This one goes out to all the friends, siblings, parents, and mentors who listen, think, advise, and bear the burden of others’ troubles, often as your own. It’s a gift, but it’s a heavy one; so make sure that whatever you offer to others you offer back to yourself.
Balance. It’s what we should all be seeking, but is rarely a priority until we’ve finally hit rock-bottom. Because how can you give advice, love, or even the smallest bit of attention when you’re constantly running on empty? You have nothing left, and it’s here where we are often invited to dance with depression. Some may resist the temptation, but many of us fall right in without even noticing. Because it’s dark; it’s quiet; it’s a void that’s misleadingly easy to crawl into, but despairingly hard to climb out of.
I am always seeking balance, whether I notice it or not. I am an Omnivert, which means that I act introverted or extroverted depending on the setting, mainly in an attempt to create balance in the social atmosphere. I can read environments really well. I can analyze people and situations almost instantly, which adjusts the way I present myself, my voice, my tone, and my words as to not create any serious friction.
If I had to describe myself in these settings, I don’t think I would be plain vanilla, but closer to Neapolitan—just enough to be interesting, but not enough to be the interest of everyone in the room. And I like that. It’s comfortable.
What often accompanies omniverts, however, is getting along with just about everyone you meet—mainly to avoid altercations. But that means people open up to you. You’re a good listener. And all of a sudden you’re 5 stories deep in a person’s journey with their mental health, and so you empathize. And you give whatever you think might help them: Advice. A pep talk. A shoulder to cry on. Whatever they need, because you feel for them. You want to help them. You’re their momentary therapist.
This happens a lot with close friends and even family too, not just total strangers. And truthfully, it can be worse for your mental health, because you suddenly become their ‘go-to’ person. No barriers, no wait time. You’re their instant solution, advice-giver, and vent machine rolled into one. You’re one phone call or text away. And that puts a toll on you as a human being, someone with their own unique set of problems and issues. Why? Because it leaves you with less time to work on you, fix you, and refill your cup. And that’s where the danger lies.
It’s important to realize that, oftentimes, the people that drain your mental energy and attention the most aren’t usually capable of reciprocating the same attention and advice back.
Why? Many people are surprisingly bad listeners. Most can’t seem to empathize with problems outside of their own, and, before long, you find yourself naturally falling into your role as their therapist once again. All because you take the time to empathize with them, even if they can’t reciprocate the favor. And this reaction is so extremely important to realize as an empath.
Note: If you have friends who constantly belittle or ignore your problems, they may be toxic to your overall mental health. Read about other red flags and what to do about toxic friendships here.
I remember hitting a major breaking point in my life earlier this year. A huge pillar in my world crashed down on me, and before I knew it I had crawled into the welcoming void of depression. It was quiet. It was dark. I was empty inside, and this environment felt welcoming. After setting up camp in the depths of my dark cave, I realized that no one was looking for me. No one knew I was here. I was alone.
After overcoming waves of loneliness and anger as I recalled the countless times that I was there for friends in their own times of need, I knew that I finally had to reach out to others like they had done to me, time and time and time again, during their low-points. Even if it was just to let them know that I was there in my cave, I had to be honest and say that I wasn’t doing well. That if I didn’t respond to a text, or pick up the phone, that I was simply recharging my energy and allowing myself some mental downtime.
Downtime in which I began to talk to myself like I would to any of my close friends, or even strangers, that needed advice. Because no one was getting me out of that cave but my own two legs. And I needed to muster up the courage and energy from deep within in order to do that.
It took me months of highs and lows to finally see the end of the darkness. I may not be out of it quite yet, but I’ve taken baby steps to arrive to where I am now. I’ve taken time to question why exactly I stress out so much over the small things, and what I could do better. Time spent slowing down. Time spent evaluating. Learning. Growing. Breathing. Time for me.
And that’s OK. Because I’ve become my own therapist. And I’m beginning to learn what I need, and what I can live without, to finally achieve some mental balance.
Never give from the depths of your well,RUMI
but from your overflow.