Empaths often absorb the emotions of those around them — so how do empaths take care of THEMSELVES? Nina Endrst begins by identifying some of their gifts…
When I was about 19, I fell for a man – he was incredibly charming, good-looking, “mature” – he worked in sales in NYC. He owned his midtown Manhattan apartment – a pretty incredible accomplishment for a 20-something – and I was impressed. He was a scrappy dude and even though I knew he was in a lot of pain, even though my gut said we were a toxic mix, I dove headfirst into the relationship. At the time I lived in a totally different world, attending college in Boston– his was much shinier. I think part of me also missed chaos, I had a wonderful group of friends and was getting by at University, even though it wasn’t really my thing. I felt a lot of pressure to be there… what I truly wanted was freedom and I wanted it in Manhattan. While I loved connecting with new people, college felt confining and highlighted a lot of my insecurities around not fitting the traditional model.
My friends joked that no matter where we went or what we did, one thing was certain — a stranger would definitely be lending my ear in the corner – sharing their deepest and darkest secrets. I took pride in being a great listener, friend, girlfriend, human – I felt truly comfortable in my own skin when I was offering space for another person this way. Outside of socializing, I spent a lot of time feeling like an alien. People told me I was “too much” of just about everything. Too sensitive, too opinionated, too dramatic. I presented as confident but was wildly insecure in many ways.
I hoped moving to Boston would at the very least help me answer the burning “where do I belong in this world?” question, far away from my small, stale Connecticut hometown. Most of my days were spent hungover in bed, with increasingly frequent stomach pains. I was bored to tears, a little depressed but would never admit it and, for the first time, struggling with mental, physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.
I met the man on Metro North, the summer of sophomore year. He glided past me and I thought, “woah, he is not like the boys I know.” He definitely was not. He had sharp edges, molded from a pretty rough upbringing and trauma that I, to this day, cannot wrap my head and heart around. I realize now that I saw parts of myself in him. We felt part of a dysfunctional home together, a shared and palpable feeling of brokenness between us. It was here I began to realize how easily empaths absorb energy that is not ours. Almost instantly his anxieties and insecurities became mine – we were so wrapped up that most days it was hard to find my own truth. My stomach was a wreck, I started having regular panic attacks, dizzy spells, headaches. I was determined to save him even if it meant self-destructing. I could help him! What I struggled with was taking care of me, never getting to questions like, how am I feeling? What is my body trying to tell me? Is this what I want? Does this even feel good? Although the relationship was deeply painful, it was a catalyst to so much of my personal healing and still informs my professional work – for that I am forever grateful.
I read a headline for an article the other day: “Your Anxiety is Lying to You!” I understand what it was getting at — that anxiety can sometimes lead us down a rabbit hole of terror. It is highly unlikely that 99 percent of what we dread will come to fruition – got it, heard. I do, however, strongly disagree with the sentiment. Anxiety is not a liar and certainly not the enemy. In fact I’ve learned that, like a really brutally honest best friend — you may not always like them, but you want that person in your life, right? I think we all want someone or something to help us get to the root of things.
Empaths experience varying levels of anxiety and most, unfortunately, don’t have the language to define It and suffer in silence. We are highly sensitive beings – intuitive, often psychic – deeply in tune with energy and can actually FEEL it. It is not the same as having empathy for someone or something. The major difference being empaths often absorb the happiness, sadness, anger, fear of those around them – physically and emotionally. We are walking around with a lot of baggage that isn’t ours to hold.
I didn’t know what an empath was back then. Most of the time I just thought I must be “crazy.” I hope this series will give you comfort and also real-life tools to see yourself and the world around you with a little more compassion and grace.
Are you, or aren’t you?
Let’s start here. I’m not one for labels but I do think it is helpful to identify certain gifts that we may think of as curses. A few questions to guide you as we begin the journey;
*Do you struggle with waves of depression and/or anxiety?
*Do you feel “different” or more sensitive than others?
*Do you feel obligated to save people or help them find their way?
*Do you have trouble being in crowds?
*Do you ever feel like there is not enough of you to go around?
*Do you find yourself craving more alone time?
*Do you often feel drained after emotional interactions?
*Do you leave certain people feeling completely exhausted, or sick even?
*Are you surrounded by people who come to you for advice, a shoulder to lean on?
*Are you sensitive to light and sound, like the overhead lighting in a doctor’s office or grocery store?
*Do you feel like it is hard to separate yourself from tragedy, like you want so desperately to help but are overwhelmed by the enormity of it all?