All the bad things…
In general, I make a habit of being positive. So many good and big and amazing and transformative things have been happening in my life over the past few months that mostly I am full of excitement. If someone asks me, “how are you?” I stop, quickly assess what’s what in my life and respond, “Outstanding!” with sincere enthusiasm.
But a lot bad things have happened to me in the past monthish. I fell on a big rock on the beach and scraped both my knees; nasty rashy wounds that quickly festered and took weeks to heal. While they were still festering, I broke my foot. Broke the 5th metatarsal on my left foot. Then gushed forth giant bucketfulls of insecurities and anxieties – something about broken bones releases pent-up emotions…? Then I started having insomnia. Then the whole right side of my body went numb and tingly. Then I caught the nasty head cold that my nephew’s been passing out. The other day I climbed up on a branch in the yard to pick plumbs (yes I climbed a tree with a broken foot), and of course fell out of the tree, getting a nasty scrape on one knee and one elbow. Oh yeah, a couple weeks ago my car caught on fire while I was driving on the freeway and burned to a crisp before the fire department could get there. Not an injury so much, but let’s just lump it all together.
All The Bad Things. Seem to have happened to me. Broken foot, anxiety, insomnia, numb and tingly half my body, nasty head cold, nasty scrape on my elbow, spontaneously combusting car.
I am prone to accidents. I am prone to hurting myself. Why, I ask myself, do I keep hurting my self? What is this sick addiction to pain and struggling that I have? It’s like I’m in an abusive relationship with my Self. Before all that started, I was feeling really good. Objectively, the best I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I was full of energy, bursting with exuberance and mental clarity. It was all new and thrilling. And then All The Bad Things started happening. Self inflicted injuries (through stupid risk taking and accidents) weren’t new. This is an old old old behaviour pattern. I usually have some nasty little injury of some sort. WHY??? I would like to stop being That Person. I would like to stop hurting myself all the time.
Talked about this with my teacher. She said things about it that made sense, though I don’t remember exactly what she said now. Maybe that means I didn’t understand what she said. Maybe it means her words bypass my thinking brain and enter into my consciousness and do their work without me having to think about it.
Here’s what I think: I am empathic. I feel other people’s feelings. I didn’t realize this until very recently. Until a few months ago, I thought I was broken. I thought I was sick. I was tired all the time, and my body hurt constantly. Feeling other people’s feelings is a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK. Feelings really are tangible things, like radio waves. Or electric currents. Processed by and through one’s nervous system, adrenal glands, and immune system. Broadcast through pheromones, energy waves, and body language. Feeling emotions is actual physical work. Feeling one’s own emotions is often hard enough. Feeling other people’s feelings overloads the system. Well, it can overload the system.
Being a hypersensitive empath is a double-edged sword. Blessing and a curse. It makes me a gifted intuitive healer. It also makes me sick. Less so now, because I am learning how to handle it. But the feeling other people’s feelings thing… just because you feel another person’s feelings doesn’t mean you understand them. Doesn’t mean you understand the context of the feelings. It’s just FEELINGS. And also, there’s this feminine socialization I’ve been trained in… training that tells me I should somehow be taking responsibility for other people’s feelings. “Don’t be a bitch.” “Don’t hurt people’s feelings.” Somehow I’ve been convinced that not hurting other people’s feelings is more important than not hurting myself.
I have a deeply ingrained pattern of not standing up and asserting myself. Not saying things out loud. Not telling someone when they’ve encroached upon or violated a boundary. One more. And one more. This is a dangerous habit. It gets me into nasty spots where I’m over committed, overwhelmed, trying to juggle too much, trying to pull together too many different threads. And inevitably, overwhelm leads to collapse. That’s when my injuries happen.
To say it another way: when I hold myself back from asserting my boundaries out of fear of hurting another person’s feelings, I am the one who gets hurt. Emotionally, spiritually, I’m constantly allowing myself to get pushed around. And those emotional and spiritual injuries are manifested in my body.
I started this post over a week ago. In the meantime, between then and now, I’ve been participating in a thing called Witch Camp. Sort of like Burning Man in the way that it’s really hard to explain what it is if you haven’t been there. It’s a week of healing ritual, learning magic, and being around other witchy people. Oh gosh, it’s so much more than that. More about that later.
But I did a lot of work all week on boundaries. Learning to assert my boundaries. Learning to say “no”. Letting go of my crippling fear of hurting other people’s feelings. It was a very difficult week, for a bunch of reasons. All Of The Bad Things piled into an intense week of other Very Sensitive People with big giant piles of their own emotions, a physically demanding (though beautiful) environment in Southern Oregon, and my continuing issues with insomnia. I almost didn’t go, thinking that it would be too hard with All The Bad Things. But I did go. And it was hard. And also incredible.
And now I have new tools for learning how to say “no”. I believe that is the key to shifting out of this abusive relationship with myself and learning how to take care of myself. “No”. “No”. “No”. No no no no no no no no no no no no. Setting boundaries. Not letting all of the things bleed into each other.
Also, amazing things happen when you say the things in your head out loud, speak your needs, and set boundaries. So much care and support. People are amazing and wonderful. Especially when you tell them out loud how to support you.