HSP: being a highly sensitive person in Africa

African woman

The rainy season is coming to an end on Bioko island, leaving space for the sunny, very hot and humid days of the dry season. I am a HSP. I am sensitive to light, sun, heat, sweat. I have got asthma as well as some food intolerance. I do not get along well with heavy spicy sauces or fermented vegetables or tubers (most of country’s traditional dishes that I know of). I am thinking about becoming a vegetarian. Trying to retrieve all-vegetarian African recipes could be an interesting hobby.

I like music, however I cannot stand the loud volume of the radio whenever I get in a local taxi. I love dancing , but I can get extremely shy in public. I feel terribly guilty if I ever find someone hitting a child for the child’s sake!. I feel pain and discomfort when I have to get my hair braided, my scalp is so sensitive. I once had to wrung a cock’s neck and let it bleed on the floor as a sacrifice. But I didn’t faint , did not have any nightmares nor did I feel guilty afterwards, because I was never left alone throughout the process (my mother’s ritual for becoming a widow). I am not a very good model of housewife for I get overwhelmed whenever I have to clean the house and cook or run some errands. This is me. And yes: I am African. I am a woman. Thus I am an African woman. Besides I currently live in Africa. Which makes me somewhat a rara avis?. I don’t think so. So little has been said about us…HS African women…but we do exist.

I am not very good at maths, but considering that the African Continent has approximately a population of 1000 millions, a 20% of that would be around 200 million potential HSP. And thinking especially of those who live in urban areas… I am wondering how do they cope with the million stimuli surrounding us on a daily basis?. How do they relate to their spouses, children and relatives to limit boundaries?. How do they deal with stress?. And HS men…how do they manage to go through initiation ceremonies? How do they feel when they are obliged to take a girl they don’t really know or have never met as wife?. How can they stop the tears from falling when feeling sad, depressed or even just moved, shocked?.

The answer is the sense of community: the family, the village, the clan, the tribe. . In Africa you can be alone at times, but you are never lonely. There is always someone by your side watching you, ready to hold your hand if you are about to fall, to smile at you if you doubt, to push you a little if you are afraid to jump into the river…At least, that is how it used to be. Right now we are loosing our values and trying to fit in a changing world, not anymore one of the traditions but either a fully western individual oriented world. In fact we are in the middle of nowhere trying to just make it through.

Africa is much more than all those TV shocking images of wars, wild animals, droughts, starving children, AIDS, jumping massai, and Developed South Africa. It is much more than that. And from now on I will try to offer a very personal HSP view from my little piece of Africa on this fan page. It could be a fascinating journey. Would you like to ride?

Written by Anneta Gonçalves

Source: HSP Awareness International 

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One thought on “HSP: being a highly sensitive person in Africa

  1. Collins Mwaura says:

    Hello, I am Collins Mwaura, a HSP guy living in Kenya. Your article is really inspiring. We both have many things in common. For as long as I can remember, I have always been different from everyone around me. Sometimes I concluded that I have had some sort of mental illness until lately when I came across the term “Sensory Processing Sensitivity”. Following some deep research, I learnt that I was a HSP.

    Life as a HSP can be both beautiful and a big struggle. The beautiful part comes from pleasurable stimulation from music, works of art, and other “unusual” things such as shows of affection and gratitude, feeling a breeze, watching nature (birds, clouds, colorful trees…), listening to birds chirping in the morning…. and the list continues. The difficult part of being a HSP comes from mostly the inability to shut off stimuli like, pain, noise and chaos becomes overwhelming, busy streets within cities become extremely stimulating because I feel almost everything that comes by: the many footsteps, people talking, all sorts of smells, the heat from engines of passing cars, the roaring of engines, the fuel fumes, the texture of the ground, the structure and might of skyscrapers… practically everything. Sometimes it’s like you almost can see the internal structures of buildings, cars and equipment just by looking. Pain also becomes unbearably intense, something that was supposed to feel like a small prick for the normal person becomes too much to bear.

    I also feel extremely guilty if I hear of or come across sad scenes like suffering or ill children, someone beating up a child, road accidents etc.

    My social life is different from my peers because my perceptions about the world are far different from those of others. But over the years I have learnt to live well with others, but I confess I had a really tuff childhood, I was always a weirdo to everyone back then. In this black continent, boys and men are expected to be as strong as an armored tank and as a HSP, life could prove difficult because being your natural self could easily be interpreted as weakness which could lead to serious embarrassment and shame.

    It’s great to know that I am not alone. May the Lord Jesus be with you always.

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