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“Sympathy is understanding someone’s pain, empathy is feeling it.” ~rml~

Empathy – 1. Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person’s situation, feelings, and motives. 2.Identifying oneself completely with an object or person, sometimes even to the point of responding physically.

I knew when I left my class Wednesday night that something wasn’t quite right. We’d reached a point in the Scriptwriting class where we were discussing the topics of their short film scripts. As I went from student to student, I became more and more excited by the variety of topics they had chosen. One young lady in the back corner of the room seemed a bit flushed and when I asked her what her topic was she shyly stated she wanted to write about anxiety. It was a subject I could relate to as I’d experienced my own bout of panic/anxiety attacks through the years. I told her to run with it and just make sure to take a step back if she felt overwhelmed. I could tell during the rest of the class as she worked on her beat sheet that she had to take a few breathers.

When class was over and I was walking to my car, I began to feel that familiar feeling of the onset of an attack.  I just wanted to make it home before it hit.

Sure enough, as soon as I got home, the nausea and dizziness, along with the beginning of chest pain and palpitations kicked in.  I took a Xanax in the hopes of counteracting the onset, but it was too late.

Full.   Blown.   Panic.   Attack.

I went next door and got my friend Stacy, because it always helps mentally to have someone there with you.  My heart rate was at 118 and climbing.  The panic set in even deeper.  Stacy kept reassuring me everything was going to be fine.  The meds began to kick in and I was so tired.  I told Stacy I would come get her if I felt worse.  Once she left, I laid on the couch and stared up at the ceiling. It was at that point I began to question why I would feel any kind of anxiety when my life was finally going in a positive direction and dreams were being met.

I wondered if that young lady’s anxiety transferred to me.  Then I wondered how I had spent the past five years writing about, talking to, and encouraging domestic violence and rape victims.  I believe it is through my empathic nature that I could do these things, because I wanted so much for them and me to heal.  Since my funeral and rebirth I have come to very clear terms about the victim and survivor road I have traveled.  I have also come to the realization that most of that road has been traveled alone.  As much as I have grown to detest the comment, “Mona, you’re so strong,” I’ve come to realize I had to be, for my loved ones.  Making a commitment to the self and believing the decisions I make are the right ones, opens a whole new discourse on strength.

Empathy can be all consuming and one can get lost in other’s struggles while losing sight of how to manage our own.  The most difficult thing to do, and the concept that requires the most strength is to have the ability to say, “I love you.  I’m here for you. But, right now I cannot carry you for the weight of my own life is heavy enough.”

That is all.