The Biggest Challenge of Closing the Distance

The biggest challenge I’ve had in moving to another country for the man I love more than words is an unexpected one. It’s not even dill pickle cravings.

It’s been being around completely new people who are often very different to myself.

I’ve always been told I’m very “sensitive” a “deep thinker” or an “old soul” but I never saw it as a problem, and I felt that about 50% of people were empathetic the way I am and about 50% were not. I often wondered why some people didn’t seem bothered by things that deeply disturbed or unsettled me, but It didn’t factor into my life too much as most of my family members are sensitive and I surrounded myself with like-minded, “sensitive” friends.

Since I have moved to the UK I have been exposed to all sorts of people and have found myself being offended often and having strong emotional and physical reactions. One person in particular who is close to my man, upsets me on almost a weekly basis and causes me a lot of distress. The stress and anger sprouts from comments that are disrespectful towards women, violent in nature, bragging about violence, extreme crudeness and constant expletives.

There have been many moments where I feel like I’m screaming inside, where I retreat, heart pounding, body shaking to cry in my room because I can’t listen anymore.

Now, my better half is not sensitive like I am, but he is respectful of my feelings and I think we do quite a good job of caring for one another, making compromises and making one another happy. I have felt extraordinarily happy nearly every day since we’ve been together these past three years. I mean like 99.9% of days.

I never realized until doing some research last night that actually my sensitivity is more than just a personality trait. I am an HSP. A highly sensitive person. And that means that my nervous system works differently (it is more sensitive to stimuli) than in the average person. Approximately 15-20% of people, men and women, are HSP’s.

Since moving, I have really began to feel the weight of being such a minority.

My man is very easy going and tends to see the good in everyone. He is very adaptable and can fit in with all sorts of people which is a lovely trait to have but also has it’s challenges as many of the people he likes tend to clash with one another.

This friend of my man tells him that he acts differently around me, that he doesn’t seem happy, that we are too different and it will never work, ect,. He causes a lot of strain on our otherwise beautiful relationship.

I haven’t yet decided whether I feel comforted or terrified in finding out that I am an HSP and that there really isn’t any way to change who I am. No amount of hours of watching disturbing content will desensitize me, or at least that is what studies show.

I always believed that I was “normal” and other people were missing the ‘human’ gene. I’ve always believed if everyone was just like me there would be no war, no killing, no bullying, no pain except for accidents. But then, I realize there would also be no doctors as I can’t stand the sight of anyone or anything suffering.

I’ve always found it very difficult not to see people who aren’t disturbed by things I find upsetting, as bad people. What is comforting to know is that the average person probably isn’t a “bad” person, and knowing there is an actual difference in the makeup of our bodies, and realizing that I am the one who is ‘not normal’ might make it easier to be more forgiving. It’s something I will have to keep trying to remind myself of, and something I will need to work on.

I often lay awake at night for hours trying to figure out how I can fix the world so that no living thing ever hurts. I reflect often on the beauty of the world, but also on the parts that I just can’t accept. I automatically put myself in the shoes of others without having any control over it. I feel their pain as if it were my own. Whether it is a bug or a bird or a child or a stranger on the news.

I don’t feel I can live in a world where there is torture and suffering. So I don’t watch the news, I avoid negativity as much as possible, I avoid violent movies and insensitive people. I do this for my sanity and happiness.

I’ve been told often that I have so much love to give and I’ll make someone really happy. I put everything I have into a relationship. All I want is to make my man happy.

But what if his friends feel I am stuck up if I have to walk out of the room, what if they convince him I am no good for him. What if no one here understands me. What if being sensitive, something that I always felt was a blessing, makes me unlovable?

I’ve really developed a strong sense of self love over the past few years. I know how I deserve to be treated and I like who I am physically, mentally, emotionally. But I think that being sensitive isn’t seen as a good thing by a lot of people, especially here. And suddenly I a part of me wishes I could just be “normal.” But I need to remember how to be kind to myself and not slip back into my old ways of unhealthy self-hatred.

I miss my friends and family who would validate everything I’m feeling. I feel like I need to impress people here by pretending to be someone I’m not. I haven’t felt truly sad inside for a long time, but this week I remember what sadness feels like.

We love each other so much and we’ve done such a wonderful job of finding common ground; meeting in the middle where I have learned to brush off things that at one time would have offended me and he, being more sensitive to my emotions. We have many different interests but we take an interest in each-other’s interests and find common ones along the way.

I’ve always felt that we have an unbreakable love, that we make such a strong team. I just hope that the views of those who can’t understand me, won’t come between us.

Can anyone relate?

Traits of an HSP (that are also consistent with myself) include:

-Feel more deeply (happiness, sadness, love), reflective
-More emotionally reactive
-Mate sensitivity (paying close attention to what others want and acting on this)
-Very cautious in making decisions, and takes longer to make decisions
-Amplified emotions over making bad or wrong decisions
-Work well on a team
-More prone to anxiety and depression based on environmental factors
-Heightened annoyance over repetitive noises
-Cry easily
-Don’t react well to change
-Above average manners (because they don’t want to offend or upset others)
-Avoids violent tv and movies
-Affected easily by other peoples moods
-Low pain tolerance
-Sensitive to caffeine
-Easily startled
-Often make great writers (check), teachers (check), psychologists (was once my back-up career choice).
-Highly creative
-Heightened stress over having a short amount of time to get things done
-Arrange life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations, and enjoy downtime
-Can’t perform tasks as well when being watched
-Often described as “sensitive” or “shy” by teachers and parents
-Overly sensitive to criticism
-Enjoy being near water


11 thoughts on “The Biggest Challenge of Closing the Distance

  1. Hi!
    So much of what you have said about HSP resonates with myself. I am a teacher but always wanted to be a writer. I caare too much about the students learning that when they don’t i just don’t want to I have no idea how to go forward!.
    I would suggest trying to find something in common with this friend. there must be something, even if it is just a movie or something. Also tell your other half and maybe he can suggest something you have in common.
    I am worried about this myself as I am about to move abroad to be with my LDR. I have to learn a new language before i can find a job and I am terrified that the few friends he has ( who sound very like your fella’s mate) won’t like me.
    I would honestly say talk though your fears with your fella before things get worse and maybe he can be an active part in helping you get to know his friends.
    I hope i haven’t sounded condescending because that wasn’t my intention.

    1. Hi there, thanks so much for reading my post and responding. It’s always nice to know that I am not alone.

      Every once in a while I get on OK with this friend, but because he so often distresses me I feel a lot of stress just knowing I have to be around him. IA part of me wants to engage with him as not to be rude, but the other part wants to completely ignore him and tune him out to protect myself from the hurt and anger he has caused me so many times. I really hate to not get along with someone. It makes me feel like a bad person. But it is just so hard.

      My man is aware of the very strained relationship between us, but I don’t think he fully understands or appreciates my sensitivity. He can’t see why I can’t just brush off his comments like other people.

      I hope that I can educate him about HSP’s as I get a better understanding of it myself and I hope in the process I can learn more about how he processes things as well. Afterall we have to be sensitive to each-other’s needs and traits and just because I find certain things difficult doesn’t mean I can’t still compromise or come up with other solutions.

      I find that the manners of people in the UK in general are quite different from what I’m used to. A lot of it I have gotten used to, but there is still much that I haven’t.

      There will be many different challenges in moving to another country, and gosh you are brave to learn another language as well! Your guy is lucky to have someone who would make that kind of sacrifice and commitment.

      Perhaps if you don’t learn the language then they can’t offend you, problem solved 😉 hehe if only it were that easy.

      Let me know how it all goes 🙂 I’m sure it will all work out xx

  2. I do identify with most of the HSP traits you mentioned. I do cry when I read horrendous news stories and things though, and films if they’re sad. Even a movie trailer can set me off these days!
    The guy sounds not very nice to me! “Disrespectful towards women, violent in nature, bragging about violence, extreme crudeness and constant expletives,” would upset me too! There’s a special type of British guy that totally fits this description.

    I’ve been living in Japan for the last few years, and I think going back to the UK would take some getting used to for sure.

    I’m sure you and your man will sort things out! You’ve done so well going from LDR to living in the same country 🙂 I also think you’ll find people who are similar to you and be able to surround yourself with some good friends 😀

    Good luck, lovely!!

    1. I have been very lucky to have found one good friend already and I’m thankful for that. Unfortunately she doesn’t live very close by and our work schedules tend to clash. But it is so hard to find people here that I see any reflection of myself in.

      I also have his family who are very warm and wonderful. I just wish they lived a little closer too.

      I hope we will be able to work it out. We’ve overcome so many obstacles already. This is just a particularly difficult one.

      Thank you x

      1. I was just thinking about you saying you couldn’t understand people who don’t feel or put themselves in other people’s shoes and it made me think of my co-worker who really shocked me on Christmas Day! She was saying if our company creates a chance to volunteer and do charity on a weekend she wouldn’t do it because it’s her private time and she will consider the charity as work. My mouth was on the floor, and it really upset me actually. I asked her after whether when she sees a homeless person if she doesn’t feel sad for that person and wish she could do something and imagine how she would feel if she were in that person’s place, and she said, “I don’t think about that.” I was so horrified. But I realised I can’t let stuff like that get to me so I’ve tried to be tougher. I guess if I am an HSP like you then that explains everything!

        Also, I did have a thought about your comment. I’ve been living on my own in Japan for many years now. You are so lucky to have a lovely boyfriend and his family sound super as well 🙂
        I do find though that when you live abroad, you kind of can’t count on other people. By this I do mean friends and schedules matching up. I guess Japan and the kinds of relationships people have here can be different, but I’ve gotten so good at loving myself and being okay with being on my own and enjoying my own company when I can’t spend time with friends 😀

        Alternatively MeetUp might be a great way to meet like-minded people! Also online communities are super!

        Anyway I wish you the best of luck and can’t wait to hear about your adventures in 2016! xxx

  3. Alanna! Where do I begin…First of all, I know that being called “sensitive” is often not a compliment. I think it’s usually used in the context of being overreactive and not being able to easily brush off certain emotions (as if you can turn them off). The thing is, the flip side of being too sensitive is the ability to be empathetic. And that is the ability to connect, to feel deeply and be able express those emotions. It’s a beautiful quality to have and should be fiercely guarded!

    I’m probably 70% highly sensitive (just a guess). I’ve had cultural training – for better or for worse – that has given me a thick (at least I think so) and laugh-it-off outer skin, but there is that part of me that is highly sensitive to peoples’ moods and personalities. If I’m really overwhelmed by someone, I try not to be around them. I see it as just being too different. Not everyone will get along – and if someone upsets me, I don’t think it’s worth my energy to try and make nice. I’m an avoider, haha!

    I know it must be difficult though because this guy is someone you end up socializing with. I’m trying to think of a way you can describe why this friend affects you this way… Is there advice online about how a highly sensitive person can explain themselves more fully to a person that isn’t as sensitive to the people and world around them?

    I feel for you and the situation you have described. I’m telling you – I WOULD NOT want to be around that friend. He doesn’t sound like the type you can reason with, therefore, why spend the energy trying? And if he was badmouthing me, I would assume he’d rather not be around me, so the feeling would be mutual. Of course, that’s easy for me to say since I’m not in your situation (not to mention 1000s of miles away from him). Argh! He’s making me mad and I’ve never even met him.

    Sorry if I’m rambling. I have a lot of thoughts about this and I’m sort of just spilling them here…

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response Jane. You always leave me wonderful feedback.

      My man is away at the moment which makes everything harder and since last weekend I just haven’t felt myself. I hope I can snap out of this funk soon.

      I feel a bit lost in the world right now. There is a documentary called Sensitive that I hope to get my hands on and perhaps it might be helpful if my other half watched it with me so that he can better understand me and the battle I have with trying to brush off things that deeply affect me.

      I think I’m also coming to the realization that I am different from most other people, and I need to try not to be resentful of others because of my sensitivities. I think the difference is that other people accept the world as it is, and I dream of a world without pain or suffering. Spend hours thinking about how to solve the worlds problems as if it were my sole responsibility. Even if I found some logical way to solve everything, it would never be possible to enact it. Maybe it’s time I stopped taking all the pain of the world on my shoulders. Maybe I need to accept this world for what it is, which is much easier said than done.

      As for the friend, I will continue to try and develop strategies for dealing with the situation. Perhaps learning to be a skilled conversation topic changer might help. Or maybe we will just have to limit the amount of time exposed to one another. I do feel for my man who is caught in the middle, and I hope we can come to some compromise for his sake but it’s tough when we are at absolute polar ends of the personality spectrum.

      I hope that I can shake this off soon, and go back to feeling the immense joy I’ve become so accustomed to feeling these past 3 years. I suppose that’s the flip side of being sensitive. When I’m sad I feel very sad, but when I’m happy I feel extraordinarily happy.

  4. Hi Alanna! This whole post resonates with me as well. I can totally identify with the HSP mentality, struggles and tendencies. Also, that particular struggle to accept others that seem like “bad people” simply because they are shockingly numb to the impact their words, attitudes, humor and anger have on the world around them. I don’t know the full extent of your situation personally, so I cannot give advice, but I can hopefully share my experience/what I’ve learned over the last couple of years.
    Firstly, I myself like to avoid confrontation, and would so much rather “sweep it under the rug” so to speak… but I have learned that this is greatly devastating to one’s psyche. One cannot expect to have a full, true, honest relationship as long as the truth isn’t shared in vulnerability. It’s probably the most difficult thing I have had to come to terms with, but communicating my deepest hurts and fears is absolutely essential. I die inside if I cannot let in the light (open acknowledgment of exactly who I am and where I am at, and ultimately, entrusting this information to another).
    Secondly, the struggle to relate to someone so vastly different than myself will be a common occurrence throughout all of life; the only way to “escape the pain” so to speak, will be to deal with it head-on, humbly, and lovingly. I am learning how to harness the power I have to consciously act on what I know to be true. And yet relationships are all about the constant ebb and flow of the good and the bad, the clear and the unclear, the passion and the dispassion, and the choice to faithfully pursue each other no matter the present status of feelings, external influences, communication, etc. I am understanding that I get to choose my perspective on it all… and this frees me up to live fruitfully; I do not control the relationship I am in, I am a piece to the puzzle that needs to play its part.
    Lastly, your gifts and the very value of who you are, are necessary to this world! Only you can give what God has blessed you with, and it is your choice, always, to give it in truth and love.
    Good luck to you and your man, it will take mountains of sacrifice to have a lasting relationship, but that is what makes it all worthwhile 🙂

    1. Thank you for taking the time to respond and for your well-wishes Rebekah 🙂

      I am trying to keep seeing my sensitivity as a gift even though it does make my life more difficult. The good thing about sensitivity is even though it means I will feel pain more often and more deeply than most people, it also means that I feel happiness and love more deeply than most people.

      I have never been one for holding emotions or thoughts inside. I don’t think I’m capable of doing the whole brave face routine. I always wished I was “tougher” and better at hiding my emotions, but there you go. I know many “tough” people who held in everything for years and who are now suffering much more greatly because of that, so maybe just being honest about your feelings is healthier in the long run though it doesn’t tend to be admired. Being “strong” and “tough” are unfortunately, what is largely valued in the world, yet doesn’t seem to do anyone much good.

      If I didn’t feel so deeply, I probably would not write the songs and the books that I do. I might not have taken a chance on a boy I met online. I might not have left everything I know to move halfway around the world for love. Most people probably wouldn’t do that. So maybe being normal is over-rated.

      Being sensitive has it’s pros and cons and I need to take the bad with the good.

  5. Hey alanna, I randomly found this old post when googling HSP-related things. I’ve only just become familiar with this term and identify with it a lot. Especially in romantic situations, I feel like if I have a strong enough bond with somebody, it’s truly special and can very much overwhelm me with emotion. Both good and bad, I can imagine it’s very hard for you knowing that a close friend of your boyfriend is trying to get in the way of the love you cherish so much. If you’re still struggling with this, which I hope you’re not, maybe this is just a cultural thing which you’ve come to get used to? I am from Britain myself, and I’ve found that men I meet are often very closed off and unwilling to show their feelings, I’m not sure if this is only a British thing obviously. The term ‘banter’ is probably one you’re familiar with. It seems to me that a lot of malicious, passive aggressive things people say are disguised by this term, and as a HSP you feel the sting of their words a lot. It gets worse when you show a reaction and get scorned for being ‘too sensitive’. Try and rise above this, you know your boyfriend loves you very much and will not take his friend’s jibes seriously!

    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment! It’s not always easy being an HSP. This all came to a breaking point about four-five months after I moved over and we nearly broke up over it. I said I would buy my return plane ticket if it’s what he really wanted. It’s the only time we’ve ever even considered things not working out. Thankfully, after that my man started talking with his other friends about this friend and came to find that all their past girlfriends found him difficult to deal with and one of their mutual friends has actually made sure his girlfriend never meets this friend. I think this helped him to put things into perspective and begin to see my side. I think when I moved over he really didn’t take into account what I was giving up for him… he didn’t really see it as a big deal. But he does now and has apologized profusely for how he treated me after I moved over. As for this friend, he still sees him occasionally (now we’re living three hours away we don’t see his friends as much) and I let him have his “guys night” and stay home or at his cousin’s house whose company I really enjoy. I haven’t had to interact with this friend in more than a year and things have been wonderful between us. I’ve also noticed some wonderful changes in my man over the past year… like the way he cares about animals in a way he never used to. He’s even said he could never go back to thinking about animals the same way as before which makes my heart so happy. When all that was going on I felt like he wanted me to be someone else, but now he really appreciates me for who I am and I know he wouldn’t change it. Also, when I undertook the teacher training program last year I met 300 other people who were just like me and for the first time it made me realize that there are people here just like me… it’s just that our friend groups are so different. His are athletic, tough, partying army types and mine are sensitive caring types who love reading and learning new things. I think meeting and spending more time with some of my friends and family has also really helped him to understand me and what it felt like going from that sort of environment to a drastically different one. But we’ve both come a little bit closer to the middle. In fact, this week he is away with the army and a girl on his course said “I’m surprised you’re like that.” And he said “It’s because my girlfriend is sensitive.” And this time he meant it as a good thing. I love him more all the time and I am so lucky and so happy 🙂 I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I hope that you will be surrounded with other people who will understand and cherish you for exactly who you are. For a little while I let myself begin to hate one of the best things about me… always be true to yourself and kind to yourself xx Best wishes to you!

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