Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.
–Sterling K. Brown
Even though I don’t always know how to react, since my schizophrenia began I have felt like the emotions of those around me leech into my brain. I would get overwhelmed by crowds because I would feel an overpowering mixture of stress, sadness, happiness, boredom, excitement, depression, etc. I masked well, so no one knew I was able to do this.
When a person’s emotions clashed with their behavior and words, I would get frustrated. I guess that was pretty hypocritical of me, since I was struggling and suicidal, but outwardly happy and successful. I knew people who were rays of sunshine, pure energy and optimism. Yet their emotions told a different story, one of crippling anxiety and a sense of inferiority.
Sometimes my empathy link extended to pain, such as when my roommate came back to the dorm after being hit by a car. She was not limping. She was not crying. But I felt waves of pain radiating off her, and sensed she was trying not to cry. I had to demand that she tell me what was wrong before she confessed.
Likewise, I could usually see past the veneer of “I’m fine” that everyone spouted. I listened to their abominable small talk while loneliness and depression poured off them.
My empathy link doesn’t always work. If I am sick, or if my schizophrenia symptoms are bad, or if my own emotions are too strong, I can’t feel the emotions of others.
Sometimes it makes it hard. I get overwhelmed. Being in places like cafeterias is overstimulating. But I have always thought my empathy link is one of my best qualities.
Post 65 in Socially Unacceptable: The Daily Life of a Queer Schizophrenic Wreck (2022)
This is an autobiographical series about my life, something I have wanted to do for a long time. I intend to add new content daily.
For the whole series, follow this link.