Meet Daisy Gumin

By Daisy Gumin

I’m a 17-year-old homeschooler named Daisy, living in New York City. So far, I’ve been a writer, a reader, a dyslexic, a dancer, a unicyclist, a truth teller, a liar, a listener, a talker, the bullied and the bully, the designated friend, the emotional friend, the caretaker, the problem, the odd man out, a backpacker, a leader, a follower, an artist, a lover (well, kind of), a Catholic, a Jew, an atheist, a yogi, a seeker, and a mad-good gluten-free baker. Today, I’d say I’m a mostly grateful, highly sensitive introvert.

Until recently, I didn’t know I was a Highly Sensitive Person or that I was an introvert. For a long time, all I knew was that something felt very, very wrong with me. Throughout my life, my highs seemed reasonably high, and my lows seemed deeply and painfully low. Growing up, I was impulsive and jealous and ruminated on “serious things” too much. I became a daily crier in my early adolescence and couldn’t understand why things just seemed to hurt so badly.

All it took was a gesture, a facial expression, a slight downward inflection in someone’s tone, and I was seared. I could not think. I was restless, unable to make sense of why my reactions seemed to come on so heavily. It looked like I was drawing absurd conclusions from what seemed to most people fragments of nothing.

And I wasn’t sure if it really was nothing because maybe those obsessions were just anxiety or surfacing insecurity. But I wanted to find something concrete, simple, fixable—anything to explain why I always felt the way I did. I needed an answer as to why I walked through life analyzing everything, thinking about everything, and why I felt so misunderstood and frustrated yet so transparent—exposed to each person I let in, which shrunk in number with each passing month.

Maybe I was just discerning, my mother said.

Somehow that word felt terribly invalidating—”discerning.” I thought she had given up searching, for merely discerning was too normal, and in no way did I feel normal.

Then at 17, I read two books that suddenly clarified every question, each inkling of helplessness I couldn’t seem to comprehend on my own. Quiet and The Highly Sensitive Person filled me with tears with each page I turned, flagging and highlighting, nodding my head in agreement from the overwhelming sense of understanding I felt.

In all of the efforts to diagnose myself, I realized that I was trying to “fix” something that wasn’t really a problem.

I realized that the whole time I thought I was crazy, I was just sensitive. I was just really, really sensitive. I took on what people were feeling around me as if they were some extension of my body and my own emotional mind, and these feelings were real, undeniable, and uncontrollable. I was overwhelmed and tired of feeling exhausted by the constant shifts of my moods, and other people’s too.

Being a highly sensitive introvert is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, I feel everything 30 times more than everyone else, and on the other hand, I feel everything 30 times more than everyone else.

However, each time I picked up these books, I felt relieved to know that I was okay. It was now okay to be who I was, my ephemeral mind and fragile feelings included.

What I didn’t expect was the emergence of a completely new perception of myself. I came to see that maybe it was all for a purpose—my feeling this way and my sensing this way. I began to see that my empathy ran deep, and my connections were rich. I came to terms with the fact that yes, things hurt, but not all the time. I learned to understand that I wasn’t sick or beyond repair. I even learned that I wouldn’t need any repairing. What a revelation!

I discovered that when I listened to my voice, my highly sensitive, touchy, delicate soul, I stopped quitting, I stopped failing, and I stopped judging myself and questioning my every blink and ability, or, shall I say, inability.

I began to appreciate my unique strengths—qualities I could now list proudly. I was a brilliant listener; I was a validator too; and I was able to be open, to connect, and to understand and help others.

I was a highly sensitive introvert, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.

I’m writing for the Quiet Revolution for anyone who feels they’re strange, wrong, or on their own. There are days when I wake up and think I’m awkward and strange and dark and emotional and unwanted or judged, but that’s the best part about being a feeler. You get to feel things that most people don’t. You see things; you get to hear things; you get to notice things every day; and that is absolutely a gift—a frustrating, exhausting, but powerful gift. Whoever you are: highly sensitive, introverted, or extroverted—you are not alone.