I'm an Empath
I was recently given a potential opportunity to partake in a wonderful writing program that consists of sitting with hospitalized patients, some of them terminal, and write their life stories to gift to their families. I was unclear whether I would be paid for this experience; I think there was funding involved. And what writer doesn’t want to get paid for their creative abilities? And what person doesn’t want to perform such a charitable function?
Me. I’m that person.
I gave it a lot of thought and had to decline even the possibility of doing this and, naturally, being the overthinker I am, I had to accept certain things about myself, some of which are not so admirable.
First off, I’m neurotic. I hate that about myself, but it’s true. My mom always treated me as frail and fragile, and I had to prove over and over that I was strong both physically and mentally. I viewed sickness as a weakness and death as contagious. I protected myself throughout my life by not being around sick people as often as possible. And I did everything in my power not to get sick myself. So, when my mom got old and spent the last three years of her life in a nursing home, it was incredibly difficult to visit, but of course I did, at least once a week. It was heartbreaking and frightening. I was so sad seeing all the nursing home “prisoners,” some of whom rarely had visitors. I was also staring at my future which has traumatized me forever.
So, when I retired, I knew unequivocally that I would not be volunteering in any hospital or assisting with the elderly, which is how I ended up volunteering at The Alliance for the Arts. I’m not proud of these phobias or my lack of charitable behavior, but I can’t deny who I am.
Over the past two years, I have come to realize that I’m also an empath, but to a dangerous degree. I’ve always loved helping people emotionally. In fact, if I had my career choice, I would have been a therapist, but that obviously didn’t happen, and I have provided my services for free to friends and family throughout my life. (You might want to take advantage of that.) But it does take its toll and working with terminally ill people would be heartbreaking for me and not helpful for them if I’m sitting there crying as I write their life stories knowing they’ll soon be leaving our world.
As an overthinking empath, I must do what’s in my best interest and this is definitely not for me. I will go to my grave feeling bad I couldn’t do better, but that’s exactly how I live my life - thinking I could have done better.