"Am I oversensitive?" I asked my psychologist, folding my arms into my lap and looking him dead in the eye.
It was a summer afternoon. Rays of brazen light penetrated through the oversized windows, giving the sterile office a warm glow. The juxtaposition bothered me.
"I wouldn't say oversensitive," Dr. Gray answered in his static, even-keeled tone. "I would say highly sensitive."
I narrowed my eyes. At this stage of the mental health game, I know when to call bullsh*t on a professional.
"It's not a bad thing, Zara," he said, sensing my cynical reaction.
I relaxed. That acute moment of very real cynicism I just had crashed in a tiny instant, and it’s probably because Dr. Gray's prognosis is true: I'm highly sensitive, which means I can never truly be fully cynical.
So, what's the difference between being highly sensitive and oversensitive? I don't know, sweet kittens. It all sounds like semantics to me.
Call it what you want to call it, but I'm a deeply sensitive girl creature. And for the purposes of this article, let's go with "highly sensitive" just because it sounds a little bit nicer than "oversensitive,” don't you think?
I feel everything. I feel a shift in energy when a person full of pent-up anger steps onto the subway platform. I feel when my girlfriend has a semblance of anxiety from a million miles away. I feel the all-consuming sadness in the kid walking next to me on the city street, making his way back to a dark and broken home.
It's hard not to get caught up in the sad energy that surrounds me because it feels so f*cking palpable. There's so much darkness in the world that some days it's hard to see my way out of it.
The universal devastation hangs heavy in the air.
But then again, there is so much acute beauty in the world, too. I can feel a person's unabashed joy just as intensely as his or her sorrow.
I feel the lowest lows and swell up with the highest highs.
When I was a kid, I was ashamed for being sensitive and used to try to hide it with the "cool girl" high school armor: ripped denim, piercings, cigarettes.
I felt my hypersensitivity was a sign of weakness. I felt that being cool was being detached. And no amount of black eyeliner could ever mask this truth: I don't feel detached from anything. Never have. In fact, I've never, ever understood it when someone says, "I don't care."
How do you not care? How can you not feel the feelings?
The only way I've ever been able to shut off my feelings is by taking substances. But in my experimentations, I've found that feeling nothing is far worse than feeling pain.
After I paid Dr. Gray and stepped onto the sunny streets of lower Manhattan, I felt hyperaware of the sunshine beating down on my face. It felt amazing. The sounds of the city sounded like beautiful chaos. I breathed in the intoxicating smell of the city (pizza, cigarettes, flowers and fragrance).
Dr. Gray was right. Yes, I do feel a lot, but aren't feelings wonderfully magnificent anyway? Aren't feelings the driving force behind every amazing song, piece of literature, powerful movie and unforgettable memory?
Feelings are sort of the meaning of life, aren't they? If you can't experience feelings to the fullest, how can you love to the fullest? Isn't the way you feel about the people you love what makes this harrowing life worthwhile?
The more I thought about it, the more I became acutely aware that being highly sensitive is a f*cking blessing, not a curse. Here's why.
1. You're connected to everything you do.
Whether you're giving advice to a friend, basking in the scent of the fresh f*cking roses, reading a moving book or taking in a film on the big screen, a sensitive person is emotionally connected to everything he or she is doing.
It's only when you're connected to what you're doing that you can really hone in on the activity without the distraction of outside entities.
I always find disconnected people easily distracted, never committing to what the glorious moment is providing them with. When you're disconnected from everything, how can you truly be there for your friends, take in the words of people who need your help and remember the important moments from the past that can help you grow in the present?
When you're connected, you're a stronger listener, a better friend and attain a more detailed memory.
2. You're keyed into your intuition.
When you're highly sensitive, you're highly keyed into your gut. Your instincts are razor sharp. You don't intellectualize or rationalize yourself from listening to what your trusty intuition tells you.
This is why, my sensitive soul sister, you're able to tell if your date is inherently going to be good for you or bad for you. It’s why alarms go off in your heart when you're about to encounter danger.
It's a gift. Never fear it, never doubt it, and never, ever regret having it.
3. You're a better lover.
You can read your partner's body language like a fine novel. This translates beautifully when it comes to matters of the bedroom.
You're not a selfish lover who just takes, only tapped into your own pleasure center. You can intuitively tell what he or she likes and doesn't like. You're hooked into his or her eroticism.
You also feel his or her touch so madly that you feel the heights of pleasure far more intensely.
4. Everything is an exploded moment.
When you're highly sensitive, everything feels like a moment.
When you get your first apartment, it's a pivotal moment. When you kiss someone who you have a connection with, it's a pivotal moment. When you get your first tattoo or cook your first meal without burning up, it's a pivotal f*cking moment.
Your life is a series of exploded moments. How fun is that?
5. You're never bored.
When everything is a moment, how can you ever be bored?
6. Your senses are heightened.
Highly sensitive people aren't just highly sensitive to feelings. They are sensitive to all the senses.
They’re tapped into smell, taste, sight and sound in ways regular people aren't. They notice the subtle nuances in everything.
This is exactly why highly sensitive people are wildly creative and amazing artists. You're able to see what others can't see.
7. You live big.
Some people call us drama queens; I just like to say we just know how to f*cking live.
We take in everything. We love big, cry big, eat big, hurt big and feel big.
Nothing we do is half-assed. And I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in a mediocre, even-keeled life.
I'm happy to taste the pavement after the fall if it meant I was able to see the beautiful view on top.