Hip, hip hooray!! I am not lazy, anti-social, or depressed. My exhaustion is real. It comes from my ability to feel what those around me are feeling, pretty much all of the time. It creates what I can only describe as a noise in my mind that sucks all the energy from my body and brain. I liken it to the boy in the Sixth Sense, who could see and talk to dead people. I can see and hear the inside of most people and places. And trust me – people are noisy inside! Just as he hid this reality from his mother, I have felt compelled to hide this from my friends and family. From as far back as I can remember I’ve been chastised for being “too sensitive”, told to “suck it up” or “get over it”. For me, though, that’s not possible; the noise is always with me.
When I spent the majority of my 20’s alone in my apartment, it wasn’t because I was a bad person, or a sick person. When it took every ounce of will I had to force myself to socialize on the weekends, even with family, it wasn’t because I was selfish, or self-absorbed. When I ignored the phone calls of certain people it wasn’t because I was inconsiderate or egotistical. I was exhausted from the noise of the world!
I have always been wracked with guilt over this. In my 20’s I worked in very stressful atmosphere’s, and by the time I got home the fatigue I felt was debilitating. There were nights I could barely make it up the stairs to my apartment. I lived on oreo’s and bagel chips, since cooking, or eating out, after a day’s work was out of the question. Even going to pick up takeout was out of the question, as it required me to be around more people. There were times that I’d get to 7:00 at night and want to cry I was so tired; still an issue! This was especially problematic when I was working on my Master’s degree, and now that I am raising children. And I never understood it, yet I always berated myself for it.
When I worked I was often compared to the energizer bunny. I was fast, effective, and always coming up with new projects to keep me busy. “Down time”, which so many others seem to enjoy, was the enemy to me at work. There were times I felt taken advantage of, and I would slow down my work, even though the only one it hurt was me. I had one boss who told me not to bother, because a work slow down by me was the same as everyone else’s work day, so it was essentially a silent protest; no one noticed. And, it was usually miserable for me to do!
All of which left me very confused. How could I be such a productive, hard worker at my job, then completely shut down the minute my apartment door closed. How could I go out of my way to create new projects for myself at work, yet on the weekend want to sit on the couch all day? How could I work 16 hour physically hard days with little problem, but not have the energy to talk to someone on the phone at night? What was wrong with me?
I understand now that this is the plight of the Empath. As I am just learning about this, there are a few observations I am finding particularly interesting.
All or Nothing is the Norm. This answers for me why I could work so hard, and effectively, yet collapse when I got home. I’ve always known that the worse job for me is one in which there’s little to do. Being a toll taker, for example, would be utter hell for me. As I now understand it, Empaths are highly creative people, which I am. As such, when we’re at work we need to stay busy; hence my ability to create new projects for myself. When faced with down time, we lapse into recovery mode, during which we tend to daydream, doodle, and be utterly unproductive. Once in this recovery time it is extremely difficult for me to pull out of, until I’m fully recovered from the noise I’ve absorbed. This is especially interesting to me right now, because I feel as if I’m spending hour upon hour doing nothing. An entire week can go by and I’ll think it’s just been two days. I am aware that I’m processing all I’m learning, and creating new things as I go along, but time has become fluid; a gas that I can’t quite grab a hold of.
Down Time is Key. Fatigue is a major issue for us. Our tendency to feel everyone and everything leads to exhaustion. When we need a weekend to ourselves, it is with good reason. We have spent the week soaking up the problems of the world around us. Like a sponge, we need to dry out.
Disingenuous People Cause Anxiety. When I am faced with a person putting on a facade, I tune into the disconnect, and I am fraught with confusion, which creates anxiety. When I am around disingenuous people, especially those putting on a beautiful or inspiring mask for the world, I suddenly become a bumbling idiot. I’ve never understood why until now. The disconnect between what they are presenting and what I suspect they are really feeling is overwhelming to me. I know that the mask doesn’t match the feelings and, rather then recognize them for the impostor they are, I attack myself.
Social Events Are Overwhelming. For years going to social gatherings has been not possible for me. Walking into a room filled with people, each with their own set of feelings and issues, is like walking into a mine field. If I could draw, I’d draw what a party feels like by drawing a party of people with word balloons over this heads. In each balloon I’d be able to put the feeling of everyone in that room. Add to that my lack of boundaries ,which makes me feel the need to turn everyone’s balloon into a happy word, and I’m generally left feeling paralyzed.
Having Few Friends/close relationships. Even those I love the most can be exhausting to me. If I meet someone who is needy, I will not maintain a relationship with them. I simply can’t. I have no energy left to give to the needy person, the dramatic person, the unhappy person. This leaves few people to have relationships with! One of my most enjoyable relationships in my 20’s was with a young lawyer who was truly a blank slate in terms of emotions. He was the living, breathing equivalent of a talking brick wall. He was great for me! I was never too tired to hang out with him, because he never felt anything. I’d have a lot more friends if more people were like him! I’d also answer a lot more phone calls if they were from people like him!
I’m sure I’ll be writing more as I learn more about empaths. For now though, I am filled with relief to know that I’m not lazy, stupid, uncaring, selfish, over-sensitive, rude or self-absorbed. I’m just legitimately tired, because I See You; I Hear You; I Feel You.
If you want to be my friend you’ll probably have to dial down the internal noise!
A few great reads if you think you might be an