Tag Archives: self care

Struggling with Empathy

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blogpost. Even a longer time since I’ve had the desire to write one. But I’m trying to get back to my roots and writing is definitely the way to go, that’s what I’ve learned. After becoming more anxious over the recent years, I realized that the first thing to go was my writing. It used to be the only thing I had, and it became the thing I feared the most. Definitely something psychoanalytical about that… but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about empathy.

Empathy is the ability of an individual to picture a situation in someone else’s shoes, to feel how he or she feels. Most people are capable of empathy, and often times, they are able to separate self from other.

I am not one of those people who can do the separation thing. This is a problem.

I always found it interesting that I could be extroverted for long periods of time, and people would automatically call me an extrovert because of how social I am and how easily I agree to hang out and do things with them. Meanwhile, I felt like I was an introvert because I felt like I needed a lot of down time in comparison to other extroverts I know. Yet, the amount of “recovery time” was always significantly less than my introvert counterparts… so I declared myself an ambivert. What I finally realized is that I AM an extrovert, but I’m also too much of an empath.

What that means, to my understanding anyway, is that I take on others’ emotions as my own, and since I don’t know how to distinguish mine from others, I end up internalizing them. Thus, as a natural way for my mind and emotions to re-regulate, I have those moments of introversion. Basically, in stressful environments (schools, libraries, meetings, etc) I become stressed even when I’m not. When people tell me things that happen in their lives, happy/sad/anything in between, I feel how they do and it sticks with me. This becomes a major problem in my day-to-day functioning.

Because, hi, not only do I struggle with my OWN mood disorders, I now have added emotions to figure out that don’t even belong to me! And this is a roadblock to my dream career, because… how do you become a social worker or mental health professional when you can’t separate yourself? You can’t. It’s game over.

So what I’ve learned is that I need to get my shit together (for a lack of better phrase) and address this issue. So my goal in therapy now is not to figure out how to cope with my depression and anxiety, though still very important and a priority, it’s to distinguish what is mine and what isn’t mine. Moreover, I have to learn to be empathetic without losing myself to some empathic struggle.

This is a new chapter in my road to self-discovery… because really, how can I discover myself if I can’t figure out what I’m truly feeling?

If I get any useful tips, I’ll be sure to share them!

 

-Ling

 

 

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Solitude

We live in a world where we have to be constantly connected; where our routine dictates the first thing that we do is reach for our phones in the morning, and the last thing we touch at night. We check for missed calls, text messages, email, and every other social media platform we have. We have an incessant need to be in constant company of other people–even virtually. The idea of being alone is frowned upon, and the assumption is that anyone who is alone is lonely.

For instance, when you get to a certain point in your life, it’s almost a sin to be single. You start getting pressured to date, or being interrogated as to why you aren’t, as if there’s some sort of defect. It’s as if the idea of not wanting a relationship or not wanting to be with someone is ludicrous. The idea that you just want to be, and live your life by yourself is so foreign, almost. So much so, that companionship is so important that hookup culture is accepted because you’re not technically alone, almost as if friendship doesn’t count anymore–like friends don’t count as company. And the worst part of the belief that we always need to be around people is that you can’t tell anyone that you just need alone time without someone thinking that you’re depressed or upset.

Why?!?!

We live in a world with so many different types of people and different personalities. Some people are introverts and they just need to be by themselves to recharge after a grueling day of being around people all the time. Some people, like me, are extroverts who just want to relax, too. What’s so bad about being by yourself? It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in isolation or that you can’t be with other people, though sometimes it may be the case. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.” (Stronger, 2011). Sometimes being alone is required to recharge after a long day, or a long week. It’s not isolation, it’s solitude. And to some that may mean the same thing, it doesn’t. The difference between isolation and solitude is in how you feel. If you feel lonely while you’re alone, and dread or despair, that’s isolation. On the other hand, if you feel free or creative and just content with being by yourself, that’s solitude.

I personally struggle with the thought being alone. I always thought that being alone meant that I was isolating myself and that is bad, especially after I accepted that I struggle with depression and all the self-help books told me that I shouldn’t be alone. But that’s not true at all, sometimes I just like it. It’s nice not to have to expunge energy on other people all the time. It’s nice to just lay in bed, rest, and relax. There’s a freedom and lightness to not having to constantly check your phone and just do your own thing. It’s nice, and healthy! There are times when you need people, and there are times when you just need yourself. And when you need to just be on your own, and you’ll be okay just being on your own, go for it! Enjoy the solitude!

There are times when I will go places by myself, which is something I tend not to do, and it makes me feel good. Going out to a restaurant alone, getting my hair and nails done alone, walking outside alone all feel empowering at times. It gives me a chance to focus on the other people and my environment without being distracted by my company. It gives me a chance to enjoy my own company, something that rarely happens. And I learn a lot about myself when I’m alone, like the fact that I’m not as thrilled with people as I think I am. I am programmed to be so afraid of being alone with my own thoughts that I purposely throw myself into social situations, even when all I want to do is to be by myself and write. To be by myself period. I think that if I’m left alone long enough, I’ll spiral downwards. And that could be true, but the other half of the time when I’m alone and not lonely, I feel great! And I get to free my creative urges and write. So being alone isn’t all bad.

Also, there was a period in my life when I felt really alone and lonely. Eventually, that isolation became a positive thing. The loneliness faded when I accepted myself for who I was, and then I wasn’t so afraid to be alone anymore. And being alone made me happy. Made me confident. I became much more self aware and in tune with me. I had a new sense of self worth and it was great. Then I started dating because that’s what you do, right? And I threw myself into work and school–constant exposure to people. And eventually, I started losing myself again because I didn’t have any alone time. I was constantly around people. Constantly ignoring me and my needs. And when everything came tumbling down, I realized that I just need me time. And that’s what I’m doing now. The past few months of being alone, I wasn’t really… and the ones that I was, were the bad ones. I’m hitting the positive alone time now–the solitude. And I feel really excited about it. I’m writing again, and I feel lighter.

I am going to embrace the solitude because I need to, and maybe you do too. We all get burned out from always being connected with others, so maybe we should connect with ourselves a bit more to even out the score.

 

-Ling

Self First

Growing up, I was told that if I didn’t take care of myself, no one else will. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that no one else CAN.

No one else knows what we’re experiencing. There’s no way to truly communicate that. We can try verbalizing or using other means of communication, but another person can only get the gist. No one else knows what we really need. Heck, sometimes we don’t even know what we really need. But it’s up to us as individuals to figure that out. We’re all different, and we can’t go through life the same way.

I was told that my priority was school. That I had to finish school before my life could start. Finish college before dating. Finish college to find a good job. Finish school first! I haven’t finished school yet. I couldn’t.

It’s hard for me to admit because I think it’s shameful. But the matter of fact is, I did not finish college. In fact, I was academically dismissed from two different colleges. Why? Because I never put myself first. I knew I was struggling, all the signs were there, but I kept pushing. I didn’t get the help I needed, didn’t ask for the support that I needed. I was too embarrassed. School was always easy for me. I’m not stupid, and I did well academically. So when I started slipping, it felt like someone pulled the rug from underneath me. Then I became preoccupied with it. One failure became multiple, and all of a sudden, I lost control of everything. I didn’t put myself first. I put other people’s expectations first… or what I perceived as their expectations. The greatest relief for me came when my sister told me, “School is just school.” Wow. I never felt pressure leave me so fast as it did then. She told me that I mattered more than any degree could, and that I needed to focus on myself. I listened for a while, and then back to fitting the mold.

I had a nagging feeling about not finishing school, so I immediately transferred into a different one when I returned to NYC. Let’s just say, that was not beneficial to me at all. I still lacked the motivation, even though I was excited of the prospect of going to pursue a dream career. And again, it all came crashing down. I was not ready for school again. I didn’t even take the time to really work on myself before I jumped back in, assuming I was doing what I wanted and needed. Then I did take a semester off, and in that time I was itching to go back to school. I missed it. So, I thought I was ready. I did my summer class, and aced it. Then fall semester came, and I registered for 5-6 classes. I could’ve done 4, but I am always the overachiever. I felt that if I didn’t have enough work, it would be meaningless. But turns out, I took on too much too soon. So, some classes gave and others I worked my butt off to complete. That was a pattern. I could only handle so many classes, but I thought I was invincible, that next time would be different. Let me tell you, nothing changes if you haven’t changed in between that time.

So, I realized my passion for school dimmed again. Next best thing? Find a job. Maybe working would make me want to go back to school, and it would help me prepare for the future. So I got a job. It was supposed to be part time, turned out to be full-time. My first actual full-time job and I was ecstatic. I went in, did the job, and did it well. I felt great. Then, the stress of the job and my inadequate self-care piled on. Six months in, and I couldn’t manage anymore. Taking sick days, coming in late, just all the things that I should not be doing. Unprofessional to a fault. That’s where I was. The next step from there? I could’ve kept going, my boss was supportive and caring, but I know I was taking on too much and it was taking a toll on me. So my next step was to quit.

I hate quitting. I am stubborn to a fault, and quitting means admitting defeat. That does not sit well with me at all. I also really liked my job, so I didn’t want to quit. But everything my body and mind were telling me was that I cannot handle it. So that’s what I did.

I had to make difficult decisions in order to focus on myself. I like to think that I’m getting a bit better at it. I’ve enrolled in community college now, yeah clearly school still has a hold on me, but I’m going to take it easy this time around. I’m going to take it easy on myself and be practical instead of hopeful.