Trials and Tribulations of an Empath

By: Fallon Henderson

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

I’m more in touch with every emotion I possess than most people are in their lifetime.  I’ve always been more of a sensitive soul, always a little deeper than my peers.  I remember hating it about myself to the point of faking any feeling or emotion that I deemed not ‘normal’ and replacing it with a different one, a better one, or just trying to not feel at all.  It became clear to me that I was different in Middle School when one day while at lunch with a group of my friends I declared how excited I was to go to college so I could have “deep conversations” (whatever that meant) to my 12 year old self.  My friends looked at me like I had 10 heads and proceeded to chug their juice boxes looking at one another smirking as I slumped down in my chair, embarrassed.

I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t wish my heart was more cold, but it can’t help but to flow so warm.  I’ve often felt far too sensitive for this world. Way too fragile.  Being a minority I especially felt like I was regarded as lame for being so in touch with my feelings and awkwardness, within the African American community it is a little taboo.  I feel so much at all times that back in the day when MTV was my life, and The Real World was the best reality show in the universe (now it’s a joke in my opinion) I would tear up during every last episode of whichever city’s season I was attached to at the time.  It was just so heartbreaking seeing roommate after roommate crying and hugging each other goodbye and leaving the family they had become.  

Now, before you start thinking ‘wow this girl is two seconds away from jumping off her roof’ know that I am happy, funny and super outgoing. I’m just a young woman who is in touch with her emotions and feelings, and other’s emotions and feelings.  I have been told my whole life that this is a bad thing. That feeling too much should be something I despise about myself, and I did for a very long time.  It made me question my mental health and I started regular therapy sessions trying to find answers, and maybe hoping to get techniques on how to become numb.  I especially hated it when it came to having friends who betrayed me and I couldn’t find a way to not care about them anymore. To just say “screw them” and get over it, walk away with my head held high and not giving it a second thought.  Let’s not even talk about ex’s… after every break up I was a complete mess, regardless if I had ended it or if they did, and if I was in love or if I wasn’t.  Reliving those feelings of loss and moments when we were happy all over again for months. 

So yes, in certain circumstances being in touch with what you’re feeling 24/7 and experiencing it all can feel like a curse, like the universe hates you.  However after many painful, emotionally messy years I can honestly say I’m finding peace and beauty in it finally.  Being so in touch with all my emotions, the good, bad and ugly has inevitably made me stronger and made my skin a little thicker.  I have learned from years of caring too much to not care as much.  I still have my bad days where I struggle with it but i’ve accepted it.  It is a part of my identity after all - denying it would be denying a huge part of myself. It makes me and girls like me unique, especially in this day and age where no one wants to feel anything or be vulnerable and transparent.  There was an episode of ‘Girls’ in which Lena Dunham’s character Hannah states “…I just wanna feel it all”, and that’s how I feel now.  I want to feel and I’m proud to be comfortable enough with who I am to feel it all.  It has switched from a burden I carried around to being healing.  It has made me face so many things and as a result I am a better person.  Sure, I have had people in my life not understand it or think I am weird, but those people are missing out on a wonderful person who is crazy woke… woke about the one thing that matters most to me. Me. 

I no longer apologize to myself or others for speaking my truth and sharing my feelings (good or bad) or simply crying over anything that moves me.  The dope part about it all is that once you accept certain parts of your personality you come across like-minded individuals.  For the first time I have friends who relate to me and it has helped me appreciate it even more.  In the words of Edie Brickell “What I am is what I am. Are you what you are, or what?”.