My Heart on the Page

flashcard that says 'What shape is this?' with a heart shape on it

You wear your heart on your sleeve.

You need to hold back a little, develop a thicker skin. Don’t let it get to you so much.

I’ve heard it so many times. Am I a natural victim?

I am walking down a crowded high street pushing my little boy in his trike. He is nearly two but looks much older – already in aged four clothing. He is giggling excitedly because he loves the view the trike gives him; he can look all around – so curious.

A lady in a wheelchair mutters as she is pushed past “Ohhh look at that. Whatever will they think of next? Children are so lazy these days. I think it’s disgusting. He should pedal himself or at least walk!” He couldn’t pedal. He couldn’t walk. I struggled to contain myself, racing to the car. I sobbed when I got home.

I try to introduce myself to someone I know in passing but not formally. I smile, say my name, begin a sentence. But I am cut off; the person doesn’t stop, doesn’t break their step. She does not even smile. A just audible ‘oh hi’ floats by me as she strides past. She don’t want to talk to me. Why would she? I am beset with self-doubt. I must have offended her. She must dislike something about me.

A colleague wants to argue; they feel passionate about something and feel my view is wrong. I want to try to clarify but I am bellowed down. They do not care. They shout, ridicule, rub their eyes in exaggerated mockery of my tears. Boo hoo! Boo hoo! Their pitch is raised to imitate a child crying. I have felt sick for days. Stomach in knots, hands weak and shaking when I remember.

The lady in the wheelchair did not know that I had just taken my son to the doctor due to concerns over developmental delays, that he would later be diagnosed with autism.

Who knows what that my not-yet-friend had on their mind – maybe she had an excellent reason for brushing me aside, maybe she was fighting her own shyness, her own demons.

My colleague felt that I was foolish, my argument weak. I deserved to be set straight.  I admit though, I am struggling to find any justification for such cruel and callous derision.

In the blackest hours of the night, I replay conversations that happened years ago, over and over again. The pain of those encounters blooms fresh, like new wounds. Sometimes I shout out, involuntarily, so potent is the sense of despair, so uncontainable. I toss and turn and make imaginary speeches, explain why what they have said and done hurts me so deeply. But catharsis never comes.

And neither does sleep.

Is it my responsibility to get over it? To grow a thick skin? To learn not to take things to heart? Perhaps. I try, every day.

There are huge disadvantages to becoming a quivering wreck at the slightest sign of scorn or bad feeling or being terrified at even a hint of conflict or danger. There are days when I am resolutely selfish, when the plights of others might not register above the buzz and roar of my own discomfort. Sometimes I cannot be the mother I want to be because I am marred by anxiety and anguish. To wallow in such feelings is supremely self-indulgent, addictive almost – at least for me.

But my sensitivity gives me other gifts – empathy, compassion, generosity. I never aim to be intentionally cruel. There are fleeting moments when the bitterness of some hurt makes me lash out – but they are rare and instantly regretted. I do not treat people with disdain and mockery. I judge, yes. Lord knows, we all do. But I would not seek to deliberately make anyone feel despair, even those I judge, those I dislike.

There is nothing to our place in this world but love. That is it. That is the sole point, the reason for existence – whatever your belief system. Love is all. Compassion is all. To forge relationships, make connections – you will find no greater purpose. To find love, to spread it, is the greatest endeavour any of us can hope to achieve, whether through friendship or romance, family or the wider world.

We are by nature imperfect, petty. But our very greatest achievement, and lesson, is love.

I worry about the things I teach my children. They see mummy destroyed by a word, unable to function because of one cruel act.

Do I want them to feel like this? To feel the searing jab of heartbreak that comes when I know someone thinks poorly of me?

No, I would wish to spare them that.

But do I want them to grow thick skins, hide their hearts, bury their feelings, give up one jot of that sensibility that allows love to flourish so readily?

A thousand times no.

I do not doubt that the excessive nature of my struggle is linked partially to anxiety; it is too extreme, too all-consuming, too entrenched.

Managing my severe reactions to things may well be my responsibility, my challenge. But kindness, love? That should be everyone’s responsibility, everyone’s challenge.

Don’t you think?

Pin - children's shape chart with a heart. Living with anxiety

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38 thoughts on “My Heart on the Page

  1. What a great post. I had a conversation on Friday about anxieties, it was the first time I’d spoken to someone who can completely understand why I am so sensitive about things. On Friday my daughter’s pre school teacher said I wasn’t “tough enough” with my 4 year old and that I’m letting her “rule me.” I’d had a bad week with my daughter as she’d been unable to get outside as much as we had rain every day and she’s an outdoors girl. As soon as I got home I burst out in tears and it took a phone call to my dad to calm me down. I personally would never in 12 years of childcare comment on parentning skills unless a parent specifically asked for them, so finding it difficult to accept why this professional feels like she can do that to me. The trouble is I have always let people walk all over me, so I just need to pluck up the courage to say “I’m not after parenting advice, but thanks!”

    1. That’s awful! I am so sorry you suffer similarly. As a teacher I would never comment on someone’s parenting. I know it doesn’t help to alleviate the anxiety but there’s no way she knows enough about you to make that judgement. I know though, even though you know she’s wrong, it just hurts she thinks that. Big, big hugs. xxxx

  2. A very touching post! It’s annoying when people are so judgemental of other people’s actions without even knowing the whole truth. Life can be cruel sometimes so as people everywhere. If only people learn to show care, kindness and love, then this place would have been a better place to live in. #KCACOLS

    1. Thank you. That’s so true. It’s hard sometimes and we’re not perfect but deliberate and unnecessary cruelty just confuses me so much. Thanks for commenting 😊

  3. Don’t be so harsh on yourself. You are the person you are. SOme people like this lady don’t know the full story and yet, feel the right to judge you. Theya re no one. You will never encounter her again. You do your life your way! You seem to be a very sensitive person. That’s is way better than a bully! I read many other of your posts and you seem pretty damn good to me, if I may say Stay strong and don’t worry about things you can’t change or control xx #bigpinklink #KCAKOLS

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. The rational part of me does know that but my gut won’t let me believe it for some reason. But there are plenty of comments from kind people like yourself that help feel a bit better! Thanks 🙂

  4. This is brilliant and all so true for me too. In recent weeks I have come up against some intolerable derision and cruelty when trying to debate maturely and with sensitivity to both sides of the argument. And again and again I have been told “You are an idiot. You don’t understand. Your ideas are stupid”, and it hurts. Every time, it hurts. I wish that I could tell myself not to care, but those words affect me. They make me question my own worth and intelligence. So I can understand where you’re coming from completely, and I hope that one day we will both find a better way to battle those feelings. X #KCACOLS

    1. Thanks so much for commenting and I am so sorry you experience the same. Even though I often know the person is wrong, and really believe that, it still hurts so much because I hate people thinking badly of me! Silly, I know, when sometimes the person is nothing to do with me. It’s tough. I hope we both find a way to cope with them too. x

  5. Great post. Max used to be terrified of hand dryers in public toilets and still is a bit, the noise is just too much for him to cope with. Anyway, he once had a meltdown and wouldn’t even go into the toilet because there was one on in there, and a woman turned to me and said “he just needs a good smack”. I’ve never ever forgotten that x #bigpinklink

    1. Mine is exactly the same with hand dryers. I haven’t had nasty words related to behaviours associated with autism (unless you count the one above) – just a few disapproving tuts and stares – but I know someone will say something at some point and it will destroy me when it happens. People have no right to comment. Even when kids are genuinely playing up- what do people hope to achieve by commenting? There’s no way anyone can ever know the whole story, no way comments like that would ever help anyone. The only thing a comment like that will do is hurt someone. It’s so obvious, so why do it??! I am so sorry you’ve had comments like that. Thanks so much for commenting. x

  6. “But my sensitivity gives me other gifts – empathy, compassion, generosity.” So much this. Compassion and Empathy are the most important things we can show each other. Whats that saying ? Something along the lines of being kind, as everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. (I also replay years old conversations in my head, so you are not alone there, and its awful. My only consolation is that the other person will have long since forgotten about it – I know this in my heart) Great post #kcacols

    1. Thanks so much for commenting and your lovely words. I am always so confused when people, particularly strangers, make cruel comments. Thanks again. x

  7. I have recently wrote a post on being sensitive – I have always hated this about myself. I cry at the drop of a hat, I let people’s comments affect me far too much. But this is me I can’t change ( I have tried) I just need to accept it I guess. You have a lovely way with words xx

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely comment and I am sorry this affects you too. It’s tough. xx

  8. This is a brilliantly written post. I can’t believe that old woman, some people just don’t stop to consider other people’s feelings before they speak. The world would be so much better if we were all kind to each other and did not judge others. I’m really sensitive too, it really doesn’t take much to make me cry. I’m working on it now as I don’t want my son to see me be sad, he makes me stronger and more confident.xx #bigpinklink

    1. Thank you so much for such kind words. I am so sorry you struggle with it too. I am trying to be better for my children too. xx

  9. Another absolutely beautiful, gut wrenching post Danielle… Unfortunately, I can identify with every. single. word… I too can remember words and conversations from years ago (as young as reception class at primary school,) and they still make me tearful even now. And I too, have imaginary conversations with these people, get angry with them, want to lash out and hurt them as much as they hurt me, then get even more angry that their words have hurt me to the point of making me into the kind of person I’d never want to be-angry and aggressive. People who say nasty things loudly enough so that we can hear, are awful. Who the heck was that old lady to loudly vocalise about a situation she knew absolutely nothing about, and I’m HORRIFIED that a colleague mocked you in such a positively disgraceful way-how dare they make you feel like that. I’ve recently cut a LOT of old friends out-no explanation, no nothing, I’ve just blocked all their numbers and social media. They’d done awful things to me-not turned up to my baby shower, not taken any interest in my children, and one incident at a party where they all got together beforehand without inviting me, even though I’d called a few of them to try and meet them first, because I was nervous about arriving at the gathering by myself-they said they didn’t hear their phones, and thought I’d be ‘too involved’ with my children to meet them beforehand anyway. I was cutting so many people off that I stopped and wondered if the problem must be with me and not them-it was looking that way. I’ve always been told I’m too idealistic, but I just want everyone to treat me how I’d treat them-with nothing but kindness, and I also want much more love and understanding in the world. So yes, I may be too oversensitive, but the problem definitely was with them, and I won’t stop wanting to surround myself with loving, caring people, and I’m sure you’ll be the same. xx

    1. I am so sorry you’ve experienced this too. I also have had really bad experiences with ‘friends’ treating me like this and it causing me to feel it *must* be something to do with me – even if that’s just that I let people do it. I have very few but very kind and loyal friends now as a result and I am happy with that. I will always struggle with these feelings though and I am so sorry they affect you so much too. It does make me feel better to hear other people say the same! Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment. xx

  10. I’ve always taken things VERY personally even when I don’t think they are meant that way, I can’t help it. It takes me AGES to get over things. This kind of regret means my son find it hard to make decisions at all too. We’d find out later it was about the anxiety.
    We need all types of people in this world, sensitive and worried ones included. Xxx

    1. Thank you. I do know that a lot of the time I am overreacting and it’s so much worse when I am in a very anxious state anyway… but I just wish I could have some kind of switch I could flip to turn it off when it gets like this. I can barely complete the simplest of tasks at the moment. Thanks so much for commenting. Sorry you are affected too. x

  11. Your posts about anxiety always seem to speak directly to me, thank you for writing them. A sensitive soul is a beautiful one xxx

  12. Oh wow I can really identify with a lot of your post. I am really bad for over analysing situations and feeling hurt by things that really shouldn’t bother me. I wish I could be more resilient, but I have decided that being like this is not necessarily like a weakness too.
    Brilliant post!


    1. Thanks so much for commenting. It’s so tough to try to keep things in perspective but I keep trying. But you’re right, it brings strengths too! 🙂 x

  13. Oh bless you. What a touching post. You write beautifully and make such pertinent points. I completely understand – I am exactly the same (okay, no two people are exactly the same, but you know what I mean!) My sister always reassures me by saying the same thing as you, that although feeling emotions to the extremes is touch – we might be oversensitive, anxious, self-depriciating – it also means we feel the ‘good bits’ to the full too and we have empathy and sensitivity towards others too. It’s so tough to make yourself tough! I try but constantly fail. We are who we are in this life 🙂 Hugs x #KCACOLS

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. It is true that there are great benefits too but some days I really do wish I could just switch off all emotion! Sorry you feel this way sometimes too. x

  14. I’ve struggled with similar demons and I’ve found it helps to remind myself, that while they may not know the backstory to our lives when making comments or passing judgment, neither do we know the whole story of their circumstances that has promoted their reaction. It doesn’t always stop me from feeling hurt, but at least it makes me try and be a bit more understanding and forgiving both of myself and others

    1. That’s so true and I definitely try to do that- in all my dealings with people. Thanks so much for commenting:)

  15. I am very sensitive also. It’s tiring. I carry everyone else’s burdens as my own. I can’t watch a news story without thinking about the wider repercussions on the person’s family and friends. How must they be feeling? I feel like I am mourning, but nobody is sympathetic because, as far as they can see, nobody I know has died. But it doesn’t matter if I know them or not – I still feel it so keenly. I can’t offer any words of advice, except to say that it has been good to hear someone else voice my own thoughts, and I hope it is encouraging for you to know that you are not the only one who feels this way (even if we are few and far between!) #sharingthebloglove

    1. I am definitely like that with the news etc too and it had got so much worse since I had children. I can’t bear to watch suffering of anyone, especially children. Thanks so much for commenting. I am sorry you struggle to but glad to hear of others going through the same 🙂

  16. What a beautiful post and something I think we all struggle with to a point. I think we all have a social responsibility to do no harm! To try and consider others in everything we do! I too wear my heart on my sleeve and I think it leads to living a whole hearted life! Thanks for sharing

  17. I understand you Danielle because I’m also sensitive but I would rather be like that than hide my feelings. The thing is that with the years (I’m nearly 40 now) I have learnt to just do what makes me happy and forget about what others think or say. Life is too short to worry about that. You have a little boy that needs more attention than others so if other people don’t understand that so it is their problem not yours. Try to gravitate around people that makes you happy. As soon as you feel bad vibes just run miles away from that as those bad vibes don’t worth your time. This is what I do and it is all much better. You are such a sweet and lovely person. I would love to meet you one day. Thanks so much for sharing your feelings and thoughts with us at #KCACOLS. Hope you are feeling better, 🙂 x

    1. Thanks so much for such lovely words. I am so sorry I haven’t got to my commenting. I am spreading myself too thin and overwhelmed with work and grief! Your comments have made me smile though:)

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