Last semester was hell. Breathing was hard. Living was impossible. I existed. I hope I never have to go back to that place. I’m sure I will someday. Right now, I’m trying to put myself back together. Much easier said than done. Especially when you get hit by a freight train of anger and pain on its way to a fresh hell. And you can’t help but hop on for a ride.
I am empathetic. Almost supernaturally so. . It’s definitely not something I would ever use on purpose or wish on myself. But it happens. I can often feel what’s going on in a room, especially with those I’m close to. When I’m “healthy,” it’s a gift. When I’m not, it nearly suffocates me. It can be so painful. Last semester my brain decided I couldn’t handle any more than I was already feeling and just turned the empathy off. I didn’t have to feel anything but what I was feeling. In fact, I almost forgot what it was like to feel everything. I wish I could say it was nice, but I was so deep in my own personal hell that it wasn’t even a relief.
As I’ve started to come back from hell, I’ve started to feel bad about not having been there for other people. That is illogical. There was nothing for me to give, no way for me to contribute through sensing their emotions. Nevertheless, that is how I feel. But now I am feeling better and wanting to do more. Last week as I was driving to see a friend, my empathy came back in a wave. Suddenly I remembered how I can relate to other people and feel what they are feeling. It was moderately terrifying. But it was good because it meant I was coming back to life. Defrosting, if you will.
Then my parents came to visit. I love them. And they have the ability to hurt me more deeply than anyone else. Ostensibly, they were here to meet my new niece. They were in reality too preoccupied with their own selfish issues to enjoy the precious gift God has sent our family. The pain and anger and hatred they ceaselessly flung at one another struck me like a wrecking ball without even having to get between them. Hell, I was upstairs while they were downstairs and I could feel it. And it only festered and got worse as the weekend progressed. It was so strong at one point, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks even though I had no idea what was going on. Did I mention that at this point in my life, I am still barely pulling myself back together?
My heart couldn’t decide what the appropriate response was. It alternately felt everything to the point of breaking and shut it all off to the point of total numbness. Such intense swings are hard to follow. Hard to stomach. It’s like emotional motion sickness. STOP SWINGING JUST CHOOSE! While my heart didn’t want to be numb, it couldn’t handle the pain either. My head intervened by giving me a migraine. And reminding me of all the other things I needed to worry about. Life stopped. Again. Just like last semester.
But only briefly. The parents are now gone. The echo of their pain is fading. I can still feel the wound that was inflicted. It is a deep gash in my innermost self. It hurts. A lot. Sometimes it starts to fade –I didn’t think about it for a whole hour tonight- but then I bump it and re-open the sore. They are gone, but I am left here, trying to pick up the pieces.