You’re too sensitive!
Saturday was the 14-year anniversary of my move to the United States, and it got me thinking about my early days in New York. This was seven years after I got my 11 amalgam fillings placed. I was in the middle of a roaring case of mercury poisoning, but I didn’t have a clue.
I just thought I was wired differently.
Looking at the people around me, I could see that I had a whole nother emotional reality going on. Almost everyone I knew seemed to have this super-human strength to shrug off the slings and arrows thrown their way and move on with their sunny lives.
I wasn’t built like that.
When bad things happened to me–I mean little bad thing like missing a train–I would brace myself for an emotional storm. I had enough sense not to take it out on the world around me, but it was there on the inside, and it would go on and on and on. One minute late for the subway, and I would be in the darkest of foul moods for the rest of the day.
Was it just ‘moodiness?’ What was a ‘mood’ anyway?
Back then, I was dedicated to therapy, self-help books, support groups, anything that might give me some leverage in my battle to manage my emotions. I remember a group leader once making an important distinction in defining the terms we were using to describe our feelings.
“Moods,” she said, “are a background hum of feeling that color your experience but aren’t very intense. Moods can last for hours or days at a time. Emotions, on the other hand, are intense and hard to ignore. Emotions happen in the forefront of your experience and rarely last for more than half an hour.”
I went away from this group more confused than I’d gone in. What did you call a strong emotional experience like despair that dominated your consciousness and went on for days or weeks?
You called it ‘A Symptom of Mercury Poisoning’, that’s what you called it. But I had a long road to travel before I could make that connection.
Instead, at the time, I tried on different explanations. I adopted the identity ‘Highly Sensitive Person.’ I worked hard on resolving issues from my childhood, so that any overhanging trauma would stop coloring my adult life. I stopped comparing myself to ‘normal’ people and accepted that I was talented in my own way, even if it meant that I had to spend one day a week in bed staring at the wall, trying to process and calm the emotional jumble of the week.
Not once did it occur to me that mercury–or any physiological force–was the cause of my emotional sensitivity.
That blows my mind, because it’s so clear to me now. Having gone through detox, having watched every damn thing mercury did to me intensify and then disappear, I can see it all. Mercury was inside my head, screwing up my neurotransmitters, lowering my serotonin. It was slowing down my liver, filling my bloodstream with backed-up toxins that swam into my brain and made me insane. It was burdening my adrenals, causing my cortisol levels to fall, making me unable to cope with the everyday stresses of life.
But it was going to be a long, hard road before I figured all that out. In the meantime, I kept living in the emotional storm, harboring the enemy within for many years before I could name what it was and break free.