Last weekend I was invited to a holiday parade. Sounds fun, right? I should want to go right? But in reality, this type of event is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for someone like me. It feels silly to say, but the evidence is undeniable… I’m an Empath, also known as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
Why do I feel silly saying this? Because if you look up “Empath” in Google, the definition states “(chiefly in science fiction) the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.” Come on Google, get with the program; being an Empath is real!
Luckily there are amazing people, like Dr. Judith Orloff, who study it, understand it and write about this intriguing ability. You can check out her articles about it on Psychology Today.
Empaths feel other people’s feelings; we soak them up like a sponge, and many times can’t tell that other people’s ‘stuff’ isn’t our own!
You can imagine that being in a crowd could get really uncomfortable for an empath. It’s a complete overload of feelings, and very distracting. It turns on the stress response, and leaves the empath feeling insecure, anxious, and desperate to get grounded.
After the parade was over, my sweetheart asked me what I’d like to do next. In my head, the response was something like, “I have no f_ing clue...run???!!!” Of course, I’m trying to act like a normal person instead of a lunatic, so I just pick one of the options he has presented...going into the store down the street.
Holy crap, what a terrible idea...another crowded place, and packed to the gills with stuff. Feeling hazy, overwhelmed by the people and things, my brain scrambles for traction. Who do I need gifts for? Pretty much drawing a blank. Ackkk I need my list! I reach for my phone, which has my list of gift ideas. And the app doesn’t work...it’s all I can do to just try to remember to breath.
After that, we decide to go eat. Oh thank goodness, eating, yes, that will make me feel better. It helps me feel grounded. I may eat too much, and it could lead to binging for the rest of December, and I’ll weigh like 500 lbs by the New Year, pant, pant, pant, but YES!, let’s order quickly!!!
At the end of the meal, I’d convinced myself that everything was OK. It’s nearly time to go home, to decompress, to be alone. Then out of the blue, I’m handed a book. This restaurant has a tradition of guests signing a book. You can sign on any page you like. I flip through the book having no idea what to write, or how to pick a page.
Did you know that the stress response basically shuts down your ability to be creative? I pause at a random page, scribble my name, my daughter’s and her friend. As I close the book, my sweetheart asks curiously, “What did you write? Can I see it? Did you pick a special page number based on the numbers?!” Embarrassment rips through me like a shock. All I can do is numbly watch my daughter sign her page, and try to manage the overwhelming feelings in my system without totally losing it.
I’m still processing this whole event. It just happened last weekend. One thing has become really clear. What I need is COMPASSION. How many times have I beat myself up for not being creative, or not showing up to some social event the way I wanted to. Too many to count. I’ve been expecting the impossible of myself. No wonder I isolate myself. No wonder I want to eat all the time. No wonder I’m exhausted. I’ve never seen the situation as clearly as I do now.
It is time for me to start honoring myself for how I am, and being gentle with myself. Sometimes our gifts can be a curse.
Have you been too hard on yourself for how you are in certain situations? I hope this letter will give you a new perspective to consider, and a good reason to give yourself more love and compassion!
Warmth, Love, and Happy Holidays,