“Sensitive people are the most genuine and honest people you will ever meet. There is nothing they won’t tell you about themselves if they trust your kindness. However, the moment you betray them, reject them or devalue them, they become the worse type of person. Unfortunately, they end up hurting themselves in the long run. They don’t want to hurt other people. It is against their very nature. They want to make amends and undo the wrong they did. Their life is a wave of highs and lows. They live with guilt and constant pain over unresolved situations and misunderstandings. They are tortured souls that are not able to live with hatred or being hated. This type of person needs the most love anyone can give them because their soul has been constantly bruised by others. However, despite the tragedy of what they have to go through in life, they remain the most compassionate people worth knowing, and the ones that often become activists for the broken hearted, forgotten and the misunderstood. They are angels with broken wings that only fly when loved.”
― Shannon L. Alder
For the majority of my life, I have felt alienated.
I can recall moments on the playground, unable to navigate complicated friendships and instead seeking solace in my books. I attempted to trick myself into thinking this was my choice – to stick out like a thumb tack, alone and propped against the brick wall of my elementary school; re-reading the same sentences over and over again to maintain composure and grasp a semblance of invisibility. The truth was that I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to spend time with me. I tried to maintain a friendship in which I only saw the friend during the summer. By the school year’s start, she seemed to forget I existed. Every single year. I became tired of pretending I didn’t know the girl who I’d shared midnight laughs and Dollar Store candy with. Words on a page were safer than any human contact.
Before I understood that normality wasn’t a necessity, I used my preteen fingers to claw around, searching for stability, acceptance, and understanding. My own mother was strapped with stress that couldn’t be added to, so I often suffered in silence. My mother did the only thing she knew to do in response to a sensitive child…she left me alone. I was allowed to ride my bike to and from the library of my tiny town in Illinois. Sometimes, if it was a special day, I could stop at the DQ after retrieving my freshly-ordered literature. I learned sugary foods triggered the feeling of love, and for that, I went through a chubby phase for several years. The other pleasure chemicals were released while reading books. Subsequently, many summers were spent inside, reading at Speedy Gonzalez frequency ( a Goosebumps book a day) and checking the back of the book for other titles I could order. I moved onto Fear Street a year later. I had a fixation for darkness, for I couldn’t verbalize or connect that I had my own darkness inside of me yet to be released. I learned to cry until my throat ached, a flood of peace following thereafter. I did not learn to regulate my emotions.
In 8th grade, I found momentary acceptance in a crowd I didn’t belong to. These people had parents who were addicted to drugs. The peers learned the coping mechanisms of their parents, and were participating in things too mature for their age. I finally had a place to release this darkness. I threw myself into macabre literature and poetry. Anything below the status quo spoke to me in a way as if to say “you are not alone.” I could never measure up to the demands that normalcy placed onto me, so I rebelled instead. I learned my emotions were burdens to those who didn’t understand (which were the mass majority), so I repressed through cutting and solitary crying spells.
I remember feeling a comfort in my alien nature when I became a Christian. I’m not so sure now that Christianity was what made me feel better, but the fact that I finally found friendship that gave back. Christianity always created an emotional conflict inside of me — for one moment, I could feel I was god’s daughter, perfect in his sight. However, a convicting Sunday morning message would leave me feeling like chewed up bubble gum on the bottom of a shoe. I could never regulate the two. So I seesawed between loving and hating myself, sometimes simultaneously. Most people didn’t even know I was going through this, for to confess it would alienate me further. I also thought feeling perpetual guilt was a healthy symptom of heavy conviction, so I didn’t think to try and correct these cognitive distortions. If I was ever aloof as a child while apologizing or meeting consequences for my actions, my mother would often unintentionally use a certain tone or words to manipulate my emotions and give her the reaction she thought I should have: shame and guilt. I learned through this that every negative experience was associated with these same two traits. This made it difficult for me to bounce back after a personal defeat.
Adulthood has a way of bringing on certainty, or at least the illusion of it. Things finally seemed to be falling into place by my early 20s – a stable job, a husband who appeared to be good for me, and minimal financial struggle. Following my heart into foreign missions put a major strain on my finances. Though I felt connected to Thailand and Asian culture more than my own country of the United States, I couldn’t linger there for as long as I’d like due to income. I returned to the states, and the alienation seemed to return as well. Marital issues in the midst of intense involvement with my church was enough to make me feel like that little girl with the bookmarked Goosebumps again. I did just enough to “fit in,” but I never felt connected.
Shortly thereafter, alienation by stillbirth joined my many foes.
Some of this alienation I pursue by myself — not having energy to exist in a world without my daughter, staying up all night watching Netflix on the couch, unable to go to sleep in a bed that once held my pregnant body. Isolation was also placed on me by society and PTSD — expectations for me to return to work before I was ready, flippant sentimental quotations and half-hearted advice, pressure from my husband to have sex when I couldn’t even think of getting out of bed, guilt for my rage toward god and anything to do with that belief, anger for the abandonment I felt, nauseated any time I walked into my bathroom and remembered all the blood on the floor, haunted with images of her paper skin ripping as the stress of her tiny, formed bones poked through its barrier, the moment of giving her back to the nurse for the last time echoing over and over until I was driven to insanity by my grief. I wanted to die, and I’m still not sure that’s gone away. I think when you lose something so precious to you, death is always a welcoming thought. My alienation continues — a mother with PTSD returning from the battlefield of loss. I lost a significant piece of my innocence, which I will never regain. I can’t pursue anything significant in my life without the echo of it possibly failing.
The next phase of alienation is a time I still linger in. I was abandoned by my husband, and left to deal with my grief alone. The fear I clutched in childhood was now made a reality with his absence. No one is permanent. While object permanence is something we learn as children, I always understood this didn’t carry over to relationships. However, being an idealist, I always hoped for more. The rise and fall of expectations verses reality was debilitating.
My belief system no longer brought me comfort. It tormented me instead. Each time I couldn’t agree or believe what I was reading in the Bible or hearing in church, I felt the voice underneath it all telling me what a horrible Christian I was. When I could no longer connect to what I felt was god, the voices in my head from Christians expecting me to persevere were deafening. I would be tortured with the thoughts of Christians who went through far worse, and could somehow bounce back. Why wasn’t I that strong? Why was there yet another thing wrong with me that couldn’t be fixed? Why couldn’t I pull it together?
Friends lessened the frequency of interaction while I went through this time. I don’t blame them, and not all of them disappeared. Their absence is understood to me. It is difficult to comfort a hurting soul when there aren’t words or actions to make things better. I myself am guilty of this. And I’m sure I pushed others away, for I knew my own burden would curl its adult fingers around the neck of the comforting friend and pull them under with me. I didn’t wish this pain on anyone else. I had grown comfortable in my alien nature, so it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect. The choices I made might’ve sped up this isolation as well. I’d grown so used to harboring these feelings and emotions inside of me, that I didn’t tremble at the thought of being alone. Not for a little while, anyway.
I’m reaching a new age of alienation. This is the alienation of living in the South and no longer believing in god as a being. If Christian friends ask me to explain this, I’m left fumbling for words and looking like a cult-following idiot. I’m still in the beginnings of this transition, but it has been just as difficult as the others. It’s difficult for me to accept invitations to talk or hang out if I know the person will use that time as a way to witness to me, as the person who has “fallen away” or is “back sliding” from god. I also develop social anxiety at the thought of explaining, as when I became a Christian at 15, I didn’t have all the answers — and yet I’m expected to have all the answers if I’m leaving the Christian faith. I don’t. Not at all. There are times where I even doubt if this is the right thing to do. Though meditation and healing crystals offer me more comfort than any organized religion, I am left alone in this journey. Christianity has the wonderful appeal of immediately connecting you with a support system. Not so when you are exiting the Church. I had someone in my life who kept pursuing me and checking on me until I told him I wouldn’t be attending a Bible study anymore; a Bible study he held at his house. Suddenly, I never heard from this friend again. I suppose I was checked off of the list of ‘people to pray for’ and introduced into the pile of ‘ will revisit when she reaches out for help again.’ There is no built-in support system when you say you don’t believe in god as a being. If anything, there is a wall of opposition waiting on the other side.
I have never felt more alone, in many ways. I’m an alien belonging to the highly sensitive, young divorcee, bereaved mother, and former Christian mothership. I know this place is not my home. I understand that I am a starseed, which makes things more challenging. I feel as if I have been tossed with the waves of this life — constantly searching for the shore of stability, yet never quite finding it. For this, I find myself increasingly tired and homesick for a place I long to return.
Above all, I desire, without any doubt or misconception, to be understood to my eternal core.