Drowning on Dry Land
Being empathetic sometimes feels like drowning. When I was a kid, my cousin and I were swimming and in his panic of no longer feeling the floor beneath him he began to drown. In an attempt to save him, rather than throw him a flotation device, I swam to him and he latched on to me. In his panic he began pushing me under the water to keep himself above water. I struggled with everything in me to get us to safety and every second that passed felt like an eternity.
Have you ever experienced near drowning? The rush of emotions that overtakes you and the physical exhaustion that simultaneously assaults you is almost unbearable. I have not experienced this again thankfully but somehow today I feel like I am drowning. I am drowning on dry land.
Empathy, is something that not everyone has and so it can be hard to explain to others. For me it’s like trying to usher someone to safety all while being pushed under water. This may make others wonder, “why in the world would you subject yourself to such conditions?”. The short answer is, it’s the way I’m wired. When others hurt, I hurt. When others are overjoyed I am as well. Over the years I have developed strategies and processes to protect myself from being continually drained from all the ups and downs, but I have also learned that I am the way I am for a reason. Some people wall off and are not able, while still other people have no desire to be empathetic. Me, I want to be and am thankful for it.
Just like the day I helped my family member to safety, opening myself to the full realm of the human experience is draining. However, it is also a blessing. A blessing where love abounds and hope lives in a day and age where it all too often feels like I cannot feel the floor beneath my feet and I am drowning on dry land. I may be taking shallow breaths in this moment but I’m still breathing.
I guess I’m not drowning after all.