BARE: LIFE AS AN EMPATH

I wrote this first to publish some months ago, but I didn’t quite feel the pulse. However, my last Bare Episode did well, so, well, here goes.

The author of The Gifted Adult, Dr. Mary-Elaine Jacobson, identified some of the top criticisms a gifted person faces:

  • “Why don’t you slow down?”
  • “You worry about silly things!”
  • “You are so sensitive and dramatic.”
  • “Who do you think you are?”

If it is a gift, why do I suffer so much? For someone who is emotionally intense, there is a pain that comes with an inescapable sense of being ‘too much’. A person can be made to feel ‘wrong’ for most part of their lives. Internalising this sense of shame can lead to depression, low self-esteem, inability to self-regulate, and an inner emptiness.

“People who were born emotionally intense, sensitive, and gifted with heightened perceptivity are like powerful sports cars. It is as if they have a potent engine that requires a special fuel and a specific kind of care. In the right condition and with the right maintenance, they can be one of the most high-performing machines in the world and win many races. The problem, however, is that they may not have been taught how to run this powerful machine. To borrow a metaphor from psychologist Edward Hallowell, it is like having a Ferrari with bicycle brakes, and these brakes are just not strong enough to control such a powerful engine.” – Psychology today.com

I’m a highly sensitive person whoopee. It is not a huge revelation to those who know me deeply but for me, everyday reveals something. I’ve always known it, but I haven’t always seen every angle of it. I had known it to be a curse. I’ve asked myself, why am I this way? What can’t I be normal? Knowing that it is a gift, not a curse, I feel less shame. I feel less reproach, I just feel, not less. I am more. I am extra, extra human. Eventually, it is what it is, I am what I am!

My whole life I have had to battle depression, anxiety and PTSD. I’d also been blessed with a neurological disorder. I have wrote too many blog posts asking how i could find happiness. Some days, prep talk works. Some days, rainy bouts of crying does it, and on many others, I pop a pill or two. My colleague used to call them my “happy pills’. And I had been ashamed of that. I had been made to feel ashamed of it. Don’t think I’m talking about the usual abstract society, I mean people actually saying it right to my face. HR at work once asked to see my medical records because I was costing them quite a number in Health insurance and they wanted to know why. My psychiatrist advised against it, he said I’ll face stigma when I do. He said it’ll affect things like promotion and perceived performance, I’ll face personal prejudice. I carried this inadequacy in my head, in my heart and in my life, and I have lived everyday trying to change, trying to conform, denying and suppressing my feelings, and dying inside. Imagine waking up everyday and rather than put your energy into your actual passion, you put it into holding back.

“Get over yourself!” They tell me. “Just channel your mind, if you think it you can achieve it”.

I cry when I watch almost any movie. I cry when I read stories on twitter about people’s lives. I have many strong opinions about many things. I am dramatic. I am impatient, I am everywhere, omni-feeling. I cannot hold my peace, I cannot pretend. I cannot pause my feelings. I am often told—spoken and unspoken—that I am “too much, too intense, too sensitive, too emotional”. I once dated a narcissist who decided to train me with belts and blows, because I had to learn to toughen up and be selfish. He told me he would keep taking advantage of me because I’m, well, too soft. Sadly, that is the personality type people like me tend to attract. But daily, I did try to be selfish and tough. And in a way I am learning to be grateful for these experiences. They did toughen me up. I went full circle with many experiences and came back to the starting point; learning self-love and acceptance.

I have lived in this shell, afraid to let people see the real me, because they easily misunderstand it. I was malleable, I’ll be whoever you want me to be. Every night I go to bed after socialising, I start dwelling on what I said or did and how I came across as too intense or offensive. And I cringe, criticising myself for every perceived misstep and misyarn. Some days I even cry when I’m done beating myself up. Like i was actually flogged with a real rod.

Some empaths get lucky and find themselves in favourable environments that hone their gift. Some, like me, end up being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and emotional dysregulation. And of all the mental diagnosis I’ve had, this is the one I can’t talk about, I’m still coming to terms with it. But the diagnosis has also the one that’s kept me on my toes, the one that’s solely responsible for many of the changes I made in my life. When I heard it, I took laws into my hands. I was pissed for a minute I was about to go off on a “Why am i like this” bender. But no. I started practicing Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills without actual help from a therapist (It’s hard AF but I’m broke AF too). The four pillars include Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness.

I am changing my narrative. I also choose to control my label, after all, it is my life, my feelings and my behaviour. Being called “weird” used to be cool for me, it was like a badge of honor, but it really was an apology to make people look away and forgive the wrongs I thought were my life. Now I find it offensive. Whether or not I make shitty decisions, weird or not behaviours, people will either leave or stay. I have learnt to cut off people who make/made me feel the weird and defective, thank God. And I for one, I don’t know about you, I’m tired of putting myself down or under a microscope and continually searching for social acceptance and normalcy. This is not to say I’m not doing the work in the background. But I am unique, and wonderfully so.

People like us go on to change the world. Our brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply than anyone else. At our best, we can be exceptionally perceptive, intuitive, and keenly observant of the subtleties of life. I know it so deeply that I am smart, I haven’t always had an idea how to drive my Ferrari, but maybe I’m already at the best I could possibly be, right here, right now. Knowing I have so much inside of me and being terrible at showing it because I’m constantly having sensory overload and getting crippled, is the very definition of counter-productivity. But I’m growing.

As a highly sensitive person, I wholly enjoy solitary time and need it to decompress after social connections. I am intensely affected by other people’s emotions. I consider myself to be a stickler for rules, and I stand up for my principles. I have low tolerance for loud and sharp noises, glaring lights, intense environments or situations. My gut instincts are often accurate, because I read many subtleties and see from many angles. There’s no such thing as TMI for me, there are so many constant changes in my life, that information from 2 days ago can easily become irrelevant. I have trouble shutting down my brain at night, but for yoga and meditation.

I cry. A lot. When happy or sad, my tears flow freely than my bank account. I am always there to listen with an empathetic ear, sometimes I’ll offload my autobiography on you, sometimes I’ll be good. Social settings can be hard, I cannot un-see things, I’m always reading cues and vibes.

My gifts include emotional profundity, velocity and convolution, deep empathy and sensitivity, highly acute perceptivity, a rich inner world with sensual, imaginary and intellectual excitability, creative potential and of course, constant existential angst. My curses include always trying to stop it, kill it, bury it or deny it. But I have this task to better the world, the rare job that destiny has given me to accomplish.

Sometimes owning your truth should be a silent revelation, for me it is that, and also for me, sharing, hoping it helps someone be stronger in themselves; change can surely happen in tandem. I hope you get to see yourself through more deserving eyes everyday. May we never bow where we should be outstanding.

Cheers, to living better. Xx.

5 Comments

  1. I’m so used to “You worry about silly things” and other similar phrases that I’m now numb to them. Being an empath in such an emotionally disconnected world is getting more difficult by the day but your powerful conclusion says it all. MAY WE NEVER BOW WHERE WE SHOULD BE OUTSTANDING.

    Always great reading from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Being an empath in such an emotionally disconnected world” just cuts it. Thanks for being a steady reader Isaac! Xx.

      Like

  2. This story so much relates to me.
    People have taken advantage of me because I’m deeply rooted in my emotions. They hurt me deeply and I keep on forgiven them while the wounds haven’t healed. This empowers them to do more knowing them you will always forgive.
    They actually don’t change and they keep hurting you more. It hurts more when family members are also in that box. Leaving you to question your personality all the time. Growing up with such people is so tough. It’s painful when people you go all out for are the ones.
    So I have come to this conclusion of putting my peace of mind first. I come first henceforth. You do have to agree with me and we don’t have to be close. My sanity is important.

    Like

    1. Thats the spirit @Temitope! The key is to stop questioning or judging oneself or trying to change to fit the world. You are not the problem. We are not the problem. As you have said, we should reduce the way people have access to our awesome emotions. Our peace of mind comes first, EVERYTIME! Thanks for reading, and commenting!

      Like

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