I made a note a while back to write a post about intense emotions, specifically intense positive emotions, but for a multitude of reasons it just remained on my to-do list without ever getting written. Until now.
I just read “When you’re autistic, everything is ‘more’” by Violet Fenn. It was so relatable for me, and I was reminded how important it is to share our realities. I’m not autistic, but the explanation of feeling emotional overwhelm hit home because I do have borderline personality disorder. I hear people with BPD described as “emotional burns victims,” in that our emotional skin is so damaged & sensitive that even the slightest breeze is a searing pain for us. But it’s not just negative emotions we’re extra sensitive to, at least not for me.
When I tell people I experience intense emotions, they imagine the kind of sadness that is bottomless or the kind of anger that is pure rage, no one ever thinks that emotions like happiness or love can be just as overwhelming, and therefore scary.
Take for example this scenario; a group of friends are chatting, one makes a joke, everyone laughs, the conversation moves on. It’s a simple, normal, everyday situation, only it fills me with dread because if I find something funny, I find it really funny. I laugh, hard, for longer than the rest of the group, and then I will continue to chuckle and burst out laughing again minutes later when I re-remember the joke, after everyone else has moved on. Of course, this feeds my negative self-talk, “you’re so stupid, you’re so odd, everyone thinks you’re such an idiot for laughing so much at some normal joke, it wasn’t even that funny, why are you such a social failure?”
Let’s look at another example, love. I think most people would agree it’s a pretty powerful emotion under normal circumstances, so now let’s imagine love squared, or maybe even cubed.
When I love, it is all consuming. There is no ‘play it cool,’ the person I love is my entire world. In my last relationship I remember so clearly lying in bed with him and feeling such intensity in my chest that I thought I would die, every night. The kind of love that, when I looked at him, I would have given anything to never look away. I don’t even know how to explain the feeling, it made my soul ache with a desperation to show him how much I loved him, even though there are not ways to express that level of emotion.
It’s not healthy, so say all the experts on anything, but that’s just how I love. I love with everything I have, but it’s suffocating for others to be loved that way.
When I tell you that I feel everything more intensely, please realise that I do actually mean everything. When I feel an emotion, any emotion, it is not a small wave lapping at the shore, it is verging on a tsunami.
I feel, and I feel so deeply that every emotion is terrifying. So please don’t tell me to “let the emotions wash over you,” because I would drown.