“When empaths absorb the impact of stressful emotions, it can trigger panic attacks, depression, food, sex and drug binges, and a plethora of physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis from fatigue to agorophobia.”Judith Orloff, M.D.
Growing up, I was always told I was “emotional” or “overly sensitive”. While I knew wholeheartedly this was true, the comments would make me feel like something was wrong with me. I hated crying at the drop of a hat and feeling overwhelmed so easily. But, at the same time, I knew I had a gift of helping people. Being emotional allowed me to connect with people; I could empathize easily and be there for others who needed a shoulder to cry on.
I spent years not really understanding this gift/curse; that was until I came across the definition of an empath. According to Dr. Orloff, a psychiatrist and empath herself, an empathic person is someone who “feel(s) everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less apt to intellectualize feelings.” She states that, “intuition is the filter through which they experience the world. Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually attuned, and good listeners.” I remember thinking, “wow, okay… I guess I’m not weird after all.” I honestly had thought there was something wrong that I could feel ten times more than the normal person. This definition is basically me in a nutshell.
Now, while being an empath has allowed me to help others (like all of you reading my blog!), the downside has been the following:
- Overwhelmed by large crowds. Too many emotions at once.
- I have to have my down time in the day to decompress.
- I am a homebody. It is my safe zone.
- If someone is distraught, I start feeling distraught. My heart breaks as if it is me.
- Yelling terrifies me.
Stating these things make me feel vulnerable right now, but I feel like it is important to convey. For empathic people, negative behavior is often a result of “the impact of stressful emotions” if boundaries are not set in place. It can “trigger panic attacks, depression, food, sex and drug binges, and a plethora of physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis from fatigue to agorophobia.”
It is a fantastic feeling to have endless amount of love and compassion. But it can easily become draining if I do not take care of myself. That is why I put so much emphasis on self-care now. Most people I find have a hard time understanding why I am the way I am and WHY I need to put up boundaries. I mean, I don’t blame them – I find myself questioning it myself sometimes.
If you are an empath like me, it is important to find your inner peace – whether that is yoga, meditation, writing, or something else. You will drain yourself taking care of others if you do not recharge. Also know, you are not alone. There are many of us empaths out there going through the same struggle! Honor your gift, but also know when it’s time to take a step back. It does not in any way mean you are a bad person. It means you are human.
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