There is something I haven’t said about myself in all the posts I have written. You won’t find it in any of my journal entries about my life, or even in my poetry (or maybe you will). However, it has been a part of me my whole life. When I was a child I didn’t understand it for it added to the confusion. As a teenager, it started to make itself known to me in an odd way. As an adult for a while I denied it then later I accepted it as part of me but had no idea how to utilize it.
I am empathic.
Some may think that is no big deal because the definition states this:
pertaining to or showing empathy
then the definition of empathy states this:
the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.
So one would think this is just my ability to imagine how another person feels.
I think ( or rather in my case, I know) empathy is more than just that. I have no proof of this. I only know how I have felt throughout my life.
We gather information around us by using all our senses, however, I feel we have far more senses than the five we have been taught about. I used my eyes, nose, ears, touch, smell as a child to recognize things around me. I recognized through lack of touch that my parents were not affectionate. My sight allowed me to gather information that told me my mother did not want or desire my father’s kisses or embrace. My sense of smell told me my father had been smoking. My hearing told me by the sound of my father’s voice when he was not happy with something I did. Those things could not tell me my mother was thinking of divorce long before she told us, and yet in my nightly story telling it was a common theme. It wasn’t wishful thinking for my stories made me cry in grief. I felt the pain of their separation. I felt the heartache it would cause not just me but everyone. Every day I believe I felt their unhappiness and thought it was my own.
It is hard to watch a person you care about be in pain or be unhappy or see their loneliness. It is even harder to feel it.
Sometimes the relationships I’ve had with men have been because of this very thing. I would feel their emotions and want to try and make them feel better. Though at the time I really didn’t know that was what was going on. I am careful now about doing such things for it can lead to only heartache.
But what I do offer is to be there if they should need someone to talk with even if it is to keep them company all through the night, talking about a movie they particularly like, or football, or something stupid that happened at work that day. I know more than most how having someone to talk to through email, or over the phone, or just sit next to while watching a movie together can ease the loneliness and the ache in one’s soul. For I’ve wanted someone to do the same for me when the loneliness becomes too much.
It is friendship I offer and nothing more.
Being an empath has been an interesting journey to understand, some of which I’m only beginning to comprehend right now.
As a child, there was no separation between what I sensed from others and how I felt, so it was all a jumbled mess.
As a teenager I lay in my bed at night unable to sleep for the bombardment of a million voices pounding in my head until I learned to shut them out.
As an adult, I often became confused over what I sensed from others and what I felt, but it started to become more clear. The day my father died, I was out with friends having a good time when I was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of loss, so powerful I had to leave and go home. It wasn’t until a few days later that I found out about my father dying. When I was pregnant was when it became very clear and I learned to shield myself. I could be in a video store which had been almost empty of people and be okay, then gradually as more people came in I found myself becoming overwhelmed and having to sit down. At a Nick Cave concert as everyone started to fill up the space around us I almost passed out, it was just too much. By that time I was learning to shield myself. Once I threw up my shield I was fine for the rest of the night.
Anyone who has never experienced it may find this hard to believe. I’m not asking for others to believe it. I’m just telling this as part of my story, to maybe help others to understand why as a child I couldn’t seem to understand my own emotions, or why I have always felt different and alone and created barriers of protection. Especially of having to bury the feelings that so overwhelmed me as a child.
As an empath I want to help, in some cases I feel the need to help. It can be consuming if I am not careful. But when I help, it makes me happy when I can sense the other person has found some peace, at least for a while any way.