GROWING UP, my parents always referred to me as “The Princess and the Pea.” This was due to my extreme sensitivity which they found exasperating. The nickname came from a story by Hans Christian Andersen in which a princess was unable to fall asleep on a pile of 20 mattresses with just a tiny pea underneath the bottom one. While I was never that bad I was close enough, and my ultra-sensitivity was apparently enough to drive my mother crazy; she developed early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 57 and died at 62.
As an adult I am currently engaged in driving my husband crazy, although let’s face it, he was halfway there when we met. Still, I walk around the house turning off all the lights because of the glare, complain that cashmere blankets are scratchy, insist that the furnace is making an odd hum that’s not right, dump out a new bottle of wine that tastes “off” or declare that something in the refrigerator smells “funny,” none of which he can detect.
I always thought I was nuts because seeing a dog locked inside a parked car brings tears to my eyes, making a simple trip to the supermarket fraught with danger. Ditto reading the newspaper. But recently I have come to find out I am not crazy, I am simply hyper-empathic, or an “empath.” Sort of a human sponge, I feel too much and there’s nothing I can do about it. Following are the most common traits of an empath; who knows, you might be one too.
Sole survivor Feels less stressed when alone.
Leave me alone In close relationships, requires distance and periods of solitude.
Ouch! Highly sensitive to sounds, smells, bright lights and the feel of certain fabrics.
I’m so tired Regularly suffers with fatigue and feels drained following social interactions.
Whatever you want Suffers in relationships or friendships, feeling that the needs of others trump their own. Agrees to things they don’t want to do to please others.
What was your name again? Connects with total strangers on a deep level very quickly.
Let me help Drawn to people who are suffering, wanting to heal them or make their world better. Thus they rush to the aid of those who are ill or have been victimized in some way.
Liar, liar, pants on fire Instinctively knows when someone is not being truthful.
What’s really going on? Unable to take things at face value, they are constantly searching for or philosophizing about answers that might explain the situation.
That poor doggie! Connects strongly to the animal kingdom and identifies with their emotional and physical pains.
Let me out Are most at peace when spending time in nature.
Did you say something? Easily distractible when doing things they don’t enjoy, they will quickly zone out in situations where their mind is not stimulated.
I’m got going there Crowded places like sports arenas, large concert venues and shopping malls cause anxiety and require downtime following excursions to such venues.
Not a party animal Struggle to relax and have fun in groups unless they are extremely comfortable with those surrounding them.
Artsy-fartsy Creative and highly imaginative. Writing, art, music, dance, building and design are pastimes they are passionate about and happiest doing.
Neat freak Prefers living space to be clutter free and minimalistic, believing that chaotic surroundings make for chaotic minds.
Tell me everything Often used as a sounding board or dumping ground by people seeking to unload their problems.
— Andrea Rouda
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.