When I discovered I was an empath a couple of years ago, so many things made sense.
Like why I needed naps every day after middle school and high school, before I had health issues. Why I started crying hysterically on Valentine’s Day during my sophomore year of college but wasn’t consciously sad. Why I started crying the second I walked into a hospital waiting room. Why I felt totally drained after going to concerts, sports games, or parties. Why people always said they felt better after talking to me about their problems, but I would feel wiped out. Why I attracted some narcissistic friendships and relationships.
It turns out I was absorbing everyone else’s energy like a sponge and had no idea.
Then, after I got really sick, and learned that I was an empath, I realized:
I was not only feeling my own pain, but I was also feeling the pain of others.
I was not only feeling my own emotions, but the emotions of others- their stresses, worries, anger (about me being sick, but also in general.)
I mean dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms of Lyme is hard enough, and now we have to deal with other people’s stuff too?!
I was also always sensitive to light and sound, and my Lyme symptoms amplified that a LOT.
Here’s what I learned as an empath with Lyme:
1) Set boundaries
I had to be OK with distancing myself from people who were draining my energy. This wasn’t easy. I love helping people, and I was always a giver. I thought it was OK to over-give, even if I felt terrible afterwards. After all, these people needed to help and I was happy they were coming to me for guidance (#peoplepleaser.) But when we are starting at an energy level of practically zero from a chronic illness, there’s no energy to give to others. I had to learn that it’s OK to give myself this energy and not feel guilty about being unable to give it to other people. I gave for years and years, and this was my time to focus on myself and accept help from others (which wasn’t easy.) Even small things, such as taking my time to respond to a text or phone call without feeling guilty, made a big difference.
I find this is important on social media too. When you are an empath, whom you follow can definitely impact your mood and energy. And pushing yourself to respond to messages or comments when you don’t have the energy can be very draining.
2) Release narcissistic relationships of all kinds
It turns out empaths attract people with narcissistic traits. Over the years, starting from the time before I got sick, I had many friendships that I thought were equal and balanced, until all of a sudden the person turned on me. Then when I got upset, I was told that I’m “too sensitive.” I remained friends with these people for much longer than I should have, because I was trying to focus on their positive traits. It’s no wonder that I always felt sick after interactions with these people (even before I was diagnosed with Lyme.) I was always terrified to confront these people because I’m a non-confrontational person and could feel their pain, stress, and anger while talking to them. Distancing myself from toxic people, no matter how long I knew them, provided another layer of healing.
3) Ask others for help
As an empath, I often avoided asking others for help because I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t let my friends know how bad my health was until it was really bad, because I didn’t want them to worry about me or feel as if they needed to do something. But balance in giving and receiving is necessary in order for us to protect our energy. I have learned that asking for help isn’t weak- in fact, it actually is a sign of strength. It shows that you aware of your needs.
Last year, I had $75 in my bank account. I had always been diligent about saving money, but a combination of medical expenses, moving, and divorce depleted everything. I didn’t tell anyone this, but part of me was worrying whether or not I would be able to continue receiving the medical treatments that were helping me and continue paying my rent. The next week, my friend’s friend, whom I had met a couple of times, randomly texted me and insisted that she set up a Go Fund Me account for my medical expenses. My first thought was “NO! I don’t want friends and family feeling obligated to give money to me after all the support they have provided over the past couple of years.” But another friend explained to me that no one is “obligated” to give- they will only give if they want to- and that most will probably be happy to help. After thinking it over for a few days, and sitting with a lot of awkward and uncomfortable feelings about this, I decided to go for it. My friends raised $7,000 in a few weeks, which allowed me to continue receiving the medical care I needed. And I was so grateful for allowing myself to receive this.
4) Accept that I can’t fix others
As an empath, I can easily put myself in others’ shoes and see things from their perspective. After I got sick, there were people that would contact me daily asking for guidance and emotional support. And I would go out of my way to help them. I was going through a lot of physical and emotional craziness in my life, and barely had the energy to take care of my own needs (getting up to prepare food/eat, shower, etc.) Although I’m wired to want to help others, I had to accept that I can’t save people all of the time- I had to put all my energy into my own healing before helping others.
5) I’m not wired to go-go-go
This was a hard one. Our society tells us that we need to work hard and be productive in order to be successful. People boast about being so busy and about functioning on little sleep. Before my symptoms got debilitating, I would push myself to go out when I was tired and push myself to go to parties because someone would be upset if I didn’t go. On a typical day, I would wake up at 6AM, commute an hour to work, work after school, commute an hour downtown to yoga, meet friends for dinner, and get home at 9:30 or 10pm, just to do it again the next day. I had major FOMO and pushed myself to go out every weekend. Then, as my symptoms got more debilitating, I had no choice but to lie in bed all day. This was really challenging for me, because I felt as if I was wasting time by doing nothing/sleeping/watching TV (which I couldn’t even do for a while because it was too much stimulation.) The Universe was like OK- you had years of pushing your body- of constantly overdoing it- and now you are going to be forced to rest for years. But it turned out that these moments of “doing nothing” were actually the most productive. By “being,” I was learning more about myself than ever before. It helped me gain clarity, observe my thoughts and emotions, and listen to my body. It was when I was most creative and open to new ideas. And this time has shown me that no matter how much energy I have, and how much I want to accomplish, I need to take time for myself to rest, decompress, and “do nothing” to avoid burnout.
Some other ways that I manage my energy are: sage and palo santo, Epsom salt baths, essential oils (like frankincense), crystals (like black tourmaline and selenite), reiki, energy clearing meditations (and actually all meditation), grounding, and spending time in nature.
I learned that there are many perks to being an empath, even if they aren’t always so obvious.
I have become more aware of my own energy and how I feel around other people. I have learned to trust my intuition more based on how I’m feeling, and to listen to my gut. Because my energy is so limited at times, I realized I need extra time alone to recharge- and that I wasn’t giving this to myself before.
When my energy is balanced, I can help other people because I understand how they are feeling. I intuitively can tell when people are upset or uncomfortable before they tell me. I’m more aware of how I treat others, since I’m very in tune with how I feel when people treat me in certain ways. Also, I can usually sense when people are lying, and I can usually immediately feel if something is off with a person or situation.
Healing from Lyme can be more challenging as an empath. But, I am grateful that I feel everything so strongly because it allows me to have a deeper connection to the world: to people, animals, and nature.