I sometimes feel like the main character in “The Princess and the Pea.” It’s not that I feel regal. It’s that I’m as sensitive as she was. Not only can I be as uncomfortable from the slightest cause as the princess was, but I’m also supersensitive to everything – including touch, smell, sound, sight, and taste. I blame it all on fibromyalgia.
Touch: Although I’ve never slept on 10 mattresses with a pea underneath them, there have been occasions when my discomfort prompted me to get up in the middle of the night to remake my bed. The cause? A small wrinkle in the bottom sheet felt like a tree branch beneath me.
And then there are clothing labels. Cutting them off risks a hole near the neckline as many of my clothes now have. But leaving them on guarantees that my neck will be red and sore before I get home to my scissors. I now prefer certain brands of clothing solely because their name is stamped on the inside of the garment rather than sewn onto a scratchy label.
Smell: Going back to sheets again, because I’ve been buying unscented products for years, I wasn’t prepared to be an overnight guest recently. The smell of lavender fabric softener on my hostess’s sheets was completely overwhelming to me. It made my eyes water. I tried covering the pillowcase with my shirt so I could go to sleep, but it didn’t work. Soon the taste of that odor was strong enough to make me nauseous. I spent the rest of the night in a chair. A request for different sheets the next morning produced equally scented replacements from my bewildered hostess. It took a vinegar wash to remove the odor completely.
Sound: I’m a big fan of live music, especially musical comedies. When “Mamma Mia!” first came to Los Angeles, I was thrilled to get tickets. My delight ended soon after the show began. The volume of the sound was so loud that it actually hurt my ears and caused my head to throb. Given the cost of the tickets, I stuck it out until intermission, but I couldn’t force myself to go back for the second half. It was just too painful. Looking around, it appeared that no one else had been bothered.
Sight: I once had to leave my job because of a fluorescent light. It was obviously faulty, making a buzzing sound along with a flickering that nearly drove me crazy. I could move my desk far enough away that I was no longer bothered by the sound, but there was no relief from the flicker. Luckily there were also windows with natural daylight. But because it was winter, the lights came on at 4 p.m. That’s when I went home. Had I stayed, the result would have been anxiety and cognitive difficulty. My co-workers were unaffected.
Taste: Taste buds are very unique regardless of whether a person has fibromyalgia or not. My issue is with the minute amount of an offending ingredient that ruins food for me. Foods labeled sugar-free are my biggest challenges. No quantity of aspartame is small enough to be undetectable by me. I can always taste it. And taste it. And taste it. And then feel the depression and fibro fog that results.
How I envy people who can just roll with the punches. Neither heat nor cold, sun nor gloom, nor any of the senses mentioned above are ever problems for them. They just smile and adapt, regardless of the circumstances. I know these people. They’re friends of mine. They live normal lives, and they wonder why I cannot.
I stopped wondering a long time ago. When my hypersensitive life gets me down, I just remind myself of “The Princess and the Pea.” Perhaps being supersensitive is not a problem after all. It just means I’m royalty.
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