By Julie Gagnon Prior
Writing for The Islander seems to be effortless some weeks and painfully difficult other weeks. When writing about others, words have a way of escaping from my fingertips smooth as the flow of a gradual, deep river with very few obstacles or bends in its path. Yet, when I am writing about myself, I find that the journey is more like a shallow, rocky, rushing mountain stream. I find that my words bounce back at me with a lack of control and confidence as I keep coming across potential dangers in my path.
This analogy is actually humorously ironic. One of my favorite passions in life is kayaking down crazy, dangerous, class III to V whitewater. The idea of paddling on boring, calm, event-free water is of no interest to me.
Saturday, Oct. 12 I had a heart to heart talk with a loved one. We discussed some difficulties that I am having. Honestly, the talk is one we’ve had many times before.
The familiar conversation was focused around my oversensitivity to other’s feelings and problems, how I need to learn to let things go, and how I am so poor at taking care of myself. Like I said, it was a talk that has been talked before…one that has been repeated all through my life.
After this most recent discussion, I felt a bit better. Yet, I still felt somewhat misunderstood. It’s like a “Catch 22.” I’m often embarrassed and confused when my unusual and over-sensitive personality creates such a challenge for myself and others.
That very night, before bed, I checked out Facebook. A friend had a post titled, “Empath Self Assessment Quiz.” I had heard about “empathy” before but didn’t know “empath” was a thing. Curious, I clicked on the link. I can’t even express the astonishment and disbelief as I read the information. It seemed to have been written specifically for me (which really freaked me out). One example is, “Being an empath is different from being empathetic. Being empathetic is when your heart goes out to someone else. Being an empath means you can actually feel another person’s happiness or sadness in your own body.” Dr. Judith Orloff 1 Feb 2019
I took the quiz, and out of twenty questions, only one didn’t apply. That one is, “13. Do I have a low pain threshold?” Now, if they are talking emotional threshold then it would apply. But if they are taking physical pain threshold then it doesn’t apply in the least as I am pretty much a pain-tolerating superhero.
According to Dr. Orloff, “Answering yes to more than fifteen questions means that you are a full-blown empath.”
After reading a bit more on the subject, I shared the link to my own Facebook page – excited to expose my mind-blowing discovery with the world. I hoped it might help explain me to others and maybe help someone else who is as confused in that area as myself.
The next morning, I checked Facebook and found a friend added a link to the book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” by Dr. Orloff. I immediately messaged my friend and asked her when she learned about “empath” and read the book. She replied, “Literally this weekend. So funny when I read your stories, I always think that’s just like me (meeting people wherever I go and people telling me everything and the part no one sees - taking it all on and feeling it so intensely. The nature thing the animal thing. It’s all right there and explains why life is so great and so painful while others seem less affected. The stuff about addiction resonates as does relationship issues (fear of them because they are so intense when you take in the feelings of another person). It totally wild isn’t it? I’m assuming all the signs resonate with you too?”
Damn, my friend is right on the money!
Needless to say, I ordered the book that very morning before heading off to the Fairgrounds to sell calendars at the WOKO Flea Market.
During my drive to Essex, I was so excited about the knowledge and validation of the word and all it represents, “Empath.” Constantly one to want to improve myself (and ultimately making others happier by doing so) I began brainstorming how to handle the unfamiliar yet familiar bag of tricks that I believe I have been carrying since birth. I thought about going to (yet another) counsellor to talk about the new discovery. But it didn’t take long for me to rule that out. It seems counsellors always want to talk about the past and that never seems to benefit me in any way. Still unsure on where to go with my new knowledge, I had to put the thoughts aside when I pulled into the fairgrounds and had to set up camp for the sales.
I immersed myself in the process of creating my presentation. When finished, I took a seat, extremely overwhelmed at all of the people and commotion around me. A friend was coming in a bit to help. In the meantime, waiting for the doors to open at 8:30, I just put my head in my hands and closed my eyes.
When I heard a voice directed at me, I looked up to see the man who had a table kiddy corner to me. I had noticed him earlier as he had a lot of “Wolf” theme. My daughter’s spiritual animal is a wolf, and I had intentions of going to his table later to see what he was about. Yet he approached me. Before I said a word, he asked, “Can I try something”? Confused, I replied, “Ok.” He asked for my wrist and then softly touched it with his hand. Seriously, and I have no explanation for why, but a shot of energy began to travel through my body. He asked if I felt anything, and I explained what I felt. He then asked where it went. Immediately I pointed to my head. He looked at me in the eyes and said, “What are the strong emotions that you are feeling today?” To this, I just stared at him and didn’t say a word. He continued, “You feel everybody’s emotions and pain. You need to learn to let things go.”
Insane, right? Seriously, I don’t make up anything that I write for the Islander. I am just sharing with you a fraction of the world that I live in.
We continued to talk a bit, but honestly, I was getting overwhelmed and I told him that I needed to just rest. The man was very cool and understanding, an Indian with great intuitive ability.
What just blows my mind is that in less than 24 hours, this common theme, education, awareness, support, rollercoaster of emotions all came across my path. The whole sequence of events, the timing, and the same message presented to me from such a variety unrelated sources…has my mind spinning.
Yes, it’s an exciting awareness that I will learn more about as I can. But I really have to tell you something.
As cool as it is learning and improving myself in this manner, I would still put it all aside when given the opportunity to be consumed by the demands of a crazy paddle down a whitewater river in my little kayak.
Respectful yet unafraid of being bounced of rocks and tossed upside down, I have more confidence and ability to right myself and continue paddling with Mother Nature than I do handling the real world.
Does this make sense?
Julie Gagnon Prior
Julie Gagnon Prior resides in Grand Isle with her partner Carl and their 5 dogs. Prior has been battling Lyme Disease for several years, which she