Listen to the Handle with Care Podcast:
It’s 4 in the morning, and I’m back to scanning my phone to see if they’ve messaged. I finally have to clear my recent Facebook searches because their name has come up in my cache a dozen times waiting to see if they were going to post about me. They didn’t. When they finally posted something that had nothing to do with me instead, still having barely messaged me, I finally unfollowed them.
Because, for an empath, block, ignore, delete, unfollow – these are buzz words for getting on to a normal-ish day. We are so, so aware that you need to stop, and move on.
What is an empath? By definition – and I want to note that this is referred to as a “chiefly science fiction” definition – an empath is “a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual“. In reality, someone like me is cursed with feeling it all. All of it. All the time.
We are consistently over-analyzing. We are ever-present in our feelings. We are maxed out at a 10 on all levels. We love hard, we play hard, we think hard, we give hard. We don’t do anything half-assed. We are as passionate, as we are compassionate. We are as loving as we are hating. We will give you ten million, and we will take ten million away. Once I read an adage that encouraged you to believe every story about a person, because that person is who they become according to the situation they are in. I felt that shit in my soul. I am everyone everyone tells you I am. I chameleon who I need to be based on the situation I find myself in.
And right now, I’m in a fucking shitstorm.
How do you feel when you watch the videos of Soldiers returning home to unsuspecting loved ones? You probably feel pretty awesome. Maybe even teary. Maybe you go so far as to pee out of your eyes! I am guaranteed to cry at loving laundry commercials, should it be in any way compelling or tuned to tugging on heart strings. It’s maddening, but I feel everything on a visceral level. And if I’m hurting, it’s the kind that cuts deep into your guts, threatening to spill your insecurities on to the floor. And in more cases than not, that’s precisely what happens.
I remember very vividly when my second husband and I called it quits. We’d been high school loves that had found one another in our early twenties. We planned our son, and he helped raise my daughter. We churned out a lot of life in a few short years. Car accidents, living in low-income housing, college – we even suffered a miscarriage together. We did a lot for two kids who were barely old enough to vote. And we couldn’t do it anymore. It was too much. And I remember he and I laying together in our daughter’s bed, and we calmly took off our rings, and elected to move forward with our lives. He met and remarried his wife, who he’s been with the last fifteen years. And I have never forgotten the feeling of letting go. Like I feel it in my bones from yesterday.
The sticking point for me is that while I hold onto emotional residue like collector items on a shelf, I’m never stunted in my growth to becoming a new person. So with each layer I display comes behind it a lifetime of experiences that bare the foundation for who I am. And I feel each one individually, all the time. And I can call on each of those situations at any given time to remember how I felt when, and how does that apply to the situation I’m in now?
It’s either a blessing or a curse.
I can recall how I felt when I didn’t want to be an angel in the Sunday School play when I was 4. I remember being embarrassed by a bad hair cut in high school. I can still feel my Doc Martens banging against my gym bag, as I sauntered down University Avenue in Waterloo late one Sunday night, in another plight of leaving home as a runaway teen. I feel everything from the camp counselor who should not have with me, to the boy who should not have with me after a jaunt to Toronto. All the unwanteds, and all the hate, and all the self-loathing and anger. When he didn’t come back, when she insulted my parenting, when he rented space on his Facebook status this week to call me out. Empaths feel everything, and always. Highs, lows, and the minor victories that line the framework of the story like supporting characters in a play. If you are an empath, those feelings chug along inside of you on a constant freight train.
How can you tell they’re an empath? If you’re an empath? You probably “talk too much”. Because your brain is analyzing the language your using and trying to make sense of what you’re feeling simultaneously. You’re nearly rambling in phonetic run on sentences until you come to some resolution on the feelings you have now.
A friend called me this week to check in. He had seen a Facebook status of mine denoting the effervescent stress that has been dominating my life as of late, and he wanted to see how I was doing. In fact, I’ve had several calls of this very nature over the last two weeks. And I suck the air out of each of those conversations, by dominating the calls with my own undoings and shortcomings and airing out my drama while they kindly nod and listen through the phone. I can feel myself barging on, with some perchance for verbal diarrhea. And in all instances, my lifelong friends ask strategically placed questions that propels me into another litany of problems I’ve seemingly conjured up. My brain is constantly thinking, doing, wondering, asking, analyzing, stressing, remembering, wanting, fearing, and keeping me wide, wide awake.
I was up this morning at 4am.
How does a person like me function in relationships? I point to Sheryl Crowe who lovingly asked: “Are you strong enough to be my man?” while Adele intoned, “if you’re not the one for me, why do I hate the idea of being free?”
I am incapable of being mum when I suspect any emotional injustice is being cooked up like a two dollar breakfast at the local greasy spoon. If you are only putting in part of the work, I’m going to flagrantly call you on your shit. Sometimes this prodding results in diabolical arguments. And it’s frustrating, because in my heart, I feel like I’m serving a bigger purpose. I’m stimulating progressive conversation! In reality, it becomes more like goading for a fight. And after my canon has burst, and I’ve fanned out the flames and extinguished my mission for getting in the last word, or the last cruel contestation in the argument, then I breathe and come back for the “now don’t we feel good we got it all out?”
Only empaths feel good that they got it all out.
This week, I lost my grip towards the end of the conversation with my accountant as she candidly informed me we owed money in taxes this year. I cried, and told her I couldn’t have the conversation anymore. I was unable to hide my emotions behind my heart sunglasses yesterday when the autobody shop told me my car was leaking oil into the engine block. I don’t own a poker face. I had a professor one time tell me that this was my Achilles heel. I couldn’t keep it in.
If your partner has just absorbed another tsunami of your maxed-out passionate pleas for loud emotional debates that result in slammed doors, or insults, or frustrations, the odds are that the empath has now chopped that person at their emotional knees. And the rollercoaster they’ve just sustained has got them feeling seasick at the notion of having to walk through the fire all over again.
We’re not bad humans. Like I said, we just do it all at a ten. And we justify this necessity to argue, and fight at a ten, because we also love at a ten. You’re going to get wordy, sentimental notes, and flowery videos posted on socials. You’ll get adventure in bed. And spontaneous road trips. As much as we are passionate fighters, we are also exciting lovers. We believe in adventures, and cascading our love on marching parades of gladness. We do not hide in the dark; we belong in the sun-kissed light of happy. We see the world in more than black and white – we are a fulfilled kaleidoscope of changing colours from both ends of the spectrum and crashing in the middle. We drink till we shut down the bar. We dance with our whole bodies. We love to give advice, and we love to make the plans. We love to put on parties for swathes of people to enjoy our beautifully displayed buffets of meals and good conversation and then we hang around waiting for your affirmation that you loved everything that we did. And then we are excited to provide again.
An empath is always looking for the next challenge. And for this gal, it couldn’t be anymore true. From the men I date, to losing the weight, to uprooting my life in Kitchener for Kingston. To opting to being a single parent, I have never shied away from something being tough, or hard, or impossible. I look at each that presents itself and consider it a conquest.
It’s glaringly obvious what happens to the empath when she feels like she’s losing. Especially if she’s failing in her relationship. All small things have been maximized to big things. All easy things have become hard. If he doesn’t message, if he requires space, if he doesn’t check in, if he posts something on Facebook that directly violates the tone of the reality at home (example, he posts something funny instead of sad and hurting like she is), she feels it. And she notices it. And takes note of it. So she tries to be strong, and not cry herself to sleep, and listens to the music at full blast in the car, but the empath’s heart does not belong to her solely. Sleep is jagged. Checking the messages multiple times. Berating herself and accepting the blame for the last heated debate that was had. Wondering if he’s thinking of her, too.
How desperate an empath is to just – let it be.
But we are reactive, dynamic, emotional creatures. Our feelings don’t rest inside our souls, they are simmering pots of explosive passion ready to boil over at any minute. We are always on guard, our arsenals laid full of beautiful compliments or nuggets of wisdom – or, scraps of tasteless memories to call on when we’re trying to win the fight because we remember everything. And we’ll call on it if we need it.
For better or for worse, I am eagerly on the cusp of a cataclysmic shift in my current relationship. Either he and I are going to come back from this stronger, and ready to commit to a life time of working on its, and working it outs, and working towards – or, I am going to continue listening to Great Big World in some musical gluttonous punishment for another relationship my empathetic ways were again responsible for destroying.
As I said to that friend that called – either being an empath is curse in that I can never switch off my brain. It presents lucid dreams every night, bares every worse-case scenario and causes me to over-analyze every situation and even jarringly raises my anxieties to inhuman heights. Or – it’s a blessing because I am acutely aware of what’s going on with me, why I feel the way I do, why I am sorry when I have made someone else fee poorly, and how to recognize when my person is too much person.
When Jan and I started dating, among my memories (that include late night trips to his hometown, seeing my favourite band in concert, wrapping our arms around each other in embraces that said we’d never let go), I also remember thinking to myself – I hope this time I can keep my emotions in check long enough for him to fall in love with me, before he meets the me the empath can’t keep a lid on how she’s feeling 24/7.
I don’t know if he did.
The takeaway is this – you are who you are. You are an asset, just as you are. And the relationship that counts the most in your life is the one you have with yourself. You have to remember that you are capable of being both – awesome, and not awesome. You can be terrific and terrible. But you must be able to accept both, be humbled by either, and aware of each. To love means accepting the yin and the yang. And it’s okay to let go of what makes you something that keeps you from being your true self. Because who you really are is the most wonderful of all. An empath can not deny being an empath, and cannot carve the edges of this personality off to suit any narrative. Find your happy. Whatever that is. And with whom ever it is you can share it with. Even if that’s only yourself.
You can if you want to.
This week’s progress was monumental. I skipped over the 60 lbs threshold, a feat that took more than two months (nearly three) to get to. I was down 50 in December when I left the weight loss studio, I gave myself permission to live over Christmas, and came back with a vengeance at 180 in the new year.
But after stringently pursuing my goals on my own over January and February, I’ve finally succeeding in losing the 10lbs to get me out of the 170s. I was warned explicitly that because my body rested in the 180s for the majority of my adult life, getting to this goal was going be the hardest. My body would have to accomplish something it had never been required to in the past And it finally happened.
This week’s winner of best meal ever goes to this little bruschetta salad we concocted at work for me. I struggle so hard eating copious amounts of salads in lieu of carbs, but I maintain it was only going to be a matter of time before we settled on something that was delicious.
This salad is a bed of romaine, topped with fresh bruschetta, grilled chicken and ranch dressing, dusted with parm cheese. And omg, it was so good I had it two days in a row. My biggest trick to getting down the water faster are the water shots – like Nestle Ice Tea. You can fool your brain with this simple hack.
And while I’m not an advocate for eating at fast food restaurants, A&W offers lettuce wrapped burgers of your choice. (It’s the sodium in fast food patties that are the killer.)
I snuck in a three day egg fast last weekend. That term is pretty loose. I had primarily eggs over last weekend. I’ll try to give it a better go in a few weeks from now. But for the time being, I enjoy an exclusively egg diet from time to time. I can now safely say that I’ve conquered the elusive art of Hollandaise sauce for an epic eggs benny every time. I’ll get the recipe posted some time this weekend.
This week’s old school jam:
As always, if you’re looking for my “knickers” progress photos, DM me for the link to my online site!
And if you haven’t joined the Health Care group on Facebook, I so suggest that you do! Lots of great folks working together to inspire one another, share tips and eating plans.
Plus – if you haven’t checked it out yet, I have a Spotify playlist I use for Work Outs. Feel free to follow and collaborate.
This week marked two years since I gave up smoking and started on the 90 Day Challenge with the YMCA in Kingston. I stepped on that scale weekly for three months. I steadily gained weight until last summer. I began that journey at 190lbs. And after putting on additional 30, seeing it come down like this has been the greatest accomplishment of this decade for me.
Thanks to everyone of you who keeps me motivated. Much love to each of you. xo