Heavy

Today, she had me sit down with my arms outstretched in front of me. In my hands she placed a basket full of polished stones. The point of this exercise it to show you that even if you can hold the basket with no problem, over time, the longer you hold on, the heavier it becomes. She looked at me with sad eyes. Kind, but sad. She told me I hold on too long to too much.

I’ll admit I’ve been through a lot and I always forget how much I take on others emotions. I forget how much I want to take care of others.

We went back to the beginning, where I told her about my childhood, even my infancy when my mom suffered from post-partum depression. She said when we are born, we are pure and wholesome. We are born good. Then we grow up and the world around us shapes us. Sometimes it changes us to the point of self hatred and we believe we have no self worth. She said I needed to stop taking on other’s pain. My friends, my supervisor, even my mother’s pain.

The more we spoke, an image surfaced in my mind. The image of a bright eyed infant born as a natural empath.

She rests peacefully in her mother’s arms without a care in the world. Her mother fights the loneliness, guilt, and harrowing depression while trying her best to care for her child. Holding the baby close drives the darkness away. 

The baby senses this change. The empath in her yearns to care for her mother as much as she yearns for care from her mother. They become inseparable. The child cries and will not be soothed by anyone but her mother. Adults chuckle affectionately at the attachment. The child cries when being dropped off at school. She becomes anxious when apart from her mother. Everyone assumes she is just shy and afraid of strangers. What they do not know is that she also takes on her mother’s pain. She wants to hold her pain, to take it away. To hold it in her outstretched arms, eager to help. 

How to tell if you’re an empath.
The science behind empathy.

How to be a pillar

Disclaimer: I am not an architect. Is pillar even the right term? I don’t know.

A few days ago I finished watching “13 Reasons Why”. I won’t give any spoilers, but it is a show about a girl who committed suicide (this is revealed in the first episode) giving her 13 reasons why she did it. I realize how difficult it is to live with mental illness, but it can be just as difficult to see someone you love struggle. You may not know what to do or say, and that makes you feel even more hopeless.

I don’t think I can articulate just how grateful I am for my support system (my pillars). I have no doubt in my mind that if it weren’t for them, I would have been long gone by now. If someone you love is struggling and you don’t know how you can help, I hope this can give you some insight and guidance. Here is a (very condensed) breakdown of what I feel helped me the most.

  1. A warm and supportive environment free of judgement. I felt like I could open up to my parents. When I did, they remained calm. When I showed them my self-harming scars, they didn’t get angry. They listened and embraced me when I cried. When I felt I was ready, they took me to my GP who then referred me to a psychiatrist. That was the start of my journey to recovery.
  2. Open conversation free of judgement. My friends and family let me speak about what I was going through and didn’t treat me any differently. They didn’t tiptoe around me afterwards (which I know would have made me feel worse and even more of a burden).
  3. Validation (free of judgement). Validation is to recognize or affirm that someones feelings are, essentially, valid. I was once surrounded by people who told me I was “crazy” or “overreacting” and this was such a damaging, invalidating environment to be in.

Individuals with mental illnesses are often having very understandable reactions to their circumstances. It could be an inability to regulate emotions, imbalanced chemicals in their brain, or a traumatic past. People don’t feel suicidal, hurt themselves, or withdraw because they want to.