The Empath Epidemic

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As you roll from one side to the other and back again, you’re bombarded. Sleep is not restful for you. The DMZ exists inside the bottle of Ambien in your medicine cabinet.

Your thoughts run and dive, leap and careen every which way. The worst part is, these thoughts aren’t even about you. They’re about your best friend whose husband is having an affair. Your mother whose MS is making it harder for her to live on her own. Don’t forget your spouse and all his problems at work.

None of these are even about you, yet you carry them, diligently through each night and into the day only to start the cycle again.

Some sources estimate 15-20% of the population is “highly sensitive.” I consider “highly sensitive” to be synonymous with empathic.

As empaths, we feel other people’s feelings. We don’t stop at sympathizing with them and understanding where they are coming from. That doesn’t seem to be enough.

No, we’ve gone all in and feel the pain, the burden, the grief, the elation, excitement and ecstasy as if it were our own.

Herein lies the problem. As empaths, we’re taking on emotions and problems that aren’t even ours to deal with. We can’t hear about them and then walk away, we become viscerally involved.

We are facing an epidemic, as empaths.

There are studies pointing to increased adrenal fatigue, chronic health issues and a slew of other physical side effects for us empaths. I’m saying it’s because we are taking on other’s issues.

What are we doing to ourselves?!

We feel it all and want to help everyone else who is feeling it. So, we take it. We shoulder it. We carry it. We hold it for them. We don’t want to rock the boat and upset someone else. We want to minimize their pain or struggle. So, we take it on.

Sometimes we rationalize it as helping or tell ourselves that’s what healers do.

We’re doing this to our own detriment.

Sure, it’s nice to help an old lady get her groceries to her car. But, it’s not doing anyone any good if, in the meantime, your chicken is spoiling, your ice cream is melting and your gallon of milk has just turned into curds and whey.

Those of us who were “sensitive kids” were probably told at one time or another that we were too sensitive. Or, we were made to feel like we weren’t doing enough to help others. We’re also taught that self-sacrifice is the ULTIMATE way to help others. I mean, look at Jesus. He’s lauded for giving his life on the Cross to save us from our sins (which is a completely different rant).

Rather than stand strong and proud in our truth, we try to fix what’s “wrong” with us. If we help others, maybe that’s the answer. If we play it small to not upset them, we’ll be safe. Maybe we can even sacrifice ourselves for our spouse, job, kids, parents, siblings, society as the pathway to salvation.

We can’t.

Too many of us are riddled with chronic health conditions, emotional/mental health issues and are at the point of crisis. We are facing an epidemic among us and not just in a figurative sense.

Regardless of why we are carrying other’s burdens, we have to stop.

Do yourself a favor and make an agreement to stop carrying the weight of other people. There is a difference between helping someone lift a 400 pound rock and carrying it yourself, so they don’t have to.

I call to you today to put down your rocks. All of them. No matter the size.

Start to look at what’s not yours. The drama between your parents – not yours. Your kids not putting their clothes in the laundry basket and not having the shirt they want (not need, want) – not yours. Your partner’s crappy relationship with her brother – not your problem.

When we are all able to unite around the notion of “not my problem.” We can start to heal. We can heal ourselves. We can become the best versions of ourselves.

Then, we can truly begin to help others. We can show them the path that we’ve taken and how it’s possible for them too.

I’d probably not respond to your sister calling to complain about how rude her boss was during a meeting today with: “That’s not my problem.” I’d listen, hear her and offer suggestions or advice. That’s where I draw the line. My job is done. When I hang up the phone, I’m absolved of the burden.

By freeing myself of the burden, I’ve released myself from the epidemic.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Gandhi