A number of people claim to have had an idyllic or happy early life, the sort evoked by this photo: “The Walk to Paradise Garden”  by W. Eugene Smith.
But for many of us who have been highly sensitive all our lives, or had especially challenging experiences as children, that image does not feel like a fit.
Woody Allen, for example, has said that for as long as he can remember, he was a loner, hiding out in his room from the arguments of his parents, and the readiness of his mother in particular to respond to any provocation with a slap.”
Author Jenna Forrest writes in a post: “At the age of seven, I was dramatically sensitive, ultra-shy, pretty picky and painstakingly conscientious.
“My pastime of choice was studying the mysterious intricacies of the world from the safety of the shrub outside my front door.
“Being most anywhere else put me in a panic. I tried hard to disguise my most blatant shortcoming — eruptive emotion — but failed time and time again.
“My sentiment just didn’t want to be buried. It always would find the fissure in my willful mental dam…”
She adds, “As an adult I came to realize how little is truly known about the day-to-day thoughts and feelings of sensitive kids. So, I began to write Help Is On Its Way from my personal experience.
“As I wrote however, I realized that the story was developing a voice of its own. It reminded me that this wasn’t just about my life. We’re all in this together, connected, living lives full of comedy and tragedy, failure and success, loss and hope.
“If we’re lucky along the way, we might somehow find a way to mold, recast, and refine our unhappy histories for our own sake — to let ourselves see our pasts differently… to start creating a brand new life. The hero, the artist, rises in us victorious.”
[From her post on the Inspired blog: “What Writing Taught Me.”]
Her site: www.jennaforrest.com
In her article Every Blessing and Curse is a Choice. Choose the Blessing! she writes, “I would bet that a lot of us were fully prepared for our own funerals by about age seven, figuring that we were soon going to die from sensory overload.
“From the very beginning, the world was stirring me like a whisk. Life in general felt upside down, inside out and backwards. From my three-foot tall childhood viewpoint, my city looked littered; the music in our house was too loud; chemical cleaners and detergents smelled too strong; and cars sped too fast. Sensing the bad mood of every stranger walking down the street didn’t help.”
She also quotes from her book: Help Is On Its Way: A True Story :
“I’ve always gotten praised for taking the least amount of space, being the quietest, giving up the good seats for a spot on the floor, eating the leftovers in the fridge, and making use of the hand-me-downs everybody else is too good for. I must’ve gotten so used to it that I’ve picked up the habit of choosing the worst for myself on my own, even when my family isn’t around to praise me for it.”
But that kind of self-limiting behavior and pain can be turned around, Forrest notes; we can learn to work with “the sticky chaos of our overloaded psyches” as she puts it:
“Knowing that we deserve the best that life has to offer brings us every ounce of power we ever needed to help and inspire others.
“That awareness of personal merit is the magic that turns every perceived curse into the true blessing that awaits.”
Dr. Elaine Aron says of the book: “Highly sensitive people will recognize their own childhood in Jenna Forrest’s radiant painting–using every hue in the emotional spectrum–of her years from seven to seventeen… Readers will be charmed by this sensitive woman’s unique creative force, a valuable reminder of their own.”
“I’ll cry at anything, even a tissue commercial. I’m overly sensitive. It’s so easy to hurt my feelings.” Mandy Moore
Being highly sensitive can show up as strong and easily triggered emotional reactions, like crying.
The trait affects even people who choose very public careers, like acting and singing – and it is not so unusual – Elaine Aron [author of The Highly Sensitive Person] says “About 15 to 20 percent of the population have this trait.
“It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed…”
> Also listen to my audio interview with Jenna Forrest.
Jenna’s book again is: Help Is On Its Way: A True Story.