Sensory Processing

Sensitive Me

I recently became aware of the Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) trait I possess, allowing me to take in and process more subtle details of the beings and environment around me. My brain evolved strategically to survive, and the use of psychedelics further developed this trait. Neuroscience has shown the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has heightened activity in the amygdala, insula, and brain mirror neuronal systems; therefore increasing reactivity, awareness, and ability to fire the same neurons as an observed being. This awareness has led to a greater spiritual connection to the world around me. I have a distinct memory of walking into the room of a ‘Special Intensity’ patient. 22 year old female admitted for acute psychosis, sudden onset with no prior psychiatric history. The report informed she had been held in the basement by her husband for several men to have sex with her. Once I stepped inside, there was an immediate change in the atmosphere. It was so dark and heavy on my chest it affected my breathing. The walls in her patient room were completely covered in handwritten graffitied words of “love, trust, fuck, sex, 666, devil, evil, whore, etc.” and Bible verses. I sat on the bedside table, my patient lifted her head to look at me and asked to hold my hand. There aren’t words to effectively describe the auditory sensation of awareness of voices inside her head whispering the graffitied words to her. She asked if she was pregnant, “I don’t know, but if you pee in this cup for me I’ll find out.” She spoke of the evil within this world, I agreed, and also reminded her of the good that exists.  I then encouraged her to fill her heart with intention to find the good in this world and hold it close. I stepped into the hallway and saw my coworkers, “Dude, have you gone in that room!? Did you feel that!?” I was met with blank stares. This shift in spiritual connection continued to occur, oddly enough, with our dog. A sweet rescued pitbull who initially struggled with behavioral and physical ailments. One night I told my daughter, “Can you please medicate your dog? Her anxiety’s so heavy I can’t think straight around her.” I was again met with blank stares. I’m still learning how to best integrate this trait into my life, so far I have learned the necessity of time alone and journaling to solidify the distinction between my spiritual being and others. This trait allows me to better understand the needs of another, and therefore guide them in their personal journey to have those needs met. My first repressed memory came back while sitting on this same couch and drinking white claws with my colleague, friend, and lead clinical therapist from work. How strategic of my brain. After I depersonalized and spoke out loud the memory of the first time I experienced emotional manipulation and nonconsensual sex, my friend responded, “Dude, you just had a repressed memory.” I was so confused. Questioning my reality, “How can someone forget that happened to them?” My friend comforted, provided support, and stated, “Something triggered you. You’ve had one repressed memory surface, better start therapy now, cuz chances are you will likely resurface more.” Damn, she was right. My work and life performance started to decline as the memories, nightmares, hypervigilance, and impulsive behavior inclined. I went through a dark time, as I attempted to navigate the court system and pursue legal charges on my own. (At this point I started psychotropic meds.) 

The triggering event was my daughter coming forth and confessing this same man abused her, in the same way. I blamed myself. I couldn’t forgive myself. Several nights were spent not sleeping, but pacing in my room for hours with the intrusive thoughts, “I thought you were a good psych nurse Amanda, how did you not see this? I thought you were a good mom Amanda, how did you not protect her?” My daughter now assures me, I did save her. If it wasn’t for our relationship, she would have certainly ended her life. I learned a mantra, “I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at that time.” It was this saying I repeated to myself during my first psychedelic trip. My trip was taxing, with some moments of blissful understanding, and many dark twists. Throughout that trip I found peace. I finished my trip outside overlooking the backyard, thinking how beautiful this world is - if you look for the beauty in it. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the universe, and the opportunity to live. I have been gifted a second chance at life, and I will not give up or give in, but fight for my soul as well as the souls of others. I never spent a night pacing again. 

I described this experience to the therapist. She recommended to my employer I attend a substance abuse IOP. I’m currently on a mandated leave of absence and in jeopardy of losing my nursing license. My colleagues have turned their backs. I can recognize my self growth by the shortened amount of emotional down time this situation has cost me, turns out I’m resilient AF. I’m actively utilizing this experience and opportunity to better myself. I can’t predict what the outcome will be, but am confident a smarter, stronger woman I will become. 

The three core values of nursing I align with most are education, advocacy, and leadership. I choose to approach this situation by educating myself to best advocate for and represent myself as a positive example within the field of nursing. I have been transparent with my daughter and turned it into a life lesson, analyzing policies and preparing my defense on this same couch, “In the event you find yourself in trouble with authority, this is how you handle it.” It’s not expected of us to be perfect, but the expectation is to keep trying and keep fighting. I have been learning, and then implementing different forms of psychotherapy on myself under the influence of psilocybin, LSD, or MDMA. It has been an eye opening and life changing experience. It pains the ego my community of the last ten years cannot see. Regardless, I feel a paradigm shift as I find support within the psychedelic community. It appears at this time, the inpatient psychiatric community and I are no longer contributing to each other’s growth, and we must part ways. I am optimistic for what my future holds within the fields of holistic health and entrepreneurship. I feel humbled at the opportunity to walk beside others, holding space for their needs on the conscious altering journey to find peace.