The Power of Empathy

10:36 PM

Hello from the other side.....

I have been so diligent with updating my other blog and have come to see that yet again, this poor baby gets neglected. But today I had some serious thoughts and thought it would be the perfect post to get back started on here again as well.

The keyword: Empathy

Let’s start from the beginning:

A part of my job is teaching an Anger Management course and last week I was reminded of empathy because it’s one of the topics we talk to our clients about. It is such a simple skills that can build such powerful relationships, yet it is so easily forgotten or is misguided.

People seems to have no problem differentiating between sympathy and empathy, but when they actually put these skills to use, its amazing how quickly we move to sympathizing.

This is the video I show my class and I think it perfectly sums up sympathy and empathy. I have buff, “manly men” get moved by this video, so I highly suggest taking the 3 minutes of your life to watch it.

Now, if you’ve been following my other blog, you’ll know that psychologically I’ve been struggling a bit since my diagnosis. I won’t go too much into it, but I wanted to mention this because though I have been struggling, one of the most empowering feelings I’ve felt is when someone empathizes with me. I’m not saying they need to know what the illness feels like to understand what I am going through, but there is something I am going through that they can connect with and it’s so moving.

I know a lot of people who show me sympathy genuinely care and just want to see me feel better and get back to “normal”. They don’t like seeing me in pain and I appreciate it. But when I can connect with other people’s experiences it reminds me that I am not alone.  And feeling alone, isolated, or like a burden is such a daunting feeling that really consumes you.

My mom and I have built this crazy strong relationship over the last month and a bit due to my illness. Unfortunately it’s because we can both connect over autoimmune disorders and the pains and aches you go through with it. When I’m having a really rough day, she just knows. She can see it in the way I move, the way I carry myself and talk, or even just look. And as a mother of course the first instinct is to protect your child and take away the pain, but she knows she can’t. So she empathizes with me. She talks me through what’s going on and we bond over similar experiences. She doesn’t try to solve my problem but instead reminds me that yeah, it really sucks and there are going to be days that are better and worse than today, but we can get through this. Sometimes she even just hugs me, and that’s enough.  I have a new found appreciation for my mom because I didn’t understand what she was going through. I didn’t understand how she could be so tired from doing next to nothing. I didn’t understand the mental courage it takes to not give into these illnesses and that there is nothing scarier than fighting with yourself. I admire now how much she has accomplished, even on her worst days and she has become my biggest inspiration to keep pushing forward and be stronger as I work my way through this.

Even my friendships have evolved through this journey because of empathy. One of my best friends has IBS, and although it’s not the same level of illness, there is still so much we have bonded over because of it. As funny as it is, having someone who I can freely discuss my poop problems with is a blessing. She has helped me change my thinking in that pooping is not a big deal, it’s a fact of life and something we all do so why should I be embarrassed about it? I cannot thank her enough for our friendship. She is someone who really does know me sometimes better than I know myself. I don’t need to explain myself to her and I don’t need to tell her when there’s a problem because she just knows. She was there when I publicly cried in Orlando and she didn’t try to stop me or hush me or even solve my problem. She just let me cry, because she knew I just needed to do it. It was something so simple, but again it was exactly what I needed. I think if she had tried to solve my problem or hushed me and took me away to the washroom to cry in private, I would have felt embarrassed or silly. I would have felt like I was being dramatic. Instead I felt like “yeah, this is a shitty situation and I’m in a lot of pain and right now I just need to have a good cry and then I can get back on my feet again.” And that’s exactly what I did. I cried and then we got back up and continued our day and I felt a little better for whatever reason.

My boyfriend also excels at empathy and I bet he doesn’t even realize it. He’s seen me at some of my most unattractively and sickly stages of the illness. I can see the worry across his face and can see his heart actually break when he looks at me, but it’s in those moments that he just hugs me. He just pulls me in to this tight hug, strokes my hair, and tells me he loves me. And when he says it, I can feel how much he means it. And this just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It may not solve my problem, but it gives me the strength to keep pushing. To know there are so many people rooting for you, who know how tough this has been on you, but see your own strength and courage- it makes you want to fight harder and find your own solutions. It makes you want to get back up and try again. It makes you want to face whatever demons may be lurking ahead of you, because again, you are not alone.

Empathy is so much more than just walking in another person’s shoes. It’s about giving the opportunity for someone to feel like they belong, they are accepted, and they are not alone. Because when we ourselves are in pain, we usually aren’t seeking for someone to solve our problems for us- usually we just want someone to show they care and that is why it’s so important and so empowering.

But I am off to bed! Goodnight lovely readers.



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