When I first hear the terminology Empath, I rolled my eyes and thought what new age, hippy, dippy shit is this? However the more I read the more I understood and began to realise that this explained an awful lot about me. For more information on Empaths please use this link from Psychology Today .If you Google Empath you will find some new age, hippy dippy shit as I call it. It’s often linked with psychic ability and that’s not what I am talking about, I am talking about the ability (or curse as I would sometimes call it) of absorbing the emotion of others or put another way feeling the emotion of others as if they were your own feelings.
When I was younger I often felt I was a let down, I was quick to become emotional, tears would flow freely and I would find it impossible to calm down. If upset in the morning, if I tried to speak about it again later on in the day, I would end up sobbing again. I felt like an over emotional wreck, no one seemed to behave like me. On more than one occasion and by more than one person I was told I was an embarrassment. Other people appeared stone like, unmoved by others pain or emotional state. It was really tough when I became a manager, I had to attempt to control my emotions 100% of the time, which for years I was crap at. I had to find places in work where I could allow my emotions to come out, safely where if there were tears no one saw, so it couldn’t be held against me. Emotion in the workplace is often seen as a sign of weakness and a waste of time / productivity.
It has taken me years to master having some kind of control over my emotions, so that I am not easily moved to tears.This is a double-edged sword as there are times where emotion needs to be released and I am unable to do so, bottling up emotion is never a good thing, Empath or not. It takes a lot these days to make me cry. It has been a conscious effort on my behalf to get to this position. No one takes a quivering wreck seriously because the years since getting sick have been such a battle and breaking down in front of doctors is a perceived admission of depression, it was imperative I got a handle on it once and for all. I have had to build a little wall around myself and to be honest it’s the best thing I have done for myself, as it’s exhausting being at the mercy of others emotions and having no control over it.
It is incredibly hard being an empath but I know no other way of living, so I will try to explain it the best way I can. I am highly sensitive to people's moods and can tell when they are angry, happy, sad etc without them saying a word. Even if I know their mood has nothing to do with me (if it’s a negative emotion) it can make me incredibly anxious, I want to put it right. I naturally want to problem solve and get rid of the negative emotion surrounding the person. It's also probably why I avoid confrontation as not only am I dealing with my own anger but the anticipated emotions of others.
If someone is talking about something emotionally painful to them, even if they appear emotionless I can become very tearful. I used to think that it was because what they were telling me was sad but that’s not it. Lots of things are sad but they don’t have me breaking down. It is almost as if I can feel the emotion that they are attempting to hide to appear strong. I see myself in their position and understand the emotional turmoil. If a person is a close friend of mine they don’t even need to be in the same room or at the end of a telephone. I can absorb the emotion through their words (now that probably does seem like some hippy dippy shit and that’s fine by me, if I didn’t live this way I would probably think that too!). The emotion won’t end when the messages stop, it will continue until I know that they are ok, that the storm has passed.
Through my work I have attended far too many funerals, many times I wouldn’t really know the person on more than an employee level but I would be overcome with emotion, even if very few people were crying during the service. The sense of loss, the collective grief would overwhelm me and make my heart heavy. After crying during a funeral I attended with my parents my mum joked (in a nice way) I could become a professional mourner, like they have in many countries https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_mourning .
The thing is although it may seem like a great profession for me to those who do not share the Empath way of life, it would leave me exhausted and empty. Running on high emotion depletes me mentally, so that I can’t think straight for days. It also leaves me physically drained. I also cry at weddings, always having tissues handy is imperative for me.
I am really sensitive to anything to do with animals being mistreated or animals dying. I could never understand why when people told me about their pets dying, why I would be left a blubbering wreck. I always used to think I was over thinking things or being overly imaginative as I would start thinking about the animals last moments and the fear that must be consuming them. I hate stuff coming up in my social media feed that is about animal cruelty, once I see those images I can’t get it out of my head for days. I have had to stop all videos being on autoplay just in case any of them show anything that may disturb me as it won’t just be whilst I am awake that it upsets me but it can leave me with the most horrific nightmares.
As a child I was quick to make my mind up about people (and to be honest I still am), if I disliked a person it would probably be a decision made within the first few minutes of meeting them. I couldn’t tell you why I disliked them but it felt bad to be around them and I would need to get away from them as quickly as possible. I recall being at my Grandparents house when some friends of theirs popped in for a coffee. Within minutes of meeting them, I felt like I was being suffocated and made my escape out into the garden. I spent the rest of their visit alone waiting for them to leave. Thankfully I didn’t get into trouble for it, I think the consensus was that it was better that I left than was rude. Although it was pretty clear I couldn’t stand them.
There were situations where I couldn’t escape people (grown ups) and that would be emotionally exhausting and stressful. Imagine as a child being stuck with a teacher that you disliked and you innately knew they didn’t like you. Also you knew that for at least the next year you would be stuck with them. One of my teachers in primary school was like this, I knew she was “fake” that she would do things so that other kids loved her but the emotional vibe I got from her was vastly different. I can only describe it now as the emotionally energy she gave off was at odds with the person she was trying to portray. It’s hard as a child to be able to verbalise what you are feeling when you know that others just don’t get it. I wrote about this teacher in Square Peg, Round Hole - A Letter To My Teacher at the time of writing this post nearly three years ago I hadn’t heard the term Empath but through my writing you can see a little of what I described above about seeing through her. The sad thing is I desperately wanted this teacher to like me but what I have learnt over time is people like that don’t like anybody, they create the fake veneer because they feel deep down if people saw the real them, they’d be sunk.
It can be very hard being an Empath because other people's emotions can overtake your own well-being. I have a strong nurturing side, I want to look after everyone and everything (apart from flying ants, daddy long legs, spiders and wasps, I am afraid they are on their own). That may seem strange to some with me not having kids but just because you don’t have children doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to care and put others before yourself. I have learnt that from time to time I need space and time alone from everyone. I need time to recharge myself and take a step back from people before I become depleted of energy both emotionally and physically. I find some people can be draining to deal with, they take all your emotional energy and give nothing back in return. I have to carefully manage my time with those kinds of people or find myself empty too exhausted to do anything.
Being chronically sick and in chronic pain it is very important that I do what I can to protect my mental health. Anxiety and depression are common amongst those who have chronic health conditions and it is hardly surprising. I have suffered with both a long time ago but I am aware that at any point it could come back. On occasion my anxiety will get the better of me causing me sleepless nights, so my quiet times away from others is needed to rebalance myself. I was lucky in my workplace as due to the job roles I had I could balance my time effectively, using time where I could work alone to centre myself, blocking the rest of the world out and times where I needed the energy of others when I was in the thick of it. Now there is quiet times a plenty with no longer being able to work. I find crowds and large groups of people exhausting and over stimulating, so the quiet periods give me a chance to recharge.
It can be hard as an empath when you are with people you know that are suffering / anxious / angry but they are unable to verbalise it. Jay (hubby) tries hard to mask his emotions from me but I always know when something is wrong. I know now not to keep pushing for answers, he will tell me if and when he wants to. He tries to put on a brave face a lot of the time as he knows the extra stress can cause me to become very unwell.
Years ago Jay was going for an interview at my place of work. It was important, as all interviews are but this one was more so as it meant he could move to a store closer and thus save money from not driving 50 plus miles a day. Although he didn’t show it outwardly he was shitting a brick, as soon as he left for the interview I spent the next few hours with my head down the toilet throwing up due to nerves. I have never thrown up with nerves due to a situation I have been in but there I was be violently sick, for him. That’s how strange it can be being an empath, you can cope with your own emotions but the emotions of others can overwhelm you. I have never let myself become so flooded by another’s emotion since. Which is why I had to build that wall up around me. It also means that Jay never tells me when he has his end of year review as he knows I will be in a state whilst waiting to hear how it went.
Someone once told me never to be ashamed of wearing my heart on my sleeve but to be very careful as it made it easier for people to stab you in it and oh how right they were. Although I can take an instant dislike to people, I can also be taken in by them. Even if my spidey senses are telling me something is off about them (and I should really listen to that to save myself the heartache) I will ignore it and give them the benefit of the doubt. When I was younger I seemed to be drawn to people who needed fixed, something was broken in their lives and I could help them, although I didn’t see this at the time it was my mum that pointed this out to me many years later. The problem was that I would be used up and spat out when they became stronger. I have been incredibly hurt by several ex friends who have done exactly that. I now try to surround myself with people who don’t need fixing, that aren’t going to drain me of energy every time I see them. That doesn’t mean I won’t help if they have a problem or won’t be nurturing or share in their emotions. I will do all that as any friend would, it’s just I know that my “gang” of besties won’t use and abuse me.
It is very difficult to explain what it’s like being an Empath and I could probably write thousands and thousands of words on the subject and still not adequately explain what it is like. This blog post from The Minds Journal The Dark Side of Being an Empath explains it quite well if you ignore the new age, hippy dippy stuff about souls going out to play. It doesn’t feel like my soul has ever gone out to play, if we even have souls.
Anyway an odd one this week for you to digest but I always write about my life and what is true for me. Thanks for reading, have a great week.