On Tuesday, I found out someone in one of my circles committed suicide. I didn’t know him well; we had a total of three interactions, but his death shocked me and shook me. All week I found myself crying for someone I barely knew. Hurting because people I am closer to are hurting. It pains me to see others in pain.

All week I’ve battled with myself because my tears don’t make much logical sense. Shawn and I talked about books. We didn’t swap secrets and peer into each other’s souls. How can I feel so sad about this death? In part it’s because I lost a community member, but also it’s because I’m empathic, sensitive, bighearted.

A heart so big it lights up the sky. Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Growing up, I heard over and over again that I’m too sensitive, that I’m too emotional. I heard it so much I internalized it and now when I have big feelings, I judge myself for them. I want my emotions to match up to logic but oftentimes they do not. I realize sensitivity is a gift, but I still resist my feelings. I still want them to make sense, but they don’t. My therapist and other people tell me over and over again, “Just feel them. You don’t have to understand them. Just feel them.” Easier said than done. Easier said than done when feeling them means crying on the floor of my bedroom typing on my computer. Easier said than done when feeling them means sitting with the things I’m scared of instead of trying to talk myself out of feeling afraid.

When it comes down to it, I harbor a sense of shame about my sensitivity. I think there’s something wrong with me that I feel so much, so deeply. That I “should” be able to toughen up, to grow a thicker skin, to somehow become a different person. Friends, I have tried! With much earnestness I’ve tried, and yet here we are. There are certain things about us that are immutable and I’m understanding my big heart is one of them. I’m doing a lot of work on self-soothing and becoming my own emotional rock, but that doesn’t mean my feelings evaporate. All I’m left with is the choice to accept this is me, which is something I think Shawn would approve of.

Again, I didn’t know him well, but I’m reading memories and tributes to Shawn all over facebook and one of the things people write over and over again is how seen they felt by him. How loved. How accepted. In his death, maybe that’s something I can give to myself. I think he’d want that.

I dream of a world where we love and accept all parts of ourselves. A world where we feel our feelings even when they don’t seem to make sense. A world where we understand sometimes our feelings won’t match up with our brains. A world where we realize sensitivity is a gift and that it’s OK to be bighearted.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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