It really sucks when the low points of other people’s lives become the lowest points of yours. Take me for example: whatever is ailing the people I love whether it be a painful experience, a loss or a personal struggle – I take it on as if it’s my own burden to bare. Its not that I take pleasure out of feeling this sense of connection with people, its just something that I have always suffered with. It likely stems from a steep personal loss at a young age which then gave life to my separation anxiety and GAD (I will abbreviate from now on, but if you’re unsure check my last post). But I won’t self-analyse that aspect of my life, not today at least.
When I become this “emotional sponge” it is a very draining process. Because my own mental health isn’t all that stable I don’t deal well with people close to me becoming (what I deem in my head, as a non-normal-functioning-individual) “unstable”. It tends to ricochet in bad ways within my own personal life. It doesn’t particularly matter whether I am close to said person who is struggling or whether I’m only a distant friend, the reaction within myself is somewhat the same. Which is why I don’t surround myself with superficial relationships anymore, its just too much effort on my part. And don’t feel bad for thinking that either. If you make a choice for you, that benefits you – it’s never a bad choice. Unless it entails some kind addiction in which case, please seek help.
The hardest times in my life are when multiple close friends or family members have struggles at the same time. I find a lot of people come to me when they are down or struggling and to be honest it’s because I give good advice. I always analyse the situation and thanks to my mental illness this is usually to extreme degrees. Not necessarily healthy, but often useful when the people I’m helping aren’t seeing things particularly logically. I don’t know whether to tar this trait of mine with the same brush as my mental health but we will for now. Anyway when things really take a turn for the worst amongst my closest “people” I take quite the hit. For example at the moment I’m struggling anyway with my own issues which are a lot more prevalent than I would be happy with but my boyfriend is also very stressed with an increased workload and pressure from his family. On top of this, my parents are arguing again and thanks to me currently living at home – I’m in the thick of it!
There are other mini dramas to add on but I won’t go into detail. To most normal people this will seem… Perfectly – normal. Life is stressful and at some points it becomes overwhelming. But what it is important to remember with an “emotional sponge” is that these people are dealing with everyone’s crap, not just their own. It is literally like cloning those feelings and absorbing them into yourself so you can feel just as shit as everyone else. If you know someone like this, or feel that maybe this speaks you and you yourself might be an emotional sponge here are some things that might help you or them. For a start, recognising the problem is half of the solution. If you’re a friend of someone like this, find another outlet for those really deep and scarring moments of your life. Don’t completely shun the person, as this won’t help at all, but keep the details to a bare minimum without shedding your soul. Surprisingly this is very helpful. Tip no. 2: don’t abuse an emotional sponge for their analytical abilities. This is wrongful use of an otherwise very good relationship. No 3! Don’t forget to ask them how they feel dealing with all these things. Whilst you might say this is rather selfish of said person, just remember they are likely just as pained as you are. They are absorbing you!
If you’re the emotional sponge, try to distance yourself from what others feel. As a sponge you likely empathise on a different spectrum than other individuals. At a much greater depth. A good tool for manipulating this is trying not to imagine what you would do in their shoes, how you would feel if said horrible thing happened to you. Take note of your surroundings and ground yourself with a trivial experience you have recently had. Like, taking out the rubbish or having a bath or even go over happier conversations you’ve had with this person. Another good tip is to try to bring the mood back to a more comfortable place. Don’t ask probing questions that will unleash a pack of rabid emotions but keeps things calm and cool and somewhat superficial. I know this sounds like a terrible collection of advice, especially to you (the emotional sponge) because as a person, you are pretty great. I’d know, because I empathise beyond what I ever thought anyone was capable of. Not in a good way and I’m not tooting my own trumpet. The best piece of advice I can give you if you use any of these methods is tell people about your struggle. If they’re good friends, they will be there for you just as much as you are there for them.
You never know, maybe they’re just as messed up as us.
P.S. You aren’t messed up. You’re doing you, and that is damn good.