I am the true definition of an empath. If you are going through some shit, WE are going through some shit. I take your emotional baggage and heave it over my shoulder.I lean down. I take your shoes off. I put them on and walk the walk. All of this is metaphorically speaking, of course, unless you are wearing Jordans. In that case, I will gladly lean over and put them on.
My point being that I feel for others. I will take on their shit. There happens to be a direct correlation between how well I know you and how much of an impact it will have on me emotionally too. If you are a stranger, I will connect with you but not to the same level as say a friend, girlfriend, or family member.
Being an empath has its upsides. For one, it helps me in my line of work as a mental health counselor. It builds connections quickly between my clients and myself. Empathy strengthens a number of my personal relationships. It makes tough topics (i.e. feelings, trauma, etc.) a bit easier to talk about. Individuals feel understood, cared for, and appreciated when empathy comes into the picture.
However, even with its upside, even empaths have their limits. It seems rather obvious that taking on everyone’s emotional shit can take its toll on the recipient of said shit. As the empath, you feel guilty if you do not sit back and take it all in. We feel like this is our place in society. When others lob their problems our way, we lay out prepared for the diving catch. By taking it all in, empaths burn both ends of the candle until they have nothing left to give.
Over the last few weeks, personal situations did just that to yours truly. Like wind and water to sand, each incident eroded away at my emotional well-being.
It started small. I mean I can take quite a beating, so I can usually take on a lot before it seriously gets to me. It just so happened that over those two weeks several truly disheartening incidents occurred. Each one compiled its energy with the last and led into a downhill spiral.
In the midst of this downfall, I felt stupid for letting myself get to this point. Guilt pumped through my veins. As my empathy ran me to the ground, I could not help others as well as I usually do. I could barely bear the idea of talking to anyone let alone having a conversation about feelings, stress, or their problems.
Enough was enough. I hit my limit.
I let my wall down. Upon realization, I threw that shit back up so fast. This was not a total shutdown. It was a limit. The reality is that an empath can only let themselves go so far. We need to take care of ourselves and not forget we exist too. You can be there for others and be there for yourself too. It is a delicate balancing act, but it can be done.Like I tell others all the time, would you rather give your loved ones 50% of you or 100%? I vote for the latter.
-The Caring Counselor