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  • Writer's picturemaestroandprincess

Not My Journey

When I was about 11 years old, my mother told me I was “such a little empath.” At the time, she and I shared a bedroom, and I would keep her up at night talking about other people’s pain. “Oh mom, this thing happened to so-and-so today, and I know she is probably crying herself to sleep. Do you think there is anything I can do?”

At the time, I didn’t understand what being an empath meant. I only knew that what hurt me most in this world was watching other people be hurt - by loved ones, friends, social injustices, you name it. Even people whose lives I did not know - just give me one story, one scenario, and I could wallow for weeks in what I perceived to be their pain. On the flip side, and less often unfortunately, I can feel others' joy. It's one of the reasons I love going to baseball games and Disneyland, the happiest places on Earth! But even that can be exhausting. Being an empath isn’t a gift; it’s a curse of some kind.

Like most of us, I’ve had my share of life sorrows, even the experience of losing a child. But I knew my resources and I recognized my strengths and I got through those. It was my inability to realize that other people also have resources and strengths that kept me up at night and ultimately led to my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.

After yeeeears of counseling (and loads of antidepressants) getting me nowhere, this last therapist finally opened my eyes with one very simple statement. I had been talking to her about a family member’s suffering, beating myself up for not being able to fix everything, unable to experience or share my own joy because I felt guilty for doing so. I was essentially letting myself be crushed by someone else’s sorrow.

This is what she said to me: “That’s not your journey. It’s hers.”

I mulled over this for weeks until I realized that even though I might feel others’ pain, I’m not responsible for it. People have as much right to their own sorrows as they do their joys, and my interference isn't serving any meaningful purpose. You're probably thinking it, but I'll go ahead and say it: I clearly had boundary issues!

And this was my lightbulb moment at the ripe age of 53 years. It was the moment my mantra became, “That’s not my journey.” (It also suspiciously reminds me of what my wife has been telling me for over a decade, “That’s not your business!” and “Stay in your lane!” LOL)

This has opened a door for me I thought was long ago closed. The door to my own joy. I can now walk past a person who is homeless, drop some dollars for them, and keep on moving without spending the rest of the day hurting. The money hasn’t alleviated my pain; I would have given that before anyway. And I don’t imagine I’ve fixed anything for them. But I’ve engaged in a small act of kindness, without judgment, and then I let them live their own life, feel their own feelings, go their own way. I pray for them and then I . . . Let It Go.

There are those who engage in activism in the face of social injustices, but I’ve done that to the point of my own detriment. That was my Act 1. In Act 2, I’m moving on. I have found my own happiness, I can revel in it, and I can even share it if I want to. If anyone finds that distasteful, well, I guess that’s their journey.

[Depression is a serious disease. If you are suffering from feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide, please seek help immediately. Talk to a trusted friend or loved one, dial 988, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.]


1 Comment

Jun 09, 2023

It’s amazing that the right insight delivered at the right time can change everything. I’m glad you are living your journey and embracing your joy!

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