What Being an Empathetic Writer Feels Like
I’m an empath. What’s an empath? According to dictionary.com, it’s people who deeply understand other people’s feelings, often treated like a personality type in popular psychology. Now, I know I’m not the only empath in the world, there’s plenty of us, but I want to try to explain what that means for me, in general. Being an empath is hard. I don’t only understand other people’s feelings, I feel it and it hurts. No, it doesn’t just hurt, it rips me apart and sucks me dry.
I see an elderly person walking slowly with their cane, and I feel for them. I want to take away their pain and whisk them away from it. The other day, my own nan was banned from driving. She has glaucoma, you see, and it’s getting worse. This is a woman who loves reading and watching movies and that’s being taken away from her. Her independence is disappearing too and my heart breaks for her. I cry just thinking about it.
Maybe that’s why I’m a writer. Maybe I like writing about emotions, about people and giving them a happy ending because I hate sad endings because they make me feel terrible. I left the theatres after seeing A Star is Born feeling like shit and I felt horrible for the rest of the day. I couldn’t shake the feeling of feeling dirty from it, which meant I hated the movie.
I think in a way, my empathy is killing me. Mentally, I’m being drained. And that’s why I like being by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I have so many people in my life that I love immensely. Not just my family, but people in the MM community. Brooke, Kat, Ki, Susan, Anita and so many more that I intensely love enough that the thought of them makes my heart clench in my chest. But being around people also hurts me. I feel everything they do, maybe even ten times worse. I cry so often lately because of something someone else has been through that I’m not even surprised anymore when the tears come.
Here’s the kicker, I work in a psychology clinic. Most of the time, I see people walk out of those psychologist rooms crying, and that starts me off. I have to go to the bathroom to wipe the tears away. Hell, they don’t even have to be crying for me to feel the deepest sympathies for them because they’re here, so they must be going through something they need help with. As a receptionist, I get phone calls of people begging to get into see a psych, and I’m the one who has to tell them we’re booked weeks in advance.
I studied psychology, completed my degree, but realized I couldn’t do it. I’d burn out fast. I mean, I know psychs have coping mechanisms in place, but honestly? I can barely deal with my empathy now, let alone sitting in a room listening to the horrible things people have gone through again and again.
Of course, this makes me easily manipulated and I’ve had people do it. They play with my emotions through their own. One person cried to get their own way and it worked. I’ve had to outright lie to get away from these kinds of people.
So how does this affect my writing? I’m terrible at communication. I try, I really do, but sometimes I need a break from social media. Sometimes I don’t have the mental energy to reply to comments. It’s not because I’m being rude, or I don’t appreciate your comment. I do. I really do. But I’m so mentally drained of feeling other people’s emotions, or just being around other people (even on the internet) that I need to walk away from it. And by the time I get back, I forget to reply to the comment.
And then there’s my reviews. I avoid them completely. The law of being an author is that everyone gets bad reviews, that just take them with a grain of salt and look at the positive ones. And that’s what I’ve tried to do before, but the negative ones always attack me the worst. I feel disappointed in myself, which then affects how I write. So to avoid that completely, I don’t read reviews. It’s not because I don’t appreciate them, because everyone’s allowed to have their own opinions. I’ve read best sellers which I absolutely hated. But to save myself the emotional scars, I don’t read any.
It’s not just happiness or sadness I feel, but every single emotion is so severe that it leaves me breathless. Over the last few years, it’s become worse. Maybe it’s because of what I’ve been through personally, I don’t know, but it’s there, growing more powerful to the point that I’m happy to be alone for long periods of time.
So please understand that if I don’t reply to comment or posts, it’s not because I’m being rude, but because I’ve needed me time. And that I truly appreciate every single person I see, talk to, and communicate with.