When You Feel Too Much
by Erin Honor
Let’s talk about feelings.
Each and every one of us experiences emotion in different ways. Yes we all feel the basics: happy, sad, angry, excited, nervous, etc… But the ways in which we experience these emotions and how we react to them vary greatly.Same goes for the world.Each and every one of us lives on the same planet. Yes our environment greatly impacts the way in which we experience the world – but we still all live in the same one. Again, the way we see and react to the world on us varies greatly.
So here we are, all of us humans bumbling around on the earth, feeling all the feelings – going through life, some of us like to keep our feelings to ourselves, some of us wear their feelings on their sleeve. Regardless, who a person is, their mentality, their heart… No matter how hard they try to keep it in, it seeps through their skin. It surrounds them. I know that talking about a person’s aura is completely woo-woo and ridiculous to a lot of people, but whether you believe or not, it’s hard to deny that we have an instinctual sense of a person before we even speak to them. If a person is sad, we can normally tell, or if they are worked up. If someone is generally not a good person, we tend to get a bad feeling about them – and if someone is a good person, we tend to feel safe around them without even really knowing them.
Some people are more sensitive to this – these auras are whatever you want to call them – some people are entirely consumed by how big the world is and how much is going on in it. Some people feel everyone else’s “stuff”, they take it in, let it soak in through their skin, they let themselves be consumed by the troubles of others. They want to take all the pain away from everyone in the world even if it means completely destroying themselves.These are the types of people that I want to talk about today.These are highly sensitive people (also called Empaths if you’re into the more out-there hippy-dippy stuff.. which I am).
Some of us, myself included, from the time we were old enough to have any awareness of the world around us, could feel the “stuff” in the world around us in such a way that it becomes a part of us.. It’s hard to explain.The best explanation of a highly sensitive person (and an extreme situation of it) is found in the book/film The Secret Life of Bees. In this story, one of the characters, May, is a bit of a mess. When she sees the news and something bad is happening in the world, when someone around her is experiencing pain, she completely breaks down. When describing May, he sister tells the story of how May was originally a twin. Her twin sister, April, and she were so connected to each other that they legitimately felt every bit of joy, pain, etc. that the other did. Her sister even tells of how when their father would take a belt to April, welts would rise up on May in the same places April’s did. Eventually, April died. When this happened, “the whole world became May’s sister.”
I remember the first time I heard this line in the movie, it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Wow! I knew that feeling! I knew what it was like to feel all of the pain in the world to such a degree that it would cause me to physically break down. It was the first time that I felt less like an over-sensitive freak show who was too pathetically emotionally involved in everyone and every thing in my life to even function properly. Beyond just feelings all the feelings, there is another (destructive) part to being a highly sensitive person – see, when you care so deeply about others that their pains become your own, you tend to become the go-to person for everyone to come to with their problems. You sit with them, listen to them, cry tears for them, their pains become yours and you will do anything to take those away from them.
You’ll overextend yourself to others – giving away all that you can possibly give just to make sure the people around you are happy. It is wonderful – but it is also exhausting. It is exhausting to live in a world where your entire life is consumed by trying to bare the weight of the entire world.
You will break down sometimes, shut down, it will all be too much. Of course, the people around you won’t know this. You are their go-to person. You are the one to talk to. You can’t be sad or struggling. You need to be strong for everyone. If you’re not strong, you can’t take care of everyone, if you can’t take care of everyone you are a bad person, if you can’t take care of anyone, you are nothing.
And so you develop these crazy semi (or, let’s be honest, completely) codependent relationships with every single person in your life. They are using you as their rock, what keeps them steady (and sometimes an emotional punching bag if the person kinda-sorta sucks) all while you are using them to help you feel like you deserve to exist in this world. Being the one who cares about everyone and loves deeply and helps everyone – that is who you are – if you fail to be that person to the degree that you are, you are nothing. You don’t exist.
Here’s the thing though, no one human being can hold the entire weight of the world on their shoulders forever, nor does any one human need to (the crazy part of my brain would argue this… no! the whole world is good and I am bad! I need to take all the pain away from the world because I am the only person in the world who deserves pain… yeah, not egotistical at all).
Eventually, your legs will buckle and you’ll fall. And no one will be able to catch you.Because suddenly you are not the person with the smiling face and the never-ending capacity to love and listen and care. Suddenly you are breaking down. You can’t hold anyone up at all anymore. You push people away because you don’t know what else to do. You are no longer good and helpful – and because of this, you deserve nothing. No love. No friendship. Nothing.
When you are no longer good and helpful, you no longer exist. Still, you feel the entire weight of the world – only this time you are unable to do the one thing that made you feel even the smallest bit worth something -Helping others.
Fact of the matter is, taking on the weight of the entire world is really just a way for us to avoid our own emotions.. To face ourselves. Oh! I have no time to think about my own problems! I’m fine! Honest! Do you need to talk? I’m here for you. Always. We take on everyone else’s stuff in a desperate attempt to stuff our own struggles down. However, no matter how far down you shove it, like a floatie in a pool, it’s always going to rise to the surface. You’ll have to face yourself. You won’t want to face yourself. You’ll shut down. You’ll maybe even self-destruct. Collapse in on yourself.
It’s all too much.
I feel too much.
Why do I care this much?
This isn’t normal.
Why does no one ever care about me as much as I care about them?
I need to turn my mind off for a little while.
Eventually, you will need to seek out some sort of help. This is hard for you – you are used to giving help, nor receiving it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unsafe. You’re not worth it.You were light.. But bit by bit, you gave your light away to everyone else. You gave away everything you had and was left in the dark.
It’s all about setting healthy boundaries – something that I, after 21 years of crying because a tree is going to get cut down or something equally absurd, am only just learning how to do. You need to learn how to put your hands up sometimes and say sorry, but you have to take care of yourself for a little while. You can still be the person who helps everyone. You can still be the person that people sit and talk to even when they barely know you because they “just feel safe.” You can still be all those things, but even more.
Because now, instead of giving away all of your light, you’re keeping it. You’re using it to better not only others, but yourself. You are realizing that your worth goes beyond your ability to help others. That is just a part of you, it is not all of you. You are worth existing just for the simple reason that you do exist. Just by existing in this world as you, the whole you, is enough. It’s more than enough.I wish I could say more about this magical place where you learn to use how deeply you feel things to be there for others in a way that many can’t all while also protecting yourself. How you can live in this world and take it all in without feeling like the walls are closing in around you because the world is too big and you are too small.
I’m not there yet.
But I will be