That Which Doesn’t Kill You….

“That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”  “That which doesn’t kill you, almost kills you.”

Two sides. Same coin. Two truths. Same experience.

Would you ever choose to live through the same traumatic experience again? Of course not. Would you recognize that you survived and became a stronger human being as a result of the traumatic experience? Of course. In fact, a resounding yes. Because the deeper truth is that survival by necessity contains growth. You would not be who you are today without your experiences behind you.

I am told that as a child, I was fearless. Determined. Undaunted. Great qualities, right? But what happens when fear comes knocking on your door. You are so young that you don’t recognize it. Your fearlessness is your innocence. And then someone assaults you. And now you are no longer fearless. Your innocence has been stolen  forever. That was my first traumatic experience, and it changed the trajectory of my life.

You see, trauma changes you. You are not who you were before. You are not lesser, but you are different. You become a different person than you would have been had you remained untouched. You learn a different kind of strength born of the pain. But you still wish that it never happened. And that’s where the  two sides of that saying, of that coin, will always stay with you.

I don’t know who I would be or who I would have become had I not experienced trauma. I can tell you that it took a long time to heal and that I am still healing. I can tell you that I remain open enough to love deeply and that I have learned when it is safe to be open and when it is not. I can tell you that I am a nurturing mother and that my career choice has been to work with children. I can tell you that I am an empath and that I recognize it is my gift and my calling.

Trauma. Resilience. Two sides of the same coin.




Rest and Recover

Go, go, go, collapse. Sound familiar? I’m in the cycle now on the collapse end and wondering how I got here once again. Or maybe I know. Kind of. Empaths have broad shoulders. We can bear a lot and we can carry a lot for ourselves and for others. But everyone has a breaking point, the point when your body tells you, “No, not today you’re not.” Sickness grabs your attention like no other.

I used to curse being sick because it stopped me from doing the things that I needed to do. The things that HAD to get done. The things that no one else was going to do. Guess what? The world keeps on turning and disaster does not strike when you are laid up in bed for a few days.

A wise man told me that sickness is your body’s way of forcing you to slow down. Previously, I considered sickness as an impediment to getting things done. He was telling me that sickness has a purpose all its own, and that I needed to listen to it. It was forcing my hand.

So I have accepted that when I get sick, my body is telling me that I am taking on too much and that I need a break. I need to take care of myself and let others take care of me. This sounds obvious, but not so to an empath. We are often the caregivers for others, and we feel that we are failing if we need to take time off. We will helpfully plow along until we literally can’t. It’s an oft repeated line that bears repeating here – “You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself.”

When you are sick you need to change the expectations for yourself until you are better. Rest is the best medicine, so take it, and take a lot of it. Give yourself the same caring advice that you would give a sick friend. Although it is hard for an empath to do, ask for help. Others (including those who love you) are not going to just know what to do and step in. Tell them what you need and ask for help.

Rest and recover. That’s my current mantra. And when I am impatient with myself, I warn myself of the mantra’s polar opposite. No rest, no recover. Listen to your body.

I Am Who I Am – Self-Reflection

“I am who I am” is a simple but powerful statement. It’s born of self-reflection. “I am who I am” suggests strength from deep and accepting self-knowledge. The sentence mirrors self-confidence. “I am who I am” means that one is self-aware without being self-conscious.

Empaths are known for feeling deeply, but we also are deep thinkers. Considerers. We are bold in a quiet way. We have the ability to feel a situation as soon as we walk into a room. This is a gift that takes time to learn to manage. Empaths sense the emotions around them quickly, but we need time to process what that means for us and for the others in the room. We feel. We listen. We think. But often between listening and thinking, we need to exit the situation for time to process. We need time in the day to pause away from others for clarity of thought, word, and deed.

Knowing who you are in a given situation and knowing who you are when you are alone comes from self-reflection. It is the joining of the public and private you. It is the “I am who I am.” Empaths tend to be more conscious of this duality. When self-acceptance and self-expression become friends and exist hand in hand, our lives are more peaceful. And empaths enjoy the swirls of emotion but crave the contentment of peace.

There are many paths to increase self-knowledge and self-perception to create a more peaceful  life. Do whatever works for you. Feed your spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual soul. Appeal to your senses. Build daily time in your schedule for this endeavor. Try different activities to see what works for you. I am a candle lighter. (Scented tea lights are portable and will burn out on their own.) I am a dog walker. (I go out in nature daily.) I am a sayer of prayers and affirmations. (Help! Thanks! Wow!) I am a yoga practitioner. (Daily – to help my back.) I am a listener of music. (Loudly, alone in my car every day with music available to express every emotion.) I am a reader. (Especially of memoirs and historical fiction.) I am a nurturer. (I spend as much time as I can with those I love and who love me back.)

Who are you? What do you or can you do to nurture yourself, to claim, and to know “I am who I am.”?

Defiant Joy

Conflict. We don’t like it. For empaths, conflict inflicts emotional overload. We feel our emotions strongly, and we feel the emotions of the others disagreeing with us strongly. Their emotions feel like an attack. A physical onslaught. What’s an empath to do?

If it’s a flight or fight scenario, I can tell you that our instinct is to run. To vacate the premises is a vote for self-preservation. This is often mistakenly interpreted as giving in to the other side. It is not. It is leaving to get away from the hostility and to re-group for another, and hopefully better, discussion.

The word “conflict” implies a serious and often prolonged argument or disagreement. Empaths don’t look for arguments, but neither do we back down to injustices. Sometimes we are thrust into the position to advocate for ourselves and others. We likely feel passionate about our view, yet physically incapable of a shouting match. Which is a good thing. Shouting feels like violence to us. (And please know, if you are shouting at an empath, they don’t even hear your words. They just hear yelling and will get away from you as quickly as possible.)

I’ve learned two tactics to arm myself in times of ongoing conflict. One is to prepare. The other is to pause.

I am in a situation now where I need to advocate for someone in my family who I love very much. So my advocacy is also steeped in emotion. I recognize this, and to handle it, I switch gears. I go to my head and educate myself. I will go into the meetings required better prepared than anyone else in the room. I will stick to the issues – which is what is best and fair for my family member. I have learned that with planning and presenting information in a clear but not accusatory way often is enough to accomplish your goals.

The second tactic is to pause. If a situation is not going well, and clearly the conflict and hostility are rising in the room, stop everything. Push the pause button. Do not agree to anything except the next time to meet and discuss the issue. Time and thought can be a game changer. The key is to remember that you do not have to agree to anything on someone else’s time table.

Now here is the hardest part for me – ONGOING conflict which requires ongoing advocacy. Dedication is required on a whole other level. It can be exhausting. Close to soul crushing. You will need defiant joy. Defiant because you will not give up. You will continue defying those who block you.  Joy because you can still feel happiness in your life in the midst of this conflict. Defiant joy is a choice you can make when those around you say that you have no choice. Yes, you do. Exercise it.