Sunday, December 16, 2012

Healthy Empathy

Whenever something bad happened around me, it used to be a reason to stop eating. If a friend shared a rough day with me, I then had a rough day. If I read something painful in the news, I became overcome with sadness and owned the pain like it was my own. If a friend with an eating disorder relapsed, I then began struggling. If there was a problem in someones life, I ran to the rescue and put all of my effort and energy into helping. In every one of these scenarios I completely forgot about myself. I wasn't important, other people needed me. How could I spend the time taking care of myself when there were so many problems in the world and so many people so much worse off? How dare I be that selfish...

On Friday I shed a lot of tears for the shooting in Connecticut. Just like most other people, I was horrified by such a cruel act and felt (and continue to feel) for each innocent person whose life ended prematurely, especially the children. But I continued to eat every meal and snack. I did not need to force myself to suffer in order to grieve for this incident. No more pain was necessary. Having a good day on Friday, did not mean that I was being disrespectful to those who lost their lives.

Some days I still really suck at this. I am still learning emotional boundaries and how to separate myself from others trauma as well as how to use my empathy and compassion in a healthy way. Some days when I am struggling on my own I have to consciously force myself to remain in my own bubble, in order to adequately take care of myself. As someone who genuinely loves helping others and is a person that others feel comfortable turning to, sometimes this is really difficult. When I see suffering, it's hard to not want to take on others pain and help relieve the burden, but in reality, this isn't helpful. I am not God and I can not save/help everyone and it's prideful to believe that I can. I am slowly learning that I can support a friend, grieve a loss and still take care of myself. I don't need to go through someones exact pain in order to be able to lend an ear or a helping hand. Most importantly, if I am not healthy; mentally, physically and emotionally, then I won't be of service to anyone at all.

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