Living with depression is difficult. There is no one size fits all for depression. Everyone’s feelings are their own and the degree of soul crushing despondency is something that cannot be categorized across the board for people with depression. If you suffer from depression, I cannot say “I know what you feel”; because I do not.
When you have depression, your mind is your own worst enemy. Things that may be benign to an average mind are magnified to a depressed brain. Often times there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for the malignancy. Because of this, I cannot speak to anyone’s depression but my own. I’m not a therapist; as I’ve said numerous times and this post is not simply about depression as a whole. No, what I’m writing about is living with depression as an empath.
For those of you who are new, or who haven’t read my book yet (shame!), let me recap this whole empath thing…
An empath is someone who is entuned to the emotions to of others to an almost paranormal degree. Not only are we entuned to the emotions of others, if we are not careful, we absorb the emotions as well. It is generally used as a superpower in sci-fi movies/books, but there are a select few out there that truly have the ability to feel the emotions of strangers as well as people close to us.
There are upsides to this little ability. Take my dating history for example. I mean, I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m not incredibly attractive. I’m a solid 4 when I’m trying. However, as we know true relationships go beyond the physical attractions; I truly believe my powers of an empath is the reason why I have had much more of a robust dating history than I probably should at my level of attractiveness. I also believe that this ability is what ultimately attracted my wife and made her think I was sexier than I truly am.
(Pro-Tip to those who date women: There is very little more attractive to women than someone who listens, understands and provides the emotional support needed, even when it’s not asked. It can be achieved without being an empath. You have to truly listen to your partner. I won’t lie, being an empath is kinda cheating.)
If you like helping people, being an empath is positive because others flock to us when they need emotional support. Folks who genuinely like helping people do it for the satisfaction of helping. You get that a lot as an empath.
However, like with most things, there are downsides. Hence the blog entry. (I know, long way to the lead up, right?)
Problem 1: When you’re an empath, you want to be there for people; however, you have a hard time allowing people to be there for you.
This is not because you don’t need someone; everyone needs someone. It’s because the same worry and concern you feel for those you care about, you do not want to put on someone else. Therefore, you try to ensure that no one is burdened by your emotions or feelings because if they are, and they react negatively, it makes you feel guilty. Most empaths want people around them to be happy, and the reason is two-fold. We want people to be happy because we genuinely care about the emotions of others and we want people to be happy because we absorb the emotions of those around us. (That last one may be selfish reasons.) If we are the cause of any negative emotions, not only do we absorb that too, but we feel guilty for being the catalyst for someone being upset.
Problem 2: We don’t always know if what we are feeling is real or a projection.
Absorb (v): to take in or soak up (energy or a liquid or other substance) by chemical or physical action
When we absorb emotions we TRULY do just that.
A caveat here is that Ipersonally only absorb the feelings of those who I know or have a connection with. I can read and feel the emotions of strangers, but I don’t fully absorb them. I’m not sure if it’s the same thing for other empaths. For me, the emotions of strangers is like being in a crowded room where there are a multitude of conversations going on at a low decibel. I hear it, but it’s not until I focus on a specific one that I can truly LISTEN to it.
The result of absorption is that once it’s been transferred to you, it’s yours, Chief. You generally carry that until you come into contact with someone else or time elapses. If you are an introvert, (like me), generally it’s a time elapse thing. So you can smooth be at home alone for hours and feel like shit, but you’re not fully sure why. You don’t know if it’s you or if it’s what you absorbed earlier.
Problem 3: You need an outlet to process emotions.
Here is where the big issue lies. Humanity is meant to be social by nature. (Again, unless you’re me.) We need someone to commiserate with, someone to tell us that we are justified for our feelings. But because of problem 1, we have a hard time truly allowing people to be there.
I’m not completely unhealthy, for the record. I have a couple of people who I’m close with that can tell when something is on my mind and will ask. But those are people who truly know me. The problem is, when those people are unavailable, and because we don’t wanna be a burden to others, we aren’t comfortable inducting someone else into that role.
Alright I’m bringing it home now….
I can describe being an empath with depression in 1 word. (I know, that’s truly abnormal, considering how wordy I tend to be.) The word is lonely. If your trusted inner circle is going through or is busy, we don’t have anyone to talk to. But we still have the need to be there for those we care about. Sometimes we need to vent, cry, scream, cuss or whatever about what we are going through, as well as what those closest to us are going through. But once that avenue is obstructed, we don’t have anyone.
When your mind is attacking you at every turn: your self-worth, your self-esteem, your outlook on life and whether or not you should even keep trying or if you should just give up; you need someone who is willing to listen to all the irrational notions your brain is feeding you with love and understanding.
It’s a painful thing, listening to the inner thoughts of someone with depression. Those who don’t understand the illness will make you feel bad for the thoughts that you just can’t help. You want me to believe that I’m not a worthless piece of shit? THAT’S GREAT! I’d like to believe that too! But the way my brain chemistry is set up…. *sigh*
We have to carefully vet those we can talk to about this kinda shit. It’s not only a trial and error, but it’s a painful trial and error. If we lose that, we are lost. We don’t know who to talk to, so the asshole that is our brain has free reign to tear us down without a counter argument.
So, what do you do when you’re an empath with depression?
Therapy. That’s it. That’s the only thing you can do. I’ve been in therapy for the better part of a decade, and to be honest, I will probably be in therapy for the rest of my life. Like depression, being an empath is kind of a life-long thing. You can’t turn it off. (Believe me, you have NO idea how much I’ve wished that was a possibility.) When you try to turn it off, you feel worse. You just have to learn to navigate and live with it. That’s what I do.
But that doesn’t mean times won’t ever be hard. Sometimes everyone close to you will be going through things, and then the asshole brain will be talking shit… When that happens, the depression is magnified, almost uncontrollably so. I wish I could end this entry with some message of hope that it will get better.
I mean, it probably will…but that’s not how it feels when you’re in the storm. Just remember that you can pay someone to pretend that they care for an hour a week. (or more, depending on how good your insurance is.) My recommendation? Call a therapist. (Or marry one, if you can.)
They truly can save your life.