I'm an empath. This is a gift I'm still trying to figure out.
I recently learned an important lesson that I think anyone, especially my fellow empaths, can relate to.
Lately, I've been really worried about my brother — who was diagnosed with brain cancer a few years ago — and thinking about all of the emotions he and his kids must be experiencing.
I’ve also been concerned about my teenage niece — whose mom (my sister) died a few years ago — and all of the emotions and grief she's been working through.
As an empath, I've been feeling all of these emotions very deeply, and they've caused me great anxiety and had my mind running a thousand miles a minute!
I should be closer to my family to help take care of my niece and lend support to my brother and his kids. But everyone is in different states now, so it'd be hard to help them all out, even if I wanted to move, which I don't... What if...? What about...? But then...? AGH!
After talking it out with my one of my best friends, I finally realized... I've been experiencing empathic guilt!
Ya know, when you feel like you should be doing things for everyone else and end up neglecting yourself.
I had to remind myself that I won't be good support for my family if I don't take care of myself.
It's like the airplane thing where they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
If I were to uproot my life to be near them, it'd be like shirking my oxygen mask. I'd end up depleted and angry.
And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.
Thankfully, I was able to pull myself out of my whirlwind of emotions with the help of my friend and some rational thinking (which can be hard to come by, I know!).
There's always an alternative solution that will help you take care of yourself and lend support to others. It may take time to figure out what that solution is, but it's there.
In my case, the alternative is planning trips to see family and video-chatting in between. This will offer them support and show them that I care, and it will keep my life in Portland, where I'm happy to be.
The next time you find yourself swirling down the black hole of empathic guilt like I was, follow these steps:
Friend, have you ever experienced empathic guilt? How did you handle it?
Let me know in the comments! 💖