halls.  And unless you pay out the nose for good seats, you really only see what’s happening on the large screens.  You might as well be at home.

And don’t get me started on the volume levels at concerts.  There are times when the bass is so strong, I actually get short of breath.  It freaks me out.  My ears are left ringing for hours after.  Why must I suffer so for my love of live music?

Because I’m an introvert and a pretty sensitive one at that.  Not sensitive in the emotional sense.  I’m tough as nails when it comes to my feelings but sensitive to my physical environment.  I can easily get overwhelmed and anxious in crowded places and loud, bright situations.  The first time I drove down the Vegas strip at night was stimulus overload, so bright and gaudy.

Being an introvert is not the same thing as being shy.  I was more reserved when I was younger but I have grown more outgoing as I’ve aged.  I do enjoy the company of people and social situations but I can only handle so much before I need some alone time to recharge.

There are a lot of people out there just like me and I want to tell them that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.  Currently, things are not necessarily set up for the introvert but I’m hopeful that things will change.

Let me reiterate for those of you who might have missed that sentence above — THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.  Needing time alone to recharge, enjoying solitary pursuits and not enjoying the things that many of your friends do does not make you defective.  Variety is the spice of life.  You are perfect just as you are and nature made you just that way on purpose.

I imagine Gotye is an introvert too.  He doesn’t say much between sets except “Cheers!” and a little set up for the next number.  But he makes the most beautiful music.  It really does take all kinds, so be happy with and proud of the kind that you are.  The world needs that.  It needs you to be you so it can be the wonderful world that it really is.