I’m an empath. Some say it’s a gift; sometimes I say it’s a curse. You see, I feel everything around me — small things, big things. You name it, I feel it. Growing up, I was told I was too sensitive, but now I know it’s just part of who I am. I take on the weight of the world sometimes. I try to absorb the pain others feel to the point of completely draining myself.
I’m often told I’m so strong and I’m so brave for having five kids. Truth is, some days I have no clue what I’m doing, but I do know I wouldn’t trade my five blessings for anything in this world. Then there are days in which the weight of it all comes crashing down! They are watching me, all five of them! Am I messing them up? Am I doing it all wrong? All the questions come piling down on me like the mountain laundry.
It’s no shock that as an empath I can become depleted quickly.
Scrolling my timeline, seeing sadness and negativity can take a huge toll on me. Add in the busy season at the hospital working 12s and I just feel worn thin. My job at work is to coordinate the flow of everything: the doctors’ orders, the phone calls (oh man, the phone calls), the charts, the facilitating of transfers, the faxes, the double checking of important papers, the stock rooms. I could go on and on. I love the people I work with, but sometimes the high needs of it all exhausts me. That is why it’s vital for me to take time to recharge. I like to take my breaks alone, not because I don’t like anyone, but because those 30 minutes of quiet feel replenishing. I see sadness and pain, and I carry all of that sometimes without even realizing it.
So, in the midst of work, being seven months postpartum, raising a family, and trying to do things for myself, it’s easy to let the guilt consume me.
My oldest is struggling in school — instant guilt. My youngest son is still having a hard time with his sensory processing disorder — more guilt. How can I be using my passions in other ways aside from motherhood? Is that selfish (no), but it’s still a big slap of guilt. I’m the queen of taking trips of guilt. The realization of it all hits me at once. The anxiety takes over as my mind starts overloading like a computer full of browser tabs and the depression settles deep in my bones. I suddenly close down, but that’s when I need someone to reach in the most. Carrying the weight of so many different emotions can become heavy.
There are times when I feel like I’m one of the most difficult people to understand. Let me explain: I’m the type to replay a conversation from months ago, wondering if I was too awkward. I’m both introverted and extroverted. I’m an enneagram 6 (are you surprised?). I will take deep talks over small talk any day. Big crowds make me extremely anxious, yet I love going to Disney World. I cry when I get really angry, but I also cry when I’m sad. I told you; I can be really difficult.
I’ll never forget the day I sat crying in my OB’s office three months after my third child. I couldn’t stop crying as I explained how much I loved my new baby to the point where I was up all night scared of ways I would lose her. I became crippled with anxiety and fear. I was happy and so full of love, yet I couldn’t stop crying. I asked her what in the world was wrong with me. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Honey I have been there and I’m going to help you.” That pivotal moment in my life let me know two things; even doctors struggle and that as women, the greatest thing we can do for others is to just listen.
I walked out feeling grateful for finally getting help and I called a friend, whose words crushed me. “There’s no way you have depression or anxiety. I thought your life was so good and you seem so happy.” Ever since, I’ve felt ashamed and confused because I do have a good life. My husband tries his best to read my emotions and help any way he can. I feel immense gratitude watching my children curled up together. I can’t quite pinpoint why I feel sadness and anxiousness. I’ve been told to “just pray more,” which can also feel like a sting because as a Christian it’s easy to feel that if my faith were stronger, I wouldn’t feel this way sometimes. Yet, that’s just not the case. Sometimes there’s just no explanation and that’s okay.
Looking back, I can see so many moments in which I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was bullied to the point where I tried to take my life. I was the “sensitive” girl, yet you never would’ve known because I was the jokester. I was always trying to make others laugh because I knew what sadness felt like. And if I could make just one person not have to feel what I felt, then I felt so much better. I always kept a journal close by writing out my feelings, trying to make sense of everything. Writing has always been an outlet for me. My journals were my closest friends holding my feelings and thoughts without judgment. I was always the one trying to fit it all while longing to just stand out.
I was also always the “strong” friend, even when I felt the weakest. I’ve always been the one others come to for advice. I love listening and helping others. It’s just part of who I am. I’m also a recovering people-pleaser. But, I am finally learning that not everyone will like me and that’s okay. When emotions start to consume me, I just need to step back to breathe and recharge.
All this to say, please check on your strong friends. Check on your quiet friends. Check on your friends that are acting off. Check on your funny friends. For the love, just check on your friends. You may not understand their walk, but I promise just lacing up your shoes and walking alongside them is everything. You may not have the advice to give, but I promise, listening is everything. You may be conflicted about going to their house if they say they want to be alone, but I promise a simple, “I am thinking of you” text is everything.