On Blogging and Empathy

I’ve been dealing with bronchitis on top of my PF, so not feeling very motivated to do much of anything lately, including write in this blog. I started this blog mainly just for me, somewhere to write when I felt like it, and to share my passion for landscape photography, but I was also hoping for it to be a help to others with chronic illnesses. I just thought someone may connect with some of it, a validation of all the feelings you go through while still trying to live a “normal” life while chronically ill. I wrote it especially with PF patients in mind. I wanted it to be about living with the disease and making the most of life despite having a terminal disease, although I’m not sure exactly how to convey that message in writing. I obviously haven’t thought this blogging thing through very carefully. ;), but hopefully, just sharing my experiences will resonate with someone…and maybe it will also help me along the way as well.

I’ve always had over active empathy, especially for people in physical or emotional pain. I really think that comes from growing up in the hospital around other sick kids. I didn’t have to take care of them, but I could easily empathize with their feelings, and I witnessed their distress in a very personal way. I tend to read people well, almost too well sometimes. It’s hard getting so many feelings from people. It’s why I don’t like being in crowds of people. It tends to overload the circuits. I didn’t know there was a word for this. I thought it was just how I was, and it wasn’t till the internet that I started reading about empaths and highly sensitive people and recognized myself in some of the descriptions. Looking at how I grew up, my experiences with other very sick kids, watching them in distress, watching them die (in several cases) …feeling all the emotion they were going through, not to mention my own emotions; I suppose all of that heightened my awareness of others’ feelings. I’m sometimes baffled how so many other people don’t seem to notice others feelings at all. Sometimes it is disheartening.

I wrote “Pain” when I was an older teen. I wrote it after several experiences living with other kids at National Jewish Hospital, as well as being a peer counselor in my late teen years for chronically ill kids. I worked at the local hospital as a volunteer in the pediatric ward. I grew up there, so they knew me well, and I was often assigned as a buddy to kids that were having a particularly hard time coping. This wasn’t an official program, and I doubt very much it would be allowed today. It’s just something the nurses on the ward made up for me as a volunteer. There was no plan, or supervision, they just told me “go hang out” with a kid if they were having a hard time adjusting to their illness, and that’s basically all I did, hang out and talk with them about whatever they felt like talking about. I’d tell them my experiences, so they knew I understood some of what they were going through, and help them with learning to give themselves injections, breathing treatments, or whatever they were dealing with in learning to cope with their illness. I also read books to the younger kids and entertained them, but they tended to pair me up with kids that were having problems. I guess because the staff knew me well there. I grew up with them, so they knew I understood.

So that’s where I believe this poem came from, although it wasn’t a conscious decision to write about it when I sat down to write. That’s the thing about my “poetry” I rarely sit down with a preconceived idea, I just sit down and write, and sometimes it’s surprising to me what comes out.

Pain

Physical pain is easy
it can be blocked.
My mind is strong,
I can ignore it,
deny it entrance.
Mental pain is
much harder.
It stabs deeper
Into my soul.
I can block it,
but only with consequences,
consequences I don’t want to trade
for brief moments of peace.
I’d rather feel it
sting me,
pummel me.
I lower my fists
and take its blows.
Each hit makes me more human,
more connected.
There must be a reason,
a purpose,
a meaning,
for a journey
with so many bumps 
and bruises
along the way.

I think we are all here to help each other, in any way we can.

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