Saturday, July 9, 2016

What It's Like to be a Highly Sensitive Person with Depression

When I first identified some characteristics about myself that made me more sensitive to other's emotions, one of my friends told me I was an empath. What is an empath? Google identifies an empath as "a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual." I'm "paranormal"? I don't think of myself this way. Maybe I'm more of a "highly sensitive" person. This article from the Huffington Post identifies the characteristics of a highly sensitive person and sounds just like me.

These characteristics, in my mind, are what make me a great fit for the counseling profession. Many of the counselors and counseling students that I have met throughout my schooling have some of these characteristics as well. But how does I deal with feelings more deeply, being more emotionally reactive, and picking up emotional "vibes" from others when also trying to fight back the monster of depression? How do I separate my feelings from the feelings of others? How do I determine if it's my depression that is laying a weight on my soul or the depression of others?

For me, it has been about getting to know myself better. I have to do a lot of looking into myself, reflecting, meditating, and realizing what is coming from me and what is coming from someone else. This means that at times I have to separate myself from others. The support from my husband and his realization about my sensitivity helps as well. The recent events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting of police officers in Dallas has the internet reeling with negativity, anxiety, and tension. As a highly sensitive person, I found myself wrapped up in these feelings very quickly. I was pulled into arguments and discussions with people that really should not have mattered to me, people that are not a part of my life, that I would not be associating with at all if it weren't for Facebook. I started to talk to my husband about this negativity. His immediate reaction?
"You need to get off of Facebook."
So I did. But not for long. As a highly sensitive person, it's also hard for me to stay away. Not only do I feel more deeply, I sense others' pain and I want to do something about it. In these past few days, however, I have come to a realization. As a highly sensitive person, I need to remember that I am the most important person in my life. I need to focus on me and what makes me healthy first. I can't make anyone feel anything that they don't want to feel. If I let myself get wrapped up in the negativity and anxiety, that can turn into a depression trigger.

If you're like me and you get wrapped up in others' emotions, remember that it's ok to take a break. Take care of yourself. You deserve it.