When You Feel Too Much

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This morning, my husband called to tell me that the father of two boys, each in one of my two youngest children’s classes, was killed in a car accident this past weekend.

I have been a mess ever since. As soon as he told me, I felt nauseous. And then, the tears came. I can’t stop thinking about how his wife must feel. And how, how do you tell a 9- and 6-year-old that they will never see their daddy again? I am overcome with sadness and despair, even though I never met the man. Or perhaps I did – in passing, or at one of the events at school.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter because I am feeling his loss on a very deep level. I have always experienced loss this way. Even when I wasn’t directly affected.

When John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s plane had crashed into the ocean, I watched and hoped that somehow, he’d be found alive. I was in denial that he could be gone. I mourned for him. So much so, that I developed a stiff neck that rendered me incapable of driving or sleeping, requiring me to seek medical attention to alleviate the pain.

And it’s not just grief that I feel deeply. It’s also joy. When something good happens to someone, I’m elated. I get butterflies in my stomach and tears of joy well up in my eyes.

It is perhaps because of these deep feelings that I’ve found people feel strangely comfortable sharing very personal stories with me. Virtual strangers will pour their souls out to me. Grown men I’m not very close with have choked up and cried sharing details they may be too embarrassed or proud to share with others.

I read an article recently about how people can tell when they’re in the presence of an empath and it resonated so deeply.

It finally gave a name to what I’ve always considered my proclivity for being “too sensitive.”

 

 

One of the 15 “traits” listed in the article is about how negative media images profoundly affect an empath. I stopped watching the news a long time ago. Because I don’t get desensitized. I get hyper-sensitized.  The article describes feeling overwhelming sadness and suffering every single time you saw something violent or upsetting on the news. That’s exactly how I felt every time I see something negative.

I have also always hated crowded places. I attributed it to be being claustrophobic but now I see that it’s more than that. It’s overwhelming and exhausting to be in the midst of and absorbing the sheer force of all those energies and feelings. I also detest loud sounds and too much noise. I absolutely require a lot of quiet time. When I’m home alone, I don’t ever even turn on the television. All that din makes me crazy.

 

The article went on to address how empaths are sensitive to stimulants and medications. I can only have one cup of coffee in the morning before I start feeling jittery and anxious. I NEVER take medications unless absolutely necessary. This includes aspirin. I suffer from allergies but would rather deal with the allergy symptoms than the wired, head-cloud I’ve felt when I tried allergy meds. Same thing with colds. I’d rather consume honey for a sore throat and up my vitamin c intake than ingest any cold medicines.

 

Empaths also tend to feel tired and fatigued often because we absorb so many emotional drains. And we are easily distracted due to a heightened sensitivity to our surroundings.

Finally having a “label” for my empathic nature won’t change how I feel things, but at least it’s made me aware of why.

And it’s helped me to recognize when I’m having these feelings and the thoughts that trigger them, so I can stop and take some deep breaths, allowing me to observe my thoughts without judgement. 

In this way, I can give myself permission to notice and feel what I’m feeling, And then I can choose to let them go. Now, I haven’t mastered this by any means. And I’m not sure that I ever will. I think it’s an ongoing practice. But one that I feel is instrumental in allowing me to cope with challenging situations.

Do you feel deeply or know someone who does? What strategies do you use for coping? Please leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

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