Empath and Caretaker - Where do I draw the line?

By: dmd
Posted in:

As is in our nature, I am a caretaker. I have always been a caretaker. As a child, my family marveled at what a "momma" I was to all the other kids. I was there to take care of them, of everyone, its what I do. As I grew older, my compulsion to take care of those around me never went away so when it came time to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, naturally the medical field called my name. I am not the doctor I set out to be (hard to focus in college when you are unknowingly soaking in the many, unstable emotions all around you) but I have a job that has meaning and makes me feel whole. I run an Adult Family Home and work with adults with developmental, behavioral, and mental issues; young ladies to be precise, most just a few years younger than myself.

My job is important. My job has meaning. I love my job.

At least that's what I tell people.

I love the idea of my job. I'm here to talk to talk them through their frustrations. I'm here to help them make sense of things they cannot. I'm here to help them be the productive members of society I know they can be. How great to be paid to better the lives of some pretty wonderful young ladies.

The truth of the matter is that there is a lot of frustration, a lot of sadness, hopelessness, anger and fear involved. No matter how hard I try, I take on every single one of these emotions. I take these problems home and they affect every single aspect of my life to a very serious degree. Relationships suffer. I suffer. My mind races when I get home after work, I am unable to relax. I cry often for no dicernable reason. When I get to work and someone is upset, its palpable. I know before I even walk in. One time, I knew someone was thinking of self harming and acted on that feeling. I was right and was able to prevent a serious situation, but I was unable to get out of bed for an entire day afterwards because I was so bogged down with sadness.

I feel the highs too. I share their excitement with each triumph. With each goal met I feel that rush of adrenaline. These moments are wonderful but they are far fewer than the negative ones.

For the first time, I'm second guessing what I want to do with my life. For the first time, I think I cant handle being the caretaker. That scares me. A lot. I have always taken care of others - but that explains a lot of problems I've had, too. I can not separate my feelings from the residents' which breaks me down and makes it hard to do so in everyday life as well. I can not continue to live like this but if I'm not a caretaker, who am I?

I've read everything I can find on how to protect myself but I'm up against strong emotions for 40+ hours a week and nothing works 100%. Becoming self aware of what I am helped put things into perspective, I no longer feel crazy but it doesn't stop me from being dragged down daily.

Is this selfish? I am good at what I do. I am needed. Do I sacrifice my well being to help those who need me? Do I try harder to learn how to block emotions?

I felt very compelled to write this although I am not sure why. Maybe someone else needs to read it? Maye I need someone else to read it. If there is one thing I have learned on my journey to becoming a self aware empath is to trust my instinct (not as easy as it sounds), so here it is.

Do I give up who I am, who I have always been, for peace? I do not know. Would it even be effective? I do not know. Until I know, I will continue being the caretaker I have always known myself to be and get to know the empath that I am just meeting and hope I can find balance.

09/14/16 07:56:54AM @phyllis:
Wow! If I didn't know better, I'd say I wrote this. I worked with adults with developmental challenges as a career. I loved it but not the politics. When I had my children, my youngest (of two) was born with an unknown ( at the time) syndrome and developmental delay. It was at that point I decided I couldn't do my job and deal with it 24 hours a day. I decided to focus on my young family and take what I knew to help my son. I started a home daycare for about 10 years then moved over to dog daycare and training. I found that very helpful. I could help but let go. Taking care of my son has been very challenging but I wouldn't trade it for the world. He is still at home and now 25. I have been taking care of my mother as well. She was bedridden with Alzheimer's for the past 3 years. She just passed at the end of June. I am now trying to find myself as well. I am totally drained. My sensitivities are at an all time low. I am thinking I'll try yoga and meditation. It's been a while since I've been able to meditate. I would like to suggest you write down all the things that make you feel good. The things that relax you as well. Then start to focus on these and see if you can shift your work or at least your spare time to the positive uplifting things you enjoy. As an example in my case, a walk in the woods, a bit of woodworking ( I made a kitchen table) , painting a room, organizing a space for just me, I made a pond with a stream and waterfall ( this was done as a memorial and to help me deal with my change in schedule after mom passed over. I know I will always be a caretaker of one kind or another but Ivalso know I have to care for myself now too. It's good you recognize that. Life takes many unexpected turns and we have to ground ourselves and be open to recognize opportunities. Feel free to keep in touch if you like. Phyllis
09/15/16 01:34:06AM @areyoulivinglifeforward:

I've been questioning the same thing. I've been on the path to becoming a doctor since I was 5 years old. I'm now starting to second guess if that's right for me. I take on the worlds problems and those around me. I fear I too will take on everyones problems if I go into medicine, but I have this compelling urge to be in health care. I feel like I can make a change, but something has to change with me if I'm going to be able to handle it. I'd love to talk more about this.