The gift and curse of empathy.

Recently, I have been rather emotional. I am not sure why, but I am crying a lot at the smallest of things. I think, in part, it is because I have a few friends individually going through extremely difficult times at the moment. Some with mental health, some with physical problems, and some struggling with both.

Sympathy often gets a bad reputation, because a lot of the people who genuinely deserve it simply don’t want it. Sympathy can often come across as patronising, and (I am not sure about you guys, but) I find it really hard to figure out exactly what to say.

With empathy however, things are a little different. Empathy is when you can feel someone else’s pain. Empathy has a serious upside for the person on the receiving end, because the only way one can be empathetic to a situation is if they have been through it or  something similar. And because of that, we are much more aware of what to say that will help, and I have learned some of my best life saving tips (such as the crisis box) from people who have been in the same boat. If you are able to empathise with someone, you can provide hope to the person in question. You can pass on things that have helped you. That could be recommending they ask their doctor about a certain medication, or suggesting alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and physiotherapy exercises.

There is a down side to empathy, something that I struggle with a lot on a personal level. It is impossible to be empathetic without investing your own emotions and time. And there have been times I have cried because I hate that someone else had to go through (insert bad thing here), and because I can’t wave a magic wand and stop their pain, and because I am so angry they have to face this or that. It can be emotionally exhausting, and sometimes I have to step back a little, just to give myself time to recover.

If you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of empathy (and I have) it is worth having an open mind about any advice that may be given, something that sounds silly may really help you. But remember that different things work for different people, and when it comes to medicines (even herbal ones!) it is vital that you check with your GP or Pharmacist, who will be able to make sure it is an appropriate treatment for you. This is doubly important if you are on any kind of medication, even the over the counter medications, as the interactions could cause more problems that it solves. And when you are going to an alternative therapy session (such as reflexology, massage or acupuncture) then make sure they are aware of all your medications. Certain treatments can cause the medications to be absorbed to quickly, or inefficiently, or sometimes prevent them working at all. That being said, it is wise keeping a list of all your medications and allergies etc with you anyway, in case of an emergency.

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