The Joy & Pain of a Broken Empath

Empathy. Many days, it’s awful. Being a broken empath? Nearly unbearable. I understand the “gift” of empathy. I understand that those of you who connect with my writing & have encouraged me to *finally* finish my memoir -or any book for that matter- see the spiritual gift of empathy in me. Being able to see & speak into the pain of others is a tremendously beautiful gift God has graciously allowed me to have to make my sista-frans & beautiful brothas a bit more at home in a world full of rejection. But. Empathy is the taking on of others pain. And I am a “high empath.” Which means I’m feeling another’s pain *almost* as if it were my own. If I’m closely connected to someone who’s pain is unleashed in irresponsible ways, I am literally absorbing toxicity much like the dude on the 1st season of Heroes who absorbed others powers after he killed them, except I don’t kill people so there’s that. I digress.

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Yesterday I had a safe space conversation in which I ran through each traumatizing event of 2016, in attempt at healing & reconciliation. There were 12. One in each month. Today, the can of worms has opened wide & they are slithering through my soul. Making me soul weary. I have a friend whom I love, who is being hunted. And I do mean *literally* hunted. And the anguish & fear I feel for her unrelenting fear is inexplicable. One of my best friends is experiencing fairly debilitating depression. Depression is punishing. My brothers fiancé just called to tell me he’s back in jail. I don’t have words anymore for the dysfunction of my family.

I believe I’m at a grief limit. I can’t listen to or engage *anything* even remotely abusive or toxic. I can’t engage any sort of ‘othering’ comments, articles or even watch T.V. with violence, racism, rape or murder. I’m disturbed. I’m having nightmares. I have some PTSD symptoms. I’m going through something I have never in my adult life experienced and I’m on the brink of very important decisions in a pressure-cooker like state.

Let us be reminded, a lot of people are suffering, a lot of the time. We would do well to remember that. My friend Tonia asked the other day what folks thought of endlessly optimistic social media posters? I mentioned that perhaps like me, these peoples lives are likely falling apart around them & they are trying like hell to forge beauty, gratitude & optimism among the tragedy of endless dysfunction & f-ckery.

Second, as a reminder of people’s basic humanity. My humanity is all wrapped up in empathy, shame, grief, joy, gratitude, love, hate, fear, courage. There are times when the sense of joy I feel over my children feels complete. Final. As if nothing can steal it away. And on other days this year, I have wept with the Lord deep, fat, angry tears of grief & all of the longing for death to come snatch me out of this. In an act of mercy, Lord just let me go. The nature of the beast of depression, abuse & trauma means heavy emotional swivel & I am there. An hour later I see my beautiful daughter smile & by God’s mercy I’m ready to engage this world again with heavily filtered photos uploaded to the Gram! This is humanity at our best & worst —when we fight for survival, it doesn’t ever feel like courage.

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Except when it does.

I look at us, these three BRAVE @$$ women. Me, my hunted friend & my depressed friend. We are all minority women with thee most F’ed up set of parents & childhoods who have endured toxic marriages & all manner of adult-life tomfoolery. But here we are. Surviving & junk. Pushing through. Waking up each day. Taking care of our babies. Making bold & courageous decisions with fear in our bellies. I’m so doggone proud of us. And maybe you are too, as you very well should be. I used to be afraid to even see myself as strong. Nope. Done with that. Nah son. Now, after enduring all of this level of trauma I have ZERO doubt in my mind the strength that’s buried deep in these yellow bones. No doubt at all.

And for the first time my empathy is extending out & grabbing not from the pain of my sisters but courage & strength is intricately flowing for their veins to my mine, from my veins to theirs. That’s a gift & the power of sisterhood. The beauty of connection born of vulnerability.

I will survive this dammit. And if I don’t, you should know I never stopped fighting for my survival. I will never betray the words of the tattoo on my hand, “always hope.”

Life is *always* more complex than the pictures we upload to Instagram. Hopefully we all know that by now.

Now go be a human. Find gratitude. Be inspired. Survive. LOVE someone well. Forgive yourself. Pray. This present moment is all we have.

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