Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Surviving In the World Of Anger When You Physically Absorb Feelings From Others

The world is angry right now. Or at least it seems that way as an American. People are either angry at the government, or they're angry at the people who are angry at the government. And I get it, trust me. While I won't get political much on here, suffice it to say that without insurance, my medications would be $1300 to $1600 per month. And that's just meds. So yes, I get the anger. I get the frustration. I have a stake in this, and I don't have my head in the sand. But the anger. It's like it's become a new weather pattern.

"Well, today, we'll see a 100 percent chance of extreme anger coming from all directions, a 75 percent chance of a nasty comeback and ensuing row in the comments section, and 30 percent chance of years of friendship being destroyed. Oh, and there's a minor chance of a rain shower this afternoon, so if you weren't already bringing your umbrella to protect you from the ensuing shit storm, may want to throw that in your bag." 

And I get it. But I am doing my utmost not to be consumed by it.  Not the issues, but the anger itself. As a person with strong HSP (highly sensitive person) and empath qualities (where you literally feel the emotions that other people are feeling), as well as decently severe anxiety and depression, the world is seems physically painful to me these days. I can't explain exactly how it feels, other than to say that it's almost like I absorb the energy and emotions of others, like I'm actually experiencing part of what they're experiencing. Not "I feel terrible for them and this is awful" but "I can physically feel their pain". I guess the best example I can give is, think of a person (or pet or being) that you're really passionate about. Think of the joy you see at your child accomplishing some goal that they've been working so hard for against all odds - how it can make you cry with happiness. Or the pain of seeing them so defeated or ill, how it can make you break down with sadness and grief. Or, for dog lovers, how it would feel to see a suffering, starved, innocent dog abandoned,  helpless. That emotion, that's how it feels to me. About everything. Not just my child, or my dog, or a homeless abandoned suffering dog. About everything, including other people's feelings. They're angry or upset about something? I physically feel it. They're happy? Tears of joy.

It's so much that I literally cry almost every morning, and half the time I don't know what it's about. It's just so emotional it's overwhelming. On occasion, it's happy and sad tears simultaneously. I'll hear or see something that's upsetting someone and burst into tears. Then I'll hear a song that makes me remember a great time with someone close and burst into tears. And none of this actually counts what's going on with me. This is all before you factor in my mood cycling and my anxiety, the anxiety and fear of life events or things going on in the world, or the general ups and downs of every day life. This is just from other people.

So how do I deal with it? Well, I wish I could say "better than I am". Right now, my tactics consist of the following:

  • Try to quietly do may part for those causes I'm passionate about - whether it's donating, taking an action, or supporting those who do/can. 
  • Help in ways that do not further fuel my anxiety and/or depression. I don't have to stand up and give a one-on-one speech, or call and personally chastise my local congressman or whoever it is. I can send emails. I can join peaceful marches and protests, I can sign petitions, advocate online, volunteer with a local chapter/organization helping them operate day to day.  Things like phone calls standing up to authorities aren't just something I don't enjoy (like a lot of people). They're something that sends me into severe anxiety attacks. So I don't do it. Because me gasping for breath while the room spins won't actually help anyone. But there are other ways that I could. 
  • Focus on my advocacy efforts, and how I can help others through them. Just because there are massive changes going on doesn't mean that helping an individual with their mental health or chronic illness is meaningless. In fact, to that person, I hope it's quite meaningful, and that means a lot to me. 
  • Focus on love and caring and kindness - to my fiance, family, friends, Grace, as well as offering caring and kindness to those who I may not know well/at all, and who need it. Like my spoonie community, for instance. I can't stop the angry - sometimes even within myself - and people, myself included, have every right to be angry. But I can try with everything I have not to let that anger completely displace love. 
  • Practice increased self-care. This mean taking additional time for things like yoga, reading, writing, time with loved ones, me time. Things that help my anxiety and depression and overall health and well-being.
These aren't, by any means, cure-alls. I still feel like a giant sponge soaked with the world's emotions. I still feel my own strongly. I still battle mood cycling and anxiety, because quite frankly those are their own entities, that were here long before the current situation and will be here regardless of the state of the world in the future. Yes, they're influenced by it, but they're not caused by it. That would be genetics at play. 

And I am in no way saying that those who are angry and protesting and calling their congressmen and meeting with their representatives and are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore should not be doing and feeling that way. I envy you, honestly. Because I'm angry too and I wish I could do that without becoming a ball of wreckage. To be frank, it's nice to see people so passionate again in general, because it felt like for a long time we were robots programmed to stare at our phones and give canned answers like "Busy! Ok. Good, how are you (as we kept walking and didn't wait for a reply)." Though I wish the circumstances under which we regained our passion were different, of course. I hate seeing arguments fester, people's friendships dissolved, families so divided. I simply am expressing what it feels like when you unintentionally absorb this from others, as some of us do, and how I'm working with it. To all of those raising hell out there, I appreciate you. So much more than I can express. You're doing what I cannot without sacrificing my health. And if I'm not healthy I can't help anyone, and so I have to toe the line, and do those things that I can do, hoping to somehow make a difference. 

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