I had a friend tell me once, as we were discussing his coming to terms with losing his mother, that all of the the power was in himself. You see, his belief was (and may still be) that he could tell himself not to be sad (or any other emotion he chose) and POOF it would disappear and he wouldn’t be sad anymore. I’m not sure it’s that simple. Sometimes I wish it was, but as an empath I find that feelings hit me much closer to the vest and stay with me much longer than just my initial “bye, Felicia”.

I’m an empath at heart. Emotions drain me: good and bad. And I often take on the emotions of others; they become mine. Sometimes I really have to sit with myself and unravel whether what I am feeling is my own genuine emotion or that which has rubbed off on me from somewhere or someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give this up even though there are times I wish I could shed it for a time. Being highly sensitive and an empath are a part of what make me, me. It makes me second guess, and worry, and hold situations in my head way longer than most people. It causes me to wonder how other people are feeling, how I can protect their feelings (often in place of protecting my own), and sometimes even jump to illogical places of “fear”.

But being an empath also brings joy to my life. It bolsters the way I care about people. It has allowed me the gift of intentional and dedicated listening, and pushed me to ask questions and go deeper in my relationships. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes comes easier, and I can easily see the other side of the story (when I am not an integral part of the situation). It reminds me that I feel and emote more than I don’t. It’s the source of my quick connections and my hesitancy to let people in below the surface. It is a piece of the web that is me.

There have been lots of changes for me. I’ve started working out again on a somewhat regular basis. I’m diving back in to eating healthy, being conscious of my food choices, and recognizing a need a little help sticking with it (hello, WW). I’ve started using a dating app, because I don’t believe I’m meant to do this life alone, and meeting new people isn’t happening on the daily. These are just the big changes in my personal life and don’t begin to scratch the surface of the professional life changes over the last six months+.

As an empath, which is a category of highly sensitive persons, change is difficult. It’s exciting, sure. But some days I’d rather crawl in a hole than subject myself to new and different environments or experiences. And so when faced with so much change all at once my system is a little bit shocked (that could be an understatement). And when my system is shocked to the point of overload, I don’t respond like I would 98 and 3/4 percent of the time. I operate out of fear and sadness and confusion, when normally I operate out of joy and confidence and wonder.

And so I write. Because it pushes me to be vulnerable. It pushes me to take what feels uncomfortable and unnatural and make it common place. I cannot live in a place of shame and fear any longer. I choose to own these pieces. I choose to be me.