I have always been an empath, and have found it to be both one of my greatest gifts, and my greatest curse. It’s taken me a long time to understand, why I have never been able to watch violence on TV or in movies, or why it’s so unnerving for me to be around fake people, or why I seem to be a magnet for the broken, wounded, helpless, and voiceless. In the now 3rd decade of my life, my awareness of what it means to be an empath keeps growing, and I’m learning how to protect myself and my spirit, in an ever-increasingly, senselessly violent world.
I acknowledge that the world has always been a violent place. But there is something about the global inter-connectedness of everything in today’s world, that makes it feel different. It’s a world that has been fashioned by technologies, which are quickly moving beyond what we can handle as a race of people, ethically. It’s a world where instead of building each other up and elevating our consciousness, we glorify and tempt our basest instincts; lust, wrath, greed, power, shallowness, depravity etc. Our hunger for these things is not only preyed upon with advertising and media bombarding us every moment of the day, but celebrated and rewarded with power and control. We are a world that is over-stimualted, yet insatiably bored. We are able to access the entire wealth of human knowledge and history at the click of a button, yet our intellectualism is faltering and disappearing. The sheer speed at which everything is moving, feels a lot like a train that is speeding out of control.
For as long as I can remember, I have been so painfully sensitive, that I cannot turn off the switch which causes me to absorb the energy of others. The world today, is crying louder than ever in one voice of pain. And I can’t stop hearing it.
On the upside, (and yes there IS an upside to all the heaviness I laid out above), being an empath has made me one hell of a caregiver. I don’t actually think I could’ve done a great job without the gift of empathy. It is something that all caregivers need to have in their arsenal, and plenty of it, when taking on this task. Prior to Patrick’s brain injury, I had never personally known real horror. But when an empath experiences tragedy, whatever walls were around their already transparent heart, are blown completely off. And so it was with me.
I wonder to myself, if other caregivers find themselves now hyper-sensitive to the violence in our world? Does the violence strikes a chord within their own PTSD? The recent events of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, is weighing so heavy on my heart, that it’s like their gunned-down bodies are pressing on top of it. I read a story earlier about a mother, who was texting back and forth with her son at the nightclub for about 45 minutes at 2 a.m, while she sat on the phone with police. “I love you Mommy,” he wrote. And then he died. He died that night. His mother never saw his face again.
“Can you imagine,” I heard a woman say at the nail-salon say today, “being that mother? She must have felt so helpless. I can’t imagine her panic.”
I didn’t say anything. But the truth is, I can imagine her panic. Because I know what it is to feel helpless. And I know what it is to feel sheer terror cripple your heart, while a small bit of hope remains untouched by death, until/unless you get the call that snuffs it out forever.
The night before Patrick’s accident, he called me in a dark, emotional state of distress. He only said to me “Are you ok?” to which I responded “I’m ok. But are YOU? I’m worried about you.” Then, Patrick hung up. I tried to call him back, but he wouldn’t answer.
Many people don’t know this part of our story. Many people don’t know, that we hadn’t spoken for 3 months before his accident, or that he called me two hours before getting hit by a car, and we only exchanged 12 words. Many people don’t know, that I paced around the Weston Hotel in Los Angeles at a music convention, which I’d been waiting 8 months to attend, with my brand new CD in hand, unable to think, and worried sick out of my mind. I had the worst feeling in my gut. I texted him over and over again for hours. But he was 2,0000 miles away. I could do nothing.
The next morning, I woke up with a terrible feeling in my heart, that grew worse as the day went on. I knew something horrible had happened. And I was right. Many people don’t know, that I flew to Florida because of 12 words. They don’t know that I flew to him, because I was the person he chose to call. I felt like that meant something. And I just had to be there.
Anyway, when I finished reading the story of that mother and her son, I realized that my heart was pounding out of my chest. I could see the mother pacing her house, begging God to save her son, pleading with the cops to get to the club faster, feeling relief every time her son texted her back, and then feeling absolute terror when he finally stopped. And then… the concrete wall and subsequent drowning of grief, when she got the news that he had been shot down.
I’ve never lost a son. And Thank God, I didn’t lose Patrick. But my empath heart has absolutely no doors left on it. TBI will do that you. TBI will strip off your shields and protective armor, and leave you totally exposed. My heart is an open, bleeding wound that never heals, because it never stops feeling my boyfriend’s pain, and the universal pain of a weeping world in trouble. Which means I am called to be a healer, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my life.
All I can say, is what I know. And what I know is this: that Love is the supreme, the upmost, the holiness, the sacred, the divine, the healer, and the answer. We are all at war. We’re at war with each other. We’re at war with ourselves. We’re at war with the ugliness in human nature. We’re at war with the hunger for blackness inside ourselves, which when fed is never full, but only hungrier for more. We’re at war globally. And we’re at war in our tiny homes with our kids, and our spouses and our co-workers, that number by the millions across our country.
And in the world of Traumatic Brain Injury, which for me, makes up so much of my little planet with Patrick, we are at war with what was, and what will never be. We are at war with what tries to divide us and break our love every day. We are at war with spasticity and tone, OCD and paranoia, left-sided weakness and drop-foot, dysarthria and exhaustion, tangential thinking and balance issues, comprehension and reasoning, rage and sadness.
We fight our daily battle with Love.
Tennessee Williams once wrote: “We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is Love.” Sometimes it feels like I’ve been running into burning buildings all my life, to rescue Love. Whatever singeing has occurred aside, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And anyway, maybe that’s what it means to be a true caregiver, girlfriend and advocate after all:
Fighting the fires of TBI….with the waters of Love.
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