It Ain't Easy Being an Empath

Empath. It's one of those buzz words that gets tossed around the internet and used synonymously with sensitivity and, well, weakness. These erroneous associations are unfortunate, because empaths, true empaths are some of the strongest souls amongst us. They carry the burdens of others and work to lighten the loads of everyone but themselves. I am an's one of the few labels I can apply to myself without doubt. I have always been an empath, I just didn't have a name for it until recently.

So, what does empath actually mean? An empath is someone who exhibits empathy on a scale larger than most other folks. They can not stop channeling empathy any more than they can stop breathing or eating. This of course begs the question, what is empathy? Empathy is, according to Merriam-Webster:

"the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner."

Empaths are able to gauge (and I would say feel) the emotions of others without being clouded by their own perspective. That last part is really key. As an empath, you can feel someone is hurting but not have an opinion on whether they should be hurting. Instead of passing judgement on the pain, an empath will stive to reduce it. It, as my title suggests, ain't easy being an empath; it's both a blessing and a curse. In fact, I first read about the idea of an empath as a curse in a fictional novel (Eragon by Christopher Paolini, which is a great read by the way.) One character, Elva, was cursed with sensing the troubles of those around her and compelled  to help without regard to her own well-being. Elva is the perfect illustration of how empaths operate and I identified with her even though I read the book when I was only 18 or 19.

I have always been very in-tune to other people's feelings, and it can be a heavy burden. Like a sponge, I absorb the moods of others. If those around me are feeling positive or happy, everything is gravy. However, everything is rarely gravy and the flipside of this coin is a dark one, tarnished by anguish and worry. Being so deeply affected by the discomfort of others drives me to incessantly try to alleviate their pain. In other words, self preservation for me, is the preservation of others.

Being an empathetic wife compels me to try and eliminate all possible stress from my husband's life, outside of his work. Obviously, this isn't attainable, or healthy, but it's my modis operandi as his spouse.  Being an empathetic mother prevented me from ever letting my kids cry it out as babies. It drove me to cluster feed them on demand and quit my favorite job to avoid sending them to daycare where they wouldn't be happy. It prompts me to bring ice packs to vaccination appointments and cluck over the children when they come down with mere sniffles. Obviously, I'm a worrier, but it's deeper than that.

I remember my grandmother telling me as a child not to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I make a concerted effort to remember that these days, especially, when the weight of the world is exponentially heavier. 2020 has not been kind to a single person I know. Everyone is just hurting. To an empath, 2020 is nothing less than a nuclear minefield. It may sound like hyperbole, but I can't stress enough just how exhausting I find it to navigate life through the shit-storm that is the pandemic, politics, and social injustice on top of whatever issues that arise in the personal realm. Therefore, I have circled the proverbial wagons and formed a bubble of people who are solid enough to support me as I do, them. I have had to take breaks from social media and news outlets. I can't read the stories or watch "the death ticker" as my friend has dubbed the COVID counts on CNN.

For me, right now, ignorance is not's just a band-aid. An imperfect solution to a nagging problem. I can't function in the information age as an empath, so I am learning to shut it out. I'm going full Marie Kondo and removing things from life that don't "spark joy." If they don't spark joy, at least they better not spark panic, ha. I'm convinced there is a way to still be vigilant and informed without being saturated in all the grisly details. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and we've got plenty of demons to deal with as it is.


Popular posts from this blog

Hello Kevin

Sean Higgins Kane

Living With Anxiety