Highly Sensitive Refuge
What it’s like living in a violent and deeply divided nation as an HSP

What It’s Like Living as an HSP in a Violence-Torn Country

Although HSPs are more sensitive to pain, we can also find the joy and love that others hide away — if we choose to look for it.

Content warning: This article contains racial slurs and mentions of violence. 

I was born in July 1989 in the beautiful country of Guyana in northern South America. Until recently, most of the world did not even know we existed, but that all changed a few years back with the discovery of massive oil reserves in our waters. The discovery has since catapulted my small South American country into the spotlight. Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America and is a tropical paradise, resplendent with endless rainforests, beautiful fauna, and every sort of unusual animal you could imagine. We have it all. 

But…

My country has always struggled with racial unity; from its inception, there has always been a problem with racism. The first settlers were the Amerindians (or indigenous people), followed by Africans, who were brought here as slaves. In the 1800s, Indians and Southeast Asians were then brought here as indentured labourers, followed by the Portugese, Chinese, and other Europeans. Upon our independence from the British colonial powers, Guyana became a “cooperative republic” in 1970 and has since strived for unity amongst its various peoples.

I am the proud descendant of all the races who call Guyana home (mainly, I am Amerindian, African, and Indian), but being a multiethnic Guyanese has not been easy. And, as a highly intuitive empath and highly sensitive person (HSP), it has been especially challenging — I spent much of my early life and childhood sensing the toxic emotions around me

“That night, I spoke to the ancestors of this beautiful nation and asked them to awaken the sleeping giants in the land. Soon, my pain and grief followed.”

My First Experience With Racism

Growing up, I excelled academically in school, but I was a hugely energetic tomboy, often spending my days tussling and fighting with all the boys in my class. It seemed as though I had boundless energy and a surplus of emotion. 

At the time, I had no idea where it came from, but as I got older, I had several massive spiritual awakenings. They led me to understand that many of the emotions and energies I often felt did not belong to me: I was just a highly sensitive individual, unaware of my abilities and unable to control them. Plus, since HSPs feel everything more deeply, that includes others’ emotions, as well as my own.

So it’s no surprise that I vividly remember my first experience of racism. It was after a school party and one of the mothers of my Indian classmate, who had catered the party, made a derogatory remark about “hungry belly Negroes.”  

By the age of 10, my family chose to migrate to London, England — my mom got a job there and also wanted me and my family to have more, and better, opportunities. I spent many years there until moving back to Guyana in April 2019. 

I returned because I’d always been searching for a greater sense of self and belonging. I couldn’t find that in England, but I certainly have made strides in doing so since being back in Guyana. It’s such a beautiful place — and with so much natural beauty, it definitely keeps me grounded as a highly sensitive person! But the beauty is juxtaposed with moments of violence.

The Battle Between Holding Onto Pain and Letting Go 

In September 2020 in Guyana, the horrific double murder of two teenage boys of African descent rocked our small community and reignited decades of racial tension which has never been adequately addressed. I remember seeing the story late in the afternoon. I took a momentary glance as details were still emerging. I didn’t sleep well that night, my HSP brain swimming with thoughts.

By morning, I woke up and read that the boys had been horribly mutilated and disfigured. Tears streamed down my eyes as I read the shocking details of what happened to the boys. I grieved for days, sensing their pain at just the thought of their names and unable to even have a conversation around the topic because the energy surrounding their deaths was so heavy.

A few days later, an Indian friend of the boys was also murdered because he was thought to have known the persons responsible for the brutal murders and had started to talk about what happened to the boys. My heart again ached for the young man and for the callous way in which he was killed. 

The next few days on social media saw all the trolls come out of their caves to mock, deride, and spew racial hatred against one another. The toxicity culminated in nationwide protests, which caused days of unrest. This was all hard enough for anyone to bear, but when you’re a highly sensitive person, it’s even worse.

On the third night of the protests, there was a massive thunderstorm — which seemed to perfectly echo the way I felt inside. It was pathetic fallacy at it’s finest. Thunder clapped loudly in the skies and the lightning illuminated the dark blue and gray clouds beautifully. 

That night, I spoke to the ancestors of this beautiful nation — the souls who would ensure crimes such as these do not occur again and do not go unpunished — and asked them to awaken the sleeping giants of this land. I asked them for peace to wash over our land and to bring healing to the hearts of all the wounded. I released my intentions into the ethers and, soon, my pain and grief followed

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Learning to See My HSP Emotions as the Gifts They Are

Over time, I came to realize that we highly sensitive types unwittingly, and naturally, sense the energy of others and absorb others’ emotions. We’re often drawn to the sick or those in need of healing, whether emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or physically. We have the innate ability to see through others and discover their true feelings, emotions, and intentions — even if they don’t even say anything. We just know. 

This was true in my relationships, as well — at times, I’d fallen into an HSP/narcissist dynamic. But all the mishaps I endured in those relationships led me to gain a deeper understanding of who I am. It was only through those experiences that I was able to really find myself and discover the gift of being an HSP and a healer. 

As I got older, this intuitive gift only seemed to expand and I realized that pain was not the only emotion that I could sense and which I could amplify. 

At some of my highest points in life, I have experienced the feeling of unconditional love and of pure joy and bliss, emotions unmatched by anything else in this world. I’ve learned that although pain might be easily sensed, and deeply felt, joy and love can be experienced just as deeply — and even more profoundly — for HSPs (if I choose to allow it). 

To this day, being in my early 30s, I still struggle with shielding myself from the energy of others, whether it’s reading about horrifying events in the news or sensing people’s emotions in person. Yes, I have become wiser and stronger and more in tune with my HSP gift. Yet I have also realized that there is no quick fix or easy way out when it comes to being a highly sensitive person.

Being an HSP is a unique gift and is one that I have come to respect massively. I realize that my life is destined to follow a certain path; although I am fated to go through certain trials and tribulations, I am perfectly equipped to deal with all that should come my way. I have faith that this gift will continue to bring love and healing into this world — which it is so desperately in need of — and that I will continue to be a source of healing for those in need. 

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