Tips for Highly Sensitive Networking

Even sensitive introverts are social beings who thrive when they have healthy, supportive communities.  It is important to make a concerted effort to grow one’s network to stave off loneliness and to open oneself up to new opportunities — both personal and professional.  Even after changing the name to “community building” I struggle as much as anyone with networking.  I find it to be taxing, often leading to social hangovers (they’re like regular hangovers with headaches and nausea, but caused by being too social).  But network I must.

The sensitive have many skills that can be tapped into to maximize networking events. It is important though to set and respect your boundaries and take care of yourself.  There’s no “hair of the dog” for a social hangover.

Here are my eight tips for highly sensitive networking: Continue reading

Your Money or Your Life

Some time ago, I came across an article about how codependency might be ruining your finances.  Although I had known for some time that my relationship with a close relative (they are the dependent and I am the codependent) was unhealthy and part of this was manifested via money, I didn’t really see it as further evidence of how codependent we were until I read this article.

I definitely struggled with everything listed in that article.   But I didn’t realize codependency was affecting my finances in another important way: I have repeatedly allowed this codependent relationship to stunt my professional growth.

Codependency and My Career 

When I should have been thinking about how to get ahead at work I was thinking about whether I should send money or co-sign a lease for a relative.  Hours and hours during the workday devoted to this instead of to doing my job.

When I went home rather than taking care of myself and tending to my needs as an HSP, I was stressing my body out even more, binging on chocolate and TV and staying up past my bedtime until I made myself sick over and over again.

I spent money I didn’t have and made professional decisions based on my “responsibility” to take care of her.  I took a job at a big law firm in D.C. because I felt that I needed to make enough money so that I could afford to support this relative for the rest of my life.  I viewed this as inevitable.

As much as I hated that job, I hated myself more for taking it in the first place.  Part of me knew that what I was doing wasn’t rational or fair to myself.  I hid the financial support I provided from other relatives so that no one would judge me for being such a doormat. Continue reading

Beautiful Darkness

It was dark. Lonely. Quiet. Beautiful…

I remember the days of my darkest depression in law school fondly.  It sounds strange, I know.

There was no pretense. I was free.  I was shrouded in complete darkness.  I didn’t need to hide as I was protected under the cover of night.  Nothing mattered to me at all. I couldn’t be bothered to get up and get dressed.  I was probably barely even eating, although I really don’t remember.  I just remember the feelings.

I remember the darkness. It tried to overtake me — beckoned me ever further into its depths. I felt the darkness throughout my body. That weird metallic taste in my mouth. The nausea always churning in my stomach.  The headache if I stayed awake too long. The backache if I laid down all day.

Even more clearly I remember that feeling of being past broken. My heart cracked open. The whites were running free. The yolk soon to follow. Anything could bring me to tears.  To swallow those tears would have been to ingest poison.  I needed to liberate them. Unleashing them somehow set me free.

To do well in college and escape familial dysfunction I had made myself rigid.  I had become ashamed of my internal struggles and what I deemed emotional imbalance (i.e., a spectrum of feelings). I threw away all of my journals. ALL OF THEM.  I wanted to bury the evidence if I could.  I needed everything to be perfect. I was inflexible and in ways insufferable.  But I was superwoman. I could have it all. My roommates commented that they’d never seen anyone vacuum so often.  Long before joining a law firm I was scheduling and recording my activities down to 15 minute increments.  If it could be done, I was going to do it.

“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me… So I just didn’t stop.” (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver)  I didn’t want to feel anything.  I didn’t want to be distracted.  I couldn’t risk my emotion bringing me to ruin.  My feelings couldn’t be trusted. So I buried them.

Funny thing about a burial though. The thing doesn’t cease to exist. Ghosts of emotions past start rising up from the places where they’ve been buried in secret and they haunt your life. They will not be ignored for always.

I’ve been told that depression is the absence of feeling. The absence of tears. Something darker still.  If that’s true, maybe what I experienced was not depression at all, but rather grief. So many denials of self over time.  So many funerals for the innumerable times I chose to please the other at the expense of my values, my self-respect and my dignity.

Under the cover of darkness, lit by the moonlight, everything seemed more beautiful.  Even the parts that hurt, just to be reminded that they were there was magnificent. While walking down the street I stopped, leaned over and pressed my nose to a flower and was in rapture.

The gift of my depression was to give the hidden, muted parts a voice and to remove from me all power to turn away.

The darkness lit up the path that brought me back to life.

The Thoughtful Lawyer

Thoughtful. adj. 1. Absorbed in or involving thought. 2. Showing consideration for the needs of other people. 3. Showing careful consideration or attention.

“You think too much!” “Gosh, you’re always on. Do you ever turn off?”  “Have you tried relaxing?” Or my personal favorite while working through my umpteenth existential crisis for the year “I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”  First of all, yes it is.  To me.  Second of all, if I had a dollar for every time I’d been told one of those things, I could have paid for at least one credit at my exhorbitantly priced law school up front.

I accepted these lighthearted (ha!) comments as part of my life.  Something was clearly wrong with me.  But I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.  I was special and this was just part of the package — “Flaws and All“.  I was a tortured soul, but there was as much bliss as distress.  Teetering between darkness and light I was creating something that almost looked like balance.

In hindsight I definitely should have learned to relax earlier in life. My “thoughtfulness” turned into full blown anxiety.  When I started having anxiety attacks about how I would fail (at life!) if I didn’t have my anxiety to motivate me I should have known something was not right.  I forgot that I hadn’t been particularly anxious as a child — although kind of shy and very careful.  I had been motivated by a thirst for knowledge and a clear sense of my own potential.  Twenty-twenty.

Continue reading