Today’s guest post comes from Ritu Kaushal, a San Francisco Bay Area-based author and the blogger behind the popular HSP and empath-centric website Walking Through Transitions. Her writing has appeared on Tiny Buddha, Sensitive Evolution, Elephant Journal and Having Time amongst others. She recently released The Empath’s Journey, a book I highly recommend that every INFJ, INFP, and empath add to their arsenal of tools on how to survive as a Highly Sensitive Person in today’s world.
Sometime last year, as I was trying to give the final push to birth my book The Empath’s Journey, someone asked me: Who are you to write this? These were their exact words. They didn’t say them with curiosity or a desire to know, but with a slashing, hurling, aggressive energy.
Like other writers, I had been hounded by doubts as I wrote this, my first book. In fact, this was a question I had asked myself time and again. Who was I to write this?
Now, coming from outside, with such vitriolic force, it felt like an acid attack.
My insides were seared.
That day, this person had moved in very close to me. They were right inside my personal space, their face inches away from mine. They wanted to cut me down to size.
Who the hell was I to write a book?
As they had launched the verbal attack, I had felt shaky. They knew (even though we rarely met and were only loosely connected) that I didn’t like being confrontational. As a child, I had been one of those gentle, quiet kids who are often bullied at school.
And now, here I was, as an adult, getting intimidated again.
That day, I am sad to say, I was merely polite. I was “nice.” I hadn’t yet finished the book, so I also felt deeply vulnerable talking about something so precious to me, a memoir about being highly sensitive, to someone who was lashing out at me just because they, themselves, were deeply unhappy and seemed to think they could take it out on me.
That day, I had replied as calmly as I could even though I had been trembling inside.
But now that I have completed birthing the elephant that was my first book, I want to answer this question. Who was I to write this?
Really. Truly. Who was I? Was I an expert? Well, not in the official sense.
But I was a certain kind of expert.
I was an expert on my own experience.
Who was I to write about being highly sensitive?
Well, I was that child who got the label of “shy” stuck to her for years and had to painfully unpeel it. I was that child who was bullied again and again.
I was also that highly sensitive child who had to deal with actual trauma while growing up (and that hits us doubly hard as sensitive children because we process everything so deeply).
I was that child who, year after long year, carried a nagging sense that there was a crack inside her. This was not just a thought that came and went. It was my felt sense of being.
For years, I used to picture my very self as a sheet of glass that had a crack running through it. Nobody else could see the crack. Not with their naked eyes anyway. But I knew that it was there. I knew that I was unlovable. Not good enough. Not strong enough.
I knew it. And I was ashamed.
It took years and years of healing work – from intensive therapy around my trauma to practicing things like affirmations to making art with cracks in the middle – to help release this terrible feeling, to pull this image of being irrevocably broken from the center of my psyche and expunge it.
It took me year upon long year to call back bits and pieces of my broken self, shattered by trauma, and join them all back together.
It’s possible that life might have been easier if I wasn’t so sensitive. Traumatic events seem to seep right through us as sensitive people and color us to our very bones.
But it’s also true that looking back, I see a child who was truly courageous, even though she cried easily. I see a child who picked herself up over and over again. And yet again.
I see someone who did not grow bitter as she grew up, who was resourceful enough to find therapy at a time and in a place where it had stigma attached, who had the courage to go inside and heal her wounds.
I see someone who did not demand an eye for an eye.
If that’s not brave, what is?
If that doesn’t make me an expert, what will?
I am an expert on my experience. I am an expert because I have lived with the experience of being a highly sensitive person all my life. I am an expert because I have figured things out for myself, because I have embraced change, because I have taught myself many skills I needed to learn.
I am also someone who has created something new out of the morass of all her experiences. All the pain, all the hurt, all the suffering. By writing a memoir, I have given it meaning. By writing a memoir, by saying out loud what I think, I have staked a place for my truth.
This is who I am. This is what I think. This is what I have learned.
Maybe, it will help you too. Maybe, it will give you some pieces for your own puzzle. Maybe, my sorrow will create a bridge into your heart and show you things in a new light.
And that makes me happy. That makes me feel connected. That makes me hopeful.
If you are struggling with this question, dear one, of what makes you valid, of how dare you think that you are an artist, a writer, a poet, I want to say: The words were already in your blood when you were born.
You don’t need anyone’s permission. You don’t need anyone’s understanding.
Because through writing your book, your short story, your poem, you will find a place within your own heart that sees you. Slowly, you will start wiping the grimy mirror. Slowly, you will find your inner beloved.
One of the most transformational parts of writing The Empath’s Journey for me was when my eyesight improved during the process. The number in one of my eyes went down by a point. I also have astigmatism in one eye and the number for that improved as well.
It was almost as if I cleared something that was blocking my vision through the process of writing.
That’s why writing a book is such a magical journey. It takes you into your own inner frontier. It helps you climb up to a different height so you can see with a different perspective.
Who are you to write this? If anyone asks us this ever again, this is what you and I will say:
Writing a book is a task for the brave. I am the one who dares to risk. I am the one who dares to know.
I am the one who goes down into the caves of my psyche. I am the one who fights the dragons. I am the one who finds the gold.
I am the one unafraid to be lonely, stubborn enough to keep on going, and mad enough to be who I am.
I am an artist who creates something out of nothing.
And who are you?
Ritu Kaushal is the author of The Empath’s Journey and the blogger behind the popular HSP and empath-centric website Walking Through Transitions. Her writing has appeared on Tiny Buddha, Sensitive Evolution, Elephant Journal and Having Time amongst others and has been shared thousands of times on social media. Ritu’s work pulls together different threads, combining personal and imaginative storytelling with insights from proven psychological concepts.